Friday, April 26, 2013

Oh! For a chance to nurse the nation

Some of my younger GNIE classmates (Graduate Nurse, Internationally Educated Nursing Re-entry programme) are discouraged due to a lack of progress in their job search. One wrote that he has given up applying.

We completed our nursing re-entry training in Dec-2012. We met the requirements for CRNBC full practicing registration in Mar-2013. [Click here and here for details.] Some started applying for Registered Nurse jobs once we were granted Provisional Registration. Some, like me, waited until getting the Full Practicing Licence.

At times like this, I think it helps to take a look at the bigger picture. We aren't the only ones who face challenges finding a job in B.C., especially in the Lower Mainland. See the poster below for an example. 

[25-Apr-2013: Poster at Metrotown Skytrain Station
urging local businesses to employ youths and
offering a $2,800 hiring incentive.]
[Aside: That's why when another classmate asked me if I was "into politics" some time ago; I replied, "No, I am not into politics per se. It is a tool, a means to an end." IMHO, politics affect so many areas of our lives that we cannot afford to ignore it. E.g. Healthcare funding -- the amount allocated, the distribution of resources, the policies/projects implemented to support access to healthcare, etc -- directly and indirectly affect our individual employment opportunity. "Up-stream thinking" is important.]
At a personal level, I think it helps to think back to why we chose nursing as a profession. Does the reason still ring true? Below is a touching poem by Molly Case -- a nursing student presenting at the 2013 Royal College of Nursing Congress (i.e. UK nursing congress) -- in response to the UK media's onslaught of criticism of the NHS (National Healthcare System).

Nursing the nation - by Molly Case

As for myself, I am taking my time in my job search, so as not to stress myself unduly. I am lucky, unlike the first time I entered the work-world decades ago, I now have the luxury of some financial leeway to prepare myself for more/wider job opportunities. My current focus is to convert my Singapore driving licence into a Canadian one so that I may opt to serve the remote (underserved) regions. Along the way, I am also learning basic French, building my professional network, occasionally revising my nursing knowledge, and volunteering (to keep my spirit upbeat).

I hope that things will work out for all of us. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Brunch with former bureaucrats

I thought about not writing on this until a recent arrest in Singapore reminded me once again how different the socio-political climate between Singapore and Canada is.
[Note: The conversations below are as much as I could remember, they are not word-for-word exactly.]


I had brunch with some (ex-)Singaporeans recently. The elderly gentlemen congradulated me for getting my Canadian nursing registration. Thus, I told them about how we petitioned for it. [Click here and here.] 

Then someone asked, "So will you do it* in Singapore?" [*That is, write petitions and advocate for change.]

I replied simply, "No way! We have the ISA in Singapore, you know. And not forgetting some politicians who like to send legal suits."

The gentlemen smiled and nodded, they knew what I was talking about.


At some point later during the brunch, since one of the gentlemen revealed that he used to be heavily involved in the Singapore Sports Council, I asked him for his opinion of the "Foreign Sports Talents Scheme". As a gentleman would, he openly declared his vested interest -- i.e. he was responsible for creating that policy (which has since raised some controversy in Singapore). He took the time to explain the intent and some regulations behind original scheme, and mentioned that the scheme has changed beyond recognition since.

Someone at the table put in supportive words, "Otherwise Singapore wouldn't have won an Olympic medal." 
[I guess she forgot about Tan Howe Liang's 1960 Olympic Silver. Or perhaps "Singapore" was not an independent country back then, so it did not count?]
To which I replied my honest 2 cents, "Why must we win Olympic medals? Why can't we just invest in our own people and be happy with whatever results they achieve? It's like a man with a small penis trying to overcompensate."

The men at the table were surprised, but nevertheless laughed heartily at my penile comment.


At a yet later point over that brunch, I realized that I was sitting next to none-other-than the bureaucrat behind the "Stop At Two" policy. I could not resist asking (to confirm rumours that I had sniffed from the internet), "So didn't the government know at some point that the policy will cause the fertility rate to drop below replacement rate?"

Dr "Stop At Two" replied, "Yes, I did some (projection) calculation and told them that the policy has to be changed at some point."
[So apparently the warning signs were there already and known to the decision makers. It was a matter of political will and/or foresight to steer the Titanic away before it hit the iceberg.]
Someone else then chimed in that that's why the Singapore government is importing so much "foreign talent" -- to cover the shortfall in birth rate. 

To which I replied, "No, I think (IMHO) there is something more to it. They are importing more than what it takes to cover the replacement rate. I think (IMHO) there is something else happening here."


At the end of brunch, the gentlemen teasingly encouraged me, "Write more petitions!"

I laughed. Actually I am really very Singaporean by nature. It took a lot to push me to write a petition
[Which is why at times I admire how PY (from China), AP (from The Philippines) and IJ (who grew up Canadian) will not take any injustice lying down.]

Which brings to mind another event. 

I had another Facebook exchange early this month over a photo where I commented about the abuse that healthcare workers in Singapore face and are expected to tolerate -- which reveals the reality of how little healthcare workers are truly valued in Singapore. A Singapore-citizen friend (residing in Singapore) tried to push the onus back to fellow Singaporeans for the lack of "social leadership". In responding to her suggestion that the government is not responsible for Singapore's social-political norms which contribute to such unhealthy work environments, the discussion on my Facebook photo veered off-topic.

I reminded her about the ISA, some politicians who like to send legal suits and the challenges of invisible "OB" markers.

She replied in defence of ISA (and, I supposed, her politician/minister friend),
"Btw, govt includes non-PAP and PAP includes non-govt.
Please do not confuse societal security with social leadership, and dafamation (sic) with criticism. There are non-govt groups who stand up for migrant workers. 
Attitudes towards nursing have not improved as much as other aspects of nursing. Some things still need to be fixed. Everyone need not wait for a few people to deal with all causes."
Of course, I challenged her concept of "societal security" and "defamation". [See also Nizam Ismail's 25-Apr-2013 blog post on "Politics of Funding Cuts: Is it Really About Partisanship?" (or Jentrified Citizen's extract here); and one will know that "Everyone need not wait for a few people..." is a red-herring.] And it went downhill from there. At one point, she wrote,
"All I shall say is that there are people who would gain when Singapore goes down. And they would find ways to extrapolate matters to influence opinions in the name of intellectual discussion."
Frankly, I pointed out to her that those who can gain as she suggested would be millionaires (a.k.a. private banking clients).
[Note: I declare that I am not within that category of people, unlike some folks who love to dress in white.] 
As it went further, I also pointed out to her that it was the second time within 8+ months that she used "ad hominem" attacks as a defence mechanism instead of dealing with the issue being discussed. 
[IMHO, it is pathetic, considering that she was supposedly from the crème de la crème (triple pure-sciences) class of the Rxx brand (a top-ranking secondary/middle school in Singapore) and received overseas (UK) tertiary education. Yet, she could not handle a simple Socratic discussion honourably.
That said, IMHO, she has improved considerably. The previous time she threw "ad hominem" attacks at me, she wielded them so poorly that it was laughably self-destructive, if not for the fact that she is a friend. E.g. When she could not debate further on the issue, she asked point-blank, 
"Please disclose
-- whether you are currently contributing to Singapore economically (e.g. paying taxes) or non-economically (e.g. promoting heritage)
-- whether any party in the world (e.g., in your current country of residence) will benefit from what you bring up"
Yet she did not disclose her own vested-interest (if any); and she followed with a whole load of unrelated, unsubstantiated and shaky accusations/arguments (including Mr Straw-man and Ms Red-herring); just because I dared to critic the poor PR skills of a minister who is her friend.]

Here is a reality to ponder on. 

People who create the policies 
that Singaporeans do not like 
may or may not have to live with 
the effects of those policies.
  • Does your MP have to compete with "foreign talent" MPs to be "cheaper, faster and better"?
  • Does your MP ride in the crowded buses, MRT, etc, daily together with you? 
  • Does your minister have to be "Means Tested" for healthcare subsidy just like you? Or are they under a different "civil servant" scheme?
  • Does your minister have worries about retirement funding as you do? Or do they have a special "pension scheme for high-ranking civil servants"?
  • And yes, I met the above-mentioned former bureaucrats in Canada. They and their family members are residents/citizens of Canada. [So please, to question my allegiance is really a red-herring.]
[This paragraph is added on 26-Apr-2013.] If the above is still not convincing enough, please read The Heart Truths' latest blog post "Double Standards in Singapore: Only the Government Can Win". Or read the late Feed-Me-To-The-Fish's blog post "Amy Cheong is not Lee Kuan Yew".

Along the same vein, thanks to my friend's comments, I gave my allegiance some serious re-thinking, from ground zero. After much thought, I came to the conclusion which I wrote on LIFT's blog.
"On a personal level, the longer I leave Singapore, the less I care about LKY and his white party. I may still occasionally rant about the crap of a legacy (of systemic failures) created by the white party, but I am very conscious of the fact that whatever happens to Singapore post-LKY, I may not personally have to suffer its effect. That is, I suspect I am transitioning mentally out-of-Singapore, and into-Canada."

Singapore cartoonist arrested

Someone was "invited" to "tea and 2 nights free accommodations" at Cantonment Complex.


[Extracted from Yahoo!Singapore news on Tuesday 23-Apr-2013. Note: Some words are enlarged, italicized and bolded etc by me for emphasis.]

S’pore cartoonist arrested for alleged sedition
By Andrew Loh | SingaporeScene – 5 hours ago

Singapore police arrested Mr Leslie Chew, 37, the person behind the cartoon strip, Demon-cratic Singapore, on Friday morning, for alleged sedition.

He was held in custody and questioned over the weekend, and was released at 8.45pm on Sunday after posting bail of S$10,000.

The police confiscated his handphone, computer and hard disk. He was also asked to surrender his passport to the police at the Cantonment Police complex.

The charges relate to two of the comic strips on his Demon-cratic Facebook page. Mr Chew has produced more than 600 cartoons thus far, including those on the page. The two in question are this one and this one.

The first cartoon, published on his Facebook page on 14 December last year, and titled “Demon-cratic Singapore Episode #438, Eliminating the thorn first...”, had also been the subject of a letter of demand from the Attorney General Chambers (AGC) last year.

The AGC, in a letter to Mr Chew on 17 December, said the cartoon “scandalises our Courts through allegations and imputations that are scurrilous and false."

However, it said it would not commence further legal proceedings against Chew if he posted an apology on the page, removed the cartoon and “all accompanying comments” related to the post, which has gathered over 600 likes, shares and comments since December.

Chew, however, decided not to comply because he said his work is fictional, and not related to any real events or persons, as stated on his Facebook page. On its page, which has 19,000 likes, Demon-cratic Singapore describes itself as a "100% fictional comic series about a country that does not exist".

In the second cartoon, Chew said the police questioned him about the population statistics in the cartoon, and its words – “Malay population… Deliberately suppressed by a racist government.”

Under Singapore's Sedition Act, among other things, it is an offence to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government; and to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.

Anyone found guilty of the offence can be fined up to S$5,000 or jailed up to three years, or both.
Chew, however, denies any such intentions, again pointing to the disclaimer in each of his cartoons which says that the portrayals in them “are purely fictional”.

“I also explicitly stated that 
Demon-cratic Singapore 
is an entirely imaginary country and 
is not the Republic of Singapore,”
Mr Chew says, referring to this page.

The latest arrest follows a spate of legal action by members of the Government against online commentators and sites.

In January, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong demanded writer and activist, Alex Au removed his blog posts about Action Information Management, the PAP-owned company embroiled in the controversy over the PAP-run town councils’ computer system.

And on 18 April, the AGC demanded an apology and the removal of posts from several websites which it alleged cast doubt on the judiciary's integrity.

Chew, who says that the police was “very professional” in the way they treated him, has been asked to report to the police on 30 April.

“Most fans know that Demon-cratic Singapore is fictional and are just for laughs,” said Chew.

“Even when there are new readers who thought otherwise, they are usually quickly reminded by other readers that everything on my Facebook page is fictional."

Andrew helms as Editor-in-Chief. His writings have been reproduced in other publications, including the Australian Housing Journal in 2010. He was nominated by Yahoo! Singapore as one of Singapore's most influential media persons in 2011.


[From the horse's mouth on Facebook Tuesday 23-Apr-2013]

Demon-cratic SingaporeHi everyone, the following comic more or less explained why there was no new comics on Demon-cratic Singapore for the past 4 days. It is a little larger than usual, so you might like to download it and zoom in to read.


Now you know why the "Talking Cock" website has such a long and lengthy disclaimer on its homepage. Consider also how the numerous invisible O-B markers (out-of-bound) curtail creativity in Singapore. And why so few in Singapore would risk being open about their political views.

As the saying goes, "Laughter is the best medicine." Keep laughing!

Aug-2006 Talking Cock in Parliament - Hossan Leong

Dec-2004 Check out "Count on him, Singapore!" below - Dick Lee

On forgiveness

After a long absence*, I have a "calling" to do a psychic healing again. Along the process I started healing myself simultaneously. I will not elaborate on the actual healing done, but I will share some thoughts that came to mind.

Although I am not a Christian, I love something about the "Our Father" prayer since I came across it as a child. Especially the part where it goes, 

"... forgive us our trespasses, 
as we forgive those who trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
but deliver us from evil. ..."

The essence of forgiveness. Many talk about it. Many claim they believe it. Many claim they practice it. Indeed, many do practice it to some degree. However, few are able to practice it widely. The few Christians who do so, whom I come across personally in my life, I have always admired deeply.

I shall close with 2 songs. Songs which speak of certain life philosophies that help us to release the emotional baggages that we inevitably pick-up in life.

峰迴路轉 -- 劉德華
["Turning point" by Andy Lau]

笑看風雲 -- 鄭少秋
["Laughing at Life's Fortunes" by Adam Cheng]

Have a good day!


*p.s. : Okay, maybe not "that long" an absence. That said, for the previous healing that I did, I only sought "psychic permission" to heal as the person was at that time not even well enough to give me permission physically (e.g. verbally or through body language). As such, I only healed up-to the point where he no longer hung between life and death.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Art of Bond Breaking

Earlier today, an anonymous person wrote a comment asking the following in my other blog post "Equal pay for equal work in Singapore?" Let's call Anonymous "CBF" (short for "concerned boyfriend").
Comment from CBF on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 8:50:00 AM:
I have a girlfriend whos also bonded to one of these sponsorships at ngee ann polytechnic. As a malaysian, she is bonded for 6 years instead of the standard singaporean 3 years which is kinda unfair. Do u have any idea what should be covered or paid altogether to break the bond after she graduates? Does the bond breaking cost lessens if she works longer in the bond ? I just want to get her out of that hellhole asap.

My reply to CBF is below:
Reply from Winking Doll on Monday, April 15, 2013 at 3:49:00 PM:
Hi Anonymous at Monday, April 15, 2013 8:50:00 AM, 
> Do u have any idea what should be covered or paid altogether to break the bond after she graduates? Does the bond breaking cost lessens if she works longer in the bond ? 
You have to read your girlfriend's specific contract very carefully to determine the answer to your questions. I honestly cannot know because even amongst my classmates, each of us had different bond contracts with different terms-and-conditions. Be very careful of the difference between the "norms" and the "actual signed-contract". 
That said, whatever the contract says, IMHO, chances are that the paper-pushers will try to make things difficult for your girlfriend to leave. Your girlfriend has to be cunning and emotionally strong to withstand the pressure given. 
Just to share with you my experience. My HR manager informed me that a WDA staff told my HR manager (an out-right lie) that I had signed a contract with WDA which stated that I have to repay the full 100% regardless of the time-served (which also contradicted what they "advertised" during their recruitment talks and my HR's understanding based on past practice). I pointed out to my HR manager that I never signed any contract with WDA, the only contract that I signed was with my hospital which clearly stated that the amount was to be pro-rated based on the time-served per the schedule of bond depreciation given to me earlier by my HR. Thereafter, my HR manager alleged that the WDA staff "blackmailed" my HR to "persuade/pressurize" me to write-and-sign a letter "asking for understanding for my special case" (i.e. covering their ass by implying that they WDA had the right to determine the T&C's of my bond termination) and also demanding a slightly higher repayment than what my hospital's schedule of bond-depreciation indicated contractually. After discussing with my HR manager, I wrote and signed such a letter as I just wanted to tie-up the loose-ends as soon as possible. According to my HR manager, instead of following through with the agreement, the WDA staff refused to reply to confirm or refuse acceptance of my resignation. Long story short, from what I understand, in the end my *HR manager* pressurized WDA to accept the slightly higher payment because I threatened to abscond. Note: I already had Confirmation Of Canadian PR and was preparing to leave Singapore. 
[Extract of the original COPR sticker on my passport]
That was how bad things were for me. So in your case, please tell your girlfriend to tread carefully and be strong mentally. You don't want her to end-it-all in an unfortunate manner. 
> As a malaysian, she is bonded for 6 years instead of the standard singaporean 3 years which is kinda unfair. 
I disagree with you on that. If you want to argue, we the *CITIZENS* of Singapore can even say that the government of Singapore should not even offer to sponsor non-citizens, such as your girlfriend, for the nursing course. Instead the sponsorship/academic-opportunity should only be given to Singapore-citizens interested in pursuing nursing. Fair? If you're not a citizen, you have *no right* to any *entitlement mentality*.
That said, I think it is unfair if your girlfriend was paid more/less than her colleagues with the same education, training, skills, experience and job performance on the basis of her Malaysian passport alone. Meritocracy requires that workers be paid equitably, something which Singapore claims to be but really isn't
> I just want to get her out of that hellhole asap. 
I agree with you that it can be a hellhole. I suggest the following so that your girlfriend will retain her licence to pursue nursing overseas if she is interested. Go apply overseas for nursing licence first before quitting Singapore nursing. E.g. Australia recognizes Singapore-educated/trained nurses. Please google the internet for details, since I did not take the Australian route. 
Cheers, WD.

Just some additional notes:

[Extract from the Official Receipt for my bond re-payment]

Firstly, I doubt that CBF's girlfriend is on the same scholarship/bond scheme as me.
  • I was from the WDA Professional Conversion Programme for Registered Nurses (PCP-RN) Programme. [Albeit it was known as the Strategic Manpower Conversion Programme (SMCP) during my time.] For that WDA sponsorship, the bond period is 3 years regardless whether the applicant is a Singapore Citizen or a Singapore Permanent Resident. [Those who are neither citizens nor PRs are not eligible for the scheme.] In my case, WDA mis-represented their bond depreciation scheme in the recruitment talk (i.e. their staff said that it would be depreciated for each full-month of employment completed) and thereafter (according to my HR manager) outright lied to my HR manager about my bond "contract agreement" with them. In other words, WDA had no legal case against me (personally) for pro-rating the bond instead of paying up 100% of the (full, un-depreciated) bond amount. To quote my HR manager, "They (the WDA staff) are giving us shit, let's give them shit back!"
  • I believe CBF's girlfriend's scholarship was for nursing as her first tertiary education, e.g. Nursing Sponsorship for Diploma in Nursing for which the bond is 3 years for Singapore Citizens and up to 6 years for non-citizens. This discrepancy in bond period between Singapore citizens and non-citizens under that scheme is an open and well-known fact -- something that CBF's girlfriend would probably have known before she signed on the dotted lines of her contractual bond. Please don't turn around and say "unfair" if one willingly signed up and took advantage of a scholarship which may otherwise have gone to someone else.
Secondly, don't believe that all Singapore civil servants are "just follow law" type (see movie trailer below). IMHO, my experience (as above) clearly shows that some civil servants would play dirty to pressurize (those whom they consider) "minions" to toe-the-lie. Thus, please be careful if one is planning something that may upset these paper-pushers, e.g. by breaking one's bond. IMHO, you can afford to retaliate with equally dirty-play only if you have your escape hatch planned out. [E.g. my Canadian PR status.]

"Just Follow Law" Movie Trailer

Thirdly, CBF, I am sorry for your girlfriend's situation. As you've stated, you feel that your girlfriend is in a "hellhole" because of her Singapore nursing job. 
  • That said, unless you (CBF) are willing and able to support your girlfriend for the rest of her life, I believe that she has to plan strategically and not act on impulse. Lay out one's long-term career plan and escape hatch carefully before launching into action. [E.g. I tolerated the Singapore nursing crap for 1+ years before leaving.]
  • When they cannot touch one anymore, be sure to spread the message. [Click hereherehereherehere or here for Singapore nursing news outlets.] Tell others about one's experience of the Singapore nursing culture and/or the potential flip-side of being bonded (i.e. being stuck in an unhealthy workplace). I believe that if everyone does his/her part, the truth about nursing in Singapore will emerge and actions will be taken to improve the situation when they hit recruitment issues and/or widespread public pressure.
[Image source: 04-Apr-2013 Singapore Nurses United Facebook page.
Original online article: 04-Apr-2013 ST Premium - Forum Letters.]

Lastly, a cautionary tale for CBF's girlfriend. Unless she is able to pay up the notice-in-lieu and quit on-the-spot, she has to be careful of bitchy attacks/bullying from some colleagues upon making known her intent to resign. My Singapore nursing lecturer warned me about some people who will "react strangely" (perhaps out of jealousy) when one has an opportunity for brighter career prospects (and leaving the crap behind, whereas they remain stuck in it). And indeed, it happened to me.


[Addendum on 19-Apr-2013, extracted from the comments section of my previous blog post.]

Reply from Winking Doll on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 3:38:00 PM:
Hi Concerned Boyfriend,

Below is a comment from someone who completed a similar bond (as the one your girlfriend has) with "the aforesaid hospital". Do excuse her language as she did not have a pleasant work experience there either. [Note: I have edited her message slightly for clarity only.]

Firstly, a DECLARATION AND DISCLAIMER: The following are personal opinions from me and the aforementioned person. Neither of us is a Human Resource personnel, nor are we in any way trained in the matters of handling termination of scholarship bonds. Thus any content from us shall be construed as a sharing of personal opinions, not career nor legal advice. We do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information provided by us. Under no circumstances will we or anyone related to this content be responsible for any loss or damage resulting from any reliance on the information or other content posted or linked herewith.

Ex-staff wrote: "Wtf, it's pro rated. It's written in the contract -- which year, u pay how much. If that's the case*, just leave without notifying them. My friend did that as she had depression n just left. It costs too much for moh pursue lawsuit, more than the amt she owes (to them). But I'm so sure the breeching (i.e. bond-breaking) contract fee decreases each year."

*Note: By "if that's the case", she was referring to any threat/suggestion that your girlfriend has to pay up the full bond amount.

Please be aware that the above person left "the aforesaid hospital" years ago, so no one knows for sure if the above will apply to your girlfriend as well. Also be prepared that the paper-pushers may suddenly unveil their iron-fists under their gloves as they did in my case.

Good luck.

Cheers, WD.


Read also "The Suay Kuan" -- a real-life story of his/her Singapore nursing and bond-breaking experience as shared by an anonymous reader of this blog.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spam Comments

I have been busy with other stuff and have not had time to update my blog recently. Imagine my surprise when I log-on today and found 2 spam comments, both posted on 10-Apr-2013.

[12-Apr-2013 Screen capture of the spam comments]

Thank goodness there were only 2, not 100's or 1000's. For my reply to each of these spammers trying to advertise their products/services for free, please click here and here.