Archive for the 'personal perspective' Category

Manpower director makes incredible claims about how well migrant workers are treated by ministry

A divisional director from the Manpower ministry gave testimony last week at the Committee of Inquiry looking into the Little India riot. Based on a report in the Straits Times, his statements more than support a view that I have long held: there is a strong tendency in this government to confuse theory with practice. There is unwarranted faith in policy papers penned in cloisters. Either there is naive ignorance of the shameful reality out there, or a resistance to unearth empirical facts, or both. That dark reality — often dimmed further by half-hearted or non-existent enforcement — stands in stark contrast to the sunny scenario as painted by stated policy. Yet more (tax-payer-funded) effort is expended by civil servants in protecting an almost self-deluding faith in the theory of how things ought to be (while throwing stones at critics) than in uncovering how things actually are. Remedying the failures in policy seems quite far down the list of priorities. Continue reading ‘Manpower director makes incredible claims about how well migrant workers are treated by ministry’

Malaysia Airlines MH370: 48 hours a long time to have no clues about a missing airliner

Most of us, having flown numerous times in our lives, quite likely even on Malaysia Airlines, find ourselves drawn to the current story about the disappearance of flight MH370. Resting, digesting, slowly falling asleep on an aircraft while cruising smoothly, is an experience we can identify with. To hear of a situation where this is fatally interrupted jolts us — though nothing as badly as it jolted the real passengers on that flight. Continue reading ‘Malaysia Airlines MH370: 48 hours a long time to have no clues about a missing airliner’

AGC versus me, the 2013 round

This is a diary of the case in which the Attorney-General’s Chambers accused me of “scandalising the judiciary”, to make it easier for friends to follow what’s going on. As with court cases, the technical details can sometimes be hard to grasp; I will try to make it digestible here. Since this has a diary format, from time to time, I will be adding to this, unlike other essays on this site which generally are finished by publication date.

Scroll down for the latest updates.

Continue reading ‘AGC versus me, the 2013 round’

Human trafficking and shadow boxing

pic_201309_23Last Sunday, I was about to leave for a family dinner when the phone rang. It was a Bangladeshi worker on the line, someone I had worked with for the past two years over his employment problems. His present job is “OK”, he said. However, he wanted to bring a friend to meet me later the same evening.

“My friend, he have problem,” said Alamin.

I tried to shift the date and time, but it was near-impossible. Alamin works seven days a week and most evenings. He’s only free Saturday and Sunday evenings. Reluctantly, I agreed to see him and his friend at 9:30 pm, cutting short my family dinner.  Continue reading ‘Human trafficking and shadow boxing’

In memoriam: my father

Au Keng Chu aged 16, 17 or 18, late 1930s

Au Keng Chu aged 16, 17 or 18, late 1930s

He never much wanted to speak about it though one would have thought that living more than three years under brutal Japanese occupation would have been a life-changing experience. Not even of the day, soon after the British capitulated (15 February 1942), when he was made to file past Japanese soldiers and hidden informants, his very life hanging in the balance. It was the Sook Ching (cleansing operation). The new conquerors were out to identify and kill anyone suspected to have helped China resist the Japanese war machine’s encroachment since 1937.

Perhaps he was confident. English-speaking Anglophile that he was, he had never identified with China at all. Continue reading ‘In memoriam: my father’

The Conversation isn’t getting very far

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I dragged myself, Saturday morning, to a session of the Singapore Conversation, my thoughts swinging between This is stupid, I’ll be wasting my time and I should at least see what one is like.

It was a Stage 2 event, meaning that it was to build upon the conversations of the previous month or two. From those sessions, the organisers had distilled the sentiments expressed into the following themes, and an introductory paper was passed around stating them:

I would like to see a Singapore . . .

  • With more kampong spirit
  • With strong families
  • Where life feels more fulfilling
  • With a strong Singaporean core
  • That is affordable
  • With many definitions of success
  • Where we can grow old with dignity
  • Where we take better care of the less fortunate
  • Where government does less and society does more Continue reading ‘The Conversation isn’t getting very far’

Shoes and the public

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I needed a new pair of shoes; the old pair didn’t survive Bali.

The sales assistant at Famous Brands saw me take an interest in a sample shoe on the shelf. I was flexing it to check its suppleness, scrutinising its sole, but still a little doubtful about the colour. She said, in Chinese, “It’s a good brand.”

“Why are you speaking Chinese to me?” I asked. “Would you speak English to me please?”

“Yes,” she replied (in English), followed two seconds later with another sentence in Chinese extolling the virtues of the shoe. Continue reading ‘Shoes and the public’

Torturing the poorest of the poor, in the name of law and order

“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’

Goat days

For a while, Daisy Hulou was good friends with Freda, even sending her a birthday card. But soon after, Daisy was seen being dragged into the bushes by Goat, the village head. We don’t know exactly what happened in the bushes, but immediately after that, Daisy asked Freda to return the birthday card she had sent. Freda asked her why she changed her mind, but she would not answer. She turned cold and uncommunicative.

Several months later, Specky told the village that the incident when Goat pulled her into the bushes was highly suggestive of rape. Continue reading ‘Goat days’

What the archbishop did not intend

Sometimes, people respond to a hole by digging a deeper one. Archbishop Nicholas Chia of the Catholic Church issued a press statement at around 10:30 pm last night in response to my post Lunch menu a 4-point letter. I only heard about it from reporters, and at the time of writing this, have not seen a copy of the press statement he issued.

According to the Straits Times:

The head of the Catholic Church in Singapore has confirmed that he wrote to an activist group backing its call to abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) – but withdrew the letter later fearing it could affect the country’s social harmony. Continue reading ‘What the archbishop did not intend’


For an update of the case against me, please see AGC versus me, the 2013 round.

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