Saturday, 24 July 2021

Reflections on my Present and Departed Friends.

A dozen of my childhood friends had departed this world in the last decade.
 
I cherish the time we spent together and will never forget their unforgettable quotes.

In this post, I would like to share with you the antecedent of their departure and my fond memories of each one of them. But first, let me indulged on one of my best friends who is still alive today but is inching toward the end of his tunnel because of terrifying cancer. 

I’ve known this friend "A" since we were 12 in secondary 1 (1961) of the same school. He is the guy who sold live chickens and ducks in the old Bukit Panjang Market in the sixties.

Today, both 75, we are still in touch on a regular basis, mostly on WhatsApp. He checks on me to make sure I’m still alive, that I did not die in my sleep the night before. I check on him too to give him my moral support and fix meeting dates to visit him in his house. 

 “A” is a marine engineer. By nature of his vocational training, he is analytical, rational and cautious in all his dealings and health. 

In his youthful working years, he sailed round the world on commercial ships as a marine engineer and eventually landed in various engineering sales jobs on land. 

 After 30 years, he’s now the boss of his own marine products trading company, with annual revenue in millions.

Rightfully, he should start to relax and enjoy his life after years of toll, particularly when his Imperial College son is running the show.

Sadly, life is unpredictable and fate can be cruel. But he has the grit to overcome adversity.

(P.S. My dearest friend "A" passed away peacefully on 24th Sept 2021. He said he was proud of what were written about him in this post. Rest In Peace, My Friend.)

I’ve another childhood friend “B” of 70+ age, in almost the same predicament as “A”. 

 “B” was a normal pioneer generation guy with a Senior Cambridge Certificate in the late sixties. 

 Jobs were hard to find in those days. Most cohorts join either the police, army, nurse or civil service. 

Tall, well-build and handsome, “B” joined the army after secondary school and within a few years, rose to the rank of an enviable Captain. 

He’s a calm, honest and lady’s man with no temper. 

His only indulgence then was mahjong games with friends and smoking. 

At the peak of his army career, another close friend of ours, invited him to join his expanding marine and shipbuilding company as his right-hand man. 

The company prospered within two decades, so did “B”. 

“B” became a multi-millionaire after the company was listed in the main board and subsequently sold to an Arab conglomerate for billions. 

Deservedly, “B” retired and prepared for a life of relaxation. 

Sadly again, fate is cruel on my friend “B”. 

Within a few years into his retirement and out of the blue, he was afflicted with muscular dysfunctional diseases. 

He is now wheel-chaired, almost blinded and needs a maid to help him perform his personal hygiene. 

Why?....sighs...

Each time when I think of my good friends, “A” and “B”, my heart bleeds in sadness. 

I’ll come to my departed friends in my next posting.



Thursday, 25 June 2020

Singapore Government Under PAP after LKY's hand





In looking through my journal recently, I came across a summary of a passenger's rhetoric on Singapore Government under PAP.

Here is one story in my journal that stands out from the rest.


January 31, 2019 -- I picked up a sixty-something Chinese man in Jurong and drove him to the airport, a thirty-minute ride, at 4 a.m. 
 

He told me he worked for many years as an accountant in various MNC and was leaving Singapore for good. He was joining his son in New Zealand and planned to work part-time or retire there.   

"Why are you leaving Singapore for good?," I asked him.

"I love Singapore, my birthplace but I hate PAP....The f***k.*@%"x! party". 

I was shocked beyond words and almost fell off my driving seat.

Before I could interrupt him in his sudden and long rhetoric that lasted the whole trip, he fished out his cellphone and asked me for my phone number. He wished to Whatsapp me a summary of his loathing of PAP and I obliged out of courtesy.

I kept his interesting abomination of PAP till today and would like to share it with you now in the spirit of an imminent Singapore general election.

Quote:

50 reasons why I hate PAP. 

1. PAP is not pro-worker. If anything, it is pro-GIC, pro-Temasek and pro-billionaires. PAP rigged the economy to favor the rich, powerful, and well-connected, thereby widening the income inequality gap between rich and poor Singaporeans. Our country is rich but for a minority privileged few. Imagine, the bottom 10% worker income is about $7/hr, the average worker about $25/hr, and the top 10% worker is $300/hr.  

2. The CPF Ordinary and Special accounts accumulated a total of S$272.8 billion but only S$6.4 billion or only 2% could be withdrawn for retirement purposes. On the other hand, 98% is taken by the PAP to invest in GIC, and accessible by Temasek Holdings.

3. The Medisave accumulated a total of S$102 billion, but only S$1.1 billion, or only 1% could be withdrawn for direct medical expenses.

Again, most of the rest of the 99% is invested in the GIC, and accessible by Temasek Holdings.

4. The MediShield Life, accumulated a total of S$8.3 billion, but only S$1.0 billion or only 12% were paid out in claims.

Again, GIC invests most of the rest of the balance, which is also accessible by Temasek Holdings.

 Only the Singapore government keeps such high surplus.

 5. 60% of a HDB flat price goes to land costs–land which the PAP owns and profits from.

Again, the land money goes to GIC, and Temasek Holdings.

Singapore is rich but most Singaporean are poor because most of the money is used to empower and enrich the GIC, and Temasek Holdings in their investment activities. How much of their investment gains is utilized to help poor Singaporeans?

6. With no minimum wage policy, there is negative real wage growth over the last 15 years. For political reason, PAP prefers to pay wage subsidies disguised PAP's assistances instead of implementing a minimum wage scheme.

7. PAP had failed miserably in trying to solve the low productivity of the Singapore economy that still depends on cheap foreign labor. 

8. PAP's many dismay social policies are the main cause of Singapore's Low Birth Rate, albeit started by LKY’s Stop @ 2 policy.

9. The sharp rise in the costs of living, housing, education, healthcare, and transport making Singapore the most expensive city to live in. GST to be raised to 9% between 2021 -2025.

10. (7), (8) and (9) resulted in a lower standard of living for Singaporeans. You can forget about GCT's Swiss Standard of Living and his FIFA World Cup goal. All BS! Post note: Lau Goh, now retired to enjoy his Swiss Standard of Living.

11. PAP initially kept secret its pro-foreign businesses and labor policies because it knew it was screwing Singaporeans. Out of 3.8 million workforces in Singapore, 1.5 million (40%) are foreigners. 

12. The CECA 2005 trade agreement with India allows unlimited inflow of cheap professionals with dubious qualifications and experiences to easily work in Singapore, thereby inevitably depressing wages and stole jobs of local professionals (PMET) and forcing many of them to become Grab/Taxi drivers. In return, India allows only GLC (Govt. Linked Companies) to invest in big projects there with no benefits to local Singaporeans.

13. Foreigners taking jobs away from Singaporeans when these foreigners are willing to accept wages as low as $500/month with housing, transport, and food provided. Can a Singaporean family survive at this wage or even $1000/month with HDB mortgages, food, transport, utilities, children's education, and health care expenses?.

14. Foreign students taking away places in local schools and universities that could have gone to Singaporeans.

15. Do you know that all SAP and autonomous schools are required by MOE to recruit a certain number of China students as scholars each year? These China scholars' school fees and lodging are fully paid for by PAP and they do not have to serve any bonds. 70% of these Government scholars break their bond, wasting taxpayers' money.

16. PAP broke a promise to payout CPF on retirement at 55. With no CPF money in hand at retirement, elderly folks have to clean tables, collect cardboard and sweep roads (not for exercise or boredom) to survive in this most expensive city-state in the world.

17. PAP does not want to tell Singaporeans the actual cost of building HDB flats and selling land to its own citizens at market rates. HDB is, therefore, selling over-priced HDB flats (prices doubled over the last 5 years) and profiteering at the expense of Singaporeans.

18. GCT created a property bubble as part of its Asset Enhancement Scheme. In reality, after 99 yrs HDB flats have zero value CPF accounts depleted after paying for HDB flat.

19. Only in Singapore, people have to sell or downgrade their homes to retire or else work into the seventies of their life or death.

20. PAP is dishonest with the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee. This committee is composed of civil servants and supposed to be independent but its under the control of the PM. Its not surprising that constituencies which saw close contests were merged or erased in the subsequent election.

21. PAP shamelessly encourages blatant double-standard routinely in policy enforcement like discriminately against low wage migrant workers compared to foreign talents and expatriates. Adding to my pax's rant in hindsight, I think PAP's MP broke C.B. rules go scotch free with no punishment while an old uncle fined $300 for a similar offense.

22. A Singapore student is fined $400 for using an unmarked power outlet in MRT station but PAP grassroots leaders get free public parking coupons.

23. No conflict of interest when the Auditor General audit her husband's Defend Ministry while he is a Senior Minister of State there.

24. Adverse accounting rating for PA (People Association) financial reports and yet its CEO is slated to stand for G.E. as a new PAP candidate. Where is the credibility of this PAP person?.

25. PAP ministers control and politicized POFMA.  The power should be taken from the Ministers and civil servants and given to an independent group. POFMA can be abused to silent critics.

26. PAP divides Singaporean for its own political agenda. We have no say in many things they did like the walk-over President. Only the PAP decides and it didn't care as they are prepared to pay a political price. Rightly so as 70% endorsed them.

27. PAP's population White Paper is flawed in many aspects. Its primary purpose is to boost GDP to enrich themselves as Ministers salaries are pegged to GDP and also to provides more gambling chips for GIC and Temasek. 

28. Many PAP MP abused their political positions to earns extra millions from directorships fee. The MP who has the most directorships in 2004 were Bukit Timah MP Wang Kai Yuen and Tampines GRC MP Ong Kian Min, each with 10 directorships. Most PAP MPs say no to cap on directorships. Why?.

29. To stay in power, PAP controls all trade unions, newspapers, radio, TV, People Association, Election Dept, and Presidency like in a dictatorship regime.

30. Frequent breakdowns of MRT and commuters suffered helplessly while a paper army general enjoys his million pay with no repercussions.

31. Failed privatization of public transport requiring billions in bailout and re-nationalization from Govt.

32. Public transport makes tens of millions each year, has frequent breakdowns, and gets $2b bailout from Government yet fares are raised.

33. PAP is out of touch with reality (Nasi Padang: $2.50 and Bandung: $0.50). PAP is an elitist party...for the rich and well connected. Vastly different from LKY's era ministers who really cares for the poor and Singapore. PAP has lost its way.

34. Rampant corruption in the Civil Service – FAS, SCDF, MFA, NCB, MDA, NParks, CPIB but PAP swiped all accusations under the carpets.

35. Lack of foresight. In today's context, Covid19 virus in foreign workers' dormitories is unexpected.

36. Big dormitories owners and operators are mainly PAP's lackeys. They make millions annually with horrendous over-crowded living quarters and when they flouted rules governing their businesses, MOM closed their eyes. COVID 19 opened their cans of worms.

37. P.A. (People Association) is a powerful tool of the PAP. It should be de-politicized as she is used to favour defeated PAP candidates over elected opposition MP.

38. PM's wife's salary is a State Secret.

39. Instead of answering questions on CPF, our PM prefers to sue a commoner for defamation. He also sued another commoner who simply shared a Facebook post without comment albeit that embarrassing post was about his family affair and its originator was his sister. 

40. Minister Edwin Tong's annual salary of $1.3 is not enough to feed his family and GCT agreed that Ministers are not paid enough. The latter claimed that any person who earns less than half a million annually is mediocre.

41. PAP MP guilty of overcharging client, no investigation nor reprimand.

42. Medishield Life: No subsidy for asset-rich, cash-poor Singaporeans.

43. No transparency. Nobody knows how much is in our National Reserve, how much losses in GIC & Temasek, GEO salary, etc...

44. Amend Constitution to deprive TCB of contesting, resulting in a walk-over President in a democratic country. Where is the legitimacy? Only a dictator could amend the constitution as he likes.

45. Abuse power to avoid demolishing 32 Oxley Road's house for political reasons and use parliament with 90% own party members to defend own self.

46. Own self check Own self. Own self Pay Own self. Legal corruption.

47. Employ all sorts of dirty tricks to fix the Opposition in all G.E. like gerrymandering electoral boundaries and dissolving constituencies if Opposition nearly won like Joo Chiat SMC in 2011 G.E. The dirtiest trick is abusing GRC to coattail untested, flawed and rejected candidates into parliament, some of whom became ministers. Isn't this a devilish diversion from the original purpose of GRC to entrench minority representation in parliament?

48. Cleverly using citizens' money in Singapore's Reserve to give generous cash handouts in a pre-determined G.E. to buy votes but deceived the uninitiated that the handouts are PAP's sincere efforts to help them tie over the pandemic. 

49. Give easy citizenship to foreigners to ensure 100% PAP's Parliament with this guaranteed New Citizens' votes. NS men still dying while FTs new citizens do not do NS.

50. Finally, PAP employs fear tactics to stay in power for decades. 

They say without PAP, Singapore will collapse :

you'll lose your job, the value of your flat will drop, your sister and daughter will become a maid in other countries, your estate will become a slum, will sue you till your pant drops, label you a traitor, if you're a loving critic like Alfian Sa'at.

Unquote:

A question that puzzles my whole life is "Why 65% - 70% of Singaporeans are still voting PAP, elections after elections? Why?


I'm a loyal Singaporean in my twilight years. I love Singapore but never voted for PAP except when LKY was in charge in the eighties. I do not trust the 4G, period.

I think we need more opposition members in parliament to bring PAP to accountability for their many failures and get them to show transparency in their dealings. Absolute power corrupts ultimate.

 



Friday, 29 May 2020

My Corridor Garden After 3 Years,


My corridor garden in May 2017.
I'm a novice in gardening with no formal education, training or experience in farming or botany studies. Neither do I have basic knowledge about soil, fertilizer, pest, diseases or the best practices to grow great flower and fruit trees. 

Taking an old sage's advice, "if there's a will, there's always a way",  I felt my ignorance should not be a deterrent because I could access a wealth of free knowledge and advice from the Internet like Facebook groups. Indeed, the modern internet is a miracle for human progress and enjoyment.

I always love nature, trees, and plants especially beautiful flowers but never thought of planting them. It is in the garden, park or the wildness of a forest that I feel closest to the Great Creator, whose handiwork and creativity I see in every leaf and every petal.

In my halcyon days, I spent my school holidays in my maternal grandmother's large sprawling farms, filled with tropical fruits, flowers, and roses that she nurtured with immense labor and love for the enjoyment of her grandchildren but she never allowed her grandchildren to dirty their hands at gardening. 

Three years ago, I decided to have my own garden perhaps to kill my unproductive time in my twilight years rather than other novel aspirations.

I stayed in an ordinary HDB apartment without the luxury of a balcony, lawn, or plots of land like my maternal grandmother had, but I've two meters wide and five meters long common corridor with about six hours of morning sunlight.

More importantly, I have a wonderful young couple as a neighbor and they thankfully empathized with this old man's wish to keep himself busy with fulfilling activities in gardening.

Nevertheless, I always keep my corridor neat and clean with no stagnant water or cluster of rubbish for mosquitoes and cockroaches to raise their unwelcome families. My main worry is troubles from my town council's environment inspectors.

I reckoned my neighbors could also enjoy the greeneries and fragrant aroma of my garden as they passed by daily through an otherwise bare concrete corridor.

Incidentally, through the years I collected a few beautiful antiques looking flower pots that were discarded at my neighborhood junk bins. I never used them till the day I found my inspiration to start gardening.

At the beginning of my gardening adventure, I build different platforms and racks along the corridor to place my flowering pots.

After I erected and painted the brick racks and platforms, I had no idea what to plant, where to plant, what are the plant's needs, and how I like my garden to look like. Every single day thereafter I spent thinking, learning from Internet resources, and planning.

Initially, I planted a few easy growing flowering plants. I have no idea what were the names of the plants but when they survived and started to bloom, it brought me immense satisfaction, confidence, and a belief that I might actually have green fingers to begin a journey of faith in gardening.

A month later I decided to add more racks below my windows so that I have more planting space. 

As I drove my cab around Singapore roads, private estates, and public parks, I scouted and stole suitable plants and cuttings for my infant garden. After a while, I found this illegal way of collecting plants rather nerve-racking and gave up.

At one time, I wanted to change my original plan of growing only flowering plants to include food and fruit plants but this ambitious endeavor failed miserably. All my vegetable and fruit plants died after germination.

Over the years, I have made a few mistakes, overcame a few but continue to challenge myself to perfect my skills. My aim is to know all my plants and deliver the right growth condition to them so they in turn reward me with beautiful and healthy flowers and fruits.

So here I am.

Today I have about 100 different plant types in my little garden. Fortunately, most are easy to care and require little or no attention other than occasional fertilizing and pruning but I like the challenge of growing my flowers from seeds or cuttings instead of buying from nurseries and flower shops.

As I regularly arrange my plants to form a tidy pattern and to get the best of the sunlight, I take pride in knowing that my corridor garden is the prettiest and largest in my block of apartments.

I'm happy to discover this enjoyable recreation in my retirement days and I pray for many more years to look after my little garden and enjoy the "fruits" of my labor. 

Gardening had somewhat transformed my lifestyle and daily routine. Although I love nature, I was never a gardening person and my knowledge of horticulture is elementary. But on my retirement days, I found gardening is something physically easy yet spiritually enriching. 

Gardening is also fun and I encourage those who are about to retire or already retired and have some space to develop a small garden. 

Whether it's for pleasure or for fruits, it will help you to spend your time fruitfully. 

I wish I had started several years earlier but like in many other things, it's never too late ....to start gardening.

My corridor garden in May 2020.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

A Charitable Singaporean Millionaire (Part 2)


Hi, Everyone,

As promised, I'm back to continue with the true story of Mr. Chan (not Mr. Chua), the  Charitable Singaporean Millionaire who singularly set up and run an orphanage in Batam, Indonesia with his own money.

Surprisingly, an anonymous person commented in my earlier post that the Charitable Singaporean Millionaire is Mr Chan (not Mr Chua). My apology.

Now, I would like to share with you his comments about Mr. Chan as a person and a boss to him for your reading pleasure.

Quote:

"From what I know, there is only one boss from that big shipyard speaks “pure teochew”, sixty-something, skinny, soft-spoken, polite, but he rarely wears a short-sleeve shirt. 

I hope I didn’t get it wrong.Or could it be one of his two brothers? which I don’t think so, neither of his brothers “co-owned” that business, and also, maybe not that rich. 

Mr Chan was originally an Indonesian many years ago before he started his shipbuilding business; the “pure Teochew” is more an Indonesian accent. 

I worked for him for a year or so when he had shifted to Jurong from Lorong Buangkok in the mid-’80s, he struggled quite hard in those days, with the kind of traditional management style and a soft heart; he did quite well but not really good before his big boss set up these yards in Batam and got it listed in Singapore. 

He is a very nice boss, I’m glad to know that he has since “semi-retired”, a man like him, with a great heart, is more valuable to be him today (in the charity) than in the money-making business. I sincerely wish him all the best. 

Eagerly waiting for your part 2, I would like to find out more about him and his orphanage house. And James, you take care and drive safe. Sorry for my poor English." 

Mr. Chan (nickname "Ah Sun" - skinny in Hokkien dialect)had only a secondary Chinese education and speaks passable English but he's blessed with a sharp and intelligent mind and is always thinking of ways to get things done in the most efficient and pragmatic way.

One example of his extreme resourcefulness and intelligence is his developing a 22 hectares virgin coastal land into the biggest shipyard in Batam, Indonesia, with three floating docks and huge adjacent engineering and fabrication facilities. He did all these WITHOUT paying a single cent to any professional consultants.

He also builds tugs & barges, cargo ships, oil rigs, oil tankers, livestock and cement carries, and ship conversion jobs.  Mr. Chan did all these gigantic projects without even a diploma education or training in engineering practices but self-taught himself with a hungry and intelligent mind for details and hand-on experience.

His shipbuilding knowledge and engineering skill are astonishingly brilliant, comparable to any professional in the same line.

Mr. Chan was not born into a rich family and with his meager capital. he initially went into simple engineering works and barge building business in the seventies. Business was tough then, with lots of competition and scarcity of projects in Singapore.

Fortunately, he met a Mr. Tan, who saw something "special" in him and they became partners till the day their Batam business was sold off to an Arabian company for billions in 2007.

Today, they are still partners in other business and remain good friends.

"The hardship was unimaginable in my growing up years in a village in Indonesia," Mr Chan told me a bit of his childhood while we were at his orphanage in 2013.

"Those early years of existence living and experiences helped me to shape my character, encrypted my motivation to never knee down to poverty. It taught me to deeply empathize with the very poor as a fellow human begins".

The dire faces of hungry orphans, as well as the lack of opportunities to escape poverty for the vast numbers of destitute, which he never forgot, were the key factors that motivate him to set up his orphanage in Batam.

"Presently, my needs are simple. I don't smoke, drink, or gamble. I don't splurge on luxuries, drive an expensive car or live in bungalow though I have the means to do it. I don't clamor for fame, demand respect or admiration because of my wealth. I don't exhort my friends and I lead my life as an example to them".

These days, the 60+ years-old Mr. Chan, who was once the CEO of the Batam facility of a main-board listed company in Singapore, wants nothing more than to spend his days at his orphanage, hoping to make a difference to the life of the kids there, not just with his money but more importantly, with his personal involvement and physical work.

His own children had grown up with professional careers of their own.

Now, let me share with you my short visit in 2013 and what I know of Mr. Chan's orphanage in Batam as accurately as I possibly can remember.

Mr. Chan, two of his friends and I visited the orphanage late afternoon one Saturday in 2013. It was my first visit to an orphanage and a day I'll remember for a long time.

About 20 kids, with ages ranging from 5 to 12 years old were at the gate, waving and screaming with joy as we arrived at the center.  

"Selemat Datang, Bapak Chan", they screamed and surrounded Mr Chan, who was beaming with the kind of joy, only man with a heart of gold can appreciate. Certainly not the same kind of emotion an MP felt when grassroots leaders and guests stand up and greet him/her out of protocol.

The orphanage, called "Panti Asuhan Yayasan Padmila" is about the size of a half a football field and sits in a center of vast vacant land about a mile from the popular "Batam Holiday Inn Resort" at Waterfront Ferry Terminal.

The premises is half-walled and manned with a security post at a single entrance. The housing is two rows of concrete, single-story building with insulation roofing, each row measuring about 100 x 20 meters, and a courtyard in between.

Inside the housings were two aircon classrooms, kitchen, dining rooms, toilets, bedrooms, and an office. All these facilities were built to modern standards like a hotel with piped water and electricity. And the cost.....nearly a two million US dollars.

Mr Chan established the orphanage 4 years ago in 2009 to provide a safe home for the orphan, abused, destitute, and abandoned children in and around Batam Island.

These children are given a stable and loving home where they are fed, clothed, cared for, and schooled. They are also given personal and professional development activities with the aim of bringing them up with a strong foundation for a happy and healthy life after leaving the orphanage at a mature age of about 18 years old.

Children at the orphanage are NOT allowed for adoption and their ages range between 5 to 15 years. As the orphanage does not have baby caring facilities, no babies are admitted.

Like most orphanage centers, all children are under close supervision for their own well begin and character development. Transports are provided to send children of school-going age to national schools and frequent excursions to local events and festivities for integration with local communities are arranged.

"Mr. Chan, how much does it cost annually to run your orphanage and why you do it,"  I asked while sipping tea at the dining room with him alone

"Around half a million dollars annually. It's difficult to answer your second question". He replied and after a short pause, he continued...

"Honestly, I'm a humble man and do not wish to propagate or exaggerate my work. I did it because this is something I think it's worthwhile doing and I can do it quite easily with what I have. Please don't ask me to speak more on this matter".

I salute this humble and unsung hero. Mr. Chan is truly a person who has the vision, the dedication, and the kind heart in doing whatever it is need to be done in and out of Batam.

He is helping those who are unable to help themselves by helping them to help themselves.

Mr. Chan is unaware that I'm secretly writing about him in this blog. I'm amazed and honored that he was willing to trust and befriend a lowly taxi driver like me to share a small part of his life.

The children in his orphanage are, without doubt, fortunate to be taken under Bapak Chan's wings.

It’s forever a work-in-progress and I’m secretly spreading the word about P.Y.P. Orphanage and hope that somehow, somewhere and someway, my friends and strangers could reach out to them and make our contribution in whatever small way we could.

"Mr. Chan, what are your view of the current society and government we have in Singapore in terms of charitable works" I pressed on with our conversation.

"Mr. James, I'm not a highly educated man. Therefore, I can't answer your question again. But I can say that society and government can be better if everyone (including the government) is willing to do a bit more, either in action or in cash than what they are doing right now".
My photo in 2016 with some orphans and the new building in the background.
Before I conclude this post, please let me share with you an update of the Batam orphanage facilities as when I last visited it 4 years ago in 2016 (i.e. 3 years after my first visit).

The orphanage had doubled in size to about 2 football fields and an increase in intake of about 100 young orphans. Some older orphans of above 18 years had left the orphanage to live and work on their own, usually with jobs recommended through Mr. Chua business connections.

A new three-story large concrete building, with 7 modern classrooms, a library, 2 IT facilities/rooms, an assembly hall, and 10 sleeping accommodations was erected next to the old building in 2014.

Behind the new building, a large plot of land is used as a farming area to cultivate and grow all kinds of vegetables and fruit trees. Adjacent to the vegetable farm is a large fish pond where local edible fish are reared.

I was told many orphans love to spend their extra-curriculum activities on the farm and fish pond. In a small way, they are self-sufficient in vegetables, fruits, and fish.

For older orphans who are more active and sport orientated, there is a modern basketball and badminton court adjacent to the new building for their recreation activities.

In conclusion, my parting prayers for this remarkable man, Mr. Chan, and all his benevolent friends who had contributed enormously to this orphanage in Batam, Indonesia......May God Always Bless You with Good Health and Long Life.


Tuesday, 26 May 2020

A Charitable Singaporean Millionaire (Part 1)

A photo of the orphanage taken on 8th Sept. 2013.


I always have a small notebook in my cab to note down particulars in case of an unfortunate traffic accident.

Occasionally, I used it to scribble brief details like a journal of an interesting character, any unforgettable encounter, or anecdotes that I might use later as my writing stock.

As it turned out, I accumulated a sizeable amount of materials in my worn-out journal enough to write a book but I don't think I ever do that as I prefer to pen them in this blog whenever I felt an urge or for whatever inexplicable reason.

Here is a heartwarming true story I wrote 7 years ago which I would like to share it with you again.

On a Tuesday morning many years ago, a call booking came in to pick someone at a Hillview Avenue condo.

Standing alone at the lobby was a skinny local Chinese man in his mid-sixties. He wore a white long sleeve shirt and beige colored pants, neatly ironed.

He looks ordinary and was smiling as I rolled into the lobby. Beside him were about ten cardboard boxes.

We had loaded the boxes in no time with him giving me a helping.

As he gingerly seated himself beside me, he politely told me in pure Teochew to send him to HarbourFront...ferry loading bay.

I guessed he must be a trader with business in Batam.

As I drove along, I asked him in Hokkien, "How is your business in Batam?".

His answer was an astonishing revelation of a sort.

"I don't have a business in Batam anymore"  he answered slowly.

And after a long pause and looking straight into my eyes like a psychiatrist carefully examining his patient, he eventually continued hesitantly, "I used to co-own and run the biggest shipyard in Batam. After we sold our shipyard to an Arabian company, I'm now semi-retired.

"What are those boxes for," I asked with tongue in cheek.

Again, with some reluctance, he answered, "Goodies for kids in Batam"

At that point, many questions floated in my mind. "Why is this rich man, who lived in a condo and once owned and run the biggest shipyard, is now sending goodies to children in Batam. If this delivery is not for business, then what?"

I was intrigued and wanted to know more but I reminded myself to be tactful with my queries as he wasn't much of a conversationalist and perhaps age had made him taciturn.

After much careful deliberation, I asked him respectfully "Are the goodies for poor children in Batam"

On hearing my resonating question, his sleepy eyes brighten up and he spontaneously answered:

"Yes, I run an orphanage in Batam for charity and these goodies are for "my kids" there. If you want to know more about my orphanage, you're welcome to join me on my next trip there this coming Saturday.

I was shocked at his impromptu kind offer. Can I believe what I just heard from a total stranger?.

He passed me his name card when we reached his destination.

The only way to find out is to accept his invitation and follow him to his orphanage in Batam,

Wow!, here we have, a true blue pioneer Singaporean who built his wealth through sheer hard work and is now contributing back to society albeit in Batam, in making a difference in the life of many orphaned kids there.

Why he did that,?

What kind of orphanage he runs in Batam,?

What kind of a person is this remarkable Singaporean who runs his orphanage out of his own pocket money?

What are his personal motivations and views of the kind of society and government we have in Singapore? And many more.......

I'll answer these questions in my next post and also share an update of the orphanage as it is today.


Friday, 22 May 2020

Taxi Drivers in COVID 19.

The plastic shield inside a taxi in Singapore

"Uncle, you're a frontline hero, like doctors and nurses" exclaimed my neighbor as we crossed path one morning on our way to the market.

"No lah. I drive to earn a living only and I'm temporarily not driving.". I replied politely.

Yes, I couldn't believe my ears that someone like him who seldom talks to me would suddenly call me a hero. How does he know I'm a taxi driver?. Has he been spying on me or do I have a typical taxi driver's face and demeanor?

I always suspect him to be the kind of person who loves to socialize with the officers from our neighborhood community centers run by Peoples Association and I saw him volunteered at our PAP MP office during MP meet the people session. Somehow, I dislike and avoid such charlatan characters. In the wartime days during the Japanese Occupation, such louts would be categorized as "running dogs".

Anyway, I gave him my due courtesy as a normal neighbor would.

On reflection, I think he compared me, a taxi driver, to those truly heroic nurses and doctors treating critically ill COVIC-19 patients fighting for their lives in ICU in sarcasm, typical of people who walk with their nose in the air with authoritative state connections.

In contrast, I applaud those kind souls, whom he compared me to as admirable people who place their lives at risk of infection while in close contact with highly infectious patients. They are like firefighters inside a burning building trying to rescue trapped survivors. I salute them wholeheartedly.

From my years of taxi driving experiences, I think taxi drivers have always been the scorn of the general public for being rude, unscrupulous, and ignominious people, just to mention a few.

Surprisingly, during this COVIC-19 pandemic, taxis drivers are ludicrously considered essential services personnel, contributing to the well being and health of the overall community.

Really?.

Like doctors and nurses, we're now recognized as frontline warriors ferrying infected passengers to quarantine centers and hospitals, with threats of contacting the coronavirus ourselves secondary to other considerations.

I have temporarily earned a recognition previously denied to me and my fellow goons. Overnight, I, the cockroach have become a scoring eagle.

Seriously, apart from this dubious transformation, the more tangible "benefits" a taxi driver gets during the current pandemic are:-

1. A reduction in taxi rental in March 2020 and free rental for two subsequent months with an extension possibility.

2. Under the Solidarity Budget, all self-employed people like property agents, home tutors, private sports coaches, and taxi drivers, automatically qualify for the Self-Employed Persons Income Relief Scheme (SIRS). The scheme will disburse three quarter cash payout of $3,000 - in May, July and October (total $9,000) to help such people to tide over the loss of income stemming from the COVIC-19 epidemic. Today, I received an sms from MOF informing me that I'll receive my SEF payout of $3,000 on 27thMay 2020. Hooray! 

3. In an un-precedential move, ComfortDelGro will install a plastic shield inside its taxi to minimize contact between cabbies and passengers, reducing the spread of CONVID-19. The unbreakable V-shield covers the driver's cabin entirely and also serves as an added protection against "violent passengers".

Frankly, I'm stunned that ComfortDelgro is empathetic to the welfare of its drivers. A few years back, to save cost they unscrupulously requested their taxi manufacturer to dispense with the need for safety airbags in its fleet of taxis.

Needless to say, I'm now thrilled to learn that they have taken measures to enhance the safety and welfare of its drivers and hope such measures are not spurious or temporary but permanent features of their corporate policies.

4. To address the delivery slots shortages due to heightened demand for home deliveries because more people are forced to stay at home, taxis are allowed to deliver food and groceries till the end of September 2020.. Nevertheless, there is frivolous public concern that it would affect traditional taxi service and contribute to traffic jams.

Participating taxi divers could supplement their income during this unusual hard time and also gain experience in home-delivery in case they wish to switch to this line in the future.

In conclusion, I'll grab all the benefits I'm entitled but I'm determined not to drive a cab again as my defective eyesight is a danger to not only to myself but other road users as well.

All lives are worth safeguarding though some might be a low-life with money always not enough.



Sunday, 17 May 2020

Circuit Breaker Anecdotes

An Electrical Circuit Breaker

I believe many of you are confined in your home and probably at your favorite monitor to work from home (WFH) or kill your time reading some interesting stories because of the "Circuit Breaker" rules during the current COVID 19 pandemic.

If it's the latter, we're in the same boat.

In this case, you may have heard or read some amusing anecdotes or extraordinary episodes of offenses committed in the last five months during the pandemic.

I would like to share with you some of the more unforgettable anecdotes and my derisive remarks on them.

My non-chronology of narratives went something like this:-

1. For the first time in Singapore, McDonald unprecedentedly suspended all their 130 outlets from April 9 until May 4 because seven of their employee were infected with COVID 19 virus.

McDonald employed more than 10,000 people in Singapore and serves more than 6 millions customer monthly.

Some disgruntled customers moaned that they are abruptly deprived of their "die-die must have" comfort food, have no ways to satisfy their 2 am hunger prang and screamed that whatever little normalcy they used to have is gone.

Therefore, when McDonald reopened their outlets after 23 days of suspension, queues at some outlets were ridiculously long of a few hundred meters with 1-meter social distancing in place.

Not only were there physical queues but also virtual queue online. Some patrons had to go through the virtual queue system before can they even get to the menu.

My remarks.

What's so good about McDonald fast foods and why are they so successful?. 

In my 73 years of eating, I had at the very most eaten McDonald's chicken nuggets three times and McDonald's burger twice. Definitely not the kind of food I crave for unlike my loti-prata, laksa or chai kuay teow

Yet, McDonald is the largest fast-food restaurant chain in the world with more than 37,000 locations in about 120 countries.

McDonald is so successful not because they created the best hamburger in the world but because they created the best business system - a brand and customers buy their brand not their food.  KFC, Nike, Starbucks, Levis, and many others are like McDonald.....an irresistible brand.

I'm Sovereign
2. An infamous Singaporean lady who proclaimed herself as a "sovereign" is now remanded in a mental hospital for medical certification that she's fit to stand trial for not wearing a mask and assaulting a 47 years old lady during the "Circuit Breaker".

Indeed, most Singaporean were puzzled at her as remark..."I'm sovereign. This is something people are not going to know what it is".

Well, it seems that the origin of "sovereign" followers originated in the USA in the 1970s and was mostly influenced by white-supremacist and anti-Semitic groups.

These believers professed that they're citizens of no country, no need to obey any law, can choose rules to obey and which ones to ignore.

My comments:

I can think of one true "sovereign" person here. She happens to be a top executive of our "Sovereign Fund" and she doesn't have to obey the rule in declaring her salary to anyone. Her salary is somehow a State Secret. Every law-abiding citizen has to declare their income or salary in their tax return but not this sovereign lady...she can choose to ignore the law...

3. As you know, in the span of just two months, 29 people were convicted for various offenses related to COVID-19 like breaching quarantine, stay at home notice, not wearing a mask, safe distancing, hurling vulgarities and harassing enforcement officers, operating a non-essential business, eating at a prohibited place and visiting/dining at a friend house.

Out of these 29 cases, I find two cases rather interesting involving the fairer sex and like to opine on them.

Beauty Saloon Lady

3a) The Massage Lady.

Mrs. Jin Yin, 55, a Chinese national, was convicted of operating a non-essential business and allowing a male customer into her saloon at Upper Cross Street for massage and masturbation for $150, during the "circuit breaker" period.

She cried hysterically in court and dropped to her knees to beg for mercy after the prosecution asked for $21,000 fine. She said she has only $3,000 left and a daughter in Beijing to raise

She also said that she committed the offense because of the debts she incurred after her mother contracted cancer.

The judge rejected her plea and adjourned the case to a pre-trial conference later this month.

She committed similar offenses previously,

On 10th. of June, she was convicted and fined $22,000.00. If she cannot pay the fine, she will have to serve eight weeks jail in lieu.

My Comments:

I guess a massage and stroking an organ would probably take no more than half an hour. 

At $150 for half an hour job, it's certainly a very profitable work almost like our PM's job who is paid  $376 an hour ($3.3million/365days/24hours).

The difference is she used her hands while our PM uses his brain but both are earning a living albeit in different ways.


The Gusty Auntie
3b). The Power "Auntie".

A senior auntie who simply refused to budge at eating her food (kuay teow) at a hawker center during C.B. period and was willing to pay a fine of $300 got her wish granted.

Initially, when the enforcement officers kindly reminded her that she'll be fined $300 for breaking the C.B. rule, she got agitated, banged the table and said defiantly in Hokkien:

 "It doesn't matter. I'm not afraid. You people are bullying me. My back ached when I've to walk home and my food will be cold than"

Eventually, her son came to pick her home.

My comments:

This auntie reminds me of a rich friend who always refused to place a parking coupon whenever he parked in the "coupon area". 

He loves to display his defiant and risk-taking nature at any opportunity. 

I'm sure this auntie is not as wealthy as my friend but I salute her fearless stand albeit misplaced.

But look, how many people is as gusty her. 

It's as simple as that.