March 27, 2017

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by Bertha Henson

She’s back! In the news, not in Singapore. Remember the foul-mouthed Amy Cheong who complained about Malay void deck weddings being noisy and cheap and made some cheap shots about the community’s divorce rates? We got all kan cheong over her.

To reprise, she was sacked from her job at the National Trades Union Congress, flamed, had a police report made against her – and left the country for her home in Perth. She’s actually Australian, a Singapore PR.

She never really took back her words, and frankly thought it was much ado about nothing – she was stressed from work and was bothered with the noise. Nothing to do with race whatsoever. She vented on Facebook – and it went viral.

Now, the police has closed its investigations and “administered a stern warning” under Section 298A (b) of the Penal Code, Chapter 224, reported ST in what appears to be a scoop. But rather unhelpfully, ST didn’t say what this particular section of the Penal Code refers to.

So, here it is:
“Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. Whoever –
(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, knowingly promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion or race, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious or racial groups; or
(b) commits any act which he knows is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious or racial groups and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquility, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, or with fine, or with both.”

Looks like Amy Cheong got off lightly. Seems the G seems to think it was a case of foot-in-mouth disease than any attempt to disturb the peace.
Reading her interview with ST is pretty déjà vu. She had spoken to TNP in the past in which she clearly showed she didn’t think her words were racist.

So many months later, she now says “she wants to put the episode behind her’’. What’s strange is her complaint about living and working in Singapore. She found herself clocking long hours and striving hard to prove and support herself here, she said: “This episode has helped me put things in perspective. I learnt to appreciate life a bit more than just working. I think everything happens for a reason.”

Rather odd. Is she saying something coded about her ex-employer the National Trades Union Congress where she worked in its membership section? The same employer who sacked her? After all, she did say she was tired after work and hence, her racist rant on FB.

And it surely is odd to say that the “episode” has made her think about life being more than just about work. One would have expected her to say, after going through the vitriol that she did, something like this: “This episode has helped me put things in perspective. I learnt to appreciate life in a multi-racial country and how I shouldn’t shoot off my mouth and hurt others every time I’m unhappy.”

Oh Amy…how hard can it be for you to say that?

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SO much money! The G really outdid itself with its financial incentives to get Singaporeans to reproduce. We need more of our own kind, as we are hardly replacing ourselves. I agree. But all that money, like $2b, we can expect just 6,000 to 9,000 more babies a year. Worth it or not?

I wonder which is the biggest carrot of all. The front-of-queue for BTO flats? But that’s for those who already have children. Some people say it’s not going to help those who want a flat BEFORE children. But hey, I reckon the G also has to appease those who have already done their duty, and whose need is greater.

Also, I’ve been reading about parents footing part of the bill for their children’s first home these days. When children already become parents, you can’t be expecting the grandparents to do the same. Or can you?

Other random thoughts:

Childcare announcements will be made today. I thought this was strange as I’ve already seen reports of infant and childcare subsidies amounting to $53,000 being doled out…

Why isn’t more reporting being done on the leave being given to those who adopt infants? This is new. And probably welcomed by couples who’ve missed their biological boat – and who can afford to bring up children. Maybe the numbers are too small?

Are single mothers also eligible for some of those incentives? How are single mothers treated under this population package anyway? Non-existent? (I’m just curious)

But I wonder what the older folk will make of all this fuss. I can imagine the earlier generation who brought up two, three or 10 children without help shaking their heads and raising their eyebrows….and grumbling…

Here are the ramblings of two octogenarians having a coffee:

Ah Soh: Aiyah. Young people now ah…Everything also like so difficult. Everything also need Government to help. Everything about money. Before ah, we just give birth, at home or call midwife…and then get up and wash clothes, make dinner. Now what is this maternity leave? Four months! Confinement period also not so long…

Ah Cheh: Tiok si lor. Before, give birth so easy. My six children – all grown up. Nothing wrong with them. Feed them rice with dark soya sauce. Some times got ikan kuning. All still manage to grow up. My lao kong never even help. Bus driver. He go to work, come back, give me marketing money. I do everything.

Now the men got one week leave. What for? They don’t go to work, just stay home and shake leg. You think they can be bothered to change diaper?

Ah Soh: Aiyah, my grandchildren say now things different. Must have maid, must have house, must have work, both father and mother must help look after baby. And then… only have one or two children! They think our time so easy. We don’t even have other people to help.

My grandson who is getting married actually asked his father for money to buy bungalow. I told my son, cannot. Why he cannot rent a room or rent a flat? Then later, own his own house. Young people ah….

Ah Cheh: Wah! Gong xi! Gong xi! Your grandson getting married! Finally! I thought he very fussy…He quite old now right? Got 40 years old?

Ah Soh: Ya. His wife also 40. How to have children like that? But my lao kong say the Government will help – donno what IVF subsidy. And if the baby come out not all right, can use the baby Medisave. Medishield also can cover or something. But aiyah, that grandson of mine say he don’t want to have children! He say children very troublesome. Milk powder. Diaper. Expensive.

Our time, we just buy the cheapest milk powder or breast feed until they are older. We just use cloth diaper and wash and re-wash. What disposable diaper?

Ah Cheh: Must pity them also lah. Now both husband and wife got to work. Where got time? I also don’t want to look after great grandchildren. I already look after so many. My children say very hard to get their boss to let them take leave. So children get sick, maid must look after – or they call me. I say a little bit of cough and flu, just give Panadol. Little bit of sick, and they panick. So precious their children. I tell them to give their children Chinese medicine but they say must see proper doctor.

Ah Soh: Leave the young people alone. Not our problem. You finished your coffee? Let’s go. Our mahjong kakis waiting for us.

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by Bertha Henson

ONCE upon a time, there were four students who were vying for the post of class monitor. All four were as different from each other as they can be. And boy, did they make sure that their classmates knew about that!

One boy, very clever boy, told about his past, including eating ikan kuning mashed with rice. He was a poor boy, son of a bus driver (you know…those people who are now among the lowest paid in the country?) Some of his classmates nodded, others who usually ate at McDonald’s wondered what he was talking about. He had plenty of supporters – most of them other class monitors, some teachers and even the school principal, who said the boy had the potential to be more than a class monitor. Maybe school prefect even.

The boy did not want to be embarrassed and told them not to come too near him. He was his own man/boy! He was KPK! But the school principal and teachers really wanted him to win, so they went around shaking his classmates’ hands, making little lightning strikes, careful not to be seen with him.

One nice thing about the boy was that he didn’t seem to mind the crap that people were throwing at him, making fun of his fondness for kueh chap.

Another was a girl, very much an Ah Lian. She too had plenty of supporters. There were a few class monitors and her extended family who pitched in as well, accompanying her to the school and classroom, distributing blue umbrellas.

Her aunty said, hey, vote for a girl. Too many class monitors are boys. Her uncles and godfather said, why do you want that KPK to win? He’s the principal’s pet, the teachers’ favourite. What if the principal and teachers decide that they should extend school hours, have more detention classes, raise canteen prices? You think the boy is going to say no?  Our Ah Lian will hammer them back!

The third person was a boy, son of a very famous class monitor who wanted to be school prefect and even teacher or principal. This boy, KJ s/o JBJ, was also very clever, especially with counting money. He had already clashed with the school principal once, about lending money to other people without proper permission.

When he talked, he sounded just like his late father. Like thunder. He really can’t stand the school principal and teachers. He doesn’t even like Ah Lian and her extended family.  He’s even more upset now because some people in school (and maybe outside school) are threatening his family. The police told him they will investigate and be around when he has to address the school assembly.

You can tell who the fourth person in because he is always in neon green. Some of his classmates remember him vaguely. He and Ah Lian had both tried to curry favour with them a few years ago. But most of them decided to vote for that nice Eurasian boy. But then he got kicked out of school. The neon green guy goes round with students even younger than him, probably from kindergarten. He told the class he won’t address them at school assembly but to please go on Facebook and Twitter to talk to him.

Their classmates are both flattered and tired by the attention of so many people. They have decided not to go to the school canteen, which is never-endingly being upgraded, because there are so many people there, including news people who keep asking them about this and that.

They just want to study – and get As.