April 28, 2017

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Photo by Shawn Danker. Shared Copyright.
Migrant workers playing cricket during their day off.

The year 2014 looks set to be interesting for Singapore, going by just a couple of lines in the Prime Minister’s New Year Day message last night. He is going to prorogue Parliament after the Budget session in March and come up with a new agenda for the rest of the parliamentary term which will end in 2016.

Here’s hoping that in July, the G will pull together all the threads of the “new way forward’’ that the PM has espoused and that it shows clearly in each ministry’s statement on what it will do for the rest of the term. What I’d like to see: That the sentiments expressed in the Our Singapore Conversation have been incorporated into policy directions.

Doubtless, the G is positioning itself for the next general election and is laying the groundwork early.

Anyway, with tongue only half in cheek, here’s my take on what’s cooking in 2014. Enjoy with a pinch of salt, because I’ve already sugared and spiced it up.

Burnt toast and pineapple tarts with sour milk

He’s already burnt himself, the CPIB man who has pleaded guilty of mis-appropriating $1.7m from the G. Wish Edwin Yeo didn’t so that we can hear a lot more about how he filched the money. In case you don’t know, what we’ll get to read is a statement of facts put up by the prosecution, which won’t be challenged since he isn’t claiming trial. That’s usually quite bald. If there was an inquiry done in-house, we probably won’t hear much about it. There’s hope in learning a bit more when he puts up his mitigation plea for a more lenient sentence, although he will probably wax on about his gambling addiction and give the anti-gambling crowd another reason to say that casinos are baaaad.

But there’s still more than 10,000 of boxes of pineapple tarts to look forward to, which foreign service officer Lim Cheng Hoe ordered for ministerial trips. Except that he only bought 2,200 boxes.  It’s likely he’s going to plead guilty too of cheating the ministry of almost $90,000 but you sort of wonder what other delicacies go into a minister’s diplomatic bag when he’s goes courting abroad. Does it include kueh lapis? Or is that not part of protocol?

No word yet on how he will plead but it’s pretty shocking to have a cop accused of murdering a father and son pair. The Kovan case, which had the media chasing its tail over a fat 50-something  year old suspect, came to roost on a nice-looking 34 year old senior staff sergeant who had earlier (official) dealings with the elder victim. We can probably handle burnt toast or un-baked pineapple tarts but a double murder on the part of a cop is too difficult to swallow. If Iskandar Rahmat is indeed guilty, it’s not good enough to lock him away and throw away the key. He should hang.

Porridge

Take your pick: bubur ayam, fish porridge or Crystal Jade style pei tan chok? Whatever makes it easy for old people to chew and swallow. Here’s waiting to see what will be served up on the Pioneer Generation Package, Singapore’s reward for the generation which has slogged it out here. Ingredients will definitely include something on healthcare financing – free ward upgrade? Or free dentures? Or free reading glasses? Maybe a bigger portion of shares/dividends of a GLC? Let’s hope the package isn’t delineated or means-tested by household income or house type or you can bet that there will be some flinging and not just banging of pots and pans. This looks though like something the G really wants to give out to the generation which has been its keenest supporters. So the bet is that it won’t be watery gruel of the Oliver Twist variety

Nasi lemak

How more lemak can you get? A big church, a preacher’s wife with sights on Hollywood, an Indonesian tycoon and an accounting tangle so complicated you’d need a chopper to cleave through. The City Harvest trial continues but it’s no church versus state clash, it’s about the diversion of dirty lucre. No ikan bilis sum either: more than $50million of church funds involved. As for the sambal, that’s provided by Serina Wee whom Netizens are going nuts over.

Indian rojak

Not intending to be racist or anything but Chinese style rojak simply doesn’t fit the story of the Little India riot and its aftermath. Here’s looking at what the Committee of Inquiry will say about the cause of the riot and how it was handled by the authorities. It’s going to be contentious because many issues are involved besides the fact the rioters broke the law. What sparked it? Alcohol-inflamed emotions over the death of a compatriot on the road? Were there some rioters who were more culpable than others? Then comes the question of whether bigger concerns were at play – such as treatment of foreign workers here, allegations of police brutality, the rules regarding repatriation. Don’t forget that there will be a trial(s) and it’s clear that some of the accused, including a tourist, aren’t going to roll over and play dead. Expect plenty of gravy.

Scrambled eggs

Anonymity didn’t bring any comfort or consolation to the hackers who wanted to do a Guy Fawkes and disrupt the country’s infrastructure. So James Raj Arokiasamy and other hackers who disrupted the websites of organisations like the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ang Mo Kio Town Council have been hauled to court. One said he did so because his fingers were “itchy’’. The trials will be a thing to watch as James Raj is being defended by the inimitable M Ravi. Watch also for offline curbs on online activity, with coming laws on harassment. Rather than serve eggs sunny-side up, poached or hard boiled with individual pieces of legislation scattered through the rule books, the G has decided to scramble them and serve it as some kind of omnibus legislation against any sort of harassment, whether cyber bullying or stalking. Another dish of scrambled eggs to be served up: changes to the Broadcasting Act – to make sure that online news is the same as offline offerings – that is, all should taste the same.

Oodles of noodles

Hawker variety or spaghetti? The roads look like a tangled mess and in some places, all starched up. So we wait for Monday to see if the Marina Coastal Expressway is what it’s cracked up to be – a quick journey. Or will motorists be throwing up their breakfast in their cars as they figure how to navigate their way to work. Besides the roads, you can bet commuters are crossing their fingers that transport operators can keep the trains going without stopping. They’ve been hard at work replacing old infrastructure but do keep an eye on the new Circle line hor. Terrible to break down after PM opened it. And what’s with the fare increase eh? It’s like introducing chilli padi to the dish. Very hiam.

Essence of chicken

Every parent’s favourite tonic for their kids. They will need it themselves when Primary One registration comes along with new rules that will open up spaces in “better’’ schools (since every school is a good school). Then there are changes to the PSLE scoring system as well. No more T-scores???? How like that? So there will be two sets of confused if not howling parents, those with kids about to enter the school system and those who want their 12 year olds to go to RI or RGS. Prediction: More eyeballs on the kiasuparentsforum.

Fruit, yoghurt and all that’s good

And this healthy dish is NOT an optional item on the breakfast menu. Which is why everyone had better pay attention to moves to introduce Medishield Life, which will cover everyone’s health needs. Better have a say in how much premiums you have to pay at various stages of your life and how much cover you will get when you get sick. Confused even at the present situation? Get a crash course in the 3Ms and check what health insurance you already hold. Healthy food is hard to swallow – but you know it’s good for you.

 

This article was first published at berthahenson.wordpress.com.

by Bertha Henson

Inside a bunker in Singapore, two bureaucrats, Chin Oo Eng and Nina Kan, are discussing ways to control the universe. They’re starting with the Internet.

Chin: Okay, we failed to get those Internet fellas on board that Code of Conduct. And all those letters of demand, Sedition Act stunts we throw at them… don’t seem to be working. Boss now says we tighten the screws. I’ve been thinking for a long time… We can do it like China and just shut or block out stuff we don’t like. We can hire all those PMETs in the Singapore core to sit around and monitor sites. Below $4,000 a month, so that we can give them Workfare increases. It’ll make us popular.

Nina Kan: Don’t be silly. Just come up with a licence like under Newspaper Printing Presses Act. Annual. Renewable depending on whether they toe the line or not. And they must say who owns the site, editor, publisher etc. All these shady characters who give money to slam us will now have to emerge. Or if they don’t want to, they will have to close down. Yeehhahaaarrhaaaa! And throw in a $50,000 bond as well so that the smaller fellows who can’t afford it will have to close down too. Heeyaaaharrrr.

Chin: Eh, if they go to China and use servers there how? Some already do. Can’t even identify the buggers.

Nina Kan: That’s stage 2 lah. Now we just get those “friendly” sites under the umbrella. MSM fellows can’t object. Won’t object anyway. In fact, let’s get the boss to say that we’re just being fair: “Our mainstream media are subjected to rules… Why shouldn’t the online sites also be part of that regulatory framework?” Something like that. If you really worried, we can say we targeting “commercial” sites that take in advertising. Like this, even Yahoo can come under licence. And I think that Marissa woman won’t mind $50K. Nothing to Yahoo…

Chin: You’re so good, you’re evil. But you know, if Yahoo won’t play ball… Anyway, if we only say commercial sites, then we have to rule out those bloggers and those very oo eng people who write about all sorts of stuff pro bono. We need to catch everyone!

Nina Kan: Hmm. Tough. We better come out with some conditions first. We can try this: Under the licensing framework, online news sites will be individually licensed if they (i) report an average of at least one article per week on Singapore’s news and current affairs over a period of two months, and (ii) are visited by at least 50,000 unique IP addresses from Singapore each month over a period of two months.

Chin: Hmm. They will ask for a definition of Singapore news. Commentaries count? What about photographs? You know all these supposed citizen journalists with a camera phone? Always making trouble. Like STOMP.

Nina Kan: Then we define this way. A “Singapore news programme” is any programme (whether or not the programme is presenter-based and whether or not the programme is provided by a third party) containing any news, intelligence, report of occurrence, or any matter of public interest, about any social, economic, political, cultural, artistic, sporting, scientific or any other aspect of Singapore in any language (whether paid or free and whether at regular interval or otherwise) but does not include any programme produced by or on behalf of the Government.

Chin: Waah. Very good. Very evil. Very broad. That last part is very good. Rules out every ministry website, any agency or anyone we want to finance! But I think there will still be a problem with the bloggers. They don’t quite have a site; they use WordPress and others. And what about Facebook fellas – sometimes they also report news. But their site is actually Facebook. My goodness! You think PM has 50,000 followers or not? What about Ministers?

Nina Kan: Now you are being silly, they come under “produced by or on behalf of the Government’’.

Chin: What about sammyboy.com then? EDMW? Forums? And we still have to get round this people who will claim they don’t own Facebook and WordPress. All it needs is some smart-aleck lawyer to tear everything down… Twitter how? Some might have more than 50,000 followers…

Nina Kan: Eh, don’t make it so complicated! We just start with 10 and we see how it goes. Maybe we can throw in a carrot. Say… you get a licence, we give you media accreditation. So you can come to our press conferences and all that and we let you in. That’s what the online fellas want right?

Chin: Hmm… we got to think about what we said about governing Internet with a “light touch”. Maybe we should line up some people to say it is still “relatively light touch”. Actually, what we do really have to do ah? Must have some SOPs.

Nina Kan: We give them 24 hours to take down something we don’t like. Like in the classification system. So we not really starting anything new. But we can now say… you have anything on race, religion – out! Take down in 24 hours – or else! That way, we can still be nice and employ a lot of PMETs to do the monitoring. Better put up a new budget to Finance…

Chin: You know we are going to get slammed right? These online fellows are going to say we are censoring, stifling speech and all that sort of liberal rubbish.

Nina Kan: What’s new? We get slammed all the time anyway. In any case, it’s the boss who will be taking the flak.

Chin: True… Anyway, I am due to retire soon. Before 2016.

Chin Oo Eng and Nina Kan dutifully told their boss about their plan. It is approved. It is now policy.

 

More of An Unlicensed Conversation

Part II: Supreme bureaucrats Chin Oo Eng and Nina Kan are back in their bunker, ego bruised and noses bloodied.

Part III: Chin Oo Eng and Nina Kan have been ordered to come up with answers for their bosses in Parliament.