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June 29 2013

Singapore: From Haze to Hail in Less Than a Week

From #sghaze to #sghail. After the record level haze pollution, Singapore was struck by rainstorms carrying hail this week.

The haze caused by forest fires in Indonesia is the worst air pollution in Singapore in years. Many people welcomed the rains which poured down on Singapore early this week because it helped in easing the haze situation but they were surprised by the hail which hit the country Tuesday afternoon.

SimonTay78.com felt it was like a hurricane:

I heard strong wailing of wind coming from my windows which was strange as it haven’t been raining for the whole month of June until today.

Then suddenly the rain starts pouring down like a hurricane together with wind speed I had never seen before.

I went downstairs and saw many small & large tree branches fallen to the ground and one uncle came to me and said that I’m late filming the hail!

Andy Giger recorded this short video clip of the hail:

Suhailah reported that the hail toppled several trees:

…if you are living in Singapore, you probably know the totally weird weather condition the country's in now. From the hazardous haze a few days ago to the unexpected hail (or just raining ice cubes, like literally actual ice cubes) earlier this afternoon… But the hail is kinda horrible. Trees started toppling just now and hurting lots of people. And they also caused those metal lamp post to fall or bend. It's kinda scary. I mean, I never really see this kind of things like this before.

The hail was recorded mainly in the western part of Singapore:

Today, Singapore welcomed a much sought-after rain that provided some respite for Singaporeans who had been suffocating for the last couple of days ever since the haze from Indonesia invaded our skies.

There were reports of hailstones falling in several areas of western Singapore like Chua Chu Kang, Bukit Batok and Jurong East.

Many people thought the hail was caused by cloud seeding or acid rain. The National Environment Agency issued a clarification:

There has been some speculation that the hail (or “raining ice”) observed over the western part of Singapore between 1pm and 4.30pm on 25 Jun 2013 could be caused by acid rain or cloud seeding in Indonesia. This is false.

In fact, hailstones are quite rare in the tropics because they usually melt as they fall from the clouds, before reaching the ground. On average, public sightings of hailstones in Singapore occur every one to two years

For Bertha Henson, the hail could be a sign for something else:

As for hail, it could be a sign that the apocalypse is upon us or a heaven-sent signal that there is still water up there…

Whether it’s the haze or hail, the recent disasters in Singapore tested the resiliency of the people:

This haze comes as a great challenge to our resilience as a people. We have made it thus far over 48 years. We soon approach our fiftieth year of independence and we should rightfully be proud. Before we get there, we should take some time, look at ourselves and ask the questions: Who are we? What defines us?

June 26 2013

Southeast Asia: The Great Haze of 2013

Since last week, a thick haze has enveloped Singapore and some parts of Malaysia caused by forest fires mainly in Indonesia. The haze brought air pollution levels to a record high in the region. Malaysia placed two districts under state of emergency while Singaporeans were advised to remain indoors.

During emergency situations, the sharing of correct information has proved to be useful in minimizing or preventing further casualties. To help people cope with the impact of haze, online tools were developed like the Haze Action Online which provides information on the steps carried out by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to combat transboundary haze pollution. Meanwhile, the regional haze map shows the extent of the haze disaster in Singapore and Malaysia.

Southeast Asia's Regional Haze Map

Southeast Asia's Regional Haze Map

In Singapore, netizens are using the Twitter hashtag #sghaze to monitor and document the spread of haze. The N95 mask finder is a crowdsourced platform that helps consumers find affordable and reliable N5 face masks. The wearing of face masks is advised as protective measure against the haze.

The SG Haze Rescue asks people to donate N95 masks, volunteer, or share a shelter:

#SGHazeRescue is a community of Singaporeans offering air-conditioned spaces to individuals and families without such privileges. You can offer anything from a sleeping bag, couch, to a guesthouse

On the part of the government, the National Environment Agency has launched several online portals that give up-to-date information about the haze. It also published a list of clinics that offer treatment to haze patients. Meanwhile, the Emergency 101 website releases health advisories and clarifies misconceptions about the haze.

The haze has somewhat eased in Singapore but the situation remains critical. Lynn remembers how construction workers continued to work despite the city wide advisory for people to stay at home:

…there’s a group of people for whom the option to just take it easy indoors, is not available. Construction workers continue to labour through ever higher PSI (pollution standards index) readings. Despite calls from several quarters, the Ministry of Manpower has not issued a stop-work order

June finds meaningful things to do at home:

Breathe out haze.

Breathe in grace.

Regardless of how long the haze is going to linger, and regardless of the pain and inconvenience it brings, let’s choose to count our blessings and make the best of what we have, each day. (And oh, remember to stop and smell the roses no matter how hazy life gets…Well, figuratively at least.)

Eight percent per annum notes the sudden shortage of face masks and air purifiers in Singapore:

…there weren’t enough to go around. We hear stories of how poor aunties queue for an hour at Guardian pharmacy only to find out that the inventory ran out. We then activated our friends overseas to bring masks back from all over the world. Masks were running out in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia. Air purifiers ran out too.

In Malaysia, Muar and Ledang which are both located in the state of Johor suffered the most from the haze. Michael Ng is angry over the inaction of Indonesia to stop the burning of forests:

The Indonesian government can put the blame on Malaysian and Singaporean-owned oil palm plantation companies operating in Sumatra island for causing the haze but ultimately what is lacking is the strict enforcement of the environmental laws (if any exists at all) on their part.

How could it be possible for these companies to carry out their slash and burn activities with such impunity all these years if not for the lackadaisical attitude of the Indonesian government on putting its foot down.

I pity our school children and those elderly and suffering from asthma and other breathing problems. The haze has made their daily lives very difficult and uncomfortable.

Kuo Yong Kooi thinks the long term solution is to rethink the economic development model:

…the open burning in Indonesia is directly causing the haze problem at the moment, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many issues here that needed to be factored into the haze equation.

Fact one is that we are rampantly clearing the precious lungs of the earth which is the rainforest and substituting it with monocrop palm oil plantations.

We need to shift our paradigm away from this current development model to be able to resolve this problem.

anilnetto received a report about the burning in a plantation near Muar which could have worsened the haze:

The general consensus was that they bore the brunt of the smoke billowing in from Sumatra – but local plantation burning in Johan Setia near Port Klang and in Mukim Air Hitam near Muar may have aggravated the smog.

Charles Santiago, a member of Parliament, proposes to investigate companies which have violated environment laws:

We do not need to leave it to Indonesia alone to monitor, regulate or prosecute errant companies. Malaysia can keep a close watch on Malaysian companies in Sumatra and charge those that flout laws, for these companies have committed nothing less than a crime against humanity.

June 24 2013

Haze Chokes Singapore and Malaysia

Air quality in Singapore and West Malaysia hit hazardous levels in the past few days caused by forest fires from neighboring Indonesia.

At 12 noon on June 21, the Pollutant Standard’s Index hit 401 in Singapore, the highest in Singapore’s history. On Saturday and Sunday, it was the turn of Malaysians to choke. In neighbouring Malaysia, particularly in the coast town of Muar which is two hundred kilometers away from Singapore, the Air Pollution Index hit 750 on Sunday 23 June.

The bad air prompted many Singaporeans to make their way to hospitals and pharmacies to stand in line for face-masks. junjie.wu tweets about it here:

Haze in Singapore. Photo by umiwurnell, Copyright @Demotix (6/20/2013)

Haze in Singapore. Photo by umiwurnell, Copyright @Demotix (6/20/2013)


@bbeautifool People Q for N95, look what I got to spend my weekends being crouch potato. Home the safest place to…

While Brian, Mr. SGAG celebrates finally getting a hold of one on 22 June, after air quality has improved!

‏@SGAG_SG Bad Luck Brian. Finally gets his hands on the N95 mask after 5 hours of queueing at the pharmacy. Haze clears. #sghaze

Some though, heeded government advisories to stay home. “I’ve got a tummy” spent the weekend drinking milk and eating bread to feel  better and holed in to watch watch TV:

…the worst part of it all is that, we had to still report for work despite the bad to worse weather conditions. As far as I am concerned, I had to still report for work even after the office announce that employees can work from home if work scope permits. So ironically, my work scope is very site-based therefore, I have to be back to office for work that day whatsoever.

But anyways, I fell sick after 3 days of fighting with the haze and till today, my nose is dry yet running at the same time.

A Malay couple wears a face mask while celebrating their wedding day during haze in Muar, in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor bordering Singapore. Photo by Lens Hitam, Copyright @Demotix (6/22/2013)

A Malay couple wears a face mask while celebrating their wedding day during haze in Muar, in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor bordering Singapore. Photo by Lens Hitam, Copyright @Demotix (6/22/2013)

While B.L. Xu thought deep patriotic thoughts about what Singaporeans should be doing for the environment:

I personally think that what most of us should be appreciating is clean air, not the absence of haze caused by them. Instead of pointing fingers at others and trying to solve the root of the problem, it is more important to fully understand and digest the moral of the story

Meanwhile, Patrick Low is supporting a silent protest:

We need to stand up as a people and send a clear signal to Indonesia that we will not tolerate this harmful incursion to our health and economy.

As haze condition is getting hazardous please just pop by wear black, wear mask and bring some water for the short duration you are there.

Respromask – who have a stake in such things – reports that Malaysia has declared a state of emergency in Muar and Ledang. As a precautionary measure, Malaysia has also shut down some of their schools.

But who’s responsible and who should pay? The hunt for culprits has begun. The Singaporean Minister of the Environment called for Indonesia to name names and dole out punishments. In reply, the Coordinating Minister of Peoples’ Welfare in Indonesia chided Singapore for being childish. Singapore’s Emeritus Senior Minister had later hoped that Indonesia would adopt a more neighbourly spirit.

Meanwhile, individual Indonesian citizens are trying to make amends by expressing their concern over the haze.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has already issued a formal apology to Singapore and Malaysia for the haze caused by forest fires in some parts of Indonesia.

June 13 2013

Dengue Outbreak in Singapore

Singapore recorded 4,632 dengue cases in 2012. This year it went up to 9,847 already. This is a record high for Singapore which last experienced a dengue outbreak in 2005.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has launched the ‘Do the Mozzie Wipeout’ campaign to promote awareness about dengue prevention:

Singapore cannot fight dengue without the community’s action to remove mosquito breeding in their homes. The Aedes mosquito breeds in artificial containers mainly found in homes, and its life-cycle averages seven days. Hence it is imperative for all to do the Mozzie Wipeout together to break the breeding cycle.

wipeoutAside from maintaining a dengue information portal, the NEA also has a Facebook page to educate the public about government and community efforts to fight dengue. It also uses a mapping system to categorize dengue cases into clusters:

A dengue cluster is formed when 2 or more dengue cases occur within 14 days and the homes of the dengue victims are within the distance of 150m.

Mr Miyagi reminds readers that construction sites are not the only breeding ground of mosquitoes which carry the dengue virus:

The NEA has reported that the majority of sites found to have bred mosquitoes have been homes. Now I’m not saying that the construction sites are not responsible at all, but the fact remains that no matter how much you want to blame someone else or some other site for the spread of this disease, the solution to breaking the vector cycle of is still firmly in your own hands.

The government plans to distribute 1.2 million bottles of insecticide to all households next month. My Singapore News has a suggestion: free medical treatment for dengue patients

Apart from giving free insect repellants, maybe it is time that all dengue patients should be given free medical treatment. This will encourage every dengue patient to come forward for treatment and will cut down the source of virus carriers in the chain.

Dengue clusters

Dengue clusters

Bertha Harian is proposing a ‘dengue shock syndrome approach’ to make people aware of the seriousness of the outbreak:

Much money has been thrown into the business of making people aware of the dengue danger, and “reality’’ videos are supposed to be hitting computer screens as well. Perhaps, a dengue shock syndrome approach should be applied to the campaign to get under the skin of those who don’t think dengue will happen to them.

Blogging for Myself argues that it is not enough to report the dengue problem in terms of numbers:

The story and danger must be much better told.

And my simple probability calculations is wrong because it grossly oversimplifies the story. We are actually looking a situation with a potential of going exponential or in layman's terms ballistic. This risk is not widely made know to the population. Not a bad idea to frighten people a little with the truth.

The outbreak also led netizens to discuss the health care situation in Singapore. Writing for The Online Citizen, Terry Xu asks if hospitals are giving adequate attention to dengue patients:

Given that more than 8,000 people have come down with dengue fever since the start of the year, why given the current dengue fever epidemic that fever patients are not given special attention?

Is there enough beds in the hospital where patients can stay to be observed by the medical professionals?

Leong Sze Hian and Roy Ngemg probe the government’s health care spending and public health policies:

…we do not just have foreigners and PRs literally fighting for stretched healthcare facilities and capacity in Singapore, but we may also be competing against foreign medical tourists who can pay higher non-subsidised fees (and arguably sometimes may be able to jump the queue – to the detriment of Singaporeans seeking subsidised medical treatment)

Reposted bymofo mofo

June 10 2013

Singapore’s ‘Largest Blogger-led Protest’ Bats for Media Freedom

An estimated crowd of 2,000 people joined a protest assembly in Singapore’s Hong Lim Park last June 8, 2013 to oppose the government’s new licensing scheme for news websites. Organized by the ‘Free My Internet’ movement, it was reported to be the ‘largest blogger-led protest’ in Singapore.

The new regulation issued by the Media Development Authority (MDA) requires news websites that report on Singapore and which have 50,000 unique IP views a month to secure a license. Further, they must put up a ‘performance bond’ of $50,000. The websites must also remove objectionable content within 24 hours after being ordered by the government. The MDA has so far identified 10 websites, including Yahoo! Singapore, which are covered by the ruling.

Prior to the Saturday event, more than 160 blogs participated in a ‘blackout’ protest. Despite the assurance of the government that blogs are exempted from the ruling, netizens described the new regulation as threat to Internet and media freedom. The video below shows some of the blogs which replaced their homepages with a black image.

The ‘Free My Internet’ movement issued this media statement after the protest:

The success of the campaign is no mean feat. #FreeMyInternet came together at a few days’ notice, and the three-prong campaign was organised within a week and a half. Given the spontaneous and leaderless nature of the #FreeMyInternet movement, this is a remarkable achievement.

In the weeks to come, we will roll out material and programmes to educate members of the public and Members of Parliament about why the Licensing Regime needs to be withdrawn.

We do not rule out a dialogue with the government, but this dialogue needs to be a discussion on how the withdrawal of the Licensing Regime will take place, and should be a dialogue about how de-regulating the media environment can best be done to benefit Singaporeans.

Photo from Flickr page of Raymond Lau

Photo from Flickr page of Raymond Lau. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Some students challenged the Minister for Communications and Information to withdraw the regulation:

As young mass communications students and practitioners, this new framework concerns us as the wording of the amendment suggests that the State will have unmoderated power to muzzle not only journalists, but virtually everyone and anyone who uses the Internet

These concerns obligate us, in our capacities as concerned young Singaporeans, to request that the Minister for Communications & Information rescind the gazetting requiring online news sites to be regulated; and if he would not, to engage us in a dialogue to explain why he cannot.

Article 14 highlighted the success of the campaign:

…the bare mimimum that has been achieved this week is that the blogging community has sent a clear message that we value our limited space and are not willing to give it up easily

It helped to demonstrate the broad cross-section of support that exists for the freedom of online space.

Photo from Flickr page of Raymond Lau

Photo from Flickr page of Raymond Lau. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Thoughts of a Cynical Investor congratulated the organizers:

Getting 2,000 to 2,500 S’poreans out at very short notice (less than a week) is a very good achievement, no a great feat, on the part of the organisers.

Ravi Philemon asserted that the protest is for ordinary Singapore netizens:

This protest is for us. Because this new regulation gives the government so much power to arbitrarily decide, nobody knows what kind of ‘traffic monitoring tools and perception-based surveys’ – maybe not even god knows, what these tools are – which site is a online news site and which is not.

Aaron Koh was inspired by the protest:

I attended the protest and was quite inspired by the speakers. The speakers, consisted mainly of bloggers, who were concerned, not only about MDA's online “news sites” licensing scheme, and at the speed at which it became law, without consultation with Parliament or with the Public.

Political Writings warned that small protests are not enough:

Whether protests are a legitimate way to force policy change or political change is a separate matter. What is important is that Singaporeans should realize that Hong Lim Park style ‘protests’ will not change anything.

Lim Jialiang explained the importance of participating in a cause:

It is crucial to remember that active participation is something that is to be proud of, even if participation might not translate to actual results at the end. There is nothing wrong in trying. There is something wrong, however, when people actively demean the efforts of others, who are trying their best to secure and speak out against at best, a toothless and aimless piece of regulation, and at worst, a new choker placed upon our democratic voice.

Singapore’s ‘Largest Blogger-led Protest’ Bats for Media Freedom

An estimated crowd of 2,000 people joined a protest assembly in Singapore’s Hong Lim Park last June 8, 2013 to oppose the government’s new licensing scheme for news websites. Organized by the ‘Free My Internet’ movement, it was reported to be the ‘largest blogger-led protest’ in Singapore.

The new regulation issued by the Media Development Authority (MDA) requires news websites that report on Singapore and which have 50,000 unique IP views a month to secure a license. Further, they must put up a ‘performance bond’ of $50,000. The websites must also remove objectionable content within 24 hours after being ordered by the government. The MDA has so far identified 10 websites, including Yahoo! Singapore, which are covered by the ruling.

Prior to the Saturday event, more than 160 blogs participated in a ‘blackout’ protest. Despite the assurance of the government that blogs are exempted from the ruling, netizens described the new regulation as threat to internet and media freedom. The video below shows some of the blogs which replaced their homepages with a black image.

The ‘Free My Internet’ movement issued this media statement after the protest:

The success of the campaign is no mean feat. #FreeMyInternet came together at a few days’ notice, and the three-prong campaign was organised within a week and a half. Given the spontaneous and leaderless nature of the #FreeMyInternet movement, this is a remarkable achievement.

In the weeks to come, we will roll out material and programmes to educate members of the public and Members of Parliament about why the Licensing Regime needs to be withdrawn.

We do not rule out a dialogue with the government, but this dialogue needs to be a discussion on how the withdrawal of the Licensing Regime will take place, and should be a dialogue about how de-regulating the media environment can best be done to benefit Singaporeans.

Photo from Flickr page of Raymond Lau

Photo from Flickr page of Raymond Lau

Some students challenged the Minister for Communications and Information to withdraw the regulation:

As young mass communications students and practitioners, this new framework concerns us as the wording of the amendment suggests that the State will have unmoderated power to muzzle not only journalists, but virtually everyone and anyone who uses the Internet

These concerns obligate us, in our capacities as concerned young Singaporeans, to request that the Minister for Communications & Information rescind the gazetting requiring online news sites to be regulated; and if he would not, to engage us in a dialogue to explain why he cannot.

Article 14 highlighted the success of the campaign:

…the bare mimimum that has been achieved this week is that the blogging community has sent a clear message that we value our limited space and are not willing to give it up easily

It helped to demonstrate the broad cross-section of support that exists for the freedom of online space.

Photo from Flickr page of Raymond Lau

Photo from Flickr page of Raymond Lau

Thoughts of a Cynical Investor congratulated the organizers:

Getting 2,000 to 2,500 S’poreans out at very short notice (less than a week) is a very good achievement, no a great feat, on the part of the organisers.

Ravi Philemon asserted that the protest is for ordinary Singapore netizens:

This protest is for us. Because this new regulation gives the government so much power to arbitrarily decide, nobody knows what kind of ‘traffic monitoring tools and perception-based surveys’ – maybe not even god knows, what these tools are – which site is a online news site and which is not.

Aaron Koh was inspired by the protest:

I attended the protest and was quite inspired by the speakers. The speakers, consisted mainly of bloggers, who were concerned, not only about MDA's online “news sites” licensing scheme, and at the speed at which it became law, without consultation with Parliament or with the Public.

Political Writings warned that small protests are not enough:

Whether protests are a legitimate way to force policy change or political change is a separate matter. What is important is that Singaporeans should realize that Hong Lim Park style ‘protests’ will not change anything.

Lim Jialiang explained the importance of participating in a cause:

It is crucial to remember that active participation is something that is to be proud of, even if participation might not translate to actual results at the end. There is nothing wrong in trying. There is something wrong, however, when people actively demean the efforts of others, who are trying their best to secure and speak out against at best, a toothless and aimless piece of regulation, and at worst, a new choker placed upon our democratic voice.

June 08 2013

VIDEO: How the Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Hurt Internet Users

A new animated video by digital rights group Electric Frontier Foundation warns that the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement being negotiated by the United States and ten governments from around the Pacific region, could have alarming consequences for Internet users.

The treaty's negotiations, which include input from corporations, are being kept under wraps, but a leaked draft [PDF] of the treaty from February 2011 and other leaked notes have given many advocates cause for concern over copyright enforcement provisions in the agreement's chapter on intellectual property.

According to the group, the treaty could make the Internet an intimidating place for the people and companies that use it. The agreement could encourage Internet service providers to police the activity of Internet users and block legitimate content with only a private notice from the supposed copyright holder in order to protect themselves from liability.

It could also make it illegal for users to work around technical measures put in place to prevent copyright infringement, such as unlocking a mobile phone in order to connect it to another carrier or modifying the format of an e-book to make it more accessible to those with disabilities.

The video, called “TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of”, is available on YouTube and can be found here:

June 03 2013

‘Free My Internet’ Movement Rises in Singapore

Singapore’s new licensing scheme for news websites announced by the Media Development Authority (MDA) was quickly denounced by many netizens as a censorship measure. A group of concerned netizens called the ‘Free My Internet’ movement has called on the public to join a rally this coming Saturday, June 8, 2013, to demand the withdrawal of the controversial regulation.

Under the new rule, news websites that report on Singapore and which have 50,000 unique IP views a month must secure a license. Further, they must put up a ‘performance bond’ of $50,000. It also has this provision which angered and worried many netizens:

The Licence also makes it clear that online news sites are expected to comply within 24 hours to MDA’s directions to remove content that is found to be in breach of content standards.

So far, the government has identified 10 websites, including Yahoo! Singapore, which are covered by the ruling.

#freemyinternetThe #freemyinternet movement thinks the license scheme will undermine internet freedom and free speech in Singapore:

We encourage all Singaporeans who are concerned about our future and our ability to participate in everyday online activities and discussions, and to seek out alternative news and analysis, to take a strong stand against the licensing regime which can impede on your independence.

A petition warned Singapore bloggers that they could still be affected by the ruling despite the assurance of the government that bloggers are exempted from the measure:

Even though MDA said that blogs do not fall under the licensing scheme, this is not reflected in the wording of the legislation. It leaves the door open for blogs or any other site to be forced to license in the future without any change in the law.

Socio-political bloggers and commentators issued this joint statement:

As part of the community of websites in Singapore that provide sociopolitical news and analysis to Singaporeans, we are concerned about the impact of the newly-introduced requirement on fellow Singaporeans’ ability to receive diverse news information.

The new licensing regime has the very real potential to reduce the channels available to Singaporeans to receive news and analysis of the sociopolitical situation in Singapore and it is in the interest of all Singaporeans to guard against the erosion and availability of news channels that Singaporeans should rightfully have access to.

Responding to the barrage of criticism, the MDA insisted that the license scheme is fair:

An individual publishing views on current affairs and trends on his/her personal website or blog does not amount to news reporting.

…content guidelines are focused on core content concerns that would threaten the social fabric and national interests of our country. Examples include content that incites racial or religious hatred; misleads and causes mass panic; or advocates or promotes violence.

The framework is not an attempt to influence the editorial slant of news sites

visakan veerasamy notes that the MDA scheme has unified Singapore netizens:

Maybe a few years from now the MDA licensing thing will be remembered as the issue that got bloggers and alt-news agencies coming together against a common threat to have a national conversation of their own.

They propose a terrible idea, and then piss off the masses enough to inspire a co-ordinated response. Boom, active and engaged citizenry. This is great for Singapore.

It is a draconian measure, writes Jentrified Citizen:

The Government is well aware of the power of the Internet and how it is fast igniting the people’s conscience and socio-political consciousness. This is why they are trying to cut off our oxygen with more draconian measures. And they are in a position to do so as they have absolute power and control over almost everything in tiny Singapore.

Because of vague wording in the ruling, a popular news blog can still be ordered to apply for license. It all depends on the MDA. Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss is not happy with this authority given to MDA:

It is discomforting that the Minister has the discretion, the limits of which is still unclear, to decide whether and when a website should be licensed.

Z’ming Cik warns about the impact of the scheme on political blogging:

The new rules will serve to deter bloggers in Singapore from discussing social and political issues, and encourage people to blog about facial cream or their pet dogs instead.

This would presumably help create a ‘safe’ environment for the ruling party’s continual domination in Singapore, free from criticisms.

publichouse.sg argues why Singaporeans should oppose the measure:

…because this new rule affects not only moderators and contributors of online news sites but also their readers, all Singaporeans should fight to protect their rights and voice their opposition of the rule. It is most certainly not in the interest of the people to have what they read censored or controlled, especially when the primary purpose of online news sites is to provide alternatives to the mainstream media.

Siew Kum Hong fears that the regulation would further hurt the image of Singapore in the world:

This new regulation is a mistake, and reinforces the perception that Singapore is a repressive place — which is precisely the wrong message to be sending to a globalised and networked world, when you are trying to build an innovative and creative economy where freedom of thought is so essential.

May 25 2013

Kindness Mascot Gives Up on Singapore

Singa, Singapore’s courtesy lion and then mascot for kindness since 1982 has resigned. Complaining against an “increasingly angry and disagreeable society” the lion felt it’s time to take a break. Apparently, Singa even submitted a resignation letter to the Singapore Kindness Movement which went viral online:

I suppose it's about time. After all, I've been doing this for over 30 years – first, as the Courtesy Lion, and more recently, as your mascot for kindness. I'm just too tired to continue facing an increasingly angry and disagreeable society.

Singa, the former kindness mascot of Singapore

Singa, the former kindness mascot of Singapore

Curiously, Singa mentioned something about anonymous rude comments on the internet:

A final word before I go. Let's be responsible for our actions. We can go online and be rude to others, but let's not think it “doesn't count” because it's anonymous. We can let our anger and disagreement dictate the kind of people and society we want to be, or we can decide to be gracious, even when frustrated.

The reactions in Singapore vary with one side questioning the publicity stunt while others are praising it as a creative campaign. Some criticized it for sending a message to children that quitting is a positive option if one encounters hardships.

Mervyn Sek thanks Singa for three decades of dedicated service:

Thank you, Singa, for 30 years of dedicated service. We could have done more to be kind and gracious, but regrettably took you and your service for granted all these years. I am deeply concerned that your absence may leave a large void in our society, one that is too big for any individual to fill.

Mae agrees to retire the mascot

Is this a PR stunt to try reinstate Singa? No, we don’t need Singa as a courtesy mascot. It’s time he retired and was remembered fondly as a tool of the 80s. Please don’t come back as a “reboot”/ “rebranded” / “redesigned” lion.

The Heart Truths responds by writing a satirical resignation letter:

You see, I need a long break, especially from the government. You know what a “symbolic figure” is? Fake one, fake! That means, I am a fake. You see, I’ve been doing this for 30 years. On the surface, it looks like I am your mascot for kindness. But really, I am just “supposed to bring good luck” to “a particular organization” – PAP (Singapore's ruling party since the 1950s). They had hoped that if I had pranced around enough and make you kind, or maybe make you their kind, or actually, make you kind to them, that you will feel that the problems that they create will disappear.

The Blogfather believes the message of the resignation was effective:

By resigning, Singa has ensured the survival of his message, just by simply stooping to our level. And by becoming one of us, he has turned us all off of being the angry and disagreeable society we are, because we’ve suddenly become so turned off by him. Oh, wow, the irony is still blowing my mind.

Eat.Pray.Live.Debate reacts to Singa’s views on anonymous comments:

My recommendation is that we should, as far as possible, do away with anonymity on the Internet especially on public forums where debate is taking place. People should take responsibility for what they say. Anonymity lets people say whatever they want without first reflecting on those views.

Ravi Philemon warns readers not to be deceived by the propaganda to bring ‘kindness’ in cyberspace:

…don't be fooled by it. It's part of the propaganda to bring graciousness to social media. Hate it that even Singa has to resort to deception in attempting to bring ‘kindness’ to cyberspace.

On Twitter, @MiraculousFight insists that Singa did not fail in his mission:

@MiraculousFight @tpvote There are many factors causing ppl not to show kindness, it does not necessarily mean that Singa have failed.

To prove that Singapore is a nation of kindness, there will be a Kindness Day on May 31. Organizers are promoting the hashtag #kindnessdaysg.

May 19 2013

“Lift your Skirt, Save a Life” Cervical Cancer Ad Divides Singapore

To remind Singaporeans about the free Pap smear screenings this month, the Singapore Cancer Society came out with a “Lift your skirt. Save a life” ad which sparked a lively discussion on whether it was creative, effective, or offensive.

The campaign featured local celebrities replicating the iconic pose of Marilyn Monroe in her film The Seven Year Itch. The campaign poster can be seen on bus shelters and train stations.

According to the Singapore Cancer Society, cervical cancer is a major health issue in the country:

Cervical Cancer ranks no. 9 among the cancers diagnosed in Singaporean women. Each year, 200 women are diagnosed with the disease and 70 of them die from it. It is a highly preventable and curable disease.

From 1 to 31 May 2013, all female Singaporeans and PR aged 25 – 69 years old, can enjoy FREE Pap smear screening at participating clinics island-wide.

At least 178 clinics are offering free Pap smear screenings this month. There were mixed reactions to the ad. Some praised it for being catchy while others thought it was a fashion or slimming ad. Others criticized it for being too sexual.

“Lift your skirt. Save a life” ad to promote awareness on cervical cancer. Image from Facebook page of the Singapore Cancer Society

“Lift your skirt. Save a life” ad to promote awareness on cervical cancer. Image from Facebook page of the Singapore Cancer Society

Everything Also Complain believes a simple reminder that there are free pap smear screenings would have been enough:

…you don’t need a controversial headline to grab the attention of Singaporean women. One four letter word starting with the letter F would do the trick: FREE, and that magical word that possesses Singaporeans into queuing long hours for stuff they don’t need is restrained here by small caps and boring font

a musliminah in NL also thinks the same way:

the idea behind the sexualised women was catering to the male gaze, suggesting voyeurism and sexual availability of women. This copywriter thinks that puns hardly work in ads, while others thought that it's not a good idea to sexualise ads which carry an important message.

What word would trigger the Singaporean mindset to pay attention to this ad? For the next campaign, I suggest the following headline:

FREE Pap Smears!

That oughta attract attention and get women to sign up for the free checkups. :)

Mr Brown supports the cause but is not happy with the campaign theme:

I am all for cervical cancer awareness but really? “Lift your skirt, save your life.”?

While you are at it, why not “Open your legs, save your life.”?

Or “Drop your panties, save your life.”?

Or “Upskirt your downturn, save your life.”?

In any case, despite the fracas, cancer is serious stuff and I shall provide the link to the info for free pap smear screenings in May

Writing for the Breakfast Network, Wesley Gunter defends the ad:

…if an ad like this CAN make more women go for PAP smears because it GRABS their attention and saves their lives, hasn’t it met its objectives?

The only thing that is “sad” about this whole affair is how this creative attempt was so readily shot down before it was given a chance to see if it actually works.

Linda Black, one of the models who participated in the ad, is proud over the success of the campaign:

I am so proud of the campaign, and I think it was beautifully shot and lovingly edited with women’s health issues at heart. I stand by that, and I will defend it and my decision to be a part of it.

That being said, the campaign is a major success – loads of people are talking about it, or have heard of it, and a kernel of truth has been planted: when was the last time you ladies have had your screening? Isn’t it marvelous that in this country, the powers that be care enough about you to give you your rightfully deserved screening for FREE?

May 03 2013

Singapore’s May Day Protest Against Population Policy

An estimated crowd of 5,000 gathered in Singapore’s Hong Lim Park on May 1, 2013 to protest the government’s White Paper on population.

To reverse the country’s aging population, the government plans to hire more foreign workers which is being resented by many Singaporeans.

The May Day protest was the second time that a big crowd gathered in the park to speak out against the population program.

Mr Gilbert Goh of Transitioning.org, which helps unemployed individuals, is lead organizer of the event. He writes about the significance of the protest:

We hope that the sequel will see a stronger turn-out and hopefully a rejuvenation of power’s power as I have heard many Singaporeans felt helpless and hopeless as all along we are very disunited and fragmented as a country.

It took us almost 50 years to achieve a 4000-strong massive turnout for a political protest on 16 Feb and hopefully the triumph march of people’s power will return on May 1st.

Singaporeans gathered at Hong Lim Park to protest the government's population program. Photo from Facebook of Gilbert Goh

Singaporeans gathered in Hong Lim Park to protest the government's population program. Photo from Facebook of Gilbert Goh

Patrick Low notes that Hong Lim park is now a space to assert democracy in Singapore:

Every citizen and NGO present there tomorrow can be a co-owner of the action here. Beyond the political framework of a party system hobbled by horse-trading, party allegiance and power mongering the emergence of Hong Lim as a brand new political space for all Singaporeans to share is like the dawn of a new spring. The only common denominator is the common good and the desire to “Change for the Better”.

Jolovan Wham warns against creating a ‘false divide’ between foreigners and the local population:

We need to calibrate our immigration policy such that it does not affect the quality of life of Singaporeans, close the income gap and extend social welfare to all who are disadvantaged and need it. But we cannot achieve this through discrimination and drawing false distinctions because giving foreigners fewer benefits, fewer subsidies and fewer concessions isn't necessarily going to make life better for us Singaporeans. We need to have anti-discrimination laws so that anyone who has been unfairly treated whether it is by nationality, gender identity, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or disability can have avenues to seek redress.

Terry Xu of The Online Citizen observes that speakers also discussed other social issues:

But from the topics covered by the speakers in this protest and from private conversations between total strangers who have just met during the event, it seems to have transcended to a civil movement, which normal Singaporeans could feel empowered to make their voices heard by the incumbent.

And judging from the strong positive response from the crowd, this event would probably not be able to satisfy Singaporeans’ urge to voice out their unhappiness and that there will be more of such events to come in the near future.

Bryan Wong supports the rally to improve the situation of Singaporeans:

To me, it is a noble and courageous act. But all these could happen to our own Singaporeans in future if we do not act and stay oblivious to the situation that is happening now

And this pains me even more to see when foreigners are having jobs here by the many, and we have to venture overseas in search of survival.

The Online Citizen uploads a video report about the protest

Redbean thinks the crowd is smaller compared to the February 16 rally:

I was there as an observer, met some bloggers who have followed my blog and listened to the views of Singaporeans there, mostly negative. One thing, the crowd was much smaller than the previous rally, probably less than 3,000. But this time there were more media representations. The other point to note was the predominantly older crowd. The young were less represented, perhaps more busy having a good time while it still lasts.

It was a peaceful protest, according to Spotlight on Singapore

Another milestone on the road to democracy was achieved at Hong Lim Park today.

The crowd was good-natured and polite. Who says Singaporeans can’t protest peacefully?

Street demonstrations make for a greater impact but are banned. This is no surprise.

There were two events in the park on Labor Day. The protest was scheduled in the afternoon while a ‘picnic’ gathered about 400 hundred people in the morning. Breakfast Network described what took place in the picnic:

So it seems that the May Day picnic is just that: Getting people to be happy together. The group’s worry now is being able to cater for what they think would be a bigger crowd than the couple of hundred that had anticipated. Seems the group got more attention than they bargained for.

May 02 2013

PHOTOS: Thousands of Workers March for Rights across Southeast Asia

Global Voices reviews the May 1, 2013 Labor Day protests in Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore. The rallies, which were organized to echo the various demands of workers and advocacy groups, were relatively peaceful across the region.

In Cambodia, more than 6,000 garment workers were joined by students, NGOs, and urban poor residents in Phnom Penh City who marched from the Freedom Park to the National Assembly calling for living wages and improved working conditions.

Garment workers march in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo from Licadho

Garment workers march in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo from Licadho

Cambodian protesters near the National Assembly

Cambodian protesters near the National Assembly. Photo from Licadho

In this video uploaded by the Community Legal Education Center, the main demands and situation of Cambodian workers were summarized:

In Indonesia, thousands of workers marched in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta to commemorate Labor Day. Among their demands were the “fulfillment of the minimum wage, health insurance and safety for workers, as well as refusing outsourcing.”

Thousands of workers march in Jakarta. Photo by Ibnu Mardhani, Copyright @Demotix (5/1/2013)

Thousands of workers march in Jakarta. Photo by Ibnu Mardhani, Copyright @Demotix (5/1/2013)

Workers march in Jakarta during Labor Day. Photo by Ibnu Mardhani, Copyright @Demotix (5/1/2013)

Workers march in Jakarta during Labor Day. Photo by Ibnu Mardhani, Copyright @Demotix (5/1/2013)

In the Philippines, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno is disappointed with the labor policies of the government:

We mark the 127th International Workers’ Day and its 110th celebration in the Philippines with a nationwide protest condemning the rabidly anti-worker and pro-capitalist regime of Pres. Noynoy Aquino.

Aquino has again rejected workers’ calls for a significant wage hike, the junking of contractual employment and a stop to trade-union repression. He has bragged about non-wage benefits and his government’s efforts at creating jobs.

Filipino workers march near the presidential palace demanding higher wages and rollback of prices. Photo from Facebook of Tine Sabillo

Filipino workers march near the presidential palace demanding higher wages and rollback of prices. Photo from Facebook of Tine Sabillo

Labor Day rally in the Philippines. Photo from Facebook of Tine Sabillo

Labor Day rally in the Philippines. Photo from Facebook of Tine Sabillo

Highlights of the Labor Day events in Manila were featured in this video uploaded by EJ Mijares:

In Singapore. Gilbert Goh of transitioning,org wrote about the historic Labor Day protest in Singapore:

We realised that we are also creating another piece of history in Singapore here as so far no one has managed to organise a labour day event from the ground up – ever and we are proud to be able to do so for the first time!

We may even contemplate doing an annual labour day protest from now on – like what many other countries have done for decades.

Thousands of Singaporeans assembled in Hong Lim Park on Labor Day. Photo from Facebook of Lawrence Chong

Thousands of Singaporeans assembled in Hong Lim Park on Labor Day. Photo from Facebook of Lawrence Chong

Singaporeans participate in historic Labor Day protest to air their views on the government's population policy paper. Photo from Facebook of Lawrence Chong

Singaporeans participate in historic Labor Day protest to air their views on the government's population policy paper. Photo from Facebook of Lawrence Chong

The event is a sequel protest to the February action which gathered thousands of Singaporeans opposed to the government’s population policy paper. In this video, Singaporeans explained their reasons for organizing and joining the action.

No Taxis for the Blind in Singapore?

A visually impaired lady from Singapore wrote about the lack of public awareness on the helpfulness of guide dogs as a taxi driver refused to let in her guide dog saying “Dogs are not allowed” on taxis.

Would Singaporeans only accept blind people with their guide dogs when there is a protective Law with penalties?

May 01 2013

TPP: Biggest Threat to Global Internet Since ACTA?

This article was co-authored by Maira Sutton and Katitza Rodriguez of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Its original version can be found here.

The United States and ten governments from around the Pacific region are meeting yet again to hash out the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP) on May 15-24 in Lima, Peru. The TPP is one of the worst global threats to the Internet since ACTA. Since negotiations have been secretive from the beginning of the process, advocates seeking to learn more about the agreement have been relying on a leaked draft [PDF] of the treaty from February 2011. Based on that text, some other leaked notes, and the undemocratic nature of the entire process, we have every reason to be alarmed about the copyright enforcement provisions contained in this multinational trade deal.

The TPP is likely to export some of the worst features of US copyright law to Pacific Rim countries: a broad ban on breaking digital locks on devices and creative works (even for legal purposes), a minimum copyright term of the lifetime of the creator plus seventy years (the current international norm is the lifetime plus fifty years), privatization of enforcement for copyright infringement, ruinous statutory damages with no proof of actual harm, and government seizures of computers and equipment involved in alleged infringement. Moreover, the TPP is worse than US copyright rules: it does not export the many balances and exceptions under US law that favor the public interest and act as safety valves in limiting rightsholders’ protections.

Adding insult to injury, the TPP's temporary copies provision will likely create chilling effects on how people and companies behave online and their basic ability to use and create on the Web. The stated goal of the TPP is to unite Pacific Rim countries by harmonizing tariffs and trade rules between them, but in reality, it's much more than that. The “intellectual property” chapter in this massive trade agreement will likely force changes to copyright and patent rules in each of the signatory countries. Accepting these new rules will not just re-write national laws, it will also restrict the possibility for countries to introduce more balanced copyright laws in the future.

This strategy may end up harming more proportionate laws in countries such as Chile, where a judicial order is required for ISPs to be held liable for copyright infringement or to take down content. Such systems better protect users and intermediaries from disproportionate or censorship-driven takedowns. If the final TPP text forces countries to adopt a privatized notice-and-takedown regime, this could imply the end of the Chilean system. It would also undermine Canada's notice-and-notice regime.

Film, music and other content industries can and will continue to use their economic and political power to get laws that protects their interests. They did it with SOPA and ACTA, and now it's happening with TPP [es]. It's going to be a challenge to defeat these policies, but users can do it. The TPP is slated for conclusion this October, but our goal is to get the worst of these copyright provisions out of it. The way to fight back is to show that we will not put up with this: to demand an open, transparent process that allows everyone, including experts from civil society, to analyze, question, and probe any initiatives to regulate the Internet. The secrecy must be stopped once and for all.

Digital rights advocacy groups around the world are working to change the TPP process and bring users’ concerns to the table. Users in any country can join a campaign led by Canadian NGO OpenMedia by clicking here. Users in the US can join EFF's campaign, directed at US Congress members, which calls for the immediate release of the text of the TPP and demands that this process become democratic and transparent.

Below is EFF's infographic highlighting the most problematic aspects of TPP. Please spread the word about how this agreement will impact you and your country. Right-click and save the image for the PNG file, or you can download the PDF version below. Remix it, build upon it, and get the word out. Let's protect and defend the Internet from this secret trade deal.

 

April 26 2013

Animal Welfare Included in Singapore School Syllabus

Good news for animal lovers. Singapore’s Ministry of Education has confirmed that animal welfare will be included in the new ‘Character and Citizenship Education’ syllabus for primary and secondary students.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals cheered the inclusion of animal welfare in the curriculum:

We cannot stress enough the importance of these changes to the education curriculum as we are raising the next generation of young girls and boys to be respectable, responsible citizens, and to live lives of kindness, having compassion for animals and fellow human beings. This is the breakthrough we’ve been hoping for!

A rabbit grooming workshop conducted by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

A rabbit grooming workshop conducted by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Kwan Jin Yao, writing for the Breakfast Network, recognizes the importance of teaching animal welfare in schools:

The horrific cases of animal abuse, cruelty, and abandonment in Singapore, albeit anecdotal, signals the need for us to have greater respect for animals – and it’s best to start them young.

Yet learning to be kind to animals can build a sense of responsibility, as the young impressionable child becomes more empathetic as he or she expresses concern for others. Compassion can be nurtured, as they learn how to behave and co-exist with it

On Facebook, Rene Ser explains how this reform will be beneficial to society:

This is great news. Besides academic excellence, we encourage our young to learn to respect other living things, because the world is not solely abt humans, and the eco system is made up of many plants and animals and taking a step towards loving animals, is a step towards loving Earth. Looking at a bigger picture, this is definitely beneficial to society and our eco system.

Alycia Lynch shares the good news with her daughter:

My 12 year old will be happy to hear that because she has been telling me that Animal Welfare should be included in every school’s curriculum so children will grow up respecting animals.

Zeus IsCute thinks parents should also be educated about animal welfare:

Honestly, I don't know how kids are going to learn if the parents are the ones who need educating.

April 11 2013

Southeast Asia: Reactions to Margaret Thatcher's Death

How should we reflect on the legacies of Margaret Thatcher? A snapshot of some of the reactions across Southeast Asia provide a rather solemn albeit positive reflection on the late British prime minister.

But first, we start with the humorous response in Thailand. Channel 5, a state-owned television, mistakenly showed a picture of Meryl Streep, as opposed to Thatcher, causing much confusion among Thai viewers. A stream of online reactions to this embarrassing saga spread across the cyberspace, prompting Channel 5 to release an apology on its Facebook page.

Thailand's state-run TV showing actress Meryl Streep as former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Thailand's state-run TV showing actress Meryl Streep as former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Saksith Saiyasombut believes the mistake was a result of a quick Google picture search:

Obviously, this was the result of a quick Google picture search and taking the next best picture that showed up. But it does beg the question whether or not this will be the last time that a TV newsroom will make such a (admittedly hilarious) mistake and confuse the real world figures with the actors playing them – we probably can expect to see future mix-ups like Hellen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II or Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela!

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Photo from Wikipedia

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Photo from Wikipedia

On a more serious note, reference to the “Iron Lady” from countries with female prime ministers conclude that their leaders seemed to lack the “iron quality” that Thatcher had. Chuvit Kamolvisit, a Thai MP, called the Thai PM, Yingluck Shinawatra, a “Puppet Lady,” who has a lot more to learn from the Iron Lady. Noom Maung Non wrote:

Margaret declared war with Argentina to protect the Falklands, which were far far away from English. But in [the Thai] case, the Khao Praviharn belongs to us Thai but Yingluck wants to give way to the Cambodians.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Dave Llorito wrote a piece in 2007 aptly titled “Gloria Arroyo is no Thatcher” arguing that while the former president of the Philippines tried to implement Thatcherite policies, she ultimately failed because “Arroyo lacked the soul” of the Iron Lady.

In Indonesia, a Jakarta Post reader mourned the loss of an important world leader and wished that his country could have a leader like Thatcher:

…someone with that sort of valor, the sort of dominant spirit that is not afraid. We need a piece of iron to smash corruption and inconsistency in this country.

Singapore, on the other hand, seems to have no shortage of iron-type leaders. Thatcher herself confessed on her first visit to Singapore in 1985 that Lee Kwan Yew was among the few world leaders she most admired for his leadership calibre.

Some Singaporeans agree. LesMISERABLES wrote on the Courtyard Cafe that what Thatcher did to the world paled in comparison to what Lee Kwan Yew did for Singapore. Sammyman says:

How to compare the immortal with the mere mortal like Thatcher?!?

Others disagree. steffychun says:

Both are neoliberal. But Lee is dictatorial. Thatcher won elections freely.

Likewise, Johnny333 claims:

Under LKY (Lee Kuan Yew) true unions did not exist. NTUC is nothing more than another PAP (Singapore's ruling party) organisation.

Philolitics prefers Thatcher over Lee

Despite me disliking both Maggie and Harry, who would I choose?

Definitely not the one who outlawed protests, freedom of speech and assembly, who engages in smearing campaigns against opposition politicians and showing disrespect to them and the ones that wages war indirectly with the working class with salaries higher than President Obama’s.

If I could choose between these two people, I would go for Maggie.

March 17 2013

Will Singapore 2013 Budget Promote ‘Inclusive Society'?

Singapore’s 2013 budget certainly tries to give Singaporeans what they have been clamoring for: Stricter limits on foreign labour, carrots and sticks to increase local productivity, a more progressive tax structure, more measures to cool house and car prices. Through the budget, the government wants to establish a more ‘inclusive society’:

A Better Singapore

We are transforming our economy so that we can have

Quality Growth – growth that will provide all Singaporeans a better quality of life.
And we are taking further steps towards a more Inclusive Society – starting with our children, helping lower income workers, and providing better lives for our retirees

Singapore 2013 Budget

Singapore 2013 Budget

Marketdecoder presents a succinct summary of the budget which critics say is infused with populist programs. Meanwhile, Roy takes a step back and examines the macro-political impact of these giveaways.  He says:

The other way to look at Budget 2013 is to look at it as a corrective budget.

… Budget 2013 is the start of a series of evolutionary budgets which will be aimed at correcting the missteps by the Singapore government of the economy over the past 10 years or so.

It’s clear that some of the budget initiatives are aimed at the Singapore property market, which has been in a bit of a bubble lately, with house prices increasing much faster than income.

Many are worried that their asset prices will fall as a result of the new property tax initiatives. However, Natasha Goh produces a detailed analysis about the impact of the budget on real estate:

Some analysts also talk about the increase in supply of rental units due to the abolishment of property tax concessions on vacant properties. While I think there might be some increase, I don’t think the numbers will be significant.

Signs of Struggle lists some of the recommendations of parliament members:

Janil Puthucheary (PAP) recommended that free public transport rides be given at off peak hours to try and change commuter behaviour and reduce peak load.

Irene Ng (PAP) asked that respect for all people be shown by recognising a “living wage” level at which a wage is considered fair.

Christopher de Souza (PAP) asked for the preschool sector to be nationalised, pushing against the tide of the G trying to privatise everything.

andyxianwong sees ‘structural flaws’ in the proposal:

To see the government claiming this as a progressive and inclusive budget when it suffers from a number of structural flaws is troubling. It is particularly worrying to see the government embracing expensive, short-sighted populist policies in the light of increasing political discontent…The fact that the budget also appears to pour money into already profitable government linked companies, some of which will inevitably return to the government at the end of the year, is also concerning. Why is it that government spending so often results in putting very little cash into the hands of those who need it most?

Arra's World reacts to the high allotment for the salaries of government officials:

My personal view is that I do not mind them politicians getting paid top dollar to run a country, god knows it is more difficult then running an MNC. I do mind paying mindless scholars with zero EQ the same amount. I also do mind that our policies haven't improved much. Lastly, I do mind that my children will have a hard time scrapping for a roof over their head regardless of the millions of dollars we had paid our politicians. Smells like an insurance scam.

March 03 2013

Singapore's Population Strategy

Improving total fertility rate and labor force participation rate to increase the resident workforce over time rather than immigration-driven growth is the more appropriate way forward for Singapore

Titled ‘A Dynamic Population for a Sustainable Singapore', the opposition Workers’ Party drafts its own policy paper in response to Singapore government's Population White Paper.

February 26 2013

Engaging Perspectives: New Art From Singapore

Engaging Perspectives: New Art From Singapore, an exhibition organized by the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Singapore’s new art center at Gillman Barracks, presents artworks by the artists Ang Song Nian, Black Baroque Committee, Mike Chang, Nah Yong En, Bruce Quek, Singapore Psychogeographical Society, Frayn Yong, Jasper Yu, and Zhao Renhui. The nine artists and collectives are currently working in Singapore. They are all born in the 1980s and at different stages of their careers. The exhibition aims to provide new perspectives about the everyday within the context of Singapore. The show is curated by Eugene Tan and organized by the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA).

Engaging Perspectives: New Art From Singapore. Gillman Barracks, Singapore. January 25, 2013.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.
> On YouTube:

The Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) is devoted to advancing knowledge in contemporary art through education, research, exhibition and artist-in-residence programmes. Scheduled to open later in 2013 at the new Gillman Barracks art precinct, the CCA aims to bolster Asia’s visual arts landscape through creation, presentation and interpretation of contemporary art, while fostering research, discourse and cultural exchange. The CCA is a national research centre of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), in collaboration with the Economic Development Board (EDB), Singapore.

Gillman Barracks is a new contemporary art center in Singapore that opened in late 2012. It is named after British general Sir Webb Gillman and is set amid lush greenery and was once a stronghold to the First Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. The conserved colonial barracks now houses national and international galleries and creative businesses, as well as the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) that will open in 2013.

engaging-perspectives-012513

Excerpt from the press release:

First public showcase by NTU’s Centre for Contemporary Art

Published on: 17-Jan-2013
Exhibition at Gillman Barracks features nine Singapore contemporary artists with talks at Marina Bay Sands set to challenge, broaden horizons

The Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) is presenting its first public showcase in conjunction with Art Stage Singapore: an exhibition of nine Singapore contemporary artists at the Gillman Barracks and a series of talks featuring local and international art personalities at Marina Bay Sands.

A national research initiative of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), the CCA’s inaugural events aim to not only explore and push Singapore’s contemporary art to the forefront, but to also broaden horizons for Asian contemporary art.

“The Centre for Contemporary Art is still a work in progress, albeit a very exciting one. Art Stage is a major event on Singapore’s art calendar, and NTU is happy that it can contribute to it through CCA. This particular exhibition and series of talks reflect the vision of CCA – creating a vibrant art community in Singapore, bringing together the best of Asian and Western art, and engaging the wider public in discourses on contemporary art. I am particularly delighted that the exhibition is featuring the works of talented young Singapore artists, who have so much to offer,” said Professor Alan Chan, Dean of NTU’s College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

“The common theme of this CCA’s event celebrates the integration of contemporary art into daily life. It’s heartening to see the steady growth of Singapore’s art scene, and we look forward to fostering partnerships with both private and public organisations to make art a central thread in the fabric of Singaporean life and culture,” Professor Chan added.

Engaging Perspectives: New Art from Singapore Exhibition

The inaugural exhibition, Engaging Perspectives: New Art from Singapore, features a roster of young, accomplished Singapore artists who were born in the 1980s. It provides an in-depth look at how these artists engage with concepts of the everyday and the interconnected perspectives about daily living within Singapore as well as the wider world.

Curator Eugene Tan said, “The artists in our inaugural exhibition prompt us to consider how attentive we are to the visible and invisible structures and networks that exist in our society, and how enormous an influence these have on our everyday lives.”

The nine artists and collectives, amongst them emerging as well as established artists who have exhibited internationally, will examine the diverse but related ways in which they engage with the everyday. Their works explore the physical structures as well as the invisible structures and networks that govern daily life, the relationship between increasingly urbanised environments and nature, as well as the systems of meaning making that influence the creation of images and signs that exists in society.

For example, the work of Zhao Renhui explores and challenges meaning-making through video and photography made during his three-month artist residency in 2011 at Antarctica, an environment that stands in sharp contrast to the Southeast Asian tropics. Debbie Ding presents her experiences and perspective of cities through various physical markers that populate our urbanised cities, revealing structures and networks that govern our everyday lives.

In an age of digital technology, Black Baroque Committee explores the physical act of image making through an analogue camera, and its relationship to physical violence. The collective stated, “We are bombarded every day with news about war and violence, and all this has made us become somewhat insensitive to acts of violence. This latest work builds on our previous ones by focussing on the mechanical and cold process of taking photos, which is akin to activating the dreaded guillotine during the French Revolution.”

Engaging Perspectives: New Art from Singapore
Venue: Gillman Barracks, Blocks 1, 37, 38, and 39
Date/Time: 26 January to 31 March 2013, 11:00am to 8:00pm, Tue to Sun (Closed on Mon and Public Holidays)
Opening Reception: 25 January 2013 (Friday), 7:00pm
Media Preview: 24 January 2013 (Thursday), 11:00am to 12:15pm, Gillman Barracks, Blk 37, #01-04.
Artists: Ang Song Nian, Black Baroque Committee, Mike Chang, Debbie Ding, Nah Yong En, Bruce Quek, Frayn Yong, Jasper Yu, and Zhao Renhui.

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February 22 2013

Will High Speed Rail Improve Singapore-Malaysia Ties?

Relations between Singapore and its neighbor Malaysia have been prickly ever since Singapore withdrew from the Malaysian Federation in 1965. Prickly at least until the two current prime ministers Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Tun Razak struck a real estate deal in 2010 which resolved the problem of what to do about Malaysia’s last foothold in Singapore, a railway station near the heart of Singapore’s business district.

On February 19 2012, the two prime ministers announced a high speed train project which will provide a mere 90 minute link between the two countries, demonstrating that they were not just interested in fence-mending but in building much closer ties.

Both leaders clearly recognize that co-operation will bring economic benefits.

YTL Corporation proposed a high speed rail link between Singapore and Malaysia in the 1990s

YTL Corporation proposed a high speed rail link between Singapore and Malaysia in the 1990s

Carlos Abdullah sees the project as the first step in rapprochement between the two countries which used to be one.

 I view the railway initiative in the most positive aspect. This is the first major step among all others to the integration of Singapore into the Federation of Malaysia. Today, things are becoming much more clear as to where Singapore and Malaysia will be heading to. It is easier for Singapore to integrate with malaysia than for the whole of ASEAN to integrate among themselves.

The announcement is prompting Bertha Henson to consider moving to Johor across the Singapore border because of the cheaper housing.

When I grow old(er), I will move to…Johor! I mean, have you seen the stuff that’s coming up in Iskandar region? More importantly, did you read about what those homes could be priced at?

The announcements by the two Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia look like the best news in recent time. For both leaders, it’s probably great timing. Malaysia has a general election due by middle of the year. Singapore is screaming about lack of space.

However, she decides in the end that home is where she should remain, because she has voting rights. (Even if whatever she says isn’t loud enough to be heard).

Oddznns, who takes everything personally, says she's just glad that the journey to her mother’s home-town Ipoh will just get easier:

It would be an attractive option, at the right price.  The Malaysian part of my heritage has just become easier to access

Below are some reactions on twitter:

@bossming Looking forward to the high speed rail to KL becoming a reality, and for closer relations between our 2 countries.

@Avenflame New KL-SG high-speed rail: Now you can speed all the way to KL without having to dodge speed racers & paying off the traffic police.

@dayanaleto Singapore and Malaysia agrees to build high speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala lumpur. Only for 90 minutes! Amazing!

@prasys actually inter-state high-speed rail would be much more beneficial for malaysians – at least reduces bus accidents

@scamboy Malaysia can't even offer proper public transport but wanna do high-speed rail link to Singapore that cost RM13bil!

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Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl