March 30, 2017

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Authors Posts by Wan Ting Koh

Wan Ting Koh

Wan Ting Koh
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As field correspondent, Wan Ting likes chasing leads. When she's not doing that, the former Lit Major enjoys watching horror films and filling her awfully chocolate quota in her free time. You can reach her at wanting@themiddleground.sg

SHARED SPACE: The common room where the elderly residents gather for meals and activities such as watching tv. They also do engage in spontaneous activities such as dancing or even cooking.

by Wan Ting Koh 

AMID the controversy over the future of Singapore’s nursing homes – whether seniors are better off in private rooms or ward-type facilites – for at least one group of seniors, what they really want is the best of both worlds.

They like the privacy and autonomy that their own bedroom offers. But at the same time, they also like being able to mingle with other residents, saying that sometimes being by themselves can get a bit lonely.

We spoke to Saint Bernadette Lifestyle Village, one of Singapore’s few assisted living facilities that offers private rooms and is run by a Volunteer Welfare Organisation. Last month marked the facility’s first anniversary since it opened in December 2015. Currently, it houses eight seniors who range from 75 to over 90 years old.

Most of the eight residents said that while privacy is a priority, they also appreciate the companionship of fellow residents and the presence of nurses who attend to them when needed.

Madam Joy Lo is one such resident. The 94-year-old has been staying at the facility for some six to eight months and has no plans to move. She first moved to St Bernadette as she felt lonely at home with only a domestic helper as company. Her son had to work, while her daughter was in the UK.

“At home we are all alone with the maid. The maid have to do housework, how can she attend to you all the time? Here we can meet others and play mahjong,” said Madam Lo.

When asked if she would want to stay in a dormitory-style nursing home, she said no, citing privacy as her main concern. However, Madam Lo is still quite mobile and doesn’t require any assistance to move around. She even made it her daily morning routine to sweep the garden after getting up at 6am.

Others her age, however, might need more supervision, she acknowledged. Like those who are ill and not mobile.

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St Bernadette, which began accepting residents in end 2015, is an assisted living facility located a five-minute walk from Newton MRT. Unlike most nursing homes in Singapore, St Bernadette offers its residents a more home-like setting by providing residents with private bedrooms and ensuite toilets, while having a nurse available 24/7 to care for the residents. Residents sign a six-month lease, which they can extend and pay $3,500 per month.

The home is located entirely on the ground floor and consists of a common room, which is attached to eight private bedrooms. Each bedroom has a TV, a bed, a bedside table, a drawer for personal effects, a phone, a chair and an attached bathroom.

Madam Lo, whose room faces the front of the home, has decorated the space with her personal belongings. Her medicinal cabinet is filled with small bottles from her makeup collection, including her favourite skincare brands: Estee Lauder and Elizabeth Arden.

Said Madam Lo:

“You’re free to do what you want, but you have food on time and people take care of you.”

St Bernadette stands in stark comparison to the more commonly seen model of nursing homes in Singapore – the dormitory-style nursing home. These are homes which can house up to 30 residents in a single ward and focus on giving residents round-the-clock medical care.

A report released last year, titled Safe but Soulless, suggested that many of such nursing homes in Singapore, though clean and safe, are regimented to the point that they become “soulless”. The two organisations behind the report, Lien Foundation and Khoo Chwee Neo Foundation, want more “home-like” environments, with single or twin-bedded rooms that give the elderly more privacy.

However, representatives from six nursing homes disagreed. They penned an ST forum letter saying that the money spent on building private bedrooms could be better spent on volunteer-recruitment and organising more activities.

Some elderly, they said, prefer to share a room because it makes them feel less lonely.

As Singapore argues over what the seniors want, back at St Bernadette, it seems the seniors are well-contented with their home.

Another resident, Madam Leong Mei Yong, has been at the home since it first opened.

The 95-year-old, who needs assistance moving around, said that there was no company at home as her children were always working. Her daughter, Ms Shirley Yap, 54, said that she decided on St Bernadette for her mother as it is near to her house and offers a private room for her mother.

Before St Bernadette, Madam Leong had stayed in Econ Medicare Centre as she lost her swallowing reflex. “She stayed there for four months until she could swallow. But she was getting to a stage where she was getting very weak, so she needed round-the-clock assistance,” said Ms Yap. Madam Leong recovered from her condition in December 2014.

Her daughter acted immediately when she heard of St Bernadette. “When this came out in the papers, I called in straightaway and came down on the same day,” said Ms Yap.

She brought her mother to see the facilities and her mother “liked it”, said Ms Yap. Madam Leong liked talking and going out to “walk” with friends. “At home there is no one, they are always working,” said Madam Leong in Mandarin, referring to her family.

Madam Lisa Lai, a fellow resident, concurs.

“Here I can talk to friends. No one takes care of me at home, so staying here is more convenient,”

said the 85-year-old.

As residents treat the facility like their own home, they are free to come and go as they please as long as they have company. At the time when TMG visited, one resident had gone to stay with her daughter who was back from the UK and another resident had brought friends over to visit.

Residents also have events to look forward to. Just a two weeks ago, residents of St Bernadette joined neighbouring nursing home Good Shepherd Loft for a Chinese New Year reunion dinner for the first time.

And if they feel that the festivities are too much for them at any one point, they always have the option of returning to the peace and privacy of their own bedrooms.

For Madam Lo, this peace is well cherished. “You can eat together, you can play together, but when we sleep we go in,” she said.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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by Wan Ting Koh

THE Workers’ Party (WP) fired its first salvo on Jan 22, six days after a landmark ruling by the apex court on the use of the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).

Basically, the Court of Appeal judges ruled in a 2-1 split decision that the G cannot be defined as a “person” under Section 15 of the POHA.

Then, hours after WP’s first statement, the Law Ministry (MinLaw) replied. And WP countered.

WP said that MinLaw failed to address two of the key points it had raised in its first statement: Why the G needed the POHA to protect itself and why this wasn’t stated in Parliament when the Bill was moved in March 2014.

We break down the exchanges:

 

1. Clarification of the use of the POHA in Parliament

WP, in its first statement released on Jan 22, said that the G ought to be “upfront” about the intent of the POHA Bill. It said: “The prospect of the POHA being used to ‘protect the Government from harassment’ and the rationale for why this was necessary was not explained and discussed as one of the aims of the Bill.”

WP added that it would “vigorously oppose” any attempts to amend the law to clearly define how the POHA protected the G from harassment.

MinLaw, in its Jan 22 reply, said that WP had “misconceived and misrepresents the issues and the Government’s aims.” It said: “The Government has never said that it needed protection from harassment. Nor does the Government intend to amend POHA to protect itself from harassment.”

WP, in its second statement released yesterday, said that while it welcomed that the G was not intending to amend the POHA to protect itself from harassment, MinLaw failed to address why it wasn’t stated in Parliament that the intent of the POHA was to protect the G.

Said WP: “Had the government intended the POHA to be used to protect itself, it ought to have explained and defended this application of the law explicitly and directly during the Parliamentary debate rather than focusing that debate on the protection of individuals.”

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2. Explanation on why the G needed the POHA to protect itself

WP in its first statement said that the G had no need to use the POHA to protect itself from harassment as it had access to “significant resources” and “media channels” to address false statements. It added that the POHA could be used as a tool to suppress views that are different from the G.

Said WP: “For the POHA to be used to protect the Government from ‘harassment’ risks weakening Singapore’s climate of free speech and robust debate. It risks turning the POHA into the latest in the many tools that the Government can use against Singaporeans who publicly express different views from the Government on its policies and actions.”

MinLaw replied that the case was not about harassment, but about false statements. It said that everyone, including the G, was entitled to point out published falsehoods and have true facts “brought to public attention”.

Said MinLaw: “At a time when false information can affect election results… it is important for the Government, as well as corporations and individuals, to be able to respond robustly to false statements that could poison public debate and mislead decision-making.”

WP, in its second response, said MinLaw still didn’t explain why the G needed the POHA to protect itself, given it has “vast media resources” which it can use to reach out to the public.

The case which started it all concerns a Dr Ting Choon Meng who had made claims over a patent infringement involving the Ministry of Defence (Mindef). The allegations were published as an interview on website The Online Citizen.

Although TOC later published Mindef’s response in full and linked it to the Dr Ting article, the Attorney-General sought a court order to amend the story and pushed for the allegations not to be published without notifying readers about the false statements.

MinLaw, in its response, seemed to have taken a dig at WP too. It said that since WP claimed to be a “champion of transparency”, WP should welcome the G’s ability to put a stop to falsehoods. “There can be no objection to this unless the Workers’ Party sees profit in the dissemination of falsehoods,” it said.

Well, in reply, WP threw in its own barb: “MinLaw’s entire statement on 22 January focused on the distinction between false information and harassment, splitting hairs and diverting attention with bad insinuations about the Workers’ Party’s good faith in raising this issue.”

The opposition party repeated its argument that the use of POHA could potentially suppress dissonant voices critical of the G. Said WP: “Too broad an application of the POHA beyond the protection of individuals, including and especially through retroactive legislation, may deter legitimate critical comment and debate, thereby weakening public trust in Singapore’s political institutions and eroding our democracy …”

 

Read Bertha’s piece, which asks the question – and gives some answers: Did TOC put out fake news?

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by Wan Ting Koh

HOW much will it cost you to drive in and out of Singapore through Tuas or Woodlands Checkpoints? Do you know what exactly you’re paying for?

The answer: It depends. Are you driving a foreign-registered car or Singapore-registered car? Are you entering between 5pm and 2am when there are no Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) charges?

According to our calculations, if you’re driving a Singapore-registered car into Malaysia, you’ll need to cough out up to $13.30 just to get across the border. And this is just one-way. This was calculated by adding the RM20 (S$6.37) road charge imposed by Malaysia, and tolls from both Singapore and Malaysia checkpoints.

If you’re entering Singapore through a foreign-registered vehicle from Feb 15 onwards, you’ll have to pay these:

1. Toll charges at both the Malaysia and Singapore checkpoints

2. VEP charge ($35)

3. A Reciprocal Road Charge (RRC) ($6.40)

And according to our calculations, this could cost up to $46.30 for the foreign-registered vehicle travelling just one-way.

The RRC is the newest charge to be applied to foreign-registered vehicles and is meant to match the RM20 road charge that is levied on Singapore-registered cars entering Malaysia through Johor Bahru. Malaysia started charging the RM20 fee on Nov 1 last year.

The VEP charge – currently only levied by Singapore – has been in place since August 1, 2014, and only applies to foreign-registered cars and motorcycles entering Singapore. Foreign-registered cars are charged $35 per day while motorcycles are charged a $4 per day. This includes each day they are kept or used in Singapore.

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Motorists are given 10 days per year where they can enter Singapore VEP-free. There are no charges on the weekends and Singapore public holidays. Vehicles entering between 5pm to 2am on weekdays are also exempt from the VEP fees. Though if you stay beyond an exempted day, you’ll have to pay the daily rate if you have used up your 10 calendar days.

Owners with foreign-registered cars who do not have an In-Vehicle Unit installed will also have to pay a fixed rate of $5 daily when they use ERP-priced roads during ERP operating hours. This will be deducted through the vehicle’s Autopass Card when owners depart from Singapore.

Toll charges apply to both Singapore-registered and foreign-registered vehicles entering and exiting from either Tuas or Woodlands Checkpoint.

Here is a table of Singapore’s toll charges, taken from the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) website.

Screenshot of toll charges taken from LTA's website.
Screenshot of toll charges taken from LTA’s website.

 

Malaysia’s toll charges are as follows:

VehicleSingapore to JohorJohor to Singapore
Private carsRM9.70RM6.80
Small lorriesRM14.70RM10.20
Heavy lorriesRM19.70RM13.60
TaxisRM4.80RM3.40
BusesRM7.80RM5.50

Motorcyclists are exempted from this toll.

As for Singapore-registered vehicles entering Malaysia, the same table of toll charges apply, together with the RM20 road charge. Malaysia is supposed to have its own version of the VEP in place. Malaysia’s VEP requires Singapore-registered cars to register with Malaysia’s Road Transport Department before entering Malaysia.

But a check with Malaysia’s Road Transport Department website showed that registration has been suspended until further notice, so cars may still enter Malaysia without paying the VEP charge.

Now, here’s why you have to pay and pay – on both sides:

 

1. Reciprocal Road Charge

Malaysia said in October last year that it would start collecting a RM20 road charge from motorists entering through both the Causeway and Second Link from November the same year. Calls for Malaysia to levy a charge on Singaporean cars entering the country had been gaining traction after Singapore raised the VEP from $20 to $35 in 2014.

And that’s how the RRC came about.

Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan repeated in the January 9 sitting of Parliament that the G had a “long-standing policy of matching any levy, tolls or fees charged by Malaysia for using the road links between Singapore and Malaysia”.

He added: “This is to ensure that Malaysia takes into consideration our response whenever they raise their tolls or introduce a new levy.”

Here are what others have said about the RRC.

Malaysian opposition lawmaker Wong Shu Qi last Friday expressed her opposition to the road charge. She said: “A toll war on both sides of the Causeway essentially creates a toll wall alienating people, families and businesses in Johor and Singapore.”

In a statement, head of Johor Youth Wing of the United Malays National Organisation Hahasrin Hashim described the charge as a “gesture of provocation”. “We unanimously oppose the move to impose a Reciprocal Road Charge, as it affects Malaysians,” he said. He added that Malaysia had not responded to Singapore having a VEP imposed for 44 years.

Said Mr Hahasrin: “The move (RRC) has prompted the (Malaysian) federal government to engage in a dialogue with the Singapore Government to end this ‘victim’ stance adopted by Singapore.”

 

 

2. Vehicle Entry Permit charge

Singapore first introduced the VEP charge in 1973 to balance the cost of owning and using foreign-registered vehicles on Singapore roads with that of Singapore-registered vehicles, since Singapore-registered vehicles have significantly different costs such as the Certificate of Entitlement and vehicle taxes.

However when LTA announced that it was increasing VEP fees from $20 to $35 and the GVP fees from $10 to $40 for foreign-registered vehicles coming into Singapore, in 2014, Malaysia retaliated by saying that it would have its own VEP on non Malaysian-registered cars entering Malaysia via Johor Bahru. The initial fee according to reports was up to RM50. Malaysia aimed to implement the system by end-2014. Well, that has not worked out.

In August 2015, Malaysia said that non Malaysian-registered vehicles entering Malaysia through Johor Bahru would have to be registered for a radio frequency identification tag which costs RM10 and lasts for five years. The Malaysian G said that this was to “improve border controlling and monitoring”.

Till now, cars can still enter JB without paying Malaysia’s VEP fee.

Here are what others have said about the VEP:

Malaysia’s Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said in The Star article that Malaysia’s VEP will be different from Singapore’s and is not meant to be “reciprocal action” for Singapore’s own VEP. He added that Malaysia was not discriminating against Singapore-registered cars as the same road charges would be implemented at the borders with Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei.

 

3. Toll charges

Singapore first imposed toll charges on the Causeway and Second Link in March 1998. Then, cars, vans and small lorries were charged $1 for crossing the Causeway to Malaysia. For the Second Link, cars were charged $2.50 each way, while vans and small lorries were charged $6. Motorcycles only had to pay 50 cents for using the Second Link and could use the Causeway for free.

Tolls were collected through toll coupons. These were replaced by CashCards for Singapore-registered vehicles and Autopass Cards for foreign-registered vehicles from April 1, 2000. Tolls were paid at toll booths on Malaysia’s end.

Now, drivers pay tolls by inserting a NETS CashCard or a CEPAS compliant stored value card into the card reader installed at the immigration booths. On Malaysia’s end, tolls will be charged via Touch ‘n Go electronic payment card.

Then-Communications Minister Mah Bow Tan said that the toll collection was in line with Singapore’s road pricing policies to prevent and relieve traffic congestion. He said that the inter-government agreement on the construction of the new 1.9 km bridge at the Second Link, which opened early in 1998, allowed both countries to impose a toll on vehicles using it.

“Malaysia has announced its intention to do so,” he said. “We will do likewise.” He added: “To ensure that the collection of tolls at the second link will not divert traffic to the Causeway causing it to be congested, we will also collect tolls for the Causeway.”

Tolls were increased periodically since then. In July 2014, Malaysia announced its decision to raise toll charges for all vehicles, save motorcycles, effective from August 1 the same year.

From then, private cars had to pay RM16.50 in Malaysian tolls for a round trip, up from RM2.90.

 

Featured image Singapore – Johor Causeway (IMG_8582) by Wikicommons user Sengkang. (CC BY 2.0)

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Leftover food at a hawker centre, with people eating in the background,

by Wan Ting Koh

AFTER a week of using handkerchiefs in the name of waste reduction, I’m back to tissues now.

No more handkerchiefs for me, as I found it too unhygienic to use the same piece of cloth to wipe various bodily fluids. The good news is that I’m using tissues more judiciously now, so I split a piece into two, and use them sparingly.

Since my one-week experience of trying to cut down on waste, I’ve been more conscious about keeping my waste-line down. I’ve kept my hot drink cup and recyclable shopping bags. Other things, like the lunchbox and handkerchief, however, I found harder to maintain.

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According to statistics from the National Environment Agency (NEA), 1,192,200 tonnes of paper and cardboard waste were generated in 2015, compared to 603,700 of the same type that was recycled. A total of 824,600 tonnes of plastic waste was generated, compared to 57,800 tonnes recycled.

A total of 824,600 tonnes of plastic waste was generated, compared to 57,800 tonnes recycled.

To address the challenges I faced, and for more advice, I spoke to an expert at waste-reduction, Zero Waste SG executive director Eugene Tay, about my experience and to ask what I could have done better.

Here is the interview with Mr Tay, whose organisation seeks to help Singapore eliminate the concept of waste:

 

1. I found it difficult to reduce waste when the people I interacted with were not as mindful of the waste they created. How can one reduce waste in the face of such ingrained habits in the community? 

During my waste-reduction week, I found it harder to reduce waste because many people I interacted with – from hawkers and sales assistants to my family and friends – are used to creating waste in their daily activities. Mr Tay said it was a “common” problem, adding that most retailers don’t understand the need to reduce. I asked him this question because in my one week of waste-reduction, I encountered hawkers who immediately reached for disposable cups when I asked for drinks – even if they weren’t for takeaway beverages.

To this, Mr Tay said that his company was also making efforts to educate retailers. He said that retailers can provide customers with incentives to bring their own bags, lunchboxes, and bottles by reducing the fee by a few cents when these customers bring their own packaging. And on the consumers’ part, they can actively bring their own reusable bags and lunchboxes.

 

2. What would you say to those who think that waste reduction efforts, like using handkerchiefs instead of tissues, come at the expense of hygiene?

It’s fine to use a tissue paper to wipe your nose, especially if you have a runny nose, said Mr Tay. But if you save a piece of tissue for every time you wipe your mouth, by using a handkerchief, “that saves you more than 365 pieces of tissue a year”, he said. “Bringing a handkerchief is the easiest thing to do.”

But what do you say to people who think the handkerchief gets dirty easily? “Then you wash it more often,” said Mr Tay. Even if you use a handkerchief, you can throw it into your regular washing load so you’re not wasting too much water. But he admits that using a tissue paper is better for “extreme cases” such as mucus from sinus conditions.

 

3. What about the argument that, even as you conserve one thing, you’re wasting another? For example, one argument is that you’re wasting water and detergent when you don’t use disposable utensils.

It was drawn to my attention that while I might be saving on disposables by using reusable crockery, I was also using a lot more water to clean up. But Mr Tay pointed out that, in Singapore’s context, water was recycled.

Plus, one has to do a “whole life cycle analysis” of both disposables and water to compare which results in more waste, said Mr Tay. This includes comparing the environmental impact of the materials at every stage, from production to distribution and disposal. For example, the analysis takes into account the energy needed to pump water into a plant.

One has to do a “whole life cycle analysis” of both disposables and water to compare which results in more waste.

Barring the technicalities of such an analysis, Mr Tay said he feels that washing containers results in less of an impact than disposables. Said Mr Tay: “To me, if I use a little water to wash it, the water ends up being recycled as NEWater, [so] in a way it’s still okay.”

On the other hand, using a disposable has direct environmental impact. “If you use a disposable, let’s say styrofoam, it goes to the plant and you are wasting plastic which is made from oil – a non-reusable source. When you burn it, it becomes carbon emissions, which contributes to climate change,” said Mr Tay.

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4. The main challenge of bringing your own lunchbox for takeaways may be that the size of the lunchbox is inadequate for serving portions. What do you suggest?

Mr Tay suggested that customers bring a lunchbox that is roughly the size of the clam-shell styrofoam packages used for takeaways. “The lunchbox I use is the same size or slightly bigger. If it’s too small, then when you tabao rice it can’t fit into the lunchbox,” said Mr Tay.

Mr Tay’s $2 lunchbox, which he bought from Daiso, measures 17.8cm (length) by 14.4cm (width) and 6.7cm (height), and has a volume of 850ml.

Mr Tay's lunchbox. Image by Eugene Tay.
Mr Tay’s lunchbox. Image by Eugene Tay.

He also has a stainless steel flask with a volume of 480ml, which can fit the typical coffeeshop kopi or teh that comes in a glass mug.

Mr Tay's stainless steel flask. Image by Eugene Tay.
Mr Tay’s stainless steel flask. Image by Eugene Tay.

This flask, which he bought for $25 at Isetan, weighs only 250g, and can contain hot and cold drinks.

 

5. Festive seasons, like Christmas and the New Year, are seasons of waste. A lot of disposables are used for parties, for wrapping gifts, etc. What do you think can be done to reduce waste during these periods?

Mr Tay suggested the same thing that I did for my presents – reuse wrapping paper. Or, don’t wrap your presents at all. If you really need to use disposables for parties, paper plates are better than plastics, he said. But go for the more sustainable, environmentally-friendly choices, such as those that are 100 per cent biodegradable.

Go for the more sustainable, environmentally-friendly choices, such as those that are 100 per cent biodegradable.

That said, Mr Tay doesn’t feel the need for people to be too hard on themselves, especially on an event that occurs only once a year. Instead, people should focus on the things that they do regularly, like taking away food from the coffeeshop.

“If you use tissue paper every day, or if you go to Starbucks to get some coffee, then you should look at bringing your own handkerchief and bottle. If you do something on a regular basis that contributes to waste daily, then you focus on that,” said Mr Tay.

 

6. What can an individual do to manage waste better? Do you suggest a waste diary?

You can use a waste diary for about two weeks to look at the amount and type of waste you generate on a daily basis. Then you can take the first step towards reducing waste, said Mr Tay.

You could also use a trash bag, like I did, to measure the amount of waste you accumulate. Using the same trash bag for your waste-reduction exercise would give you a better gauge of how successful you are. Mr Tay said that reducing waste is the priority, followed by reusing and finally, recycling.

Reducing waste is the priority, followed by reusing and finally, recycling.

Mr Tay’s sage words: It is in the simple things that people do in their daily lives, like choosing a product with less packaging, or even buying a product in bulk, that reduces waste. For example, you can buy a whole package of sugar rather than individual sachets.

Finally, the last piece of advice Mr Tay had for me, when I told him about my unpleasant experience with the hawker uncle (who ticked me off for not knowing the right cup size for a drink) was: Do it with your colleagues.

“If you’re the only person breaking the status quo, of course you will see some resistance… It’s always good not to do it alone. If your colleagues can do it together with you, there is peer support,” said Mr Tay

“If they have to scold maybe two, three, or 15 persons, then maybe they won’t scold.”

You can start reducing your waste by being more aware of the materials you use in your daily life too. Let us know any tips and advice you have for managing waste more effectively and efficiently.

 

This piece is part of a series that highlights the need to #ReduceYourWasteline, in collaboration with Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore. Read the other pieces here:

  1. What a waste diary looks like
  2. Trimming my waste-line

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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by Wan Ting Koh

MORE signs showing where you can use your e-bikes and personal mobility devices (PMDs) will soon dot road and path-sides, but what compensation can you really get if you are hit by these devices?

This was a question asked by Members of Parliament (MPs) during yesterday’s second reading of the Active Mobility Bill. Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said that with the Bill, there would be clearer rules governing the use of transport devices, including the classification of paths for pedestrian use and shared use.

Related: Word of the Day: Car-lite

In case you didn’t know, there are four different kinds of paths which will be demarcated soon. First, there is the footpath where you can ride your bicycles and PMDs. E-bikes are banned from this type of path. Then there is the cycling and shared path, where bicycles, e-bikes and PMDs are allowed. There is the pedestrian-only path. And finally, roads, where only bicycles and e-bikes are allowed.

The penalty for devices that go where they shouldn’t: a maximum fine of $1,000, or a three-months jail term, or both, for first-time offenders. This applies to PMD riding on pedestrian-only paths and e-bikes that go on footpaths. The same penalty goes for speeding on public paths.

For PMDs that go on the roads, however, users will be fined a maximum of $2,000, or a three-month jail term, or both, for first-time offenders.

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The heavy penalties come on the back of several high-profile accidents involving PMDs and e-bikes in the recent months. In September last year, 53-year-old Madam Ang Liu Kiow went into a coma after being hit by an e-scooter. She underwent two brain operations.

More than 700 cyclists and PMD users were caught for reckless riding since May last year, while Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said last March that the number of e-bike accidents increased from six in 2013 to 27 in 2015.

NMP Randolph Tan pointed out that too many signs might have its own problems.

Said Assoc Prof Tan: “If incidents increase and arguments about right of way become more prevalent, will we be seeing a call for more directional signs on pedestrians pathways?… A proliferation of signages will only spawn a new set of challenges. Right of way where pathways intersect with driveways could also lead to increase chances of disputes and accidents.”

What will also be more visible apart from signs: registration plates for e-bikes. Mrs Teo said that e-bikes will have to be registered to an owner, especially since these devices are more prone to illegal modification.

However MPs seemed to be more concerned about what recourse pedestrians could get if they are involved in accidents with these devices.

Some pointed out that PMD users, who aren’t required to be registered, won’t be identifiable in cases of hit-and-run accident.

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, Mr Melvin Yong and Mr Zainal Sapari renewed the call for mandatory third-party insurance, which was, last year, rejected by Mrs Teo as “too onerous and costly” for the vast majority of PMD users who were responsible.

She said in the Oct 10 session of Parliament last year that pedestrians injured in accidents involving these devices can get compensation through civil lawsuits or private settlements.

However Mr Sitoh disagreed yesterday, saying that civil lawsuits would be expensive and that victims in hit-and-run accidents with PMDs would have no recourse if the users could not be identified. He added that the effort and cost to get insurance “should not be an impediment” to implementing mandatory insurance.

The same concern about unidentifiable PMD users was echoed by other MPs, such as Ms Joan Pereira, who suggested that devices be “sold with packaged personal accident insurance” She also asked that the insurance be “tagged to the equipment and kept updated as long as they are in use”. This is so victims can be assured of compensation, she added.

To these suggestions, Mrs Teo replied that while third-party insurance was encouraged, it was not mandatory due to the “broad range of users” who use the devices, including those who use them only occasionally, or those who are less well-off.

“Insurance comes at some cost, and it is not an insignificant amount… it is not clear who should be targeted for mandatory insurance,” said Mrs Teo. She added that where cyclists and PMD users are at fault, they may be prosecuted and the court will consider compensation.

Currently, only NTUC income offers third-party insurance for users of PMDs, e-bikes and bicycles, among other devices.

 

Other issues raised by MPs:

Apart from signs and third-party insurance, MPs gave other suggestions in Parliament, including having PMD users sit for theory tests and having them don mandatory safety gear. Mr Yong, Mr Ang Hin Kee and Mr Zainal proposed that PMD users take a basic safety course.

Mr Ang also added that while one can travel with foldable bicycles and PMDs with greater ease, there remained a lack of parking and storage spaces in public places and buildings. He was also an advocate for protective gear to be made compulsory for PMD users.

Other MPs, such as Ms Chan and Mr Dennis Tan said that familiarity with road etiquette should be inculcated when riders first start riding, with particular attention given to the young and those still schooling.

Foreign workers using bicycles were also a topic with some of the MPs, with Mr Pritam Singh saying that a key challenge would be to “educate a large and transient foreign worker community” of cycling norms. Mr Tan added that the huge influx of foreign workers in the 2000s resulted in a huge increase in the number of people using bicycles. “Many also followed the cycling culture: ignored the road safety rules because of lax enforcement,” said Mr Tan.

Mr Henry Kwek and Dr Teo Ho Pin suggested means of educating the public and for enforcing the new rules. Dr Teo said a 24-hour hotline for complaints could be set up, for instance, on top of installing CCTVs. Mr Kwek suggested that advertisements of desired behaviours could be shown in cinemas and websites such as SGAG and Mothership.

 

Additional reporting by Lim Qiu Ping.

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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by Wan Ting Koh

THE questions were asked in Parliament earlier today with Members of Parliament (MPs) using some pretty strong words. Cut to the chase of the 40-minute discussion over the detention of the nine Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Terrex vehicles by Hong Kong authorities in November and the issue is really whether China had anything to do with it. And, of course, the other critical question: When will Singapore get them back?

The answer to second question: Don’t know, but they should be returned at some point or other. That is, they cannot be confiscated or forfeited because of “sovereign immunity“. 

It’s a new term thrown up in the Terrex affair by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen. Since the vehicles and equipment were the Singapore G’s property, they are protected “by sovereign immunity, even though they were being shipped by commercial carriers”, he said.

“This means that they are immune from any measures of constraint abroad. They cannot legally be detained or confiscated by other countries.” It is a legal principle that is “well-established” under international law and the law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), added Dr Ng.

Hong Kong has been told that the equipment “belong to the Government of Singapore and are therefore immune from any measures of constraint”, said Mr Ng.

That the G has made clear its sovereign rights over the seized equipment is new information. The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) had only previously said that it had conveyed its formal position to the Hong Kong SAR counterpart on the detention of the armoured vehicles.

What isn’t new information: That Hong Kong authorities responded that the ongoing investigation would need time and the matter would be handled in accordance with Hong Kong’s laws.

This was the answer Mr Ng gave in response to some very pointed questions asked by Members of Parliament (MP).  Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang had asked if Hong Kong had “imposed conditions” for the return of the vehicles while Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan wanted to know whether Hong Kong Customs had “openly stated problems of import declaration” with the Terrexes.

The shipment of nine Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles and associated equipment were impounded while in transit in Hong Kong late last November. The vehicles were en route to Singapore following an SAF military exercise in Taiwan.

According to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Customs had said it impounded the shipment because shipping company APL had failed to provide appropriate permits for the vehicles.

But despite attempts to recover the Terrexes on the G’s part, the SAF vehicles remain stuck in Hong Kong. No estimate or timeline was given for the vehicles’ return in Parliament.

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The issue had drawn the attention of China which, in late November, said that it was opposed to “any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including military exchanges and cooperation”. Its foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that Singapore should “stick to the One China principle“. China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since 1949.

China’s involvement was mentioned by MP Zaqy Mohamad, who asked what the state of the Singapore-China relationship was in view of the seizure. Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong also asked on what grounds the G had made the assumption that China had not weighed in with the Hong Kong authorities. 

To this, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that he didn’t want to “engage in conspiracy theory” and that both China and Hong Kong had said the situation would or should be handled in accordance to Hong Kong’s laws. He added that the G has always been adhering to the One China policy and would continue to do so in the future.

He also said that there was no need to engage in”megaphone diplomacy“. Chinese media and commentaries have been critical of Singapore, suggesting that Singapore should give up its military training in Taiwan or compromise its relationship with China.

Mr Low asked if China’s progress as a superpower had made it “arrogant, aggressive, and to become a big bully?”

In response, Dr Balakrishnan said that China’s rise brought “enormous benefits”. He said:

We have to focus on the opportunities, whilst at the same time, recognising that there will be issues to resolve from time to time. Now, this is where we have to learn to take things in our stride.”

It is not the first time Hong Kong Customs has seized military equipment belonging to other states, said Mr Ng in response to a question by MP Sun Xueling about Singapore’s experience with Hong Kong authorities. In 2010, it detained a K21 light tank and armoured military carrier belonging to South Korea, apparently due to a missing Customs document.

According to ST, the vehicles were returned to South Korea through China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs two months later. 

So if it only took two months in South Korea’s case, is it about time the nine Terrexes were returned to Singapore?

Update:

Following Mr Ng’s address in Parliament, China has said that all parties should be “cautious with their words and actions”. In response to a reporter’s question during a regular briefing, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said: “It is hoped that all relevant countries, including Singapore, can earnestly respect the one-China policy, which is the fundamental prerequisite for China to develop ties with other countries.”

“Second, we hope the Singaporean side can respect the laws established by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR),” he said, adding that the Hong Kong SAR is handling the issue in accordance to relevant laws.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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by Wan Ting Koh

TEN years ago, most people wouldn’t have cared about reducing their waste but things are slowly changing with Singapore shifting towards a more sustainable environment.

More institutions and businesses are attempting to cut down on waste. Starbucks for example, gives you a 50-cent discount if you bring your own Starbucks tumbler for your beverage. Last October, 14 hotels were applauded for their waste-reducing measures, which include donating excess dry food to a food redistribution organisation and using e-signatures for the approval of internal document. Meanwhile, NTUC FairPrice managed to save more than 10 million plastic bags in 2015 due to its bring-your-own-bag campaign.

Curious to see if it was difficult or easy, I tried reducing my waste for a week. It was more difficult than I thought because of a variety of reasons, including the lack of support, inconvenience and hygiene.

Using a handkerchief in place of tissues for example, seems unhygienic to me. I also found it hard to reduce waste in my day-to-day activities simply because the “waste culture” is so ingrained in the community. This I discovered during lunch when I asked for a glass cup instead of a plastic cup from a hawker uncle and was given an annoyed look.

It’s even harder to reduce waste during the festive season – which was when I carried out this assignment. Parties and presents both use a lot of disposable products, whether for convenience or convention, and I had to avoid using those as much as I could.

In the end, using the same plastic bag as I did for my first waste diary to store my waste, I found that I managed to reduce my waste to about half the volume I originally racked up from the first assignment.

Here are some of the efforts I took to reduce my waste for a week:

 

1. Using a handkerchief instead of tissue

Handkerchief and plastic glove
Handkerchief and plastic glove

This was the thing I dreaded the most, for the sake of hygiene. Using the same piece of cloth to clean my nose in the morning and wipe my mouth after meals was akin to accumulating a day’s worth of germs and dirt on that cloth. But I did it anyway. I borrowed my father’s only three handkerchiefs for the assignment.

Even though hygiene was my main concern, I found a way to get around stains as much as I could. Instead of wiping snot and other germs directly on the handkerchief, I chose to rinse my nose in a sink before drying it with the handkerchief. The same went for after-meal wipes. I would rinse as much as I can with water before dabbing my mouth with the handkerchief. The trade-off was that I used more water.

As for the plastic glove, I had no choice but to use it to cut bread in Cedele cafe. But instead of disposing it afterwards, I brought it home to reuse for the next time I dye my hair.

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2. Using a cup for hot drinks

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Hot drink tumbler

I used a tumbler for hot drinks in place of disposable plastic cups available in the office. The trade-off is that you use more detergent and water to wash the cup instead. And if you use it outside however, like in coffeeshops, there might not always be detergent available to clean the cup immediately.

 

3. Requesting for glasses instead of disposable plastic cups for drinks

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Glass mug instead of plastic cup

I decided to request for a non-disposable cup instead of the usual takeaway plastic cup at a hawker centre drink stall for a blended fruit drink. The reaction I received from the hawker centre uncle wasn’t very pleasant however.

When it came to my turn, I requested for my drink to be poured into a hard blue plastic cup. But the uncle seemed disgruntled at my request. He took one look at the little-used blue cups from their corner on the shelves and said it was too small, adding “You must think with your head” in Mandarin. So I requested for the larger and more unwieldy glass mug, which the uncle served my drink in (rather unwillingly).

This experience raised a problem. With hawker portion sizes standardised to fit takeaway disposables, it would be difficult for hawkers to accommodate their customers’ own lunch boxes and cups if those come in different shapes and sizes.

 

4. Using a plastic container to store breakfast

WTK Lunch Box Cropped
Plastic container

Bakery staff usually pack individual pieces of bread into transparent plastic bags before placing them collectively into a carrier bag, which is pretty wasteful. So, I decided to bring my own plastic container for my breakfast instead.

The cashier who packed my bread gave me a look when I gave her this unusual request, but otherwise complied. The only limitation here is if you are buying for the whole family, then you would have to bring more boxes to store the bread. In this case, I only bought one bun.

 

5. Reusing packaging for Christmas presents 

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Packaging reused for Christmas exchange

Don’t be fooled by the Swarovski packaging. It contained no crystals.

I used it to pack five chocolate bars for a Christmas exchange with a group of friends. I was pretty proud of myself for reusing the paper bag (which I found at home) – until I received another gift which was wrapped in fancy, pristine wrapping paper. More waste to add to my count. If I hadn’t found the Swarovski package, I would have probably used scrap paper or magazine pages to wrap the gift.

 

6. Using recycle bags/handbags instead of plastic bags for shopping

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Recycling bag

This was pretty easy because a recycling bag is foldable and easy to tote around and the supermarket cashier is only too happy to let you do the packing. The only packaging you’re wasting are the ones that come with the new products you just bought.

 

7. Bringing my own plate and fork

Plastic plate and metal fork
Plastic plate and metal fork

While others attending our TMG year-end party used paper plates and disposable utensils, I stuck to my own plate and fork, brought from home. The after-party clean-up is much faster if utensils and plates are disposable though.

 

This piece is part of a series that highlights the need to #ReduceYourWasteline, in collaboration with Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore. Read the other piece here: What a waste diary looks like

 

Featured image its gone to a better place by Flickr user Ambernectar 13. (CC BY-ND 2.0) 

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by Wan Ting Koh

IS IT any surprise that the only contraceptives most women know about are the condom and the pill? They might even know the varieties of condoms available since they are sold openly on the counter, and even the brands of birth control pills.

But a vaginal ring? It sounds more sexually erotic than procreation-prohibiting. Only 31.7 per cent of 259 women surveyed were aware of this contraceptive, according to a study conducted between 2013 and 2014 by National University Hospital doctors.

MSM has the results of the study, but doesn’t say much more about such non-traditional contraceptives apart from how some of them work. A vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring a woman inserts into her vagina to prevent pregnancy. It releases the hormones, progestin and estrogen into the body, which prevents the ovaries from producing mature eggs. Once in place, the vaginal ring is left alone for three weeks and taken out in the last week of the month.

Apart from gynaecologists, the ring, popularly known as the NuvaRing, can be found at Mount Elizabeth’s (Mount Elizabeth Road) pharmacy and costs $43.14 per box. Each box contains one ring. Now compare that to a minimum of $8 for a box of 12 condoms. Ladies, wouldn’t you rather get the guy to buy himself the cap than get you a ring?

The study also looked at women’s awareness of seven other contraceptives to ascertain the level of awareness and knowledge of contraception among women in Singapore, and to see if current measures to educate women on contraception are effective. All the women, who were between 21 and 49 years old, know of the condom, and 89.2 per cent were aware of oral contraceptives.

However, less than half were aware of five of the newer methods available. These five are: birth control patches, implants, hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), injectable contraceptives, and, yes, vaginal rings. Awareness of hormonal IUDs ranked at the bottom, with only 24.3 per cent being aware of them. Women ought to be aware of alternatives other than the pill and condoms, because they might be more suitable for their bodies, or even more effective.

MethodAwareness
Condoms100 per cent
Oral contraceptive pills89.2 per cent
Tubal ligation73 per cent
Copper IUD72.2 per cent
Implant48.3 per cent
Injectable contraceptive46.7 per cent
Patch40.9 per cent
Vaginal ring31.7 per cent
Hormonal IUD24.3 per cent

Here are the seven contraceptives (apart from condoms and the NuvaRing) available in Singapore, and where you might get them. Note though, that all require a prescription from, or a consultation with, a doctor.

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1. Oral contraceptives

These come in the form of pills which contain a combination of hormones, estrogen and progestin, in your body when ingested. These hormones prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation.

Oral contraceptives are available at pharmacies and some GP clinics for a range of prices. You can buy these contraceptives after visiting a doctor for a prescription at certain Watsons, Guardian and Unity pharmacies. Pills cost between $6 and $50.

2. Implants

Birth control implants are devices that release a hormone which prevents pregnancy. They come in the form of plastic rods the size of matchsticks, and are placed under a woman’s skin – usually her upper arm. Implants are probably not available over-the-countertop at pharmacies, as they require doctors to inject them.

However, they should be available at gynaecologists or specialist clinics. GynaeMD Women’s Clinic provides Implanon, a type of implant, for $823, including the consultation fee and the device itself. Consultations range between $120 and $135. The implant should last for three years.

3. Copper IUDs

In case you’re wondering what they are, IUDs, are T- or U-shaped plastic devices that are inserted into a woman’s uterus by a doctor. The copper IUD is wrapped with a copper wire and makes the uterus and fallopian tubes produce fluid that kills sperm.

The IUD device has a plastic string tied to its end, which hangs down through the cervix into the vagina. The doctor uses this string to remove it. IUDs are a long-term birth control method that can last up to five years.

Copper IUDs are available at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy for around $40. You can visit a gynaecologist to have the copper IUDs inserted as well. A procedure at Judy Wong Clinic for Women would cost $420, not including consultation fee and GST.

4. Hormonal IUDs

Similar to the copper IUDs, hormonal IUDs are inserted into the uterus for long-term birth control. It comes in a T-shaped plastic frame that releases a substance and thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching or fertilising an egg.

KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy has Mirena, a brand of hormonal IUD, for around $350. A procedure at Judy Wong Clinic for Women would cost $680, not including consultation fee and GST.

5. Birth control patch

The birth control patch is a small, square patch that looks like a plastic bandage. The woman sticks it to her skin, and it releases hormones into her body to prevent pregnancy. One patch can last a week. The more popular brand of patches in Singapore is Evra, which is stocked at certain Unity, Guardian, and Watsons pharmacies.

Unity pharmacies sell a box of Evra, which comes with three patches, for $43.15. Guardian sells it for $40 per box, while Watsons sells it for $35.70. Not all branches of the pharmacies stock the patches though – it is recommended that you call the branch before making a trip. KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s outpatient pharmacy also sells Evra for $36 per box. These require a prescription too.

 6. Injectable contraceptives

The contraceptive injection is a shot that contains hormones which stop a woman’s body from releasing eggs and thickens the mucus at the cervix. Shots are needed either once a month, or once every three months, and are administered by doctors.

Dr Tan & Partners clinics provide injectable contraceptives for $45, not including consultation fees. Its consultation fee for its branch at Robertson Quay is about $60 to $80. Judy Wong Clinic for Women provides the shot for $40, not including the consultation fee.

 

7. Tubal ligation

This is a permanent form of birth control that involves severing the fallopian tubes so that the eggs cannot reach the uterus. The equivalent procedure for a man would be a vasectomy, where the vas deferens from each testicle is clamped. This prevents sperm from mixing with the semen that is ejaculated from the penis.

Tubal ligations are surgical procedures that are subjected to hospital and doctor rates. You can approach gynaecologists and specialist clinics for them.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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by Wan Ting Koh

MS IKUKO Yamamoto is quite the rebel.

The Japanese creator of the internationally popular Craftholic stuffed toy series may come across as demure and soft-spoken, but she certainly is no pushover. TMG spoke to Ms Yamamoto when she was in Singapore collaborating with Raffles City Shopping Centre for a festive Craftholic event late last month (Nov 23), and got to know about the inspiration behind her quirky line of toys.

We learnt how the 31-year-old knew, from working in an interior goods and lifestyle company in 2009, that the stuffed toys that she designed were going to be popular. Then a 24-year-old lady in a male-dominated workplace, comprising of 15 superiors who were all men in their 40s, Ms Yamamoto found it wasn’t easy to speak up for her creations.

“It was very very difficult to persuade the senior gentlemen”

– Ms Yamamoto on the challenges she faced in her company. 

Her superiors were not supportive of her idea, as the company only imported and sold lifestyle goods such as furnishings and houseware. There was also no public relations team to publicise for her. There was also a huge number of soft toys in the market by that time.

“It was very very difficult to persuade the senior gentlemen,” Ms Yamamoto told TMG through a Japanese translator. “I went through countless arguments and cried many times. I knew it was definitely going to be popular.”

She managed to persuade her superiors after she received compliments from customers on her designs. “They were convinced and finally let me produce my first Craftholic collection,” she recalled.

And that’s when she came up with the series, which is known for its highly huggable plushies in the shape of gangly-limbed animals with whimsical patterns and motifs, like stripes and stars.

She placed the toys in retail stores around Japan, and they became a hit with working-age ladies, who told Ms Yamamoto that they loved her toys. Ms Yamamoto describes the feeling as “yuan”, or fate, in Mandarin. The same ladies who supported her endeavour spread the word, and her plushies soon became popular. Even the salespersons in the retail stores stocked with her plushies fell in love with them.

“Let her do what she wants to do”

– Ms Yamamoto’s superiors eventually relented after her toys became an instant hit.

The company saw what was going on and changed its mind. “Let her do what she wants to do,” said her superiors. Now, some of those “senior gentlemen” even keep Craftholic toys at home. Craftholic has sold over 410,000 products as of October this year, and the brand has 42 outlets across Asia, in the Czech Republic, and Paris.

Ms Yamamoto’s pioneer four characters are the Korat Cat, Loris Monkey, Rab Bunny and Sloth Bear – derived from her doodles.

But these were not your conventional, big-eyed and big-headed characters that scream cute (think Totoro). These were alien characters with disproportionately lanky bodies. Ms Yamamoto said this was in part because the creatures’ origins. She imagines them to hail from an alien world known as Craft planet.

She attributes their lack of cute factor to her background in fashion. Ms Yamamoto graduated with a Major in Stylist Course from Bunka Fashion College in 2005.

“Maybe because what I study is fashion, so I myself love something not too cute,” said Ms Yamamoto, adding that this was its appeal to adults as well.

Even the brand’s name defies cuteness.

A portmanteau of “craft” and “holic”, the brand name connotes a certain degree of negativity, because of its link to addiction, according to Ms Yamamoto. After all, she derived the word “holic” from “alcoholic”.

Said Ms Yamamoto through the translator: “I really wanted to create something not too cute. That’s why I made it such that the name Craftholic itself is also not too cute.” She likens the name to “poison”.

“I purposely used it so that there is a balance of cute and not too cute,” added Ms Yamamoto.

But how did she get her inspiration for her weird characters? Ms Yamamoto found it hard to pinpoint the source of her ideas. She started talking about how fresh experiences, gained from travelling and sightseeing, were all sources of inspiration. However, when it got down to the specifics, she conceded that it was hard to explain.

“What inspires me is hard to be described. However from daily life, it could be travelling. It gives me inspiration,” she said. “I’m not the kind of person who will start doodling when I have the idea. I keep all ideas in my head.”

Some of the whimsical patterns on her plushies are inspired by Ms Yamamoto’s hobby of making ceramic art. Apart from pottery, Ms Yamamoto, who is single, enjoys collecting snow domes and outdoor activities such as camping, biking, and taking road trips.

How about in Singapore? From its small kiosk space in Plaza Singapura back in 2010, Craftholic has since moved to a proper shopfront in the mall and expanded to three other stores in Raffles City Shopping Centre, Bugis+ and Wisma Atria – a testament to the plushies’ popularity in Singapore.

When asked whether Singaporeans might get their own Singapore-inspired Craftholic, Ms Yamamoto said she was pondering the idea.

How about a Merlion character? “Maybe,” she said, smiling.

 

Craftholic currently has a pop-up store, which features a limited edition Denim Collection, at level three of Raffles City Shopping Centre from now until next Tuesday (Dec 27).


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by Wan Ting Koh

THIS year may have been a turbulent one for politics, but for the local sports fraternity, the year has been no less fraught with highs and lows.

No less than six sports have made the spotlight for reasons other than sporting achievements. In fact, some made the headlines for in-fighting, others for bad blood between management and players, and yet others for possible criminal activities.

Talk about bad sportsmanship – off the field.

 

1. Table Tennis

feng

Image Women’s World Cup Table Tennis by Flickr user cm yong

 

The Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA) axed two of its most illustrious players this year. One due to disciplinary issues and the other – according to an official statement – due to long-terms plans to inject new blood into the team.

National player Li Hu was sacked in October after an STTA disciplinary investigation found that Li, whose top achievements include winning a men’s doubles gold with veteran Gao Ning at the 2015 SEA Games, had continually violated house rules.

The 28-year-old brought his girlfriend to his dormitory on several occasions even after being warned against it. The Hubei native also has a whole host of other disciplinary issues and is currently assisting with investigations by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau for his mother’s alleged bribery attempt.

Barely a day after Li Hu was cut from the team, national paddler Feng Tianwei too was dropped. The three-time Olympic Medallist was axed from the STTA, with the association announcing that Feng didn’t fit into STTA’s “plans for rejuvenation”. That was the official reason.

Unofficially, sources alleged the 28-year-old had been fired for misconduct, ill-discipline and disrespect. The paddler was said to have had disagreements with the association over prize money and to have made false claims. STTA’s deputy vice president David Sim took to his own Facebook page to call Feng a “disgrace to the nation” and “bad egg” in comments with users. Read our story here and here.

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2. F1

F1

Image F1 by Flickr user Yuki Shimazu

 

The fate of the Formula One (F1) Singapore Grand Prix after next year’s race is hanging in the balance as its chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said in November that Singapore might not extend its deal past next year.

That was not all he said though. The 86-year-old Briton added: “Singapore was suddenly more than just an airport to fly to or from somewhere. Now they believe they have reached their goal and they do not want a grand prix any more.”

Reaching its goal might not be the only reason Singapore wouldn’t ink another deal for the F1. The race has also been suffering from dropping ticket sales, with this year’s numbers the lowest since F1 came to Singapore in 2008. This year’s grand prix also experienced a 15 per cent drop in attendance.

Mr Ecclestone later claimed he was misquoted, saying that he is hopeful discussions on keeping the race in Singapore will be “sorted out”.

 

3. Football

football

Image Malaysia Vs Singapore by Flickr user Phalinn Ooi

Perhaps the most public example of long-term internal strife within a governing body. A host of problems have plagued the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) for years, the most recent being Singapore’s defeat in the AFF Suzuki Cup by Indonesia.

Said to be the worst-ever showing at the Suzuki Cup, the Lion’s performance resulted in netizens calling for the termination of the team’s head coach, whose strategy was to play on the defensive. However, the coach was only appointed in May this year.

A TODAY report said that the Lion’s plight only highlights the problems with Singapore’s footballing ecosystem, especially in the area of domestic football. Criticisms have been levelled at FAS for its neglect of grassroots development, with the lower leagues getting its funds cut even though the FAS budget is burgeoning.

To top off the bad showing, a brawl broke out this October during an FAS-organised tournament, interrupting a match between Balestier United Recreation Club and Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association. The match was never completed.

 

4. Track and Field

athletics

Image Athletics at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics at Bishan Stadium, Singapore, on 23 August 2010 by Flickr user Jack at Wikipedia

 

In June, a coach was suspended after allegations of molest towards three female athletes. The governing body for track and field, Singapore Athletics (SA), said that on one of the occasions, the coach allegedly improperly touched an athlete during a session working with gym weights. A police report was filed.

In a separate August report, SA’s vice-president for competitions organising Loh Chan Pew took a leave of absence to assist with police investigations. His move came after a police report was filed against him for allegedly molesting a former national athlete in 2010. This happened just 38 days after Mr Loh was elected unopposed to the position at the SA’s Annual General Meeting in June.

That’s not all the problems SA faces. Earlier in December, it was reported that SA could lose its funding for the hire of a key secretariat staff, general manager Jaime Cheong, as it did not consult Sport Singapore on the appointment.

 

5. Shooting

shooting

Image from Singapore Shooting Association Facebook page

 

The Singapore Rifle Association (SRA) was booted from the national shooting body, the Singapore Shooting Association (SSA) last week, after the association’s three other members voted at the extraordinary general meeting. The SSA said that the SRA “no longer has the best interest of the shooting fraternity at heart, and adjudges it as an organisation that is not in good standing with SSA”.

The SSA added that the SRA consistently expressed disagreement on key issues and “persistently undermined the SSA’s work as the national shooting authority” over the past 18 months.

Some six months before it was expelled, the SRA filed a High Court suit against the SSA over alleged breaches of the SSA constitution and for attempting to suspend its privileges. The SRA is also taking SSA’s president Michael Vaz, to court for defamation.

 

6. Baseball

hit-factory

Image from The Hit Factory website

 

Last month, a private baseball facility shut down abruptly, leaving 71 children who had paid for classes, and staff, high and dry. Called The Hit Factory (THF), the facility had a dispute with the Singapore Baseball and Softball Association (SBSA).

According to parents, emails from THF said that it had no viable way of staying in business without a facility as it could not sell programmes for next year. THF added that it would not able to refund the fees of approximately $200,000 for six months of unfulfilled programmes. It had to declare bankruptcy after raking up $20,000 in debt.

When contacted by TODAY, one of THF’s owners, Mr Michael Froemke, blamed the closure to their dispute with the SBSA. THF was informed by SBSA in September that it would have to leave the field by the end of this year as Sport Singapore would be reclaiming the venue.

Even though SBSA told THF that the association had been granted an extension till March 31, THF said that its weekend lease hours would be significantly reduced, so it was unable to continue.

 

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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