Sunday, May 29, 2011

Not invited nor informed

A couple of weeks ago, a cousin's wife emailed to ask if I would be returning to Singapore to attend my brother's wedding banquet to be held in June. I replied her honestly (since she is a straightforward person) that I did not hear anything about the planned wedding banquet. Perhaps everyone was too busy to inform me?

Until now, I have not received any news from my brother or my siblings regarding the wedding banquet. I do not even know the date. Just today, another cousin (this one is from my paternal side and thus not close to us) asked me the same via FB. I don't think I will reply her. I do not wish to raise any unnecessary family gossip.

I wondered if my pre-departure incident had soured our sibling relationship. It didn't seem to be so, from an earlier email from my brother. But now, I don't know what to think or feel. Just numb.

Maybe I will just email him and his wife my best wishes in my next family email update.


[Addendum 1st June, 2011]

So I emailed my elder sister, who is close to me, to ask about the wedding banquet and what's happening back home*. My sister gave me an immediate reply and the date of the banquet. She expressed her wish that I could return for the wedding banquet, if it is feasible, as we have not taken a family photo with everyone present since a long time ago.
I cannot even be sure when that previous time was. It may have been more than a decade ago. It just so happens that someone or other is always missing or left early or is late for family events. Yes, it would be nice to take a family photo again, especially with the new additions to the family.
Thereafter, I emailed my elder brother and his wife my best wishes. He replied thanking me and that it's "Nice to read your weekly emails & know how well you are doing in Canada". Still no invitation. I guess that's my brother's pragmatic nature -- he probably thinks that it is not worth traveling all the way back just for a wedding dinner.

* Note: I had to ask because for the past 2 weddings in the family (for each of my sisters), my parents were quarreling endlessly over the extended family invitations.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

7th month's expenses

My total expense for the 7th month (1st to 30th April) is around CAD1,158, broken down as follow.

Amount (CAD) : Category

Once-off expenses

 * 50 : Hometown Heros Charity Draw
 *  1 : Emergency Response Bag contents (additional items)

Yearly expenses


Monthly expenses

* 500 : April room rental
*  41 : Mobile phone bill
*  61 : Medical Services Plan
* 110 : Transport - Monthly 2-Zone Farecard
* NIL : Transport - Others
* 179 : Food/groceries
*  37 : Clothings
*  32 : Household Items (including toiletries)
*  73 : Recreation/Entertainment/Restaurant1
*  31 : Meals/Drinks
*  15 : Personal Grooming & Make-up
* NIL : Stationery/Postage
*  28 : Others (Lottery, Souvenirs, etc)2

Note 1: This includes a book "Money Sense Guide To Buying and Selling Your Home" at $11.15 (inclusive of tax) and a women's monthly magazine at $5.59 (inclusive of tax).

Note 2: I bought another 3 farewell cards as several more colleagues left, including one from my department. Someone mentioned that 16 colleagues have left since the new store manager took over about 2 months ago. I feel sad to see colleagues leaving, many of whom were nice to work with. On the bright side, I have been assigned more work hours in recent weeks, given the smaller staff strength.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Guest story: Why I hate PAP

Singapore is heading towards what has been touted as a threshold election on 7th May 2011.

[Edited on 24th May 2011]
I had originally posted my personal friend's story as written by her, with minimal edits. However, my friend just emailed me that her father does not wish to talk about his arrest under Operation Coldstore and its impact on their lives again. As such, I shall respect his wish and remove my friend's story.


[Edited on 24th May 2011. Story deleted]


[Winking Doll's additional comment below. Edited on 6th May 2011.]

I was a teenager when the PAP government arrested the Catholic group serving the poor and made them go on national TV for a public confession. Through my youthful eyes, I thought that the accused were forced to "make a confession". That image became stuck in my mind.

When I first graduated from a local university, I eagerly wanted to be a volunteer in gratitude to "the Singapore society which has kindly given me a PSC (Public Service Commission) student loan so that my lower-middle class family could afford my university fees". However, my mother warned me not to volunteer or get involved with any volunteer group. Why? "Because the government may arrest you anytime for any reason."* I had some fear from my mother's warning, because I knew it happened. This is the climate of fear that I grew up in. Fortunately, I overcame it and learned a lot from a decade of volunteer service.

[Addendum 01-Apr-2012] I would bet that I was not the only one dissuaded by others from volunteering during the early-to-mid 1990's. Note: Operation Spectrum happened in 1987. In fact, I remember the ministry in-charge of community service put up large banners cajoling residents to be volunteers just a few years later (in the early 1990's). Whenever I saw those banners at busy street junctions (e.g. outside Cityhall MRT station, next to the church), I laughed in my heart. I would bet that amongst the many who claimed that they were too busy with life to volunteer (a politically correct answer), some were actually held back by the fear factor.

*Note: My mother did not use those exact words because she could not converse in English. Nevertheless, that is an approximate translation of her warning.

p.s. My friend's personal story reminds me of the Singaporean movie "Sandcastle" “沙城”.


[Winking Doll's addedum on 18th May 2011.]

One of the detainees under Operation Spectrum, Vincent Cheng, spoke at the SDP rally on 2nd May 2011.


[Winking Doll's addedum on 20th May 2011.]
Click below for one young Singaporean's view of the Internal Security Act, Operation Coldstore and Operation Spectrum.

Click here for The Online Citizen's review of Operation Spectrum, 24 years after the date of the original arrests.

Facebook: One citizen sheep attempts to censor another

Last week, I had a long discourse with my ex-colleague (whom we shall designate as X) on my Facebook wall over a link and a related quote that I posted. I shall re-post it here for my readers to have a laugh over.

If (in the unlikely event that) there are any Singapore opposition party members reading this entry... my 2 cents: IMHO, citizens with opinions like X are not uncommon. Don't be lulled by the massive attendance in the opposition rally. Remember WP's massive rally attendance back in 2006 and yet the outcome of only 2 opposition MPs?


WD's wall post entry:
Love the SDP campaign video.

SDP's value-approach to the party stand contrasts with PAP's demand for obedience & obeisance in exchange for stability. It reminds me of the quote by Benjamin Franklin, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

X: Without safety, what king of liberty we are talking about? A lifetime liberty or a lifetime safety? That guy is selling an idea, "liberty vs temporary safety", we are not talking about liberty and temporary safety but liberty and safety. The question come back to us again, without safety, what kind of liberty you want? So, a lifetime safety or a temporary liberty? And what is liberty?

WD: What kind of safety can you get when the number of NS men are dwindling? NS men are disadvantaged at work because of the NS liability... remember our HK boss, he openly said that he dislike employing Singaporean men because of their NS liability when Y* had to go for his reservist.

[Note from WD: Y was our ex-colleague. Y, being a male Singapore citizen, is required to serve National Service conscription.]

WD: New PRs and potential Singaporeans take skipping NS with pride. I don't blame them when one considers the future career liability from NS reservist.

WD: What kind of safety and security can you get if you have no net in place for job lost, no Singapore citizens first employment, etc? You have a family to feed, consider what happens if you lose your job suddenly. If someone tells you it is not possible or feasible, how does one know for sure that is true? Look at other first world countries, you'll know how much we have been short-changed by PAP.

WD: Before criticizing, read each party's stand, plan and manifesto. Check it out. Don't just be swayed by prejudiced and selective portrayal by the main-stream media.

WD: Find out about those who arrested (sic) and locked away for decades without any charges under ISA. E.g. Dr Lim Hock Siew finally released without any charges successfully raised against him. Would you support such a government, without accountability?

WD: How safe and secure can you be, if you don't know how much Temasek or GIC have lost from our reserves beyond the SGD50billion declared (thanks to USA reporting requirements)? What if one day you wake up to find that your SGD is worthless because our reserves have been gambled away but there is no audit done (because PAP says we must trust the government)?

WD: How safe and secure can you be if a prime terrorist escaped from a "high security" lock-up and some kachang puteh took the blame instead of reviewing the security policies and implementation? And the minister involved, any apology? Any remorse? Any sense of personal responsibility as a minster?

X: So we do have need any army? That is liberty?

X: Now, you are in foreign country taking people job. That is liberty or safety?

X: If you think I'm criticizing, I'm sorry.

WD: No lah, I agree with you that I am now in foreign country. But here it is hard to get a professional job as an immigrant, Canadian experience and qualification is often needed. There is a strong sense of "Canadian first" although not an official policy.

X: ISA? only in Singapore? Without PAP, no people will be lockup? Politic is dirty. Yet, who can provide better safety and liberty? This what we need.

WD: But I am not complaining, (you'll note that I hardly complain about my situation in Canada on FB) because I have seen the other extreme in Singapore. Canada is ok, it will take time to settle in but if one is sincere about becoming Canadian, the locals are supportive. There are also government programs to help new immigrants, just that everything moves a at different pace here.

X: I still feel safety and secure, he had to run out of my country by the way, even US, there are such incident. So, US is not safety or secure?

WD: What we need is a balance of power. ISA is not only in Singapore, but in most other 1st world countries there are strong civil society movement, so the innocent (or their next-of-kin) have somewhere to turn to for help. In Singapore, what one old man says is becomes the law.

WD: X, You're missing the point. It is not the escape, per se, but the response of the leader (i.e. minister) in handling the escape that shows his true colours!

X: So, with US banking issue, US not longer safety and secure? Every country has their problem. If you decided to left a country, please respect those still living in it. You have your own reason and we respect, please also respect those choose to stay. Thanks.

WD: Btw, in UK "citizens first"* for employment opportunity is an official policy.
[*Note from WD: I was wrong about that. My UK friend TGC corrected me as follow: "p.s. WD - there is no UK "local first" policy - it was crap spouted by that charlatan Gordon Brown to keep a group of vested interests - union workers - sweet near an election. Pathetic stunt."
TGC later further elaborated in response to my reply: "'locals only' and 'resident only' are very different in the UK. 'resident only' means actually living and eligible to work, not PR nor citizen. The issue was as a gate before a work permit process can be entered into, I guess, and most companies bypassed it somehow."]
WD: X, I totally disagree with your last post! Am I not a Singaporean citizen? Just because I am not in Singapore physically I have no right to comment? Of course every country has its own problem. Why PAP can criticize every other country, but we ordinary citizens cannot criticize PAP policies?

WD: X, Have I said anything to criticize Singapore citizens who chose to stay? Please read my words. Have I shown disrespect to my fellow citizens in my words? If so, how so?

X: Maybe the minister has problem. Only Singapore minister has sure problem? None I'm Canada? Or US? We learn from mistake, hope the minister learned too. But if he is didnot, we migrate? You make a mistake, you have to die for it? Or your boss had to answer resign?

WD: My question is has he learnt from it? Or "It happens, lets move on." according to PM Lee, that Wong's boss. Did he declare that he learnt anything? Did he apologise for his mistake? Hey, if you make mistake at work, don't you have to apologize and take corrective actions too? It's only the right thing to do as a responsible person.

X: a true liberty - we have the liberty to say anything but do not have the liberty to hurt other.

WD: Is Dr Lim Hock Siew not a citizen? Does he not have a right to justice and equality (as defined in our pledge and represented by stars on our flag)?

WD: Have I hurt you from my criticizing PAP policies and their impact? How so? Please explain?

X: I remember his did mention a lesson learned and also apologized. Since you choose to left, left that worry to those who stay. You should start a new life and worry about the county you are in. Thanks. .

WD: X, I shall repeat myself "I totally disagree with your last post! Am I not a Singaporean citizen? Just because I am not in Singapore physically I have no right to comment? Of course every country has its own problem. Why PAP can criticize ...every other country, but we ordinary citizens cannot criticize PAP policies?" How does my criticizing PAP policies hurt you personally? If you cannot rationally answer these questions, then you have no right to demand that I censor myself.

X: You are criticizing the government most singaporeans have elected. You questioning our selection.* I think you choose to left, and should not look back and comment on something you had abandoned and others are trying to live or make it better. Thanks

[Note from WD: Bold and italics highlight added by me for emphasis.]

WD: X, Then you miss the point of DEMOCRACY totally. Please read more about the importance of questioning and open debate in democracy before demanding that others follow YOUR (and may I add PAP's) interpretation of democracy.

WD: Until I give up my Singapore citizenship, I have every right to return to Singapore anytime. By the same logic, I have every right to comment and criticize whatever I wish about Singapore governance, policies and their impact. My criticism is constructive because it raises the awareness of those who read my FB page (however few they may be) to see beyond the wool spun by PAP on what "reality" is.

X: I believed like many PR in Singapore, they still love their own country. Like us learn to 感恩, rather than give unhelpful or wrong comment.

[Note from WD: The chinese words used are "gan3 en2" which means "gratitude".]

X: No. I'm not supporter of any party. What I want it safety and liberty. But, please do not make a bad/wrong impression of Singapore to other. I'm a stronger supporter of Singapore.

WD: > others are trying to live or make it better...
Amongst these "others" are my family and my dear friends! Of course I have every right to share with them information I've learned, my thoughts and my views.

WD: X, if you don't like what you read on my FB page, you can don't read it. Don't come here to censor me because of your views. I know from experience that Singapore government spend big money painting beautiful pictures of Singapore to foreigners. I don't think that it is disloyal to Singapore to share the other reality of Singapore. It is being HONEST. There is no perfect system, no perfect country. What we need to learn is to see reality with open eyes.

X: That is what you want for liberty. "I have the right to do what I think is right." do you care what you say might be wrong? You listened to the online comment but did you listen to PAP? so, what you stay listen both side did not happened.

WD: Yes, my dear. PAP have a huge online presence too, although not as effective as their mainstream media presence. If you want to hear both sides of a story, why don't you compare PAP's manifesto with those from the opposition parties. I leave you to do some homework to goggle for it.

WD: X, Btw, think about your bread-and-butter issues. How can your vote assure you of your "safety and liberty"? You have a right to your choice, just like I have a right to make my comments.

WD: I repeat, "What we need to learn is to see reality with open eyes."

X: I never believed in democracy. It all politic, I need something that work and provide safety and liberty. I'm just a little Singaporean, trying to provide for my family. Without foreign, companies will not do business in Singapore, not enough workers. With foreigners, yes they do take up some of our jobs but we need them to keep the companies in Singapore. And before of them, we can have 3 telco, more condo, more people spending money. There a pro and con, we have to learn how to live with it. You would like to be treated good by local. So, this is what I can give that much.

[Note from WD: Bold and italics highlight added by me for emphasis.]

X: By migrating, give better "bread and butter"? With opposition, better liberty and safety?

WD: Things are not black-and-white, 0 or 1, "without or with". That is a false dichotomy that you are providing. (Did you consider it that you're providing something untrue?) Did any opposition say that they will allow zero foreigners? If Dell tells you "we are the best PC makers, all other computer manufacturers are no good, don't buy, don't even bother wasting your time to read their brochure" will you just listen to that single vendor. Or will you still check out the alternative? Why not do similar research for your vote?

> By migrating, give better "bread and butter"?
Follow my FB to see if it is indeed better or otherwise in the long run. It may take some time for me to make a final decision. For now, I believe Canada's system suits me better. Just don't curse me because I chose to give myself a chance at a better "bread and butter" option. You have your right to chose to remain, I have my right to chose to give myself a chance at another system.
[Note from WD: Click here for another FB exchange with another "friend". It ended up with him cursing me "好马不吃回头草". It is literally "a good steed does not turn his head around for grass" which means that I had better not eat my words and return to Singapore.]
>With opposition, better liberty and safety?
That is for you to decide when you vote. [It does not matter whether we agree or disagree, it is your right in a democracy to have an opinion... and may I add to share that opinion.] In addition, it is up to you whether you are willing to put in as much effort into your research for where to place your vote for the next 3-5 years in Singapore as your research into buying a PC.

If everyone do the research and choose to vote otherwise. What Singapore going to be like? Is Singapore ready without PAP?

X: Yes. You have your and I have mine choice. I don't criticize Canada, maybe you can also don't for Singapore. Thanks. That is what I believed liberty is, respect for each other.

[Note from WD: Bold and italics highlight added by me for emphasis.]

WD: X, To answer your question "Is Singapore ready without PAP?"... I shall not bore you with my opinions. How about reading some of the comments on Young PAP FB page?

X: By the way, TB and his family is migrating to Canada too. He like the system, and it sound good but I have my choice. I cannot say I wouldn't migrate, but something I can promised I will never criticize the country or it government that once provided me all my need. If we learned how to be grateful, there will be peace in ourselves and also those around us.

X: I don't believe the young. But as of now, we still have the old. Which you are criticizing. You doubt the young, oppose the old, that why end up in other. That good for you. I really mean is good, else it will be hard time.

WD: X, Criticizing (constructive criticism) is to help bring about improvement. If the grassroots don't tell the minister what the people wants, how can the system improve? Just like you're criticizing my choice to voice my opinion. I respect your right to declare your views here on my FB wall, but do you respect my right to declare MY views on MY FB wall.

[Note from WD: Bold and italics highlight added by me for emphasis.]

WD: X, I shall repeat myself again (i.e. 3rd time I am posting this) "I totally disagree with your last post! Am I not a Singaporean citizen? Just because I am not in Singapore physically I have no right to comment? Of course every country has its own problem. Why PAP can criticize every other country, but we ordinary citizens cannot criticize PAP policies?" How does my criticizing PAP policies hurt you personally? If you cannot rationally answer these questions, then you have no right to demand that I censor myself.

X: It your wall, hehe. Sorry. I'm disagreed with the guy saying, comparing essential liberty with temporary safety. We should compare apple to apple and orange with orange. Essential liberty with essential safety or temporary liberty with temporary safety. Just don't know why it end up like these. Haha, there always a lesson to learn in any and every situation. Thanks. God bless.

WD: X, You wrote, "I don't believe the young."
Unlike you, I believe in many of the young. E.g. NSP Nicole Seah.
If I were in Singapore to vote, I would give her a chance to do something for the people.

Of course, I am selective. E.g. PAP Tin Pei Ling practically destroy her own credibility before she even starts from the interviews that she has given. Don't forget, whatever she says, she will just have to vote according to PAP lines based on the party whip. That is the reality of party politics in Singapore.

WD: Hey X, No worries. It's all good. Healthy debate is good to force us to clarify our thoughts.

WD: ‎"Healthy debate" is part of democracy.

X: I don't believed the youth - looking at my children, just don't understand what the youth are thing Or doing. Yet, there are good young people.

Agreed with the other comment. PAP Is like a rich daddy, it spoil the children (not all).

WD: X, Haha, maybe I don't have children that's why I'm so optimistic about youth. :P I work with young people both in Singapore and Canada. Not all are great, but I have met many who are awesome. I am glad that my future will be shaped by them. :) P.s. not all people in our generation are wonderful either, but we count in our midst many wonderful people as friends.

X: Healthy debate is a kind of communication, that is needed to grow and get knowledge. Democracy is just a name give to look good, just demo only. Hope it does Start another "healthy debate". It late, 1am soon. Good night.


Thereafter, TGC and another Singapore citizen who moved his family to Canada added some comments. X replied to TGC in an additional comment.


[Addendum on 6th-May-2011. An additional exchange between X and me on the 5th and 6th of May.]

WD: X, I have a personal friend whose family is affected by the ISA. Lives destroyed by an old man, without any laws or trial. You want to be fair? You agreed that, "Wisdom also come from listening to both sides of a story before interpreting the information." and you even added that, "That why God gives us a pair of ear and eye". Well, use your God given eyes to read the other side of the story. You can start with these 2 books. There are more and these include the British archives which review reveal who the real liar is.
Francis Seow's "To Catch a Tartar"
Alan Shadrake's "Once a Jolly Hangman"

X: God word wrote, submit to authority, specifically government. No government is not placed by God. God gives us a pair of ears and eyes to know right and wrong but not judge. If you are not a Christian, then leave God aside. If you are, learn to submit and judge not the government that God put. If God want to pull down that government, no one can stop it. Maybe now is the time, maybe not. Leave it to God.

You know a family that suffered but there are families that have been benefited. I don't support ISA. We talk so much about "I" and forget the "we". When we start to talk about "we", we forget the nation. Many think without "I" there is not "we" and without "we" there is no nation. I want to have a nation, so the "we" can life in it, then I can be part of it.

[Note from WD: Bold and italics highlight added by me for emphasis. So now according to X, the main reason that I should self-censor my criticisms of the PAP government policies on my Facebook wall has shifted from "You are criticizing the government most singaporeans have elected. You questioning our selection" to "If you are not a Christian, then leave God aside. If you are, ...judge not the government that God put". I leave it to my readers to decide whether to applause or to *face-palm*.]


[Addendum on 18th May 2011]

Why do I believe in many of the young? Because unlike my friend above, they ask questions. They think critically. And they analyze the issues. All this despite years of brain-washing from the "official" textbook history of Singapore.

Kirsten Han's blog entry is one such example.


[Addendum on 15th Apr 2012]

I like the "Speaking up is not anti-Singapore" article in The Online Citizen. Obviously there are feeble minds who actually cannot distinguish between speaking up against specific policies from treason.