Thursday, 25 June 2020

Singapore Government Under PAP.





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

Here is the story in my journal.

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 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. With no minimum wage policy, there is negative real wage growth over the last 15 years. For political reasons, PAP prefers paying wage subsidies instead of implementing a minimum wage scheme.

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

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

5. 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.

6. (3), (4) and (5) 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.

7. 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. 

8. 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.

9. 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?.

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

11. 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 and they do not have to serve any bonds.

12. 70% of Government scholars break their bond wasting taxpayers’ money.

13. Teachers leaving the profession as they felt overworked, overstressed, and underpaid.

14. 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 & sweep roads (not for exercise) to survive in this most expensive city-state in the world. 

15. 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.

16. GCT created a property bubble as part of its Asset Enhancement Scheme. In reality, after 99 yrs HDB flats have zero value.

17. CPF accounts depleted after paying for HDB flat.

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

19. AIM scandal proved PAP is vicious and evil.

20. MBT (Moh Bow Tan) threw insults in Parliament instead of answering questions on the AIM Scandal.

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 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 Defence Ministry while he is a Senior Minister of State there. 

24. Adverse accounting rating for PA 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. Lim “Zorro” Swee Say said “we (PAP) are deaf to all criticism”.

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. Hubris!.

27. PAP's population White Paper is flawed in many aspects. Its primary purpose is to boost GDP to enrich themselves as their 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 of dollars 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. POFMA is used arbitrarily to silence PAP critics.

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

39. Instead of answering questions on CPF, LHL prefers to sue a commoner for defamation.

40. Minister Edwin Tong's salary of $1.3 is not enough to feed his family and GCT agreed that Ministers are not paid enough. He 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. Ownself check Ownself. Ownself Pay Ownself. 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 voting PAP, elections after elections?. Why?

I'm a loyal Singaporean in my twilight years. I love Singapore and yet NOT vote PAP but a credible opposition candidate. I think my single vote matter and hope you share my view.

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. 

Sunday, 10 May 2020

COVID 19 in Singapore


COVID-19 has devastated the whole world with almost 4.9 million infected cases and 320,000 deaths since it started at Wuhan China in December 2019.

Singapore is not spared.

We have the highest infection rate in South East Asia with about 28,800 cases and 22 deaths, a relatively low death rate of mainly elderly people.

In the beginning of COVID-19 in December 2019, our MIW (Man-In-White) took a lackluster approach in tackling the deadly decease and declared with slogans like "Not so serious as SARS", "No need to wear masks unless unwell", "No Social Distancing", no nothing.

Basically, it was business as usual with minimal economic and social disruption.

But two months later in February 2020, the rates of community infection and death climbed vertically north with hundreds of daily infections and the emergence of many sporadic disease transmission clusters all over the island.

This drastic escalation of infections shocked the MIW.

They quickly altered their tactics and implemented the self-coined "Circuit-Breaker" ( Lockdown ) from 7th April 2020 for tentatively 30 days, to wait and see.

With this Circuit Breaker implementation, instantaneously
- non-essential businesses were closed,
- people were barred from leaving their home except for buying groceries,
- everybody must wear a mask when outside their home,
- all schools closed and students were forced to take e-learning at home.
- social distancing at operating business outlets and transport services were enforced,
- nobody is allowed to visit anybody except those staying in the same address.
- parents were barred from bringing their babies to their grand-parents for daycare,

The whole island was almost like under curfew.

Now, looking at the statistic of infection figures here, the most alarming fact is the horrendously high infections among low-wage migrant workers compared to local citizens and permanent residents.

Out of 22,500 infected persons in Singapore, almost 90% (20,250) were low-wage migrant workers.

The first four infected migrant workers were detected at a dormitory (S11 Dormitory at Seletar Lin), owned and operated by PA grassroots leader on March 30,2020.

Shockingly, from 4 cases it increases to 20,200 cases within 40 days (505 cases/day).

What caused such a rapid increase in infection among the migrant workers and also why such a wide disparity between locals and migrant workers?.

The simple reason is that these low-wage migrant workers were housed in densely packed quarters in close proximity.

Presently, there are about 323,000 low-wage migrant workers in Singapore, who take on jobs shunned by Singaporeans in industries such as construction, estate maintenance and manufacturing, thereby making it possible for Singaporean's PMET to hold their jobs.

We must appreciate and be grateful that these poorly paid migrant workers help build Singapore's prosperity and formed the base of our economy.

Instead, from day one, almost all migrant workers were housed in purpose-built dormitories, largely owned and operated by MIW lackeys who made hundreds of millions annually.

Generally, each room in the dormitory is packed with 10 - 12 workers like sardines and they had to share common cooking, eating, washing, and toilet facilities.

Common sense will tell you that with such packed living quarters, it takes only one infected person to easily spread the COVID 19 to the rest of the dormitory community of thousands.

These 40 over dormitories with over-crowded living quarters are like time bombs waiting to explode long before the first COVID case.



Yet, our Mr. Tan Juan Jin, former Manpower Minister has the guts to say "Conditions in dorms NOT the main reason for cluster" and stupidly compared the worker's dorm to overseas student dorm.

In the same breath, he says "Outbreaks likely due to a highly contagious virus and people living in close quarters".


What an idiot!.

To read more of his explanation on how a hair is split like what he said above, click here

No wonder he is demoted from a minister to be just a Speaker of Parliament.

Not long ago, he was a hot favorite to be our future Prime Minister. Thank God has eyes.

Now, let me curtailed my political musing and ranting at our 4G leaders.

Instead, let me share with you some of my personal experiences and how I manage my time during this tough circuit breaker period.

As you probably know, on April 7th the original set of safe distancing measures to bend the curve of increasing local transmission which was supposed to end May 4th, were extended to June 1st.

After I stopped driving a taxi in December 2019 ( before COVID 19), I spent most of my time staying at home, tending to my corridor garden, drawing, cooking, and sleeping more than necessary. The Stay At Home rule, therefore, doesn't really affect me.

I'm categorized as "vulnerable seniors" which by the way appears to be the "politically-correct" term Singapore is now adopting to replace the term "elderly".

I've been out of my house only on alternate days to buy groceries at Sheng Siong and Giant supermarkets just in front of my house, with a mask on.

My desktop computer is now my best buddy during most of my waking hours.

I surf the internet like a bee in a honeycomb, watching YouTube videos on how to cook simple food, magic shows, Simon Cowell's "Got Talent Show ", and also watched a handful of very good movies on Netflix like Viking, Money Heist, Homeland and Dirty Money (an episode on Najib Rasak).

I would love to read some novels or non-fiction books but my defective eyesight damaged by glaucoma makes reading torture with splitting headache.

As I depart from this post, may I share with you some meaningful advice from my acquaintance's blog at http://lohandbehold.com/

Quote:

"The Singapore Government has given everyone S$600/-. If being 600 bucks richer is important to you, then keep your money, if not, please consider offering a helping hand to our migrant workers by making a donation to MEANS (Migrants Emergency Assistant and Support) Community Impact Fund. Please click  here

Many migrant workers communicate with their loved ones back home using text messages. If you want to make a small donation to top-up their SIM Card, please click here

"When God blesses you financially, don't raise your standard of living only. Also, raise your standard of giving".

"If you're more fortunate than others, build a longer dining table, not a taller fence"

These will remain as nice saying unless you actually do something about them.






Wednesday, 6 May 2020

End of the Road...Driving A Cab.

Pencil Portraits of my Childhood Friends.

I don’t know if anyone still reads this blog…and I’m sure some people are peeved off as I have been silence for almost one year without explanation whatsoever.

Some might guess that I had kicked the bucket or had dementia, Covid 19 or whatever.

I understand that it’s a reasonable assumptions as I’m in my twilight years at 73 and life, as you know, is unpredictable.

But, thanks God, I’m still kicking and much alive, spared from tragic misfortune.

I guess while I’m here, I give a brief update of myself.

If you’re here reading this, you’re aware I don’t really write this blog anymore.

There are a lot of reasons.

The main reasons why I’ve been hesitant to post here lately is because I’m getting lazier as I get older and is planning to retire from all stressful work and activities as much as possible.

I certainly don’t want to disappoint anybody, especially my followers but I’ve to say frankly, if blogging paid my bills, I’ll probably do a lot more.

You may say I’m selfish but as you know, I live in the most expensive place in the world….Singapore.

Writing this blog has indeed given me much satisfaction but the truth is, for the past one year, the money I got from past traffic accident claims, CPF Life payments, allowances from my filial children and supplementary income from infrequent cab driving, are what’s helping me to get by.

Sadly, my health, specifically my eyesight is declining rapidly.

Last year, I had two near fatal traffic accidents.

In the first accident, a fully loaded trailer crushed into the rear of my taxi and sent my taxi crushing at the gentry’s barrier of an industrial car park.

Fortunately, I was belted and did not suffer any serious injuries except a hairline fracture at my elbow and knee.

The offending driver explained that his trailer had faulty brakes.

In the second incident in mid-2019, I almost killed a young student at a zebra crossing.

My right eye did not catch him crossing the zebra crossing and he avoided my cab by a mere inch as I cruised past him.

Had he walked a step more, I would have knocked him down with unimaginable injuries or death.

From this near fatal incident mainly because of my defective eyesight, I knew I had to stop driving but I need a supplementary income in expensive Singapore.

So, I drove sporadically for only one to two days a week till December 2019.

Then COVID 19 arrived in January 2020.

Thereafter, I stopped driving completely and planned to return my normal and taxi vocational license at the end of this year.

I'm now in semi-retirement.

I kept myself occupied with cooking, drawing, tending to my corridor garden and sleeping longer than necessary.

Maybe I’ll start a home based business like selling home cooked food or pencil portrait drawing to earn a small income. God Willing..

I would truly appreciate any suggestion.

Thank you.

My Corridor Garden in a HDB Apartment.


Sunday, 24 February 2019

Camera In Cabs...Good or Bad?


When you drive a cab, you never know who will show up as your next rider.  It’s like running a hawker food stall. A customer appears in front of you, places the order, sometimes you chat with him/her for a while, then he/she exits and the next one appears in a minute or from the "Q".  It’s quite a fascinating human setting, especially in a busy city like Singapore where influential-executives frequently moves around conveniently in cabs.

Recently, I  picked up a forty-something years old passenger at LTA in Sin Ming Drive. My immediate thought was this guy could be an officer at LTA considering the meticulous way he was attired, with long sleeve white shirt, dark pants, and spectacle.

Along the ride, he made a perplexing statement to me and this statement, considering who he was, has kept me thinking about its meaning ever since.

This story is currently one of the most viral stories in social media, the press and radio talk shows. I’ve never written about it until now. And I do so now because I have got the privilege of hearing the view of the third party, who has the authority to press charges in a court of law against the other parties involved. I feel a need to share this information.

I guess by now you would know that I'm referring to the Facebook video of the "Go-Jek driver's dispute with a female rider who accuses him of kidnapping her".


My passenger was an Indian man who I estimated to be in his ‘40s.  I remember thinking that when I was a young man in the sixties, all important people in the Government services are either Indian or Malays especially in the Police Force. I had great respect and fear them because they were the law in the turbulent sixties in Singapore.

Honestly, I don’t recall how I got into a conversation with him, but somehow the following commentary emerged: he told me he is one of the investigating officers in the case and may charge the driver.

Knowing that I had a rare opportunity here, I tried to make the most of it in the limited time we would be together.  I know I asked him several questions which he was glad to answer, but there is only one thing I specifically remember asking his opinion about, something I’d already had some attention on for a few years. As a matter of fact, I've written a blog post on it " In-Camera - Good or Bad"

And that was this:  "Why is LTA reluctant to allow installation and full recording of video facing inward inside cabs".

It seemed to me that people are now very concerned about invasion of privacy than before. You see articles in the papers, magazines or hear people talking about it often.

When I was growing up in the late ‘50s and throughout the ‘60s, we were worried about our next meal or where to get a proper job. Who cares about who is looking at what or what was going around us.  I don’t know when this change occurred, but I supposed it was a gradual thing that may have started when people get more comfortable with a filled stomach — I don’t know.

I remember one specific incident which occurred during my secondary school days that was a pure invasion of a person's privacy. A pretty classmate whom I had a liking left her dairy on her chair after school. I took the liberty to read her diary and secretly returned to her desk without her knowledge.
That was bad but no harm was done to her. Her ignorance was bliss.

So I brought this up with my Indian passenger.  I asked him if cameras are allowed to record a person collecting his mails at a letterbox, traveling in a bus, trains, crossing traffic junctions, inside a bank, Government offices and in fact in most common areas, why NOT inside a cab?. Why the space inside a cab is different?  Are people in general only concerned about the invasion of privacy inside a cab and not at other places?

He thought about it for a moment and then he added this comment, and these were his exact words:

“When a person pays for the bills, they felt an entitlement. As a regulator, we look at it from all perspectives and comes to compromising solution for all”

I don’t remember if I asked him what he meant by that.  I don’t think I did, actually, maybe because we were at the end of the ride.

Anyway, what have I got to say about the episode of the Go-Jek driver and rider?.

Both parties made forgivable mistakes. Therefore, I avoid passing judgments.

Latest Update on 6th June 2019.

SINGAPORE — The results of an online poll by national feedback and engagement unit REACH will be taken into consideration when authorities review regulations on In-Vehicle Recording Devices (IVRDs) in the coming months.
In a Facebook post on Thursday (6 June), Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary noted that REACH’s poll found that about two out of three respondents (64 per cent) supported the use of IVRDs to protect the interests of drivers and commuters.
The poll surveyed 1,000 Singapore residents aged 15 and above from 15 to 22 March.
“Most respondents felt that IVRDs can help protect both drivers and commuters,” added Dr Puthucheary. “Among respondents who supported the use of IVRDs, majority also felt that IVRDs should have both video and audio recordings to help with enforcement against inappropriate or violent behaviour.”
In a media release on the same day, REACH said that 89 per cent of the respondents in the online poll felt that IVRDs can help protect drivers or commuters from inappropriate or violent behaviour.

Info: REACH
Info: REACH

Currently, taxis, private-hire cars and limousines can install IVRDs to protect the interests of drivers and commuters, provided they meet Land Transport Authority (LTA) guidelines. These devices are to be installed only at LTA-authorised installation centres.
Las month, LTA announced its new guidelines on IVRD installation, in a bid to tackle fare evasion and abuse of drivers.
Under the new rules, the IVRDs can only capture video footage without audio, so passengers' conversations are not recorded.
The guidelines will kick in on 22 June.

More UPDATES>>>

SINGAPORE: Public service vehicles like taxis and private-hire cars can have inward-facing in-vehicle recording devices from Jun 22 after a new set of guidelines laid out by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) comes into effect.
In a news release on Tuesday (May 22), LTA said that these guidelines aim to "protect commuter safety" and also protect the driver from cases of fare evasion.
However, these devices cannot record audio so that commuters' conversations are not recorded, said LTA.

 
Installations of inward-facing in-vehicle recording devices must be done at LTA-authorised installation centres, said the transport authority. These centres have to adhere to key requirements prescribed by LTA.
These include:
  • Installing the devices in a way that prevents unauthorised access to the stored data
  • The devices must be in a fixed position and cannot be rotated
  • Footage captured by the devices must clearly indicate a date and time stamp, as well as the vehicle’s licence plate number to facilitate investigations in the event of misuse of the footage
Vehicle owners must also carry out periodic checks to ensure that the devices have not been tampered with. They must also obtain the written permission of the Registrar before installing the cameras.
LTA also added that while the footage can be accessed by government agencies and LTA-authorised data controllers for investigations, stringent guidelines will be put in place to ensure that only authorised personnel have access to the footage.
If drivers are found not following these guidelines, they may face a fine up to S$1,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or both upon conviction.
Subsequent offenders may face a fine up to S$2,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or both upon conviction.
For taxi and private hire car drivers, they may also receive 21 demerit points. Private hire bus drivers may have their vocational licenses revoked entirely.