Three hours I sat in a police station breathing second-hand smoke. As a small mercy, the officers would slide the windows open by 5 to 10 centimetres every now and then, and the stiff breeze from outside would cut in and dilute the carcinogens somewhat. Better yet was the whoosh of clean bracing air each time the door opened, but unfortunately it wasn’t often enough. There wasn’t much coming and going. Continue reading ‘Culture, lifestyle diseases and the commandant’s room’
In a rare smackdown of a reader, the Straits Times dismissed a reader’s demand (link) that it tailor its editorial content to suit his sensibilities. The incident flashed across social media for a day or two, with approving comments, then disappeared.
This is what the reader, Idris, wrote:
I think it’s worthy to note that there are many Muslims who are readers of The Sunday Times. I was quite disturbed by the fact that the paper’s edition on Oct 5 which falls on Hari Raya Haji featured a distasteful article in the Sunday Life! section (“Cheat Sheet: Ham”). The Sunday Life! food critics could have been more sensitive to the events that unfolded for some Muslims on this religiously auspicious occasion such as the sacrifice of cows or sheep. They could have chosen a food-related theme and perhaps discussed lamb cuts. At the very least, avoid discussing non-halal food (food that Islam sanctions against consumption such as ham). Local journalists should practise more sensitivity and respect local cultures, at least for the most important races in Singapore.
Continue reading ‘Haram to speak of ham’
I had a sense of deja vu when Law Minister K Shanmugam said that allowing migrant workers to challenge deportation orders through the judicial process would mean that “every foreigner is entitled to stay here at taxpayers’ expense, housed here at taxpayers’ expense” (source), while the cases wend their way through the courts.
The same “it costs too much” argument was regularly deployed by supporters of the death penalty in previous years. It goes along these lines: society should not be burdened with having to feed and clothe a prisoner on a life sentence; it’s more economical to hang him. However, the government itself did not, to my knowledge, use this argument. It came from various members of the public. Continue reading ‘Not at taxpayers’ expense’
Judy and Dennis Shepard chose to turn their grief into action. They set up the Matthew Shepard Foundation to honour their first-born son, who was brutally tortured and killed in 1998. Fifteen years on, the parents are still going from school to school giving talks.
It’s not easy getting access to high schools, especially the public schools, Judy tells me. “All it takes is for one parent to say no,” and school administrators get cold feet. Continue reading ‘Shout out: bullying of LGBT kids must stop’
The title of the film left my friends perplexed. “I have no idea what it’s about,” said one. “Is it about transgenders?” ventured another.
“I hope it’s not a celluloid version of a circus freak show,” hazarded a third, with extreme wariness. Continue reading ‘Cinema: Menstrual Man’
Several Facebook ‘friends’ recently shared a news article from the Straits Times, with comments along the lines of “Here we go again, a minister scolds citizens for criticising the PAP government and not helping them out”.
Following the link, I was led to a fairly prominent article which reported a speech made by Tan Chuan-jin to his own civil servants at the Ministry of Manpower:
Singaporeans who are not happy with the country should try to improve things instead of running down the country, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said on Monday. Continue reading ‘Did Straits Times misreport Tan Chuan-jin?’
The People’s Action Party government has essentially given up on engagement. This change of tack is becoming clearer by the week as more and more instances arise where ministers and members of parliament go out to bash citizens trying to raise issues or comment on current affairs. Staircase railings, face masks and who-knows-what small thing emerging tomorrow are considered serious enough issues to roll out the government’s big guns.
The impression one gets from recent events is that they have concluded that engagement is a “been there, done that and it’s brought us nothing but grief”. Continue reading ‘Re-introducing the climate of fear’
These five men, all farmers from the rural backwaters of Bangladesh, were flotsam for our bureaucracy for three months recently. They didn’t know what was swirling around them and had absolutely no control over their fate. All the while that they were stuck here and not allowed to work, their already-poor families fell into financial desperation.
Their experience reveals a side of Singapore we can’t be proud of. Continue reading ‘Five men, like flotsam’
Singaporeans Kwik Chong Oei [not his real name] and Tee Seong Joon [not his real name] were deported by a neighbouring country last month after completing a short prison term for immigration offences. They were received by our own police and quickly put behind bars again.
Kwik and Tee are leading members of the Red Iron Gang which had been planning bank and goldsmith robberies for nearly 15 years. They had been casing several banks and gold shops in the late 1990s, and then decided to cross over to a third country to learn from the Preto Pantano Gang how to plant explosives and break safes. The Red Iron Gang considered themselves affiliates with the Preto Pantano.
When the third leading member of the Red Iron, “Popcorn” Soh, was arrested by police in 2003 for planning a break-in at a diamond dealer’s shop, Kwik and Tee looked into the possibility of sending an envelope of anthrax to the police headquarters as revenge. Continue reading ‘Security panic and the intoxication of power’
“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’