June 28, 2017

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by Sharanya Pillai

IN THE aftermath of Changi Airport Group’s (CAG) response to the fire at Terminal 2 (T2), the report card is mixed.

There was some praise for CAG’s response. Aviation experts approved of the move to shut down the entire terminal, even though the the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said that the fire, which was in a room storing air-conditioning equipment, was “small”. While some have pinpointed the airport’s open design as a contributing factor to the spread of the smoke, another expert conceded that the “benefits of an open design outweigh the fire problems”.

Meanwhile, the SCDF was lauded by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for dealing with two other fires on the same day, in Punggol Field and a Woodlands condominium.

So far, so good. CAG, however, is still battling flames over its communications strategy, with some people noting that passengers could have been notified earlier, and the transfer of passengers from T2 to T3 managed better. CAG has acknowledged the delay, but a few questions also remain, such as how exactly the fire started and whether it could have been prevented.

As more details trickle in, we look at some key numbers about the incident.

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30 minutes was how long it took for an evacuation to be ordered by the chief of the Airport Emergency Service after the fire was detected.

15,000 is the estimated number of people, including airport staff, evacuated from T2.

40 is the number of T2 flights affected.

1,000 is the estimated number of people stranded on the tarmac, and

4 hours is how long they were stuck there before being transferred to T3.

1 hour was how long the SCDF took to put out the fire.

1 hour lapsed between the detection of the fire and CAG posting social media updates on Facebook and Twitter about the situation.

Another hour later, CAG announced on social media that T2 flights will be moved to T3.

7 is the number of people provided with medical assistance. Three were taken to Changi General Hospital for smoke inhalation, while four were treated at the airport clinic.

3 is the number of units damaged in T2. Restaurants Chutney Mary and Nando’s on the third floor suffered water damage from the sprinklers while an office on the fifth floor was flooded.

8 hours 50 mins was approximately how long T2 was shut down for.

Some 24 hours after the scare, the world’s best airport is up and running again, with the exception of the damaged eateries. CAG said that it is continuing investigations with the authorities.

 

 

Featured image by Wikimedia user Terence Ong CC BY-SA 3.0.

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THE refugee crisis is ballooning along with the atrocities committed by the Islamic State. World leaders are starting to deal with this global concern – with an eye on their respective national interest and the demands of their constituents.

In the United States, Conservative leaders are strongly against setting up refugee resettlement programmes in the belief that ISIS is “spreading like cancer” among refugees, as stated by Nato’s top commander – US general Philip Breedlove.

Meanwhile, human rights groups persist in condemning anti-immigrant sentiments and continue to advocate for the need to provide shelter for the refugees. If halted, it “would be a cowardly abdication of responsibility and a tragic victory for terror over humanity”, said Amnesty International director John Dalhuisen.

We’ve compiled some differing reactions to the influx of refugees and took a look whether the refugees are receiving adequate access to basic necessities. Use the map below as a guide.

Then check out the quotes below for a gist of other world news.

Forest fires in Riau, Indonesia 

“Smoke from forest fires and peat in Riau has already crossed the Malacca Strait… It’s still only a little but it should be addressed immediately.”

–Mr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, Indonesia’s disaster management agency chief

A special fire fighting team is working round the clock to monitor the 74 hotspots in Indonesia’s Riau province on Sumatra island. The haze from the forest fires and in oil palm plantations, is said to have crossed over to Malaysia, affecting the air quality in certain areas. As of Wednesday (Aug 17) at 5pm, 31 areas in Malaysia were recorded to have a ‘moderate’ (50-100) reading on the Air Pollutant Index (API) while one area, Tanjung Malim, recorded an ‘unhealthy’ 110 reading. As of yesterday (Aug 19) at 4pm, the API in most cities were ‘moderate’, with Ipoh at 90 and Kuala Lumpur at 72.

 

 

Escaped girl misses her Boko Haram husband

“I want him to know that I am still thinking about him. Just because we got separated, that does not mean that I don’t think about him.”

–Ms Amina Ali Nkek, Chibok girl who escaped the Boko Haram group

The first missing Chibok (a town in Borno state, Nigeria) girl was found after being kidnapped two years ago by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Held in captivity, Ms Amina Ali Nkek was married off and gave birth to a girl. She fled the Boko Haram camp with her baby and a man claiming to be her husband. They were found on the outskirts of Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest. Ms Ali and her baby have been placed in a government facility for “de-radicalisation” while her husband is being interrogated in a detention centre.

 

Swiss knifeman sets fire to a train 

“The attack could be a crime of passion… A terrorism background still seems very, very far-fetched.”

–Mr Bruno Metzger, of the St Gallen cantonal police

Last Saturday (Aug 13), a 27-year-old Swiss national ignited flammable liquid on a train and stabbed people with a knife. The knifeman and six other people were injured, and at least one victim has died. Terrorist or political motives have been ruled as unlikely and police have confirmed the knifeman is not of an immigrant background. Estimated damage to the train that was approaching the Salez station at the time of the incident is CHF100,000 (S$139,886). On Sunday (Aug 14), the knifeman died after being hurt by the fire.

 

China launches quantum communications satellite 

“Quantum computing is largely seen as the next big thing in communications… There are millions of applications. Some people say quantum computing could change everything.” 

–Marc Einstein, Director of the Information Communications Technology (ICT) practice of Frost and Sullivan

On Tuesday (Aug 16), China launched the world’s first ever quantum satellite, establishing an “unhackable” communication network. Quantum technology, a field of physics and engineering, attempts to apply the mechanics of tiny, subatomic particles to other sectors such as secure communications. The Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) also known as ‘Micius’, was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Gansu. Secure communications between Beijing and Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang where the government is battling an Islamist insurgency, is enabled by the satellite, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. China will also be testing out quantum teleportation with QUESS.

 

Flooding in Louisiana 

 “We still have to go out with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to get a comprehensive assessment of the damage… It’s still early in this process.” 

–Mike Steele, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

After torrential rains poured down on Louisiana last weekend, the extent of damage is still being assessed, with the death toll rising to 13 on Thursday (Aug 18). Over 40,000 homes have been damaged and over 30,000 people from flood-soaked areas needed to be evacuated. The disaster relief cost is expected to require at least US$30 million (S$40.3 million) said Red Cross spokesman Craig Cooper. Over 70,000 people have applied for federal assistance and those numbers are expected to climb. President Obama has declared a state of emergency in the affected state.

 

Aung San Suu Kyi’s first China visit as Myanmar’s leader

 “She (Aung San Suu Kyi) also said that she is willing to look for a resolution that suits both sides’ interests via both sides’ energy administrations’ cooperation.”

– Liu Zhenmin, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister

Myanmar’s state counselor Ms Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in China on Thursday (Aug 18) to begin talks with China’s President Xi on the suspended Chinese Myitsone dam project in northern Myanmar. The outcome of the talks will determine the nature of relations between the neighbouring countries in the future. Previously, Mynamar’s former military-backed President Thein Sein, suspended funding for the Myitsone dam project in northern Myanmar. Opponents in Myanmar are against the dam because the reservoir created would mean massive flooding on the Irrawaddy River. It will be a challenge for Ms Suu Kyi to appease both China and the opposers back home but she plans to use cooperation from China to bolster peace conferences from those in the region.

US swimmers were not robbed in Rio, they were vandals 

“(The incident) has tapped into one of Brazilians’ biggest pet peeves — gringos who treat their country like a third-rate spring break destination where you can lie to the cops and get away with it”

– Brian Winter, vice president for policy at Americas Society and Council of the Americas.

Swimmer Ryan Lochte told a frightening story of how he was robbed at gunpoint by men identifying themselves as police officers in Rio. News of the armed assault on four US swimmers surfaced online on Sunday (Aug 14) but police investigations on Thursday (Aug 18) revealed that Lochte and the others had fabricated the story. Video footage proved that during the supposed time of the robbery, the swimmers were vandalising and causing destruction to a bathroom at a gas station. Furthermore, the swimmers’ accounts of the aftermath of the robbery did not match security footage obtained. Two swimmers were detained when they tried to fly home to the US on Thursday (Aug 18) but were able to leave a few hours later.

 

Compiled by Kathleen Bei and Khin Oo Thazin

Featured image Whole World – land and oceans by NASA on Wikimedia Commons. 

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Morning Call, 0830, clock

IN ANOTHER sign that the global economy is worsening, Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports fell by 10.6 per cent last month from a year earlier, surprising analysts who predicted a much smaller decline.

DBS economist told The Straits Times yesterday (Aug 17): “The writing is on the wall.” If you’re still hopeful things will turn around soon, “this should be a wake-up call,” he said.

Speaking of wake-up calls, dozens of people fled their work stations mid-day at the CK Building after a fire quickly turned into an inferno that took firefighters hours to put out.

The six-storey building in Tampines St 92, which is used as a warehouse for the department store, myCK, could be structurally affected, said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), who added the cause of the fire and where it started were still being investigated.

No one was injured – though, one firefighter was hospitalised for heat exhaustion.

After six months since it was tasked to look into the Elected Presidency, the Constitution Commission yesterday submitted its report to the Prime Minister, who said he would be talking about it this Sunday during the annual National Day Rally.

Any legislative changes will be made this year ahead of the Presidential Election, which must be held by August next year.

Expect to hear the PM speak on the eligibility criteria to stand for election and whether candidates from minority races have a “fair and adequate opportunity” to be elected. You can read some of the stories we’ve written about the subject here:

  1. Elected President: Make rules tighter or go back to old system?
  2. Gag the politicians, not the presidential candidates
  3. Taking the politicking out of the presidential election

The race of the president was also part of a survey on race relations conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies between June and July this year.

In choosing the country’s president and prime minister, there was a clear racial preference towards people of the same race, the survey found. Respondents of all races were agreeable to a Singaporean-Chinese president, compared to a smaller number who said they were okay with a Singaporean-Malay president or Singaporean-Indian president.

This bias was also true when it came to familial and inter-personal relationships.

You can see more of the findings in the TODAY report here. The full survey results has not yet been released.

 

Featured image from TMG file.

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TMG Logo Visual Image, TMG logo, The Middle Ground

A FIRE has broken out today (Aug 17) around 1.30pm in the CK building at Tampines, spewing billows of black smoke into the air. No one was injured.

Reader Chris Henson sent us this video which was also posted on his Facebook page. In the clip, someone is recorded saying: “That’s a big fire, a really big fire.” The video was shot from Bedok.

 

Channel News Asia has also posted a video of the fire, which currently has more than 100,000 views, 1,300 likes and reactions, and 148 comments.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said the fire was raging on the third and fourth floor of the building located in Tampines St 92. Six water jets were used on the exterior of the building to contain the fire. It later said on its Facebook page that paper products, household items and aerosol cans had generated “intense heat, impeding an interior attack”.

Featured image from TMG file.

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by Felix Cheong

WHO protects the protector?

That’s the $64,000 question. In the case of Parkway Parade, it’s literally a burning question.

A fire on the second floor last Sunday (May 15) led to a four-day closure of the 32-year-old mall. It reopened its doors for business only yesterday (May 20).

I was understandably incensed – and my wife can testify to this, under oath of duress and duress of oath. For several days, I was moping and mopping at home. I couldn’t blaze down the aisles of Giant and Cold Storage doing my usual aunty grocery shopping.

Imagine my annoyance when I learned that the shutdown was because fire had damaged the fire protection system.

Correct me if I sound stupid: But what good is a fire protection system if it’s easily damaged by fire? Who, or what, is it supposed to protect?

Such is the peril of the “ownself check ownself” system. At some point, it will short-circuit and – Boomz! – self-combust.

It’s the same scenario at Manchester United’s (Man Utd) last English Premier League game at Old Trafford last Sunday (May 15). A bomb scare led to the match against Bournemouth being called off.

As it turned out, the “suspicious” article (like most articles The Real Singapore used to publish), found in a toilet, was a fake bomb – a cell phone attached to a gas pipe.

It was a prop used in a security exercise a few days earlier and had been inadvertently left behind. Simulation became real and the red-faced Red Devils had to cough out more than ₤3 million (S$5.9 million) to reimburse 75,000 fans who were evacuated. (For the record, Man Utd won the match – postponed to Tuesday, May 17 – 3-1.)

How secure does such security make you feel? Makes you want to do a double-take to double-check and double-confirm, doesn’t it?

Well, trust the Aussies to be just as kiasu (or maybe kiasi) as us. Its Olympians, bound for the Rio Games in August, will be given free super-strength condoms.

Which of the last three words caused you to blush? Admit it, mate – free (so Singaporean, you). Yes, you can sleep with a fellow Olympian, on the house.

According to the team’s chef de mission on Monday (May 16), the super-strength condoms (so strong they will rise to the occasion) offer extra protection from the Zika virus.

It was not revealed what the athletes feel about it. If it’s as thick and “near-complete anti-viral” as the manufacturers claim, probably not much.

And finally, standing up for justice (or rhetoric, depending on your political persuasion) is Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who repeated his campaign pledge he will not take violent crime lying down.

In fact, on Monday (May 16), the 71-year-old urged Congress to restore capital punishment.

In language so colourful it could fill several colouring books, he said (this is worth quoting verbatim): “Rape, plus death of the victim, must be death penalty. Kidnapping with ransom, and then death of the victim, must be death penalty.”

“Robbery with homicide with rape, double the hanging. After you hang them, there will be another ceremony for another time. Until the head is completely severed from the body. I would like that because I’m angry.”

Even as I’m typing this, my hair is getting ahead of myself. I can feel my goosebumps coming to attention, as if I’m a Filipino by two degrees of Asean separation.

How presidential! Such a vigilante! Bring back the Middle Ages!

I don’t know about you, but Mr Duterte’s promise sure sounds a lot like a protection racket.

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Featured image by Guet Ghee Pang.

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Black clock showing 8.30.

SO PARKWAY Parade is opened for business and so too, Goodwood Park Hotel’s bakery. It’s safe to go there now. The mall in Marine Parade was shut from Monday to Thursday because of a fire in one of its units on Sunday night had activated water sprinklers. So less damage by fire than by water. But no one was hurt at least.

As for the bakery, which had its licence suspended on April 22 because some patrons suffered food poisoning after eating its famed durian puffs, we wonder if those will still remain a draw after the stink that had been raised when two of its workers were found to have unclean practices. It isn’t clear exactly what they did but it’s likely that what they did NOT do is to to wash their hands after going to the you-know-where.

Maybe business will be back to normal for these two places but “normal” for Orchard Road retailers will make them cry. After a burst of media reports, including ours, TODAY published a feature on the plight of the shopping district. There is a proposal by City Developments to keep the upper part of Orchard Road – from Tanglin to Scotts roads “special”. Guess it is hoping that to keep the malaise contained further down the road.

Anyone who is active on social media will know that Sarawakian Kho Jabing has been hanged despite attempts to get the judges to stop the execution. What people might not know was how the five judges who heard the appeals by lawyers Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss and Alfred Dodwell slammed them for abusing the court process by advancing arguments that had been thrown out. It’s the fifth time Kho’s case has gone before the Court of Appeal. You can see TMG’s illustrators’ presentation of the case here.

Appeal Judge Chao Hick Tin said: “What the appellant seeks to do is to use the civil jurisdiction of the court to mount a collateral attack on a decision made by the court in the exercise of its criminal jurisdiction. Indeed, what the appellant has tried to do is even worse, for he has come to the court presenting arguments which are largely the same, if not identical, with the arguments he presented in his criminal motions. What the appellant has done today, if allowed, would throw the whole system of justice into disrepute.”

It seems that activists would do better to plan a longer-term strategy to get the laws changed rather than give false hope to those on death row by trying to halt the wheels of justice. Those wheels do grind on, despite starts and stops…

They are just like the MRT, which moves despite starts and stops… and which the SMRT and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) wants to make more rail reliable. Some $60 million is being poured into a new laboratory to come up with new technologies that can detect faults before they happen – and you have stuck commuters baying for blood. All this is well and good but you can’t help think it might be cheaper to get on a plane and see how others do it. Maybe it’s because the lab is also a good place to train engineers for the rail industry. Who’s paying for this? SMRT, NTU, and the National Research Foundation.

For those who are wondering why EgyptAir tragedy isn’t among the items here, it’s because we’ll be talking about it later in our weekly And in the Rest of the World…

Now it remains for us to wish all Buddhists Happy Vesak Day. We will be publishing an article on Buddhism soon, on the three dominant schools here. Watch out for it!

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Featured image from TMG file. 

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Morning Call, 0830, clock

GOOD morning people. There are only two things you should know today.

Repeat after me: No more haze

So this…..

A tourist couple wearing masks during the haze.
A tourist couple wearing masks during the haze. Image from TMG file.

 

Because this….

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Forest fires in Indonesia by Flickr user Chris Daley. CC BY 2.0.

won’t happen again.

Believe this Jakarta official or not?

But it’s still going to be mighty hot weather. Let’s hope Wednesday’s record 36.7 degrees Centigrade won’t happen again…or we will be doing this….

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Heat Stroke by Flickr user Ding Yuin Shan. CC BY 2.0.

Featured image from TMG file. 

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Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Eugene Lee, Assistant Public Prosecutor Koh Huimin and DPPs Patrick Tay and Crystal Tan.
Prosecution for the Afro-Asia fire case: Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Eugene Lee, Assistant Public Prosecutor Koh Huimin and DPPs Patrick Tay and Crystal Tan.

by Gillian Lim

WHEN Govindasamy Nallaiah told his son that he’d find a way out of his legal debt, was he referring to the murder that he would allegedly commit a month later?

The accused, 70, appeared in court last week for the alleged murder of his former lawyer’s wife, Madam Low Foong Meng. He owed $38,000 in legal fees to Mr Rengarajoo Balasamy for a corruption case in 2002, and was given the deadline of Aug 10, 2011, to repay his fees. If not, legal action would be taken against his two children, who were his guarantors. They were told by their father that he would settle the matter, even though they were already receiving letters from Mr Rengarajoo’s firm, B Rengarajoo & Associates, saying that legal action would be taken if the fees weren’t paid.

But on the morning of the deadline, Govindasamay went to Mr Rengarajoo’s office at Afro-Asia Building at 8.37am – before it was open. According to CCTV footage, he waited along the sixth-floor corridor.

When Madam Low, 56, who did administrative and paralegal work at the legal form, arrived at the office, Govindasamy tried to negotiate the fees with her. The court heard that Madam Low told him to “get lost”, and upon hearing this, Govindasamy’s mind went “wild”. He took out a bicycle chain and padlock from his haversack and hit Madam Low several times on her head, until she collapsed. “I had lost control of myself and I was not certain if I continued hitting her,” he said in a police statement to the Investigation Officer, Assistant Police Superintendent (ASP) Jason Lim Yeow Leong.

At this point, a delivery man, Mr Marco Jap, arrived at the office to deliver a parcel. Govindasamy told him no one was in, and to return later. Govindasamy then supposedly used a lighter to set fire to papers on a table.

Mr Jap, who took the stand last Wednesday, testified that after he left the office, he heard loud thuds, felt vibrations and smelt something burning. He then heard a woman screaming and saw smoke coming from the office. He reported the matter to the security guard on the ground floor.

When the fire alarm rang, Govindasamy left the office, leaving Madam Low motionless inside the burning unit. A forensic pathologist, Dr Gilbert Lau, said that her head injuries, although possibly rendering her unconscious, would not have been serious enough to cause her death, and that she was alive at the time of the fire. The autopsy later revealed that Madam Low had five fractures to her skull and three cuts on her body, but she died due to the “copious amounts of soot” in her airways and lungs, and a “lethal” level of carbon monoxide in her blood, said Dr Lau.

At about 10am, Mr Rengarajoo arrived at the Afro-Asia Building after parking his car. He heard the fire alarm ringing and realised that the office was on fire. He managed to go up to the sixth floor but was unable to enter his office because it was dark and smoky. He then called the police.

After the fire was put out, Madam Low’s charred body was found.

Govindasamy, a taxi-driver, drove his cab to Bendemeer Road to buy a pair of sandals and a shirt. After changing into his new attire, he drove to Whampoa River where he dumped his old clothing, padlock and bicycle chain into the river, according to the statement that he gave the police. He was arrested in his home later that night.

The trial for the alleged murder of Madam Low Foong Meng, began in court on Tuesday last week, with the last prosecution witness, ASP Lim, testifying yesterday on the fifth day of the trial.

Over the course of the trial, the court heard how Govindasamy, who was a senior Customs officer at that time, was convicted and jailed for five months for the corruption case in 2002, after being represented by Mr Rengarajoo. He lost a gratuity sum of $250,000, and a monthly pension of around $1,300. In 2006, he also sold his Casuarina Road terraced house below valuation, for $525,000.

Both his children, Ms Letchmi Ghandi, and Mr Ramanathan Govindasamy, attempted to pay off their father’s $38,000 legal fees at various points of time in late 2010 to early 2011, according to their testimonies in court. The daughter offered to pay the full amount, but her father stopped her from doing so, saying that legal action had already been taken against her. The son offered Mr Rengarajoo $10,000. He rejected it and asked for half the payment, $19,000, with the rest to be paid in installments.

In Aug 2011, Govindasamy visited Mr Rengarajoo’s office and offered his Rolex watch, which he said was worth $35,000. The lawyer asked him to leave. That was the last time he saw Govindasamy.

The trial is expected to continue next Tuesday, with the cross-examination of forensic pathologist Dr Gilbert Lau. Govindasamy is also expected to testify after that.

Govindasamy is charged under a section of the law that makes him liable for murder if he willingly committed an act knowing it would probably cause death. He faces the death penalty, or life imprisonment, if convicted by Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng.

 

Featured image by Najeer Yusof.  

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