There are three huge hurdles to making anything worthwhile out of the national conversation that the government has launched.
The first is the attitude the government brings to it. Early indications are not encouraging; there is reason to suspect that they dearly want the outcome to more or less confirm what they want to hear, but there is possibly a second motive which I will write about soon. Consequently, the process is being tightly managed. A related issue is the lack of open data and access to information. How can the public meaningfully participate if the government insists on releasing only such information that suits its agenda? Continue reading ‘In the national conversation, some kinds of talk don’t come cheap’
“Does it still hurt?” I asked Rubio that Wednesday evening.
He nodded and asked me for some painkillers.
Over the counter, there weren’t a lot of options. I did the best I could for him.
“What about clothes?” I asked. “Do you have anything else besides what you’re wearing?”
“No, don’t have,” he said. “Everything gone.” Maybe they had all been thrown away by the landlord when he failed to return and pay his rent. Continue reading ‘Torturing the poorest of the poor, in the name of law and order’
Singapore’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for our resident population (citizens and Permanent Residents) was 1.20 in 2011, said a document released June 2012 by the National Population and Talent Division. “The last time that the TFR of the resident population . . . was above the replacement level of 2.1 was in 1976.”
Clearly, our population bust is a serious issue.
The proportion of singles has increased across all age groups between 2000 and 2011, the document said. Among citizens aged 30-34 years, singlehood rates increased from 33% to 44% for males, and from 22% to 31% for females. Continue reading ‘Baby bust – survey’
Below is the speech delivered for the event on 23 June 2012 when yours truly was honoured by the Humanist Society (Singapore) with the Humanist of the Year award. I was asked for something touching on “gay-rights issues/humanism/religiosity”.
Thank you very much for the honour. I think it’s very generous of the Society, though I would understand if it had been a difficult decision since I am a gay man. Some of you may wonder why it is such a big deal that I would open with a sentence about my sexual orientation. It is a big deal because the world in which I am living now makes it so.
But it shouldn’t be so, and it wouldn’t be so if we applied reason upon empirical knowledge, which is the very essence of humanism. To be gay is now known to be a completely natural phenomenon, inherently harmless. Continue reading ‘Speech for Humanist of the Year 2012′
The above picture represents a revolution. It is also a window to fresh ideas about the economic directions available to Singapore.
As most Singaporeans may recognise, the picture is of a board at a bus stop listing the route details of buses that call there. Almost all bus stops in Singapore have boards like that. But did you realise that no two of them are the same? Every bus stop has a different set of route listings, with details commencing from that particular bus stop. Thus each printed board is unique.
How is that revolutionary? Continue reading ‘Can Singapore seize new manufacturing technologies?’
The above picture is of four women flanking a man in the centre. The women – constituting two life-long couples – were about to share their life stories at a workshop in Phnom Penh recently with about 34 gay activists from Cambodia’s Asean neighbours in the room (and about 50-60 more Cambodians).
I was among them, and I’m almost sure most of the Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations) activists found it hard to see these women, hailing from the deep provinces of Cambodia, as “one of us”.
Continue reading ‘Love and survival through Khmer Rouge years’
Listen to this audio (only 1 minute 41 secs). A pastor tells this flock that when they see a limp wrist in their sons, they should “crack that wrist”.
“Give him a good punch,” he adds.
Called “a horrific anti-gay tirade”, it was featured on the Huffington Post, 1 May 2012. The recording was originally publicised (provided?) by Jeremy Hooper of the blog Good as You. The voice in it is said to be that of Sean Harris (pic at right), a pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, in North Carolina.
Harris is heard endorsing the use of physical force on boys if they show any sign of effeminate behaviour.
Continue reading ‘Pastor heard telling dads to strike sons’
It was a strange choice of a word, and it jumped out at me. People’s Action Party member of parliament Vikram Nair (right) said he found it “hurtful” that Chen Show Mao (Workers’ Party) had implied that the PAP government had not done enough for vulnerable groups.
In my mind’s eye, I instantly saw a picture of a grown man running to a corner to cry. His feelings had been hurt.
What never-never-land does the ruling party live in? Do PAP members of parliament seriously expect opposition members to concede that the government had done ENOUGH for whatever section of the population they happen to be discussing at that moment? Is that the opposition’s role in politics?
Continue reading ‘My eyebrows rose thrice, part 3: Hurtful’
Within a space of slightly over two hours Friday night, two friends of mine mentioned Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s ‘pay one dollar, get four dollars’ sales pitch. “What do you think of that?” asked the latter of the two.
I knew Singapore had become one of the gambling capitals of Asia, but it was still depressing to see our politics adopt the same mindset: If you pay taxes, you win!
Clearly, that was not the point the finance minister was trying to make. I believe he was trying to show that the help lower- and middle-income Singaporeans were getting from the government exceeded what they paid in taxes, over a lifetime. But from the twinkle in my friends’ eyes as they repeated Tharman’s soundbite to me, I had the awful feeling it was received quite the wrong way. My eyebrows rose.
Continue reading ‘My eyebrows rose thrice, part 2: Low-income tax-payers hit jackpot’
With a larger opposition presence in parliament, ministers and People’s Action Party (PAP) backbenchers have become more aggressive in making the case that government policies do indeed help the more disadvantaged in society. This became particularly notable during the recent parliamentary sittings when the first budget post-general election 2011 was debated. In defending their “virtue”, I see the PAP side resorting to soundbites several times. Have they been coached by public relations people?
The trouble with soundbites is that in achieving their effect by reducing an issue to a memorable phrase, they must necessarily over-simplify. And someone like me will react by saying: Hold on a minute, what does that oversimplification gloss over or conceal?
Continue reading ‘My eyebrows rose thrice, part 1: Earn $1,000, buy a flat’