April 29, 2017


Original Flickr image by:User: Kevan Title: CCTV Puncture Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kevandotorg/6807087984/I photoshopped the original image.

by Gillian Lim

IF THERE’S one takeaway from The Straits Times’ report on closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras today (March 9), it’s this: There’s a lot of them around, and more are on the way. There are cameras installed by the Singapore Police Force, those in the streets and in HDB estates; more by the National Environment Agency (NEA) – almost 3,000 in HDB blocks; the traffic cameras put up by the Land Transport Authority (LTA); and those installed in lifts by town councils.

The report with its headline “Network of CCTV cameras proving effective” would have readers believe that there are plenty of advantages to more surveillance – it has helped to “deter loan sharks, nab litterbugs and stop illegal parking”; in fact, they are so helpful that even residents are asking for more cameras in their own HDB blocks! (Not a single soul interviewed for the ST report had anything bad to say about it.)

While there’s little doubt CCTV cameras can and have helped to deter such illegal activity, what we want to know is – by how much? How “effective” have they been?

You won’t get the full picture from reading the story. Here’s why:

Deterring loan sharks

According to ST, police figures released last month showed that blocks with CCTV cameras saw fewer unlicensed moneylender harassment cases involving property damage. “The number of such cases reported at 2,152 blocks with police cameras plummeted from 1,617 in 2013 – before those blocks had cameras – to just 426 last year,” said the news report.

Sounds impressive. But why 2,152 blocks? There are currently police cameras in 8,600 HDB blocks – where’s the overall data? We had to dig into the Annual Crime Brief 2015 last month to figure this out. According to the brief: “The 2,152 HDB blocks across Singapore had high UML (unlicensed moneylender) harassment cases and were chosen as a control group to measure the effectiveness of PolCams.”

Great – but what is “high”?

Members of Parliament (MPs) gave their thumbs up too for more surveillance – but thumbs down for giving only anecdotal evidence: Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh said that “there are improvements”, especially in the cases of loan-shark harassment “that used to be quite common”. Potong Pasir MP Sitoh Yih Pin said that he hasn’t “got any [loan-shark harassment cases] for quite a while”.

Nabbing litterbugs

An East Coast-Fengshan Town Council spokesman said that CCTVs installed by town councils “does help against anti-social behaviour such as littering, urination and vandalism”. But to what extent?

Numbers provided by the news report said that NEA has around 3,000 cameras installed in HDB estates to catch high-rise litterbugs, and litterbugs in about a third of the cases caught on camera are successfully identified, said Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor in Parliament earlier this month.

What we know: The number of littering tickets issued hit a six-year high last year, with over 26,000 tickets issued. What we don’t know: How many of these litterbugs littered in HDB, how many of these HDB litterbugs were caught on camera, and how many of those caught on camera were successfully identified.

Stopping illegal parking

More than 300 parking enforcement cameras have been put up by the LTA, and how effective has it proved to be? It has helped “to cut cases of illegal parking by as much as 90 per cent”, the LTA told ST last September.

Great – but what is 90 per cent? Ninety per cent of how many? And since when? Over what period of time? On these questions, ST’s report was silent.

So, we took a quick dive into the news archives: Turns out, the 90 per cent figure refers to only the fall in the number of illegal parking cases in locations where CCTV cameras were installed – from 2014 to last year. The first parking enforcement CCTV cameras were installed in 2014.

Over this period of time, the daily average number of summonses in these locations dropped from 30 to three  – hence the 90 per cent fall. And how many locations are there? For that answer, we found this LTA news release, which put the number at 70 last year. By next year, expect cameras in about 130 locations.

Featured Image CCTV Puncture by flickr user Kevan. CC BY 2.0

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by Bertha Henson

ONLINE sites are having a bad time, but in the case of The Real Singapore (TRS), I think it deserved what it got. So Ai Takagi, all of 23 years old, has been convicted of four counts of sedition. The Australian pleaded guilty while her Singaporean husband (no longer boyfriend as reported in the past) claimed trial. I wonder what Yang Kaiheng, 27, will say in his defence? That he didn’t have any part to play in TRS and that it was all his wife’s work?

I will shut up now because his case hasn’t come up yet. Penalties, by the way, are three years jail and/or up to $5,000 fine for each charge.

Sedition is serious business, and going by what was presented in court, TRS had fabricated and exaggerated anti-foreigner sentiments in an attempt to drum up more eyeballs to lure advertising. I think online sites would drool at TRS’ income of $500,000 in 17 months, which, amazingly, came from advertising services which pay pretty paltry sums.

And it doesn’t look like there were big advertisers dumping money into TRS because they liked the anti-foreigner environment. The site just signed up for advertising services by Google and Taboola, which pump all sorts of supposedly relevant ads to accompany the articles posted. I have often wondered if advertisers check where their branding goes to or whether they have a list of sites that they would rather not have their name appear on.

Capturing eyeballs is a difficult business. Making money is even more difficult. We, at The Middle Ground, know that too. There’s always a temptation to go for the sensational to have a bigger reach.

In the world of pay-per-click banner ads, advertisers are only interested in numbers, not in content. And who cares who reads the content, so long as there are plenty of them. From May 2014 to March last year, TRS had more than 134 million page views, double that of the year before. In that same period, it received between 2.2 and 3.2 million unique visitors per month.

But even sensational news should have a grounding in facts – unless the site is clearly a “gag” site. Contributions should be vetted and verified. Just ask STOMP, that receptacle of bad behaviour in the august Singapore Press Holdings stable, which has been in trouble over publishing fake or unverified content.

The trouble is, many websites such as TRS and even The Online Citizen, present themselves as forums for expression which therefore, should allow for views of all kinds.

According to court documents: “In the course of investigations, Takagi claimed that TRS did not have any particular agenda, and that whatever was published was what people felt and submitted to her. She further claimed that TRS was to be a platform where Singaporeans could express their views without fear. According to her, TRS was set up to allow people a free avenue to voice their grievances. Her primary goal, she claimed, was to air what people sent to her.”

This simply cannot be. Opinions that are published must be more than what pops into the writer’s head at the moment. There should be a reason for holding a point of view – or is this too much to ask? In the case of TRS, the views weren’t even held by real people; they were Takagi’s, who sometimes masquaraded as a Farhan.

But Takagi also contradicted herself. There was an editorial policy after all, which she had published online:

“We would like to update our readers on the direction of our editor’s stance towards foreign labour in Singapore. Our objective is to instil fear in companies and make them think twice before hiring foreigners without really considering our Singaporean workforce. We want to create this mindset by continuing to expose more and more companies that have discriminatory practices towards Singaporeans.

Hopefully, we will be able to change the mindset of companies as effectively as Lee Kuan Yew managed to instil fear in the public about speaking against the PAP in the 80s and 90s.

We understand that our action will cause unhappiness among company CEOs and shareholders in Singapore but unfortunately our page is not catered towards these group of people. We look out for the average Singaporeans and we want jobless Singaporeans to be able to secure a decent job.

Sincerely, Farhan”

Yup. This Farhan persona is pretty handy it seems. “Farhan” is behind another site which I decline to name. So Takagi is clearly a businesswoman interested in getting more eyeballs and advertising. Of course she is. Anyone who runs an online business must be able to at least recover costs if not make money.

According to the statement of facts presented in court: “She engaged and dealt with freelance programmers to perform maintenance and upgrades on the TRS website, including optimising the TRS website’s performance. She was also involved in various aspects of managing TRS’ online advertising, including selecting online advertising service providers, and specifying the placement, and a number of advertisements to be displayed alongside each article on the TRS website.” 

The issue is whether the ends justify the means and if people really care. That TRS is patronised by so many says something about what people choose to believe or want to read. Even though the website is hosted in Sweden, USA and Switzerland, over 95% of all visitors were from Singapore.

Takagi cited web analytics which ranked TRS as the 35th most popular website amongst Internet users in Singapore. It was more popular than the websites of The Straits Times (ranked 36th), Channel NewsAsia (ranked 41st), Stomp (ranked 58th), and Today Online (ranked 100th).

Truth to tell, most people probably recognise it as a scurrilous site but think they should read it to find out just how scurrilous it can be. Unwittingly, they add to the eyeballs. Even worse, they share it – whether for a laugh or to get others similarly riled up. For sure, some will go: “That’s exactly what I feel too about foreigners.”

As with any product or service, the customer has the most clout. A consumer boycott would do more to destroy a product or service than any legislation or regulation. No eyeballs, no advertising. The pity is that the law has to police our reading habits – because we can’t do it ourselves.


Featured illustration by Natassya Diana.

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by Gwee Li Sui

“Horrigible”, as a word, is not horrigible hor. In fact, it’s very sut – meaning cool. How so? Well, many Singlish terms are formed by applying on a word a rule from another language or by chum-chumming words from two or more languages. So “jiak kentang” – which points to an atas Western-educated yaya-papaya – is made from the word “jiak”, or eat in Hokkien, and the word “kentang”, or potato in Malay. “Agakration” comes from turning “agak”, or estimate in Malay, into an England noun.

But “horrigible” is sibei interesting in a cute way – because it’s changing one England word with another England word! Kong simi? See, the two components of “horrigible” are “horrible” and “incorrigible” – a big England word for most geenas today. “Incorrigible” means being unable to be improved. Last-time teachers used it on us a lot one. So “horrigible” implies being worse than hopeless – being horribly hopeless. I think that it must have gone into circulation in the 1980s?

The way different words combine to form a new word is common in the development of any language. In England, the merged word is called a portmanteau, which is – alamak! – a French word from “porter”, meaning carry, and “manteau”, meaning mantle. So it’s like… carrying a cloak. Riight, angmo logic hor. Anyway, you’re surely familiar with the portmanteau “brunch”, which joins “breakfast” and “lunch”. The shiokest writer Lewis Carroll introduces us to “chortle”, which fuses a chuckle and a snort.

In Singlish, we have “paktorlogy”, which chum-chums “paktor”, or dating, and the ending “-logy”, which signals some science. So “paktorlogy” is the science of courtship – simple, right? A-level education becomes “air-level”, a takedown term used on the well-educated, where “air” suggests being airy-fairy or vacuous. So the air-level bugger always thinks that, because he or she got paper qualifications, he or she is very smart. But Singlish speakers know better.

Then there’s “heliucated”, which combines “helicopter” and “educated”. A helicopter in Singlish is someone from a cheena background who can’t speak England well. His or her traditional enemy is, of course, the jiak kentang kay angmo. “Helicopter” is said to morph from the mispronunciation of the word “educated” by Chinese speakers. If so, with “heliucated”, we’re getting an interesting fusion of two words that mean the same thing! “Heliucated” is used to call someone Chinese-educated or to hint that you ownself speak auta England.

With “horrigible”, there is immense shiokness just by saying it because really it improves on the England “horrible”. The extra syllable “gi” renders it not only longer but also more cheem-sounding. It adds to a sense of terukness, making “horrible” feel lagi horrible. The word is sibei aural and bears a Gothic weight of disgust. Imagine how you’d feel if your teacher or boss regards your work as horrigible! Or when you hear that the next place you plan to take a vacation is, in fact, quite horrigible! Sibei sian, correct? Flip table even!


Featured image by Sean Chong.

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Big Shot
Image taken by Kong Chong Yew

by Chong Yew

A PARTIAL solar eclipse shone over the skyline this morning at 8.30am. At over 87 per cent coverage of the sun, it marked a rare occurrence for sunny Singapore. The last solar eclipse here was on May 10, 2013, and the one before that was on Jan 26, 2009. Eclipse chasers can look to Dec 26, 2019 for the spectacular and even rarer annular solar eclipse, when the moon appears slightly smaller than the sun as it passes centrally across it, creating a bright ring of sunlight, also known as a “ring of fire”. Taken from Labrador Park, the partial eclipse overlooks the central business district on the right and the Tanjong Pagar Terminal on the left.


Featured image by staff photographer Chong Yew.

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by Reuben Wang

ELECTED officials will always face a conundrum with “compromise”. To what extent can a politician who has to prioritise political objectives still say he is truly representing the people who voted for him? And in the halls of power, where every action has a drastic impact on people’s lives, how much should a politician be willing to put on the line to ensure he gets what he wants?

For US Senator Ted Cruz, the answer is clear-cut. Politicians should never compromise and betray their constituents, and be willing to risk everything to achieve what their constituents have put them in office to achieve. The silent conservative majority compels their representatives to.

Remember the shutdown of the United States Federal Government a few years back? It was, in effect, a coup led by a small group of Republican lawmakers against their own party’s leadership. They had one unnegotiable demand, both to their own leaders and to the White House: get rid of Obamacare – President Obama’s crown achievement in office – or risk shutting down the Government.

Their gambit failed, and the president dug in. The Government was shut down for two weeks before moderate Republicans managed to commandeer enough votes to get the Government working again.

The group of rebel lawmakers, Senator Ted Cruz most prominent amongst them, became national figures. They were seen as heroes by an extremely powerful, and organised, section of the party grassroots, the Tea Party. Finally, there are people in Washington willing to fight for conservative values.


Who is Senator Ted Cruz?

Prior to congress, Senator Cruz was one of the best constitutional lawyers in America. Having served both as Texas’ Solicitor General and a private lawyer, Mr Cruz argued nine cases in front of the Supreme Court in six years – more than any other lawyer in Texas and more than all but a few in the country. His record was stellar – while he only won five of the nine, he won the cases of political and legal import – most notably, Medellín v. Texas which questioned whether international agreements signed by the United States are legally binding.

A darling of the Tea Party movement, he stands for the traditional values of the Republican party: the smaller role of Government, social conservatism and fiscal prudence.


The People v. Washington

Mr Cruz believes the silent majority of Americans who stand for conservative values have been disillusioned with the Republican party establishment after a decade of selecting moderate nominees to win over the middle ground.

If a truly conservative candidate is nominated by the Republican Party for the presidential race, the disillusioned majority will rally to his or her banner, go to the ballot box and swamp the Democratic nominee. It is a strategy with precedence – President Obama himself pursued a similar strategy with massive success in 2008, mobilising voters who do not usually vote in elections.

It is a deceptively attractive electoral strategy which reconciles with Mr Cruz’s own weaknesses. Mr Cruz’s own absolutist stance has alienated him from his Republican colleagues in congress; this strategy allows him to play on his status as an outsider fighting for the conservative values in the cesspool of Washington. And while his own actions may have gone a long way in creating the government gridlock which so many people are angry with, angry dissatisfied voters are more likely to vote for an outsider than a moderate who has cosied himself with the Washington establishment.


The Republican Party Establishment v. Cruz

While Mr Cruz remains highly popular within certain circles of the Republican party grassroots, his obstructionist and insubordinate tendencies has won him many haters amongst his congressional colleagues.

It has been an unspoken rule of American politics not to attack candidates vying for your own party’s nomination, lest they actually win the nomination. For Mr Cruz, many party elders have been willing to break that rule.

Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican nominee, has said nominating Mr Cruz would result in “cataclysmic” and “wholesale losses” to the party.

Senator Lindsay Graham, on the other hand, compared him to Mr Trump: “If you nominate Trump and Cruz, I think you get the same outcome: Whether it’s death by being shot or poisoning, does it really matter?”


Trump v. Cruz

Mr Cruz has a curious relationship with the Republican frontrunner. Early in the race, both “outsider” candidates had a tacit agreement not to attack each other. There was a formidable common enemy in the party establishment which very much prefers neither of them to be the nominee.

While both candidates may seem to hold similar views, they approach their policy stances from very different angles. Mr Trump, while having given lip-service to conservative values, is winning by redefining a diverse, and large swath of the Republican supporters into a new demographic with his personal charisma and character. Mr Cruz, however, draws his political power from the traditional Christian base of the republican party.

Well, it is a little bit of a romance,” Mr Trump said on his relation with Mr Cruz. “I like him. He likes me.”

When Mr Trump came under attack for his comments on immigration, Mr Cruz stood behind him, and said: “I always respected that. I thought that was very nice.”

Trump's Upper Limit

Whether this truce will hold as Mr Cruz establishes himself as the biggest threat to Mr Trump is unknown. While Mr Trump is the frontrunner, his primary results have a ceiling hovering around 45%.

If the Republican field remains divided, states which allocate their delegates via a winner-take-all manner will push Mr Trump over a number of delegates needed to secure the nomination with a minority of the vote.

If anti-Trump voters coalesce around a single candidate, Mr Trump is in trouble.


Cruz v. Rubio

The race to be the non-Trump candidate is primarily between Senator Marco Rubio and Mr Cruz. While the party establishment very much prefers Mr Rubio to be the nominee, his campaign has lost momentum after a disastrous debate performance right before the New Hampshire primaries.

Rubio vs Cruz

While he has received most of the endorsements and donors who had previously supported Governor Jeb Bush, he is struggling to gain traction with voters. His campaign did recover and performed okay on Super Tuesday, but he is rapidly falling behind Mr Cruz as the potential Trump alternative.


Cruz v. The Future

In a time of uncertainty and limited options for the Republican establishment, Mr Cruz’s recent victories have gone a long way in legitimising his claim to be the only viable alternative to Mr Trump.

In the event the frontrunner fails to get a simple majority of delegates, many states un-commit their delegates from the results of their primaries – allowing the delegates to vote for who they themselves believe best represents the interests of voters. In such a “contested convention”, backroom politics rules the day – and the establishment dominates backrooms.

Mr Cruz, in the end, may need to get in bed with the party establishment he dislikes so much in order to secure his nomination.


Infographics by Sean Chong

Featured image of Ted Cruz by Flickr user Gage Skidmore CC BY 2.0

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Black clock showing 8.30

WHAT the cluck is going on?

Fresh chicken distributors found themselves in the soup yesterday (March 8) when the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) accused them of price-fixing for at least seven years: “The coordinated price increases further reduced customer choice, as it provided few options for customers to switch distributors.”

Prices for fresh chicken grew from about $3.50 per kilogram 10 years ago to about $4.80 per kilogram today, reported TODAY. According to the CCS, the 13 distributors on the chopping block account for more than 90 per cent (CK) of the market share. Asked to respond to the allegations, the poultry people were steamed and cried fowl.

The family of Pte Dominique Sarron Lee, who died in a training incident in 2012, said yesterday that it had not accepted any compensation from the army regarding the young man’s death, and asked that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) reveal the amount offered: “Please be transparent. We do not think that Dominique’s death is in any way a matter of national security that requires secrecy.”

The family did admit however to accepting a grant to defray Dominique’s funeral costs, which was not part of the compensation offer. The Defence Ministry confirmed yesterday that it would also waive its legal bill of $10,000 after the family’s case to sue the military was kicked out last week.

Despite the legal setback, it doesn’t look like Dominique’s family are dropping their case for more public transparency anytime soon. But plenty of sponsors are ditching Maria Sharapova after the tennis celebrity admitted this week to taking a banned drug that increases athletic performance.

Meldonium is also used to treat chest pain and heart attacks, which Sharapova claimed she suffered. During a press conference on Monday in Los Angeles , she said: “I made a huge mistake. I let my fans down and I let the sport down.”

Last year, Sharapova earned US$29.5 million (S$40.9 million), mostly from endorsements from sponsors which included Nike, Tag Heuer and Porsche, said Forbes magazine.


Featured image of Najeer Yusof

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Miss? Mrs? Madam?
Illustration by Sean Chong

by Wan Ting Koh and Gillian Lim

JUST married and wondering if you should be reintroduced to your colleagues as a Mrs, or if you should retain the ambiguous Ms? What if you were filling in a form? Have you wondered what implications there would be if you circled the honorific Madam instead of Mrs? Is there any difference between the two at all?

It might not be as surprising that women now want to be known simply as Ms, even after they are married. Perhaps this is due to the increasing independence of women (happy International Women’s Day, by the way), especially in the workplace, where women want to keep their names rather than be known by their husbands’.

Or perhaps now with a lesser emphasis on tradition, women, although they are married into the husband’s family – almost literally in Mandarin (嫁进去) – still choose to retain their maiden surname.

Even among our 21 women Members of Parliament (MP), 12 chose to be addressed by the generic formal prefix, Ms. This generic prefix is a general title of respect and doesn’t indicate marital status – so, at a glance, you wouldn’t know if these MPs are married or not. And out of these 12, 10 are married, while two are single. Some of these include Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling. Only one MP, Mrs Josephine Teo, chose to adopt her husband’s surname. Her maiden surname is Yeo.

We took a look at the Oxford Dictionaries to see what are the differences between the four prefixes, and here’s a summary:

Ms can refer to both married and unmarried women. So, for example, if someone wishes to be addressed as Ms Lim, this could mean that she is either married or unmarried. Miss, on the other hand, is specifically used to describe someone who is unmarried, i.e. Miss Lim is planning to get married next year. While the Oxford Dictionaries state that Miss is also used for married women who want to retain their “maiden name for professional purposes”, generally, it isn’t as commonly adopted for the same purpose in Singapore. 

Mrs is used only for married women; women who adopt the prefix Mrs wish to retain their husband’s surname. So, for example, Mrs Tan’s maiden surname is Teo, and Mrs Tan is choosing to adopt her husband’s surname, Tan.

The prefix Madam is slightly trickier. It’s used more commonly in a formal context, to address someone’s official designation and to express respect. So, for example, you would hear Madam Halimah Yaacob being addressed as Madam Speaker in Parliament, and the fictitious US Vice President Sally Langston in the US TV series Scandal being addressed as Madam Vice President.

And used in the Singaporean context – which the Oxford Dictionaries do not include – Madam is also adopted by married women who want to be addressed by their maiden surname. For example, Madam Halimah Yaacob is married to businessman Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee but retains her own name.

Different reasons

We spoke to several married women who chose to retain their surnames, to understand their motivations behind it.

Newlywed Sheryl Koh, 27, still introduces herself as Ms Koh. “I think it depends on the context,” she said. “Since I’ve been married for only slightly more than two months, I am still used to being called Ms Koh.” She added, however, that people have started addressing her as Mrs Ng and she’s okay with it. The associate manager said: “It just depends on what the situation is and who the person is. It isn’t a deliberate decision to remain a Ms, but that’s what most people recognise me as.”

Married for five and a half years, 34-year-old Jennifer Lee says she wants to be known as a Ms as it “sounds younger”. The receptionist said: “I’m used to my own surname as I have been using it for 20 over years before getting married.” Ms Lee added that she would consider switching to a Madam when she’s “much older”.

As for Madam Koh Geok Lian, a 63-year-old who’s been married for over 40 years, says she only uses Ms when she has no other choice, like when filling in forms which lack a Madam. Asked why she doesn’t refer to herself as a Mrs, the corporate advisor replied: “Nobody knows me if I call myself Mrs as they don’t know my husband’s name.”

Ms Grace Yap, 56, has been married for 28 years, but still prefers to be addressed as Ms Yap, as opposed to being addressed as Mrs Lim. The administrative executive said: “You can use the prefix Ms for different purposes. It’s a bit more simple, it can be used in any situation, and describe any age.” But prefixes like Madam tends to be associated with older women, and also used in slightly formal situations, she said. Having used the prefix Ms for 28 years ever since she started working, Ms Yap said: “It’s also partially because of habit. It’s very hard to change.”


Featured illustration by Sean Chong

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Illustration by Guet Ghee Pang

By Felix Cheong

THE best minds were stumped; investigators were stalled; the public in the Republic was scandalised. It had happened so fast not even the quick-witted could have cut it to the quick.

All examinations in Singapore had suddenly disappeared.

One moment, the papers were there, kept safer than the Elected President’s mythical second key – from the PSLE to the alphabet soup of ‘O’, ‘N’ and ‘A’ levels. The next moment, they became blank sheets, as though a truckload of correction fluid had been dumped on them. Even when the Ministry asked Cambridge (both in the UK and US, just to be kiasu) to helicopter over a fresh set, they were similarly de-contentised. Further attempts were rendered futile.

Tertiary institutions were not spared either. Professors reported stacks of mid-term papers disappearing. Each time they tried to resurrect the exam from memory, it vanished before their eyes.
The Education Ministers were in a fix. The nation was now facing its toughest test.

There was widespread outcry in the streets, so much so four sites (designated Hong Lim Park East, Hong Lim Park West, Hong Lim Park North and Hong Lim Park South) had to be opened.

“Without exams, how can my daughter apply for scholarships?” one mother lamented. She received sympathetic nods all round.

“My son wants to be the next Prime Minister,” wailed another mother, on her knees and beating her breast. “Without exams, how to be scholar and become PAP MP?”

Five minutes later, she fainted.

A task force was quickly convened. It approved the setting up of another task force to examine the mystery of missing exams. Everyone, from ex-President’s Scholars to scholarly ex-presidents, knuckled down with the CID, CAD, CPIB and CNB. But the evidence defied logic. It was as though a curse had wrapped itself around the island.

Meritocracy was on the ropes. And no one knew it better than its apologists.


Featured image by Guet Ghee Pang

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by Daniel Yap 

IT IS always a pleasant thing to hear someone like Minister for Community, Culture and Youth Ms Grace Fu say that we need to strengthen our Singapore identity through the arts and sports. It is good to realize that these are critical components of our cohesiveness as a nation – we need them to survive as a society and a culture.

Yet it seems strange to me to think of the arts and sports primarily as ways to overcome our fault lines. Some days, it seems that great sports brands create as many fault lines as they smooth over.

Arsenal and Tottenham are both great sports teams: brands that, had they been Singaporean, we would be proud of. Within the fan base of each there is great camaraderie, but put the two groups together and you get the definition of a fault line – rioting, fighting and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Put players from both teams in the England squad (debates aside about how many English players are actually on those teams), however, and you will have fans of both Arsenal and Tottenham rooting for a repeat of ’66.

Not that I advocate hooliganism – far from it, but are we so afraid of fault lines that we leave no room for passion to grow to a point where it brings us together?

That’s the truth of it – the same passion that fractures our society is the passion that binds it. But we do not have enough space in between our fault lines for such passions to flourish. To our nearsighted natures, it is “imbalance and tension”. Negative. We want that fervent passion at the national level, but cannot abide it at the grassroots. At the grassroots, passion can be fractious – something we will not risk on our quest for national unity.

Can we have one without the other?

If we had our own Madonna, would we be proud of her? An artist who brazenly and openly captures the attention of the world by sticking it to a particular religious group? Who dares to bare it and get raunchy even as conservatives shriek and shudder? Would we applaud her for her musical talent, her showmanship, her ability to draw a following? Or would she be seen first as a threat to national unity, a case skirting on sedition, a dissenter?

We say that artists the likes of Madonna are a luxury that our fragile, tiny nation cannot afford. We would disown her, disavow her. The OB markers are drawn close for our own protection. Do not support such a woman.

Yet at the same time we want to have our own famous feel-good bands, our universally palatable acts, our Government–endorsed filmography. We want it without realizing that the system that births offensive Madonna is the same one that churns out the art that binds. To cut out the womb that fosters “revisionist” narratives like Charlie Chan would also kill the Norman Rockwells. To try to engineer it would rob our art of its soul.

So how then can we have our cake and eat it? The role of the G, I humbly plead, is not to be the arbiter of art and sport, but the voice of reason that reminds us that passionate diversity is the foundation of passionate unity, and which supports us through the wilderness of viewpoints to the promised land of National Identity.


Featured image by Natassya Diana 

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Collage of 10 men interviewed for International Women's Day

By Najeer Yusof

SINCE today is International Women’s Day, we decided to ask 10 men, who the most important woman in their lives were. Here is what they have to say:

Alessio Balotelli, 28, Engineer "My mum is the most important women to me. She brought me to life and is the reason for my existence." "I love her very much."

GUY 1:

Alessio Balotelli, 28, engineer 

“My mum is the most important woman to me. She brought me to life and is the reason for my existence.

“I love her very much.” 


Tommy Hendrawan, 21, Student "It is my mother as she was the one who raised me." "I want to tell her that I love her so much."

GUY 2:

Tommy Hendrawan, 21, student

“It is my mother as she was the one who raised me.

“I want to tell her that I love her so much.”


 Muhammad Iqbal bin Zaidi, 28, Broadcast Engineer "My mom is the most important woman in my life because she represents strength. After years of dialysis of having kidney failure, she showed me that inner strength is what you need to survive and not showing people you're afraid, in pain or suffering. She's my living example of inner strength." "I love you mom and happy birthday!"

GUY 3:

Muhammad Iqbal bin Zaidi, 28, broadcast engineer

“My mum is the most important woman in my life because she represents strength. After years of dialysis from having kidney failure, she has shown me that inner strength is what you need to survive and not showing people that you are afraid, in pain or suffering. She is my living example of inner strength.

“I love you mum and Happy Birthday!”


Goh, 60, independent consultant "My wife because being, a Christian, in a marriage, 2 becomes one. It is a unique r/s like no other." "I love her very much and if I were to relive my life and had to marry, I would marry her again."

GUY 4:

Goh, 60, independent consultant

“My wife because being a Christian, in a marriage, two becomes one. It is a unique relationship like no other.

“I love her very much and if I were to relive my life and had to marry, I would marry her again.”


Md Asad, 29, Cleaner "My mother is the most important woman in my life as she took care of me since I was young." "I wish her a great health and a long life."

GUY 5:

Mohammad Asad, 29, cleaner

“My mother is the most important woman in my life as she took care of me since I was young.

“I wish her a great health and a long life.”


Bolat, 23 "My mother, as she is the most caring woman in my life and everyone should put their mother above any other woman." "I will always love you and appreciate the things you have done for me and never forget them."

GUY 6:

Bolat, 23, in retail

“My mother, as she is the most caring woman in my life and everyone should put their mother above any other woman.

“I will always love you and appreciate the things you have done for me and never forget them.”


Mohd Saril Fysh, 40, Retail Manager "It's my Mother, because she raised up six boys single handled. She loves every kid equally and never got tired from raising. She remembers the fav dish of every kid." "I tell every day that I love her so tomorrow I will tell her, Ma you look young and you still maintain your beauty and have the energy of a young woman."

GUY 7:

Mohd Saril Fysh, 40, retail manager

“It’s my mother, because she raised up six boys single-handedly and they have all turned out successful. She loves every kid equally and never got tired from raising us. She remembers the favourite dish of every kid.

“I tell her every day that I love her so tomorrow I will tell her, ‘Ma, you look young and you still maintain your beauty and have the energy of a young woman’.”

Ryan Jansen, 16, student "My mother, as she has raised me and has taken care of me all this while." "I love you and thank you for everything that you have done for me."

GUY 8:

Ryan Jansen, 16, student

“My mother, as she has raised me and has taken care of me all this while.

“I love you and thank you for everything that you have done for me.”

Mohammad Khairul ,39, unemployed "The most important woman to me is my mother. She fed me and take care of and does everything for me." "I can't live without you."

GUY 9: 

Mohammad Khairul, 39, unemployed

“The most important woman to me is my mother. She fed me and take care of me and does everything for me.

“I can’t live without you.”

Ajit Gopalakrishnan, 23

GUY 10:

Ajit Gopalakrishnan, 23, student

“The most important woman to me is my mother. She has taught me values like hard work. She has been a teacher for almost 30 years and through this, she has taught me how to be hard working in life and dedicated to your job. She has showered me with endless amount of love and given me everything that I need to succeed in life.

“I’ll cherish and treasure everything that you have done for me. Thank you for being an amazing mother. I love you, mum!”


Featured image by Najeer Yusof. 

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