March 23, 2017

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NMP candidates: Professor Alex Siow, Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, Ms K. Thanaletchimi, Mr Kok Heng Leun

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr Liew Kai Khiun was previously described as a professor of History at NTU. This has been corrected to professor of Media. Apologies.]

by Reuben Wang

WHO wants to be a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP)? Many, many people, as it turns out. Although there are only nine slots available, 41 individuals have submitted applications to the Special Select Committee of Parliament for consideration – five more than the last nomination process in 2014.

We don’t even know who all 41 of the nominees are – Parliament has not made that known. However, we have pieced together scattered media reports of who we know to have submitted proposal forms. Not all their personal information was provided by the various media so we thought we would do a little digging to fill in the blanks on their ages and backgrounds (You’re welcome).

Of the 41 men and women in the running, here are 13 candidates more or less confirmed by media reports:

  1. Professor Alex Siow, 61, professor of computing at NUS
  2. Assistant Professor Liew Kai Khiun, 43, professor of media at NTU
  3. Mr Kok Heng Leun, 52, artistic director of a theatre company
  4. Mr David Lee, 50, head of an events management company
  5. Mr M. P. Kathiresan Raj, 59, security guard
  6. Mr Ooi Boon Ewe, 74, ex-tuition teacher and optimistic GE candidate (Actually, ST said he successfully applied, while TNP said he missed the deadline.)
  7. Mr Eric Tan, 61, former member of the Workers’ Party’s Central Executive Committee
  8. Ms K. Thanaletchimi, 50, vice-president of the Healthcare Services Employees’ Union
  9. Mr Mohamed Nawaz, 36, business owner
  10. Ms Felicia Low, 39, arts activist
  11. Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin, 39, former NMP and entrepreneur
  12. Mr Thomas Chua, 62, former NMP and entrepreneur
  13. Mr Jeremy Tan, 41, treasurer of the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation

Whether or not these 13 will make the shortlist is anybody’s guess. News reports did not say how many would be shortlisted, but they did give a hint of who might make the cut. We took their names and did a bit more digging. Here’s what we found:

  • Professor Alex Siow

Prof Siow has received nods from the Singapore Computer Society and Academy of Medicine. The Academy of Medicine has been tasked by the Speaker of Parliament to find representatives for “the professions” sector. Prof Siow is currently a professor at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) School of Computing, and is the director of the faculty’s Strategic Technology Management Institute. Previously, he was the Chief Information Officer at HDB and has worked at Starhub in various leadership positions from 2005 to 2012. He is one of two NMP candidates backed by the Academy of Medicine.

  • Ms K. Thanaletchimi

Ms Thanaletchimi, 50, has the backing of the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC), one of the organisations Parliament asked to put forward names. She currently sits on various NTUC committees representing various interests including industrial relations, working women, mature workers, to membership, sports and the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute.

  • Ms Kuik Shiao-Yin

Ms Kuik has served as an NMP from 2014 to 2015 and is seeking renomination. We have previously covered the unlikeliness of NMPs to be renominated for a second term (you can read it here), but some believe their experience still gives them an advantage over other nominees. She had a strong showing as an NMP during the last two years, representing the “youth” sector. Outside parliament, she is an entrepreneur who runs a wide variety of businesses – including restaurant chain Food for Thought, design firm Think Tank, and School of Thought, which organises educational seminars about civic consciousness for schools.

  • Mr Kok Heng Leun

Mr Koh is the artistic director and co-founder of the bilingual theatre company Drama Box, and has directed more than 60 English and Chinese plays. He currently serves on the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre Programme Committee. Mr Kok received the Young Artist Award from the National Arts Council of Singapore in 2000 and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Culture Award in 2003. In 2006, he was presented the Outstanding Young Person (Culture) award in recognition of his contribution to the local arts scene. This will be his second attempt to get nominated as an NMP, having done it in 2014.

 

More transparency

Why isn’t the complete list available to the public? While Non-Constituency MPs (NCMPs) are relatively well known due to their General Election campaigns, the process behind inducting NMPs into parliament is more opaque – we will likely not know who is being nominated until days before their swearing in. So, this week’s reports on the nominations may be the first and last time we get to know more about these potential NMPs before they get selected. More transparency would be welcomed, especially since it looks like there will be twice as many NMPs as NCMPs in the 13th Parliament.

However, even the majority of the 41 proposal forms submitted over the past few days are a mystery. The organisations appointed by the Speaker of Parliament “to seek the views of their constituent organisations and to submit names of suitable candidates to the Special Select Committee for consideration“, including Singapore Business Federation, the People’s Association and NUS, are mostly unwilling to disclose the names of those who they have endorsed for the job.

A seat in parliament comes along with public scrutiny and spotlight. If one of the reasons for the secretive nature of the list is because it is meant to spare failed candidates their feelings (or egos), then we have to ask: Are these individuals really prepared to be in the hot seat – where the spotlight is sure to be even more uncomfortable?

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.

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Madonna
Illustration by Sean Chong

by Bertha Henson

I SPENT my youthful years surrounded by Madonna. The pop star, not the Madonna of the Catholic faith. My old bedroom in my mother’s house is still plastered with her posters and there is one which takes pride of place in my own living room and another with a really sexy pose on my bedroom door.

I was mad about Madonna. I wanted to strike a pose like she did for “Like a virgin”. She was really very vogue in our very material world. One of my big dreams was to be able to interview her and to have front-row tickets to her concert.

No, I am not going to her concert.

It has nothing to do with Archbishop William Goh’s stinging condemnation of her stage antics. He has told Catholics that “we should subscribe to authentic arts that lead us to God… and not support the ‘pseudo arts’ that promote sensuality, rebellion, disrespect, pornography… abusive freedom, individualism at the expense of the common good, vulgarity, lies, and half-truths”.

Come to think of it, the Archbishop’s admonition would probably apply to plenty of musicians whether or not they denigrate religion. But he was rather specific about her disrespectful use of Catholic and other Christian symbols during her performances, such as pole-dancing nuns, and mock crucifixions.

As for those who think the stance is illiberal, he said: “In multi-racial, multi-religious Singapore, we cannot afford to be overly permissive in favour of artistic expression at the expense of respect for one’s religion, especially in these times of heightened religious sensitivities, particularly among active practitioners of religions”.

I was taken aback. You see, Catholics have always been known to turn the other cheek. Here is the head of church actually telling his flock not to go to her concert. You sort of hear the threat of ex-communication in the background! But I have to say that even as a young person, I was never comfortable with her use of religious icons. I love “Like a Prayer” but I hated the 1989 video with burning crosses and Madonna seducing a black Jesus. Just listen, don’t look, I tell my 20-something self.

I was upset when in 1993, she was barred from performing in Singapore because the Police said her performances bordered on the obscene and were “objectionable to many on moral and religious grounds”. Then I got a little less upset when she took her Confessions tour to Europe, but skipped Asia (except Japan) in 2006.

The Vatican, however, was furious when she performed in Rome then with a fake crown of thorns and descended on a suspended, glittery cross. A cardinal described the concert of the lapsed Catholic as “a blasphemous challenge to the faith and a profanation of the cross. She should be excommunicated.” Ouch.

Now, on her Rebel Heart world tour, she’s gone to Macau, Taipei, Bangkok and is now in the predominantly-Catholic Philippines for a two-day performance starting tomorrow. The Filipinos are crazy for her – and we haven’t heard anything from the country’s archdiocese. I wonder what would happen if the head of the Philippines church were to say something similar to what his Catholic counterpart here said. Tickets would have been bought, after all. Even in Singapore, I wonder how many Catholics would heed their shepherd’s words and, hmm, sell their tickets on eBay? The concert is this weekend.

I am not going to the concert because I have simply gone “off” her. Maybe it’s age or lethargy. All that makes me curious about 57-year-old Madonna Louise Ciccone is how she keeps herself in such good shape.

But the bishop’s words have also made me think about how tolerant the church has been at the way the religion has been portrayed. The clash of good and evil is usually fought against a Catholic backdrop with strong or weak priests battling and exorcising the devil successfully or unsuccessfully. Church interiors make good stage sets and the very old churches are simply awesome. The Vatican is usually portrayed as a place of politicians than of priests. The sacrament of confession provides fodder for countless detective stories about priests deciding not to reveal their “sources”.

Incense. Bells. Chalices. Candles. Rosaries. Hymns – and yes, Holy Water – which Madonna will not be performing.

In this day and age where anything goes, putting down a marker would be an unpopular thing to do. The bishop is already being criticised for being a fuddy-duddy. But it should be remembered that he is speaking to his flock, and they would have to decide whether to heed his advice. He is not suggesting that non-Catholics who watch the concert would be damned.

As a Catholic, I am glad I have not bought tickets to her concert. But if I did, I will remind myself that forgoing the concert would be a good way to do penance during Lent and to appreciate the church’s Madonna.

 

Featured image by Sean Chong.

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A journalist in ancient roman warrior get up holding the TMG flag

“This might have caused some confusion among those who have tried to “box” or label us, but that is our intent. TMG will continue to surprise… We want to encompass The Middle Ground, that disparate broad segment who have a myriad of cares but who prize truthful information which would help them lead their lives and honest, moderate views which articulate their feelings.” – Bertha Henson, Consulting Editor/TMG

by Bertha Henson

HELLO everyone, I guess you’ve heard of the term “re-design”. That’s what we’ve done. But we also know that a cosmetic change, even if it aids site navigation, isn’t enough. People want content, preferably unique content that cannot be found elsewhere.

When we launched the site in June last year, we did a “rushed” job because we wanted to be in time to report on the General Election. There were plenty of things we wanted to fix, but in the interest of speed, we made do. We hope you like the look far better now. We’ve changed colours and stuck on a new flag smack in, well, the middle.

 

logo
Our new masthead

 

We like flags. The word “flag” is derived from the old Saxon word “fflaken” which means to fly or to float in the air. The idea of flying flags grew from the requirements of ancient warfare and the battlefield. Warriors needed to know where their leaders were, hence the custom of carrying a pole with a piece of decorated cloth was adopted. We don’t claim to be any sort of leader but we’re hoping to be a rallying point for those who want to read news that cater to the mainstream in the community, but yet different from that put out by the mainstream media.

We’ve tried with a small team to do so over the past nine months, doing both reporting and commentary on news that we think is important to the people living here. We believe that more information and more discussion is fundamental to civil discourse.

This does not mean, as some people have contended, that The Middle Ground should not take sides. This is a newsroom of people with opinions, not transcribers nor note takers. There must be rigorous reporting but also a willingness to take a stand on the basis of principle.

What are these principles? Honesty and transparency would be key among them. That principle does not depend on ideological positions on the political spectrum. In fact, we do not believe in viewing news developments and life in Singapore through a certain prism only.

This might have caused some confusion among those who have tried to “box” or label us, but that is our intent. TMG will continue to surprise, whether in stories we cover, the way we report or the views we hold. That is because we do not think it worthwhile to become a mere fragment of what looks to be an increasingly divisive polity. We want to encompass the middle ground, that disparate broad segment who have a myriad of cares but who prize truthful information which would help them lead their lives and honest, moderate views which articulate their feelings.

In the past, TMG focused on socio-political issues, satire and explanatory journalism, especially on the economics front. We’re pleased that some of our work gained traction, such as our story on the O level class of Raffles Institution and the speaking scorecard of Members of Parliament.

They tell us that the people of the middle ground treat the education of their children as a priority – even if they cannot agree on the best way to teach/study/score – and that they value transparency. Likewise, our articles explaining economic developments and how they affect us appear to have won us plenty of fans. They tell us that the people of the middle ground want to make sense out of dollars and cents news, but in language that they can relate to.

From now, we intend to do more lifestyle topics, especially on health, wealth and parenting. We will pay attention to that great Singaporean pastime: eating. We strengthened our team to bring more attractive and meaningful visuals to you. We have also launched a newsletter to make it easier for you to read us.

We hope to receive your continued support and that you would recommend others to our site.

BTW, since every flag needs an accompanying rallying cry, here’s ours:

People of The Middle Ground

Whether you are thin or round

Come hasten to this sound

Of The Middle Ground

We’re trying to found a town

On this little mound

We’re trying to set the crown

On the people of The Middle Ground

Enjoy the new site! We keeping our fingers crossed that it won’t be buggy…

 

Featured image by Natassya Diana.

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Black and white image of an empty lecture theatre.
Empty lecture theatre

DEAR Prof Mahbubani,

I share your lament for the lack of idealism among Singapore’s youth. The condition you note is real. Is it idealism? I’ll take your word for it, although it sounds much more like the lack of a passion for life, a missing thirst for knowledge or an inability to take risks.

Ours is a system where those who keep their heads down, do their jobs without fuss and trudge along end up with stable lives – the “greatest good” as preached by our society. No questions, no noise, no visible opposition to the status quo: that is what Singapore seems to want from her children. The only people who seem to be able to voice out without getting shot down are those who have reached the upper echelons of leadership – positions usually obtained by keeping their heads down, doing their jobs without fuss and trudging along.

Which part of our education system can light that fire of idealism in our children? It is not fostered by programmes like the one you recommend – a buddy programme with impoverished schools. The only way I have ever seen this spark of idealism lit is by bringing students into contact with idealistic teachers who have a talent for asking the right questions in the right way and never giving a textbook answer.

In most cases, however, the idealism of our youth is bled out slowly onto the classroom floor by rote learning, the race for (and reward of) paper qualifications and a pervasive praise and promotion of conformity. The light of the love of learning and the desire to change the world has been squeezed out and replaced with the promise of a just-tolerable career assuaged by a generous income that never seems to be enough. A lifetime spent yearning for retirement. A retirement spent waiting to die.

Ours is a system where all our changes are “little by little”. Risk small, as they say in investing, and win small. There is some merit to the method – it protects your capital – but this is not money we are talking about here. This is the spirit of our nation. Small risks to our way of life offer marginal gains at best, and when we think that we have “made it” as a nation, we are then inclined to behave as if our way of life as it is now is something that must not be challenged, even if the potential for great gain exists if we challenge it.

We need to remind ourselves that we have not “made it”, and not in the mere lip-service way of dropping phrases like “we must continue to strive” into a column of SG50-esque self-congratulation. Even when we say we are working towards SG100, we say it as if we have already arrived. Protect our SG50 capital. Don’t risk anything for SG100 – just coast along in the same successful vein for another 50 years. Big celebrations await.

What we truly need is that ache deep down in every single Singaporean heart that this world can always be better than what it is today, and that we want to be the change we want to see in the world. Sometimes those dreams will be small, but sometimes those dreams will be radical, upsetting, disruptive and priceless.

This mindset of risk aversion is seen in our civil service, which seems determined to arrive at a new, glorious future by relying on small tweaks and eschewing revolutionary change. But we cannot turn a shack into a skyscraper by adding one floor at a time to the top – we have to tear it all down and build a different foundation. New foundations are conceived and built by the idealists that you yearn to see.

Ours is a system that panders to us. Success has made us fat, cocooned us, cloistered us. When we leave our shores, it is largely to seek ease and enjoyment for ourselves, rather than to explore the world and find new problems to solve and new ways to solve them.

Without an already-formed, always-growing ideal for our world, our community service trips often end up as poverty porn, or are taken in by bewildered students who have no capacity to think for themselves, and who then ask equally ill-equipped teachers and parents for explanations.

No, Prof Mahbubani, such a programme, while useful, will not make many of our youth more idealistic. It will help fuel those who are idealistic, but instilling that passion for an ideal must be done before our children set foot outside of home.

And perhaps this column is too short to answer why our youth tend to be less idealistic, but it is not too short to ask for idealistic action to try and solve the problem you identified.

While you are Dean, I hope you make LKYSPP a place of great passion – perhaps introduce philosophy to the syllabus, no, require the study of it as a prerequisite for entry. Test the logic of your charges. Measure their passion. Ask them what they want to fix in the world – what problems they will solve with the degree, no, the knowledge you are about to impart to them. Give no quarter to the vacant-eyed, straight As student who will not risk or delay his degree to get an education, that risk you took when you were an undergraduate.

Take risks at your school – idealistic risks that pay off in the long run – to put that spark of your own idealism into the hearts of your students.

If idealism is what we yearn to see, we can start by scraping it off our classroom floors and putting it back into our youth. Then there will be no need to buddy them up for annual visits with poor students from the region – they will go of their own accord in their search for the truth.

 

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Yap

 

Featured image old-MIT-classroom by Flickr user Ryan Tyler SmithCC-BY 2.0 .

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by Bertha Henson

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama was entertaining Asean leaders in Sunnydale when he was told of a news alert by Fox news that the Chinese had deployed missiles on Woody Island, part of the disputed Paracels Isand chain in the South China Sea. Determined to show his guests that he was a tough guy despite being in his last leg of office, he whips out his cellphone and starts texting Chinese President Xi Jinping. No siree…he would NOT be trumped!

5440388253_7a8e8c1584_b
Image Donald Trump by Flickr user Gage Skidmore CC BY 2.0

With his good friend Trump brimming with confidence over his handling of China, Barack doesn’t hesitate to hit “send”.

Barack – Hey man, you’re a real party pooper. I was entertaining guests here…your neighbours BTW…and you plant missiles on Woody Island? What sort of redneck name is that?  🙂 Regards. Barack

Jinping – Dear Barack, Hope your dale is sunny. Please do not fuss. It’s your media hype. Not new.  Love, Xi. China FTW!

Barack – You’re kidding! This is like Cuba all over. AND we have photographic evidence this time too. Time to talk man-to-man. Barack. USA! USA!

Jinping – Talk, yes. Talk only. Tell Asean to go home please. Pivot back. Love, Xi.

Barack – They’ve gone and you’ve made me red in the face. We didn’t even mention China in our joint statement and you’re rattling sabres in the South China Sea! What gives? Regards. Barack.

Jinping – Not rattle. Missile. Self-protection. Sovereignty. Our place, our rules. Love, Xi.

Barack – You’re yanking my chain! You’re going back on your word on non-militarisation! Barack

Jinping – Not Yank. Chinese. Chinese go forward, not back. Xi

(pause for strategy meeting. Both sides take to the media via spokesmen and possible proxies)

“…The US is not a party concerned in the issue. It should speak and act prudently and create favorable conditions for parties directly concerned to peacefully resolve relevant disputes through consultations and negotiations, instead of exploiting the occasion to hype up the South China Sea issue, sensationalizing tensions, and driving a wedge among regional countries.” – Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei responding to a question during a press conference on February 17, 2016

“…When President Xi was here in Washington, he stood in the Rose Garden with President Obama and said China will not militarize in the South China Sea. But there is every evidence every day that there has been an increase of militarization of one kind or another…And my hope is that China will realize that it is important to try to resolve the jurisdictional issues of the South China Sea not through unilateral action, not through force, not through militarization, but through diplomacy and by working with the other countries and claimants in trying to resolve these differences…” – US Secretary of State John Kerry responding to a question during a joint press conference with the Polish Foreign Minister on February 17, 2016

Headlines go ballistic…

Chinese Missiles in South China Sea Underscore a Growing Conflict Risk

New York Times, February 17, 2016

China Missile Move Sparks New Questions over South China Sea

Bloomberg, February 17, 2016

China calls for demilitarisation in South China Sea

China Radio International English , February 17, 2016

(The texting continues…)

Jinping – Please correct Western media. Improper information. We will order our media to publish American transgressions or aggressions (B-52 strategic bombers/US Navy destroyer) for your educational enlightenment. PS. You started it first. Xi.

Barack – That’s freedom of navigation to keep sea lanes safe …but I guess you don’t know what freedom is. Barack. PS. We don’t tell our media what to do. They would kill us.

Jinping – We built lighthouses on the islands to help ships navigate. China remains friendly to all. Sorry about media. Xi. PS. We’re banning online publishing.

Barack – Increasing militarisation is NOT a friendly move. The Vietnamese, Filipinos are complaining. Even the Aussies and Kiwis are grumbling. B.

Jinping – Not the business of Australia or New Zealand. Shut up. Not YOUR business. Vietnam and the Philippines always complain anyway. We said before, according to our map, they do not own the South China Sea. Xi.

Image, map, minerals claims, south china sea by Flickr user natural flow CC BY 2.0
Image, map, minerals claims, south china sea by Flickr user naturalflow BY CC 2.0

Barack – BTW, International Court of Justice ruling on Spratleys’ dispute. Hope you’ll keep up your end of the bargain WHEN decision goes to the Philippines. B.

Jinping – We will know in May… and it MAY or MAY NOT go to the Philippines.  Xi.

Barack – Thucydides trap…you said you’d avoid it. Situation is serious. Very serious. Even grave. Stand down!

Jinping – I am sitting down. Seriously. Very gravely.

(pause)

Barack – Xi, you play chess? Regards. Barack

Jinping – Chinese chess only. What about dum dum? Love, Xi

Barack – Okay, see you online. Just the two of us. Regards. Barack

Jinping – Okay. Don’t like multi-player games. Love, Xi

Barack – Me too. Regards. Barack.

 

Featured image of US President Barack Obama in a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping from Flickr user US Embassy The Hague CC BY 2.0. 

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damaged shophouses

by Wan Ting Koh 

THREE conserved units in a Little India shophouse are damaged and it’s unclear if they’re completely safe. What happened? No one’s really sure – except it probably had to do with underground works in the area. So far, no government agency has claimed responsibility for the damage.

Cracks appeared in the facade of the three shophouse units located in Syed Alwi Road since 2014. A year later, in 2015, they got “really bad” – so much so that one of the unit’s executor and trustee thought the building might collapse. That executor is Mr Abdul Aziz, and his son Zayed Talib spoke to us about the situation, hoping to prompt the relevant authorities to take action.

Mr Aziz (left) and Mr Zayed (right) pose in front of unit number 216-4.
Mr Aziz (left) and Mr Zayed (right) pose in front of unit number 216-4.

According to Mr Zayed, the horizontal cracks run parallel to the building’s support beams and are at least 3m long. One crack even has a 20cm gap. His unit, 216-4, is occupied by a grocer on the ground floor and has a room for rent on the second storey.

Located within a conservation area, Mr Zayed’s unit is bounded by Syed Alwi road, Race Course Road and Sungei Road. Other monuments in the area include the Abdul Gaffoor Mosque at Dunlop Street and the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road.

The 32-year-old businessman said that the building had been standing for 40 years without concern until underground works were initiated in the vicinity more than four years ago. At first, he thought that the underground works were being carried out by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), but was later told by the transport authority that it was a PUB contractor that was responsible for carrying out underground drainage works.

Mr Zayed pointing at a crack on a facade of the shophouse. Image by Daniel Yap.
Mr Zayed pointing at a crack on a facade of the shophouse.

By end 2011, support beams and measuring devices had been installed on the shophouse in order to monitor the building’s condition – and all without the knowledge of Mr Zayed or his father, Mr Zayed said. When he approached PUB, its contractor claimed to have sent a letter to inform his father about the installation of beams. But Mr Zayed said the family did not receive such a letter. He also said PUB started its underground works in the same period.

“As far as we were concerned, we didn’t even know there were supposed to be support beams. PUB only told us recently that they installed the support beams ‘in good faith’,” Mr Zayed said.

When the cracks got worse last year, Mr Zayed contacted LTA to ask about the damages. In December, Mr Zayed hired a lawyer to pen a letter to the LTA. He was referred to the PUB instead, as a contractor hired by them was reportedly conducting some pipe works at that time. The Building Construction Authority (BCA) stepped in shortly after to facilitate the meetings between Mr Zayed and PUB.

Mr Zayed said he met with the PUB contractor and BCA last month to discuss the issue. Despite the ongoing talks, neither party has claimed responsibility for the building damage.

“The building only got worse after works,” Mr Zayed told us. “The PUB contractor blamed the cracks on soil in Singapore being clay and that the clay had moved or was shifting. But I found that ridiculous because shifting clay did not cause any damage in the last 40 years.”

A crack with the measuring device widened, causing the measuring device to misalign. Image by Daniel Yap.
A crack with the measuring device widened, causing the measuring device to misalign. Image by Daniel Yap.

“All we want is for the building to be restored to the state it was before the works began.”

On Feb 3, Mr Zayed sent a letter to the PUB’s CEO to seek clarification about the matter, and on Wednesday (Feb 17), Mr Zayed said that several engineers were sent down to assess the site, though it is unclear on whose instruction.

Said Mr Zayed: “As far as we know, PUB has made its resources available to look into the matter. We are of course looking forward to an outcome where we as the owners do not have to carry the cost of damages done to our property.”

A crack snaking up the inner wall of the shophouse. Image by Daniel Yap.
A crack snaking up the inner wall of the shophouse. Image by Daniel Yap.

When contacted, PUB said it did receive a lawyer’s letter from Mr Zayed’s family dated Feb 3, but declined comment citing ongoing investigations.

BCA said a professional engineer has assessed the building and that “while there is no immediate risk to the public, he (the engineer) recommended that structural inspection should be carried out to determine the integrity of the building”. The authority added that it would be following up with Mr Zayed’s family on remedial measures to be taken.

 

Other heritage buildings that have been damaged:

Bras Basah-Bugis Shophouses

A large crack running from the roof of the building to the ground appeared on the façade of Bugis Village after extensive construction works on the underground Downtown Line took place. According to an ST report in September 2013, Bugis Village’s owner CapitaCommercial Trust (CCT) said the damage done to the three-storey shophouse was due to a “misalignment of existing expansion joints” on the building’s facade as a result of construction works carried out by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Rochor Road. Even though the crack was mended, later that year four of the shophouses along the same row sunk due to shifting soil, causing the row to slope downwards. In a response to the Sunday Times, the BCA said the cause was “differential soil settlement of the buildings over the years”. However engineers deemed the building structurally sound and in good condition and the site has since stabilised.

Cathedral of Good Shepherd

The oldest Roman Catholic church in Singapore was damaged after construction works by LTA and the Singapore Management University in the area, according to a 2010 ST report. The LTA was constructing the Circle Line while Uneven soil settlement beneath the building’s foundation had caused the cathedral to shift and huge cracks – some as long as three metres – had appeared on the walls, floors, and pillars of the building from 2006, causing the bell tower to tilt. The church, which was gazetted as a national monument in 1973, cost about $40 million to repair. By September last year, the church still needed $7 million to finish its repair works.

 

Images by Daniel Yap.

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NOBODY likes people who overstay their welcome – and certainly not the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA).

The good news is, the number of arrests for overstayers has come down – by about 6 per cent. Same for illegal immigrants – down by 11 per cent. ICA says this is due to their “sustained tough enforcement and proactive public education” – well, good on them, if these numbers are statistically significant. It’s hard to tell because the authority gave only 2014 and 2015 figures in their latest annual report released this morning – but, according to the report, the number of overall arrests for immigration offenders has steadily gone down over the years.

By tough enforcement, ICA is probably also referring to it tightening the screws on employers and harbourers of these immigrant offenders. The stats show the combined number of arrests against these two groups went up by 59 per cent. In 2014, 250 harbourers were arrested, compared to last year’s 419 – nearly double. Employers arrested went up from 69 to 91.

What’s noteworthy about this is that almost half of the harbourers arrested last year were Singaporeans, the report said. These errant employers were from various industries such as construction, food and beverage and cleaning services. These industries, by the way, are the ones with jobs which Singaporeans just aren’t that interested in – according to the recent labour report released earlier this year by the Manpower Ministry.

The penalty for overstaying or illegal entry is a jail term of up to six months plus a minimum of three strokes of the cane; first-time offenders found guilty of hiring foreign employees without a valid work pass may face a fine of $5,000 to $30,000, or a jail term of up to one year, or both.

Two other items highlighted by the ICA report – the number of arrests for marriages of convenience, and the number of smuggling contraband cases detected.

In the first, the fall is pretty dramatic – 62 per cent, or down to 64 cases last year from 170 in 2014. As for smuggling, the number remained mostly the same – 93,380 cases in 2014 compared to last year’s 95,677 (about a 2 per cent increase).

Interestingly though, more people seem to be doing the smuggling via online purchases: The number of contraband cases relating to parcels and packages shipped into Singapore went up from 14,289 in 2014 to 18,419 last year (about 30 per cent), noted the report.

Some of the common contraband articles detected included stun guns and sex enhancement pills. (Hopefully not used together… Ouch! Ooh la la! Ouch!)

 

Featured image by Reuben Wang

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Photos by Chong Yew

BEFORE the public gets a chance to visit the airshow this weekend, businessmen and military personnel had been hard at work procuring billion dollar deals during the airshow’s business days. We take a look at what is going on behind the scenes at one of the largest events of Singapore’s aviation calendar.

The fifth Singapore Air Show has grown to be one of the most important events in the aviation industry's calendar since its inception in 2008. It is one of the largest aerospace and defence exhibitions in the world. From 16-19 Feb, thousands of trade attendees are expected to close deals worth billions of dollars at the Changi Exhibition Centre.
The fifth Singapore Air Show has grown to be one of the most important events in the aviation industry’s calendar since its inception in 2008. It is one of the largest aerospace and defence exhibitions in the world. From 16-19 Feb, thousands of trade attendees are expected to close deals worth billions of dollars at the Changi Exhibition Centre.
One of the main draws of the show is the acrobatic flying displays. The Black Eagles Aerobatic Team from the Republic of Korea Air Force is one of the highlights of the show. Consisting of eight supersonic T-50 aircrafts developed from South Korean Technology, this will be the second time the team has participated in Singapore's Air Show.
One of the main draws of the show is the acrobatic flying displays. The Black Eagles Aerobatic Team from the Republic of Korea Air Force is one of the highlights of the show. Consisting of eight supersonic T-50 aircrafts developed from South Korean Technology, this will be the second time the team has participated in Singapore’s Air Show.
Compared to their performance in 2014, the Black Eagles added three more manoeuvres to their repertoire this year. If you missed it the last time, catch some of the fan favourites like the very distinguishable Taegeuk symbol found at the center of the Korean flag.
Compared to their performance in 2014, the Black Eagles added three more manoeuvres to their repertoire this year. If you missed it the last time, catch some of the fan favourites like the very distinguishable Taegeuk symbol found at the centre of the Korean flag.
It might get loud during the acrobatic displays as the jet aircrafts perform their stunts
The huge volume and shockwaves generated from the flying of jet aircraft in close proximity might be unbearable for some visitors.
There are no commercial flying display on public days; it is lined up with military aircraft. Here, the Airbus A350 XWB makes a banking turn as it makes a quiet flyby. On the first trade day, Singapore Airlines (SIA) made a deal with Rolls Royce to take their first upgraded Trent XWB-84 EP engine. The new engine offers an one percent improvement in fuel consumption. SIA currently has 67 A350s on order, all powered by the Trent XWB engine.
There is no commercial flying display on public days; it is lined up with military aircraft. Here, the Airbus A350 XWB makes a banking turn as it makes a quiet flyby. On the first trade day, Singapore Airlines (SIA) made a deal with Rolls Royce to take their first upgraded Trent XWB-84 EP engine. The new engine offers a one per cent improvement in fuel consumption. SIA currently has 67 A350s on order, all powered by the Trent XWB engine.
Currently the most advance fighter jet fighter in the world, the F-22A Raptor from the United States Air Force (USAF) is making its first appearance in the show. General Lori J. Robinson, Pacific Air Forces commander added in a speech to the troops here. "Only the U.S Air Force has the global reach to bring fifth generation fighters anywhere in the world and we are proud to display this capability here in Singapore."
Currently the most advanced fighter jet fighter in the world, the F-22A Raptor from the United States Air Force (USAF) is making its first appearance in the show. General Lori J. Robinson, Pacific Air Forces commander added in a speech to the troops here. “Only the U.S Air Force has the global reach to bring fifth generation fighters anywhere in the world and we are proud to display this capability here in Singapore.”
A trade attendee takes a break inside the USAF C-17 Globemaster III. The public would be able to see it on acrobatic flying display as well as get on board when it's on static display.
A trade attendee takes a break inside the USAF C-17 Globemaster III. The public would be able to see it on acrobatic flying display as well as get on board when it’s on static display.
Cpt Andy Ang from 120 Squadron gives The Commander of the Royal Brunei Air Force, Colonel (U) Shahril Anwar bin Haji Ma’awiah a quick introduction to the controls of the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter. The Republic of Singapore Air Force has 11 aircrafts on static display.
Cpt Andy Ang from 120 Squadron gives The Commander of the Royal Brunei Air Force, Colonel (U) Shahril Anwar bin Haji Ma’awiah a quick introduction to the controls of the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter. The Republic of Singapore Air Force has 11 aircraft on static display.
Angela Choo (left seated) and Dandy Wong (right seated) tries the Flight Crafter flight simulator from ST Electronics. With over 600 customizable aircraft configurations, it allows the user to design their aircraft and try it out in a virtual environment. Using virtual realty headsets, visitors can try their hand on piloting their aircraft. Dandy, an enthusiast with the Hong Kong Aviation Club, was in town looking for tooling and maintenance options for his aircraft.
Angela Choo (left seated) and Dandy Wong (right seated) try the Flight Crafter flight simulator from ST Electronics. With over 600 customizable aircraft configurations, it allows the user to design their aircraft and try it out in a virtual environment. Using virtual reality headsets, visitors can try their hand on piloting their aircraft.
Dandy, an enthusiast with the Hong Kong Aviation Club, was in town looking for tooling and maintenance options for his aircraft.
2016_02_16_TMG_CYKONG_AIRSHOW_DSC9744
A visitor empties his bottle as he walks past an aircraft poster. February is on course to becoming one of the top 5 warmest February month since 1929, according to the NEA.

 

If you are making your way down to the air show, be sure to check out our piece of the things to watch out for.

Images by staff photographer Chong Yew.

If you like this article, Like The Middle Ground‘s Facebook Page as well!

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