Saturday, 30 August 2008
The chinese version of this article was first published in 'Hammer' issue 0802.
'Hammer' is a newsletter published by the Workers' Party on a quarterly basis. Members of the party will be at different market selling it on every Sunday morning.
It has been two years since I joined the Workers’ Party in June 2006. I was helping out as a Polling & Counting agent in the last GE in Aljunied GRC. It was an opportunity I do not want to miss. I was 28 back then, therefore I thought to myself… “Not now, when?”
I never wonder how my friends or colleagues would react towards my involvement with the party. To me, it was something very normal and right to do. I remembered after my first Hammer Sales outreach, I was reading a copy of it on the bus and coincidentally I met my former colleague. He was curious over what I was reading, so I showed it to him. Oh God! You should have seen his expression. The ‘I cannot believe it’ look was written all over his face.
What shocked me even more was when he said this to me in mandarin, ‘I would very much like to read it as this is the first time I had came across the Hammer newsletter. But can we not do it on the bus? A lot of people will be looking at us.’
I was bewildered! Are we not allowed to read on the bus regardless of whatever the reading material is? This friend whom I met is in his mid 50s, a retiree. Well, I gave him the benefit of doubt that he is probably less savvy thus making a big hoo-ha out of it. I did not really give him an answer, I just bid goodbye and alighted at the next stop which fortunately happened to be my destination.
On another occasion, I was on my way to our party walk-about; I met my neighbor at the lift lobby. We started to chat a bit and she found out that I was with the party. She was singing praises of how well Workers’ Party had performed in the last election and she would like to take a look at the Hammer newsletter too.
Next she was whispering to me to lend her the newsletter, she instructed me to put it into an envelope then pass it to her. There were only two of us in the lift and YES, she was whispering. This was another auntie therefore again I told myself she is not savvy, don’t blame her and stay cool.
The last straw came during a get-together dinner with my friends. Most of them are working in the government sector and staying in Aljunied GRC. We were on the topic of elections and the Workers’ Party. They were doubtful about the secrecy of their votes, worried that their bosses or the ruling party (PAP) will know who they voted for. This is a group of people from ages 28 – 33. I was dumbfounded. The first two encounters were people whom may not know what was going on. But this group of young working adults, they were questioning on the secrecy of their votes! One of them even said, “If I had known earlier that it’s a secret I would have voted for WP.”
What has Singapore education taught our people? What kind of mindset are we having? What type of messages had been send to them? Why are they thinking in this way? What triggered them to think this way? Why is this type of fear instilled into them? Should MOE (Ministry of Education) consider inputting ‘Voting Rights’ into our education system?
Voting is a secret and it is really a secret, no doubt about it that was my answer to them. Fortunately, I was present at the Tuas Incinerator to witness the burning of the votes and therefore I can vouch to that.
Just think, if your bosses or the government knew who you voted for, what are they going to do about it? Give you a raise plus promotion because you voted for them? Or black-mark you and you will always be the last person they will consider should there be any pay rise if you did not vote for them? If the latter were to happen, what does this tells us of our government? Can we still trust them? Can we still move ahead together? Are we a city of possibilities then?
Secondly, is it that easy to know who one voted for? Our voters have got no trust over the government on this aspect? Is this the correct impression one should have of our government? Is there no trust?
Spend some time thinking about the answers to the above questions before you make your sacred vote the next time.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
Lowering the voting age to 18 was a topic discussed in YouthQuake 1. An article from Channel News Asia prompted me to write this post and came up my own personal reasons why we should vote at 18:
1) Men were made to do compulsory National Service, to serve and die for the country.
2) Men serving National Service can hold guns.
3) One can obtain driving license and take control of your own life.
4) Legal age to buy cigarettes, you can take charge of your own health.
5) Legal age to bet on 4D, TOTO, Big Sweep, etc.
6) Join a political party.
7) Legal age of marriage with parental consent.
8) Legal age to drink.
9) Buy a Investment linked Insurance Policy.
10) Min. age for Prostitutes.
11) Min. age to be an apheresis blood donor, and the possibility of...
12) Setting up a business.
Monday, 25 August 2008
Singaporeans can demonstrate at Speakers' Corner from Sep 1
SINGAPORE: Banners, placards and effigies will be allowed at the Speakers' Corner when the site is opened for public demonstrations from September 1.
For Singapore citizens, there's no longer a need to apply for a police permit.
The new rules come as the government seeks to open up the space for political engagement and activism in the country.
It's Singapore's version of London's Hyde Park. Hong Lim Park in central Singapore was designated as a site for public speaking on September 2000, but interest has waned over the years.
However, with the new rules, things may change.
From September 1, Singapore citizens can organise demonstrations at the Speakers' Corner without a police permit.
All they need do is register online at the National Parks Board website at www.nparks.gov.sg which takes over the management of the Speakers' Corner from Police.
Anyone who registers can immediately carry out his demonstration. Online registration begins on August 30 2008.
Singapore Permanent Residents though will require a police permit to organise demonstrations.
But citizens and PRs can participate in assemblies without registering.
Current rules for foreigners remain and they have to apply for a police permit for any activity there.
And all groups, even those that run counter to the establishment, will be allowed to demonstrate. These include gay rights groups or even the Falungong.
Other changes include self-powered amplification devices like loud hailers which will be allowed in the area between 9am to 10.30pm. Police said the restriction is to minimise noise pollution in the area.
Activities can also be carried out at any time of the day. Currently, activities are restricted to between 7 am to 7pm.
However, basic rules will still remain. Topics cannot touch on issues like race and religion. Content that promotes violence or are lewd in nature will also not be allowed.
But even with a light touch approach, there will still be some police presence at the Speaker's Corner.
Wong Hong Kuan, Director, Operations, Singapore Police Force, said: "Generally if there are no issues of concern, there won't be any overt Police presence there all the time and we will manage it just like other places in Singapore."
NParks said that demonstrators are free to do what they want as long as they do not damage surrounding trees and property.
There won’t be any more cosmetic changes to the site even though some have asked for more benches and shelter.
Dr Leong Chee Chiew, Chief Operating Officer, National Parks Board, said: "If we were to plant more trees, you actually have less space. So there's a trade-off."
Work is underway to build a mound, so speakers do not have to bring their own soapboxes to speak and be seen.
Saturday, 23 August 2008
I remembered a colleague of mine commented on why some of them took it so hard when they failed to win the medal but could see that they had already tried their best. My reply was, " they probably took a decade of training for this one moment in time."
The closing ceremony will be held on 24th August, 8pm.
Despite the many Olympics theme song, the one recorded by American singer Whitney Houston for the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul, South Korea, is still my favorite :)
Whitney Houston's best delivery of this song:
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
We look forward to seeing more participants for Series 2! For event write up, click here.
Pictures from YouthQuake 4:
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Number of breast cancer cases increasing rapidly in Singapore
SINGAPORE: Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) said the incidence of breast cancer among Singapore women in their 50s is fast increasing, driven strongly by a low fertility rate.
But the good news is, survival rates are also on the rise.
Professor Chia Kee Seng, director of Centre for Molecular Epidemiology, NUS, said: "Chinese have the highest breast cancer rates, followed by Malays and Indians. But the pattern of breast cancer according to age is quite different.
"For the Chinese and Malay, post-menopausal rates essentially plateau off... whereas for the Indian population, the age-specific rates continue to increase over the entire age group."
Many factors are associated with breast cancer, including changes in lifestyle and a rapidly declining fertility rate.
Professor Per Hall, Karolinska Institute, Sweden, said: "Singapore women have adopted more Western lifestyles – they are having fewer and fewer kids.
"They have their first child later in life, which means they have an increased risk of breast cancer because there are few factors that protect women from breast cancer the same way as having many children and the first child very early in life."
Even though survival rates have seen steady improvement, more needs to be done as only half of all cases are detected early.
"The important message that we want to get across is that women who are 50 and above, especially those who have started their family late and have a small number of children should go for mammographic screening," said Prof Chia.
Prevention is just as important as early detection, as shown by a recent study on Chinese women in Singapore, which showed that eating more soy-based food products may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
The risk reduction is also more significant in post-menopausal women with higher body mass index.
Associate Professor Koh Won Puay, Occupational & Family Medicine, NUS, said: "More of the women without cancer were eating soy products, compared to those with breast cancer. We've also found that women who had most protection were women who had been eating soy foods since adolescent days."
Going forward, researchers said they would focus on better methods for early breast cancer diagnosis and encourage more women to go for screening.
Sunday, 10 August 2008
We set off from as early as 8am to get to our first meet-up destination, Raffles Place. At about 15 mins after 9am, the team lead by both Shin Leong (Org Sec of WP) and Eric Tan (Treasurer of WP) were ready to move off.
We never fail to create a slight stir on every 9th August. I think we are by far the only group of people that will walk down from the 1st cabin of the train to the last one in two neat rows as we greet everyone of the commuters, 'Happy National Day'!
We did that until we reach our destination, Hougang MRT.
We went around in clusters to greet everyone with well-wishes in as many languages and dialect as we can handle :)
As the saying goes, 'The early bird catches the worm'...it applies to the children who were up fresh and early despite it being a weekend. These children were handed out a flag as well as a tattoo by our members.
After spending about an hour or so in Hougang we moved off to Kovan.
We did the same thing and ended the day around lunch time. It was very encouraging to see our members taking such an effort to be present.
National Day is about our Nation, hence to all Nation builders, my deepest appreciation; THANK YOU!
Photo Gallery of WP's National Day Outreach
Thursday, 7 August 2008
The Workers’ Party Youth Wing takes great pleasure in inviting you to participate in an upcoming public forum as part of the YouthQuake Forum Series. This forum series is into its fourth installment. The topic for this session focuses on how youth can propose and carry forward a refreshing new approach to women issues in Singapore.
The details of the YouthQuake Forum are as follows:
Date: 16th August 2008 (Saturday)
Time: 1430 hrs – 1630 hrs
Venue: 216-G Syed Alwi Road #02-03
What others say about YouthQuake
“A nice session for me to hear from fellow youths on their concerns on transportation, which also helps me to explore my views about what Singapore, can do in this area.”
Chan Joy Seng
“It’s a forum that forces us to think through issues and to be clear of what we stand for; or at least leaves food for thoughts.”
“YouthQuake has shown that young Singaporeans are concerned about issues facing our country, are not afraid to speak up and that they are ready to make use of alternative platforms to do so.”
“YouthQuake is not about the magnitude it reads on the Richter scale, but on how far the tremors generated may eventually spread!”
Ong Tiong Lin
“YouthQuake has provided me with a lot of insights and thoughts on the various issues presented. I didn’t realized how little I know about energy and oil until YouthQuake 3.”
“In YouthQuake, the 3 speakers outline the discussion. Things get interesting when the floor table questions and starts the discussion, showing the variety of opinions out there. YouthQuake wouldn’t be the same without the floor.”
Ang Y S
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
1 in 2 Singaporeans would vote for a female president
Sometime in March 2008, an article from the same source says otherwise. I wrote some comments on it.
Nevertheless its a good change. Or probably the difference is in the position? The one in March says PM and this one is President.
Regardless of PM or President, I believe women have every chance to be one if they have the capability and ability to do so.
Women in Singapore is playing a bigger role now as compared to last time. Women nowadays are like actresses, multiple roles to play; wife, mother, employee, daughter, boss, etc
Look out for Youthquake 4, the last forum for YouthQuake series 1, in August. The topic has to do with women :) and it happens to be on the same week as the 'Breastfeeding Week'
Saturday, 2 August 2008
For those who recognise the voices leading the Pledge will know that part of this soundtrack was taken from the last rally held by the Workers’ Party in the GE2006. Ms Sylvia Lim led the English version of the Pledge, and Mr Low Thia Kiang led the Chinese version.
WP will be having our annual 'National Day' outreach, if you would like to volunteer your services, do contact us, thanks!
Hmm...in case you don't understand the title, it means he was previously from the side of Hougang that is under Aljunied GRC and now he had shifted to the 'red side' of Hougang, the one under Hougang SMC. Below is Sam's experience:
From the white to the red side of Hougang
Greetings, another plug for the Singapore Queer-Straight Alliance’s Indignation event at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road, August 2, 3pm. Bring your friends along for the interactive forum where we will be addressing the verbal manifestations of discomforts towards queer people (a.k.a. homophobic outbursts or verbal abuse). Ok, end of plug.
I am at the NUS computer lab right now, writing this entry.
It is such a wonderful feeling going back to school and being in a familiar place.
There have been many of my peers and contemporaries (are they the same thing?) who harbour the goal of never wanting to work in an office and be in the drudgery of the proverbial nine-to-five working hours (it is nine to six or more these days). I have never expressed interest in working, because “work” is what society wants me to do. I have an interest, an interest to learn and to know, but most unfortunately such an interest is accompanied by the requirement to study and to teach. We seldom have the opportunity to learn in the way we want to learn any way.
I have been very anxious and frustrated in the past couple of weeks regarding the renovation of my new flat. It is not the contractor, who is a wonderful person, but the various bodies I have to liaise with.
I’m buying the recess area of my flat. The rules state that the owner has to deal with HDB and Town Council to settle the administration. After a few rounds of enquiries, my wife and I felt even more confused.
The guy from HDB branch office briefed us on the process, saying we have to propose the relocation of the recess area light and the cable television unit, and send it to all three bodies (to expedite the approval processes).
The guy from the Town Council came down and verbally told my wife, contractor and I that the Town Council will be settling the relocation of the light.
After calling up the Town Council following almost a week of non-response, the same guy from the Town Council told us to follow the HDB directive, saying the Town Council is not settling the relocation of the light.
My contractor, in the mean time, told me he found out I had to purchase the recess area first, before settling the proposal.
I called up the HDB branch office and was told to make the proposal first, before paying.
Today, I called the HDB branch office again to clarify and I’m told I have to settle the relocation of the recess area light with the Town Council before proceeding with the renovation proposals of the recess area with HDB.
Now, I am waiting for the Town Council to get back to me on the relocation of the recess area light.
So, who will propose the location of the light? Who will physically relocate the light? The Town Council or the owner?
Initially, my wife, contractor and I were under the impression, following our face-to-face communication with a Town Council officer, that the Town Council will be settling the recess area light, but he had indicated that he would have to confirm this with his superior. However, there was no follow-up and I was not updated on the news. Upon calling the same person, he told me to settle it myself and follow the HDB directive in the mean time (i.e. make the proposal first).
So we followed the directive and made the proposal. My contractor feedback that HDB required the light to be relocated first.
I have been screaming a lot of expletives.
Now, let us just wait for the Town Council officer to contact me and we will settle this once and for all.
All these could have been settled a long time ago if HDB could have just gave us a simple plan (not the rock band) telling us, in chronological order, what to do, when to do, step-by-step.
Step 1: Liaise with the Town Council. Figure out who is going to do what. (also liaise with relevant bodies such as Starhub or PUB)
Step 2: Once the light is relocated, contact HDB and make the proposal and payment when they demand it.
Step 3: Propose the renovation plan for the recess area if applicable.
Step 4: Say bye bye to administrative rubbish by living happily ever after in HDB flat and start producing children.
Very simple! My wife and I are graduates for crying out loud, and we have had trouble understanding what is the simplest process to settling our flat administration. Are we stupid? Do we have Asperger’s Syndrome or something? Why can’t things be simpler? Just send out a simple letter with step-by-step instructions.
My wife has just remarked that we would probably get on our knees and kiss the recess area should we finally complete the administrative process of acquiring and renovating it.
I live in the red side of Hougang by the way.
Which brings me to the next topic.
I will be moving from the white side of Hougang to the red side of Hougang.
In the white side of Hougang, it occasionally smells like piss, with the daily random decoration of an eclectic mix of litter (rice, bread, sanitary pads, furniture and so on). This proto-wasteland ecosystem is once in a while disrupted whenever an important person (e.g. MP) arrives; it is cleaned up. Of course, we have to look at the top of the food chain – the irresponsible, ungracious and inconsiderate minority who shower the neighbourhood with more than just their love. They are just one of those minority minorities whom you’d think twice when it comes to fighting for their rights. At the same time, there is little effort done at the grassroots level to ensure that residents have that community spirit and bonding, which can translate to a decrease in the incidence of littering.
Although the red side of Hougang seems old and crippled (transport amenities for one) by some mysterious force (perhaps the hand of the government), it is relatively cleaner and does not smell like piss.
Having voted in Aljunied, I look forward to exercising my precious democratic right/obligation to vote in Hougang. Perhaps it is time MPs ‘go back’ to their constituencies. What we should understand and appreciate is the fact that PAP constituencies with their PAP MPs have the support of their fellow PAP counterparts in the government machinery. No matter how hard the opposition works to get the same upgrading for their constituencies as their PAP counterparts, they will meet a lot of difficulty.
You see, the political opposition does not exist to carry the metaphorical testicles of the ruling party, but that does not give the ruling party the right to cripple them or cast them in bad or disrespectable light in the media.
The vote is feedback, criticism and response all rolled into one. You cannot threaten to beat feedback out of one person, nor can you bribe feedback, because the feedback itself will become less sincere. The vote is an opinion and everyone is entitled to one.
In all honesty, I do not care much about the larger politics of our country. I care most about having a decent place to live in, start a family and aiming towards a debt-free life. If people or groups of people have to make decisions or actions that will affect these plans, I will be obliged to react. This is not apathy, but the romantic pursuit of self-interest (we have many of those by the way). And by “decent place to live in”, I refer to one that is clean and filled more with love than ‘assholism’. There are still people who rattle my esteem by discriminating me as poor speaker of Mandarin despite my Chinese ethnicity, dismissing me as “THAT gay guy” just because I write about sexual minority rights, or who try to think I’m a smart aleck or a prickhead just because I like to sit alone and in front of class. I can do with more love and less ‘assholism’.
Goh Chok Tong talks about winning Hougang. Well, my message to Goh is simple: Just win the hearts of people first, because Hougang is just peripheral. A government can be loved, just like leaders can be loved. But why are there people who hate the government so much? Of course, Hougang may not be “peripheral” if the ruling party has plans to gerrymander, so voters for the opposition will find themselves in the minority whichever new political boundary they find themselves in. One possible solution is to relocate all the other constituencies and group representation constituencies under Tanjong Pagar GRC. It will remove any election anxieties of the ruling party. I would do that if I were in power and am motivated to do anything to stay in power.
I wonder what will happen if PAP won Hougang but lost Aljunied (assuming there isn’t any more gerrymandering till the next elections)? Will Hougang get its mliiions of dollars of upgrading? Will bus services become mysterious infrequent or cancelled in Aljunied? In essence, we should be “Singaporeans first”, not “Aljunied or Hougang residents first”.
I have yet to meet Low Thia Kiang, but he has already sent a welcome letter. So sweet. Of course my white side of Hougang PAP MP also sent me a congratulatory letter on my registration of marriage, but then again, it just shows the nature of information flows within the ruling party and the government. I wonder if Low has that information, so he can wish well other newly-weds in the neighbourhood if he wanted.
I am out of here now. Let us hope that the recess area issue will reach a conclusion by today. I truly despise admin.
The transition into the next chapter of our lives always involves the laborious turning of the page.
Speaking of life, I learnt something interesting from my exchange with Miak Siew. Life is a winding road with many turns and junctions, but when you look back, it is a straight road. This is because of the decisions and commitments you have made and you would not be able to see other routes. So simple, yet so enlightening. Thanks.