31 August 2005

Ethics for Tomorrow

Seems like the blog aggregator known as Tomorrow is in a little bit of controversy again. This time Tomorrow is being criticised for linking to people's blogs without their permission. You can read about it from Murder Freak, who also supplies various relevant links on the topic.

There have been a number of recent episodes where Tomorrow linked without permission to blogs whose owners, for various personal reasons, strongly desired privacy. For example, there was a young female blogger whose boyfriend had jilted her and left her with an unwanted pregnancy. Tomorrow linked to her blog and drew a huge amount of unwanted publicity to her personal life. She was left feeling distraught and upset, in emotional tatters.

The Tomorrow editors have now officially stated their hyperlinking policy. Agagooga wrote:
"We have observed some flak in various quarters of the blogosphere about our policy of not asking for permission before linking people's blog posts ....

The default position on the web is that you do not need someone's permission to link to them, and in the absence of other signs, this is the position we take. We don't expect everyone who does not wish to be linked by us to put up one of those the "Tomorrow i'm not free lah!!" buttons.

However, we visit each and every blog post submitted to Tomorrow before we publish it, and if the blog has a specific "please ask for permission before you link" notice in the sidebar, we will not link it, even if it lacks password protection or the aforementioned buttons; if there is no disclaimer or notice, we will have no qualms about linking the post.

The reasons for this policy are simple. If we were to ask for permission from each and every author, not everyone would respond promptly, if indeed they bothered to respond to our queries at all. As a result, the quantity and quality of blog posts on Tomorrow.sg would plummet precipitously. More importantly, linking is the lifeblood not only of blogging, but of the Internet itself - if permission had to be sought for each and every link, the World Wide Web would not exist in a recognisable form, if at all."

At one level, Mr Wang agrees with Tomorrow's position, for the reasons that Agagooga has stated. Mr Wang himself regularly links to other bloggers' posts without seeking their permission. Although "Did Mr Wang Say So?" is on a much smaller scale than Tomorrow, the same principles ought to apply.

On the other hand, Mr Wang uses his brain when choosing his hyperlinks. And Mr Wang considers it inappropriate for Tomorrow to take an overly cavalier approach to this task. It is one thing to say, "Oh, YOU put your personal story on the Internet yourself, don't blame US for publicising it." This kind of excuse, while not entirely invalid, is a poor excuse for the Tomorrow editors to display bad editorial taste, to make bad editorial choices and to be lousy human beings.

Tomorrow (or any other blog) is perfectly free to act as a screaming tabloid if it wants to. It doesn't necessarily follow that it is a good thing for Tomorrow (or any other blog) to act as a screaming tabloid. And the fact that people didn't stick "Respect My Privacy" banners or buttons all over their own blogs doesn't mean that a Tomorrow editor can't exercise some good judgment on his own accord to do what's right.

Allow Mr Wang to give a simple example. Mr Wang knows of a blog run by a divorced woman (let's call her X). According to X's own account, her ex-husband had been unfaithful and promiscuous. X's blog contains many details of the man's sexual misbehaviour. Although X is now divorced, she continues to live in fear of the possibility that she may already have contracted AIDS or some other sexually-transmitted disease from her ex-husband.

Not too long ago, following the publication of a certain Straits Times article, Mr Wang wrote a post about AIDS. This post concerned AIDS risk factors for married people (as opposed to sexually active singles). It focused on the possibility of one spouse being unfaithful, thereby exposing the other spouse to the risk of AIDS. X's personal account would have been very relevant to Mr Wang's post, and Mr Wang briefly considered hyperlinking her blog. Indeed, X's dramatic example would have added an important extra dimension to Mr Wang's comments on a health matter of public interest and concern.

However, Mr Wang almost immediately dismissed the hyperlinking idea. Mr Wang felt that it would not be right to intrude in this way into X's blog. The issues touched on a clearly private and sensitive area of X's life and her blog had the "personal diary" feel. As human beings, we ought to have some basic respect for other human beings' privacy, and on this basis, Mr Wang decided not to hyperlink to X's blog.

There are blogs, there are blogs, and then there are blogs. There are some posts which you know you can link to without hurting anyone's feelings or causing anyone to feel invaded. Then there are other kinds of posts, concerning private aspects of people's lives, to which you know you should not draw publicity, if you were a fair, decent human being. And no, it does NOT matter that these people were not Internet-savvy enough to use password protection, or to understand the risks and use a paper diary instead etc.

Mr Wang looks at Agagooga's comments above. Regrettably, Mr Wang does not see any sign, any trace at all, that Agagooga shares Mr Wang's views on the desirability of people voluntarily respecting each other's privacy. Cowboy Caleb, another Tomorrow editor, is even more disappointing. Look out, folks. Nothing much is sacred any more.

The late Princess Diana.
Just as well she didn't live to see Tomorrow.

30 August 2005

Death And Other Stories

SINGAPORE : Took Leng How has been sentenced to death after being found guilty for the murder of eight-year old girl, Huang Na, in October last year.

The verdict on the 22-year-old vegetable packer was handed out by Judge Lai Kew Chai at the Supreme Court on Friday.
Reading out his verdict, the judge said: "Based on the evaluation of the evidence, in particular the conflicting medical evidence, the defence has failed to prove...that the accused was suffering from schizophrenia, or indeed mental disorder of any kind."

In his statement of nearly 30 pages, Justice Lai Kew Chai pointed out that the forensic evidence not only supported the prosecution's case but also that Took had admitted to sexually assaulting Huang Na, smothering her to death with his bare hands. He therefore found the accused guilty as charged and imposed the mandatory death penalty - by hanging.

So yet another high-profile capital case draws to an end. And the end is as Mr Wang had predicted more than a month ago. Unlike the case of Shanmugam Murugesu, however, no one seems to be calling for Took to be saved from the gallows.

It is quite possible that some Shanmugam sympathisers can nevertheless logically choose not to sympathise with Took. For example, some Shanmugam sympathisers may take the position that the death sentence is inappropriate for drug trafficking, but appropriate for murderers. Thus they can logically and honestly say that in their view, Shanmugam should not have been hanged, but that Took should.

However, other Shanmugam sympathisers supported Shanumgam on the basis that capital punishment is intrinsically objectionable, whatever the offence is (and this position would be fully consistent with that of, say, Amnesty International). Logically speaking, this category of Shanmugam sympathisers should oppose Took being sentenced to death.

These persons should now come forward and express their shock or distress at the court's decision. They should now be busy signing petitions asking the President to grant Took clemency. And when Took is finally hanged, they should light candles, keep public vigils, say prayers and weep tears of grief and anguish.

Should they not?

I could be wrong. But somehow I don't think that is going to happen. Murderers of 8-year-old children just don't get that kind of public sympathy.

Suppose you were one of those people who had followed Shanmugam's case closely. You had then concluded that capital punishment was simply, utterly wrong - that the death sentence should be completely abolished. How do you feel now about Took's death sentence? You might be feeling differently.

And if you do - well, what can we conclude from this?

Most likely, that you had let your emotions fool you during Shan's case. All those sad stories and pictures in the media, about his poor mother and his poor children kneeling in the streets etc. Yes, it was really tragic. And you let those tragic elements lead you into thinking in a certain way about the death sentence. A way which you now .... reject?

Don't forget that Took has a mother too. And a wife, and a two-year-old son. Why aren't you supporting him? Where do you really stand, on capital punishment?

"Everyone has a mother. Even me."

29 August 2005

Mr Wang Just Keeps Popping Up Everywhere!

This time, it's the Global Voices Online website of Harvard Law School that has referred to Mr Wang's views on Singapore's presidential issues. On further investigation, it appears that Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi contributed that little post about Mr Wang.

In case you didn't already know, Jeff Ooi is the editor of Screenshots, which won this year's Freedom Blog Award for the Asian region (beating, among other nominees, Singabloodypore). The Freedom Blog Awards are organised by Reporters Without Borders, an international non-governmental organisation committed to promoting freedom of expression.

"Even Mr Wang made it to Global Voices Online!
Why are you still laughing at my singing?"

The Professors Are Watching Me

Sometimes Mr Wang suspects that his funny pictures ought to disqualify his blog from being taken too seriously. Apparently not. As mentioned earlier, the US Library of Congress has listed Mr Wang as an electronic resource on politics in Singapore. And now Mr Wang sees that the Singapore Internet Research Centre at Nanyang Technological University has also taken note of his existence:
"In the US especially, blogs have actively been used for political purposes. For example, Garett Graff was probably the first blogger to be given a daily White House pass based on his blogging of Washington news media.

Singaporean bloggers tend to focus more on personal and daily issues. Some of the more popular local blogs include Sandralicious and Xiaxue. However, there are a few which are dedicated to topics related to travel, culture, language and technology such as Commentary Singapore and Singapore Ink. This in itself is an issue that seems to be widely discussed within the Singapore blogging community."
Commentary Singapore was, of course, this blog's previous name. Strangely, I am described as being dedicated to topics related to "travel, culture, language and technology." Looking at my past 20 posts or so, I can hardly see any post focusing on such topics. I would think that a more accurate description would be to say that this blog focuses on "politics, law, media and civil rights."

"Look, Mr Wang, if I can wear a loincloth in public and still
become the Governor of California, I don't see why
your blog shouldn't be taken seriously."

28 August 2005

On Values and Rainy Days

Mr Wang has just read this article from Channel News Asia. Why, it's almost as annoying as the Straits Times.
What has a heavy downpour at the National Day Parade in 1968 got to do with Singapore's success story?

In his National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who himself took part in the parade that year, recalled that even though everyone was drenched and cold, nobody broke ranks.

It was a people determined to succeed and spoke volumes of the spirit and resolve that bond them together in difficult times.

I'm going to excuse PM Lee for these platitudes. It -was- his National Day speech, after all. So he needed to inject a double dose of the the feel-good factor.

PM Lee's Plan B for injecting the feel-good factor was
vetoed by his more-politically-experienced dad.

I just want to point out that back in the 60s and 70s, the kampung kids always loved to play soccer in the pouring rain and get themselves all muddy. Kids these days just don't do things like that any more. I don't think this necessarily shows that the kampung kids were more determined to succeed in life and had more spirit and resolve.

Also, I think that if a parade took place today and it began to pour, no sensible NSman in the parade is going to walk off and get an umbrella either. Who would want to risk being charged for a military offence and possibly being thrown into detention barracks?
Just before the parade started, it began to pour.

But Colonel John Morris, the parade second-in-command recalled, there was no fidgeting on the parade square at the Padang.

He said: ".....it was raining cats and dogs, but because the decision was to carry on, we stood firm. Nobody fainted, as far as the army contingents were concerned."

Duh! What a silly comment. Of course no one fainted. No one ever faints in a parade on a rainy day. Everyone who's ever done NS knows that fainting happens on hot, sunny days. Fainting is due to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Not to getting wet in the rain. A heavy downpour is the best assurance that no one is going to faint during a parade.

"Yes, I am feeling fully conscious. And annoyed."

Asked for his views, the Minister Mentor felt the 1968 generation seemed more rugged than today's and that's because of the progress, material comfort and the way children are being brought up.

MM Lee said: "You look at the covered walkways. You look at the MRT, the LRT and you cast your mind back to our children going to school wet with umbrellas. So, it's a different milieu. It's a problem that all societies face once they have reached a certain level of physical comfort."
I found the above comment somewhat offensive. The comparison is also grossly simplistic. It simply fails to take into account how much society has changed between then and now. One could just as well say:

"Oh, children in the old days were such total wimps! They took only 5 O-level subjects and struggled to pass. School was only half-day! These days, children take nine or ten O-level subjects and are expected to aim for nothing less than straight A's! On top of that, they have to do compulsory CCA! Their school day lasts from 7 am to 7 pm, and then they go home and study till midnight! Young Singaporeans today definitely show a lot more determination, focus and discipline than the older Singaporeans did."
So what will it take to see Singapore through the next forty years?

MM Lee said: "It depends on how you bring up your children. If you bring up your children the way that your father brought you up with that same resolve, the same set of values, honesty, hard work, not trying to skive off people, I think, there is no reason why we can't make it".

But it is with respect to the above quote that Mr Wang really wants to say something. MM Lee suggests that there is something superior about the values that older Singaporeans have, and that we urgently need to imbue young Singaporeans with those same values. However, Mr Wang is VERY suspicious of this kind of thinking.

You see, Mr Wang does not believe that old is necessarily better. Mr Wang believes that while one particular set of values may have served society well in the past, that set of values may not necessarily serve society well in the future. Society is a complex thing, always evolving, and Mr Wang believes that the most successful societies are those where values have successfully changed with the changing times as well.

"Yes, I should've gone warm-blooded
and taken up subsistence farming."

For instance, MM Lee talks about the importance of hard work. While diligence is still a virtue today, I think we should not regard it in quite the same hallowed light as the older generation used to. The older folks came from a generation where the phrase "working smart" did not exist yet. They operated in times where much more depended on manual labour rather than skills or creativity. They worked primarily to earn money and survive, and while that remains critical today, many young Singaporeans also rightly aspire to a career which they find genuinely interesting, fulfilling and meaningful.

So diligence remains important, yes, but the equation has grown more complex, and if you look in the Classifieds today, you will hardly find an ad where the employer says he wants a "diligent" or "hardworking" person. In terms of personal attributes, it is much more likely that the ad will mention requirements such as "strong interpersonal skills"; "able to work independently"; "dynamic personality"; "creative problem-solving" etc. More than MM Lee's words, these ads reflect what your children really need to be, in order to survive tomorrow.

MM Lee says that you should strive to bring up your own children the way your father brought you up. Mr Wang warns you that the world has changed. The old formulae, applied without adaptation, are an almost-certain route to disaster. For your children's sake, look to the future - now - and break free from the patterns of the past.

Don't do this to your daughter, ok?
It's just not fashionable any more.

Further reading:

What does this cute kitten have to say about the whole episode? Click here to find out. See also Merv's take on the matter. Izydata has some thoughts to share too.

25 August 2005

Save Your Own Life. Go to Malaysia.

The blogger known as chlim01 has put together a post citing various anecdotal sources that dialysis treatment in Malaysia is much cheaper than in Singapore, and is quite available to Singaporeans. His post attracted the following comment from a reader, who confirmed this situation. That reader wrote:

"My mother is alive today thanks to affordable dialysis treatment in Malaysia.

Our family income was $3200 when my mother came down with kidney failure. The NKF wanted to charge us $2400 per month. That would have left my family of 5 with $800 to survive. I was the eldest in the family and was in Poly at that time. I consider quitting school to help my family. We even go to our MP for help, he simply told us that the govt policy is for us to be self reliant and our family income is "not low" so the govt cannot help us.

I was on the verge of quitting school when a Malaysian relative who heard about our plight help us to source for life saving treatment in Malaysia. The total cost was less than $700 per month. My relative allow my mother to stay at her home in Malaysia to get treatment. She helps out at a hawker stall over there.

Thanks to the cost effective treatment in Malaysia my mother is alive today."
The ever-entrepreneurial and creative Mr Wang thinks that there is a potential business idea here. Singapore bus companies can diversify into Malaysian health tourism, arranging for Singaporean kidney patients to get treatment in Malaysia and also providing regular transport direct from Singapore to the relevant Malaysian medical centre, and back again.

Sidenote: Mr Wang also has an old post citing an ST article stating that fertility treatment is not only much cheaper in Malaysia, but also achieves much higher success rates.

"Malaysia so cheap meh? I also want to go."

24 August 2005

Thinking About Tomorrow

For some time I have had a certain impression about Tomorrow and today at 6:05 pm, I decided to do a random check to see how accurate my impression really is. I checked the 20 most recent Tomorrow posts (essentially, everything that appeared on the first page) to see who had submitted them. I found that nine out of the 20 posts came from the same two persons, Lancerlord and Cowboy Caleb.

We don't need to get overly mathematical about this. But my point is that Tomorrow probably hasn't turned out quite the way its editors originally envisaged. It was supposed to be a public bulletin where absolutely anyone and everyone could and would submit content for the editors' consideration (and as long as any two editors out of 10 approved the content, it would be published). Because anyone and everyone could and would submit content, Tomorrow would truly, in the words of its own editors, "highlight the diversity of the Singapore blogosphere".

The reality is that just two persons put forth a significant percentage of Tomorrow's content. Tomorrow is therefore heavily influenced by the preferences and tastes of these two individuals, and their ideas of what is interesting or not interesting. It is very difficult to say that Tomorrow can really "highlight the diversity of the Singapore blogosphere" when just two persons propose so much of its content.

Of course, before Cowboy Caleb starts hopping up and down and misdirecting his angst and annoyance at me again, I hasten to add that this state of affairs is certainly not Cowboy Caleb's fault nor Lancerlord's. The two of them never stopped other bloggers or blogders from submitting more.

"This time ... I ... must control ... myself ... and ... NOT ... hop."

Three Cheers for SCORE!

ST Aug 24, 2005
24-hour call centre - behind bars

By Tanya Fong
IT'S the prison that never sleeps.

Female inmates at the Changi Prison Complex are working as phone operators and telemarketers in a 24-hour call-centre. They answer queries on everything from mobile prepaid phone cards to how to work a consumer product.

The 38 women turn up for 'work' in rotating 12-hour shifts. The call centre is housed in an office about the size of a basketball court.

They may not be able to take tea breaks whenever they like, but judging from their enthusiasm as they pick up calls, these workers enjoy their jobs.

Aris, a 32-year-old inmate serving a six-year term for cheating, loves every minute of it.

'I was a workaholic before, and not having anything to do in jail made me feel down,' said the university graduate. 'Being in this programme helped me to be myself once again because I feel useful.'

The high-tech call centre was set up last December at the Changi Women's Prison and Drug Rehabilitation Centre.

It is the latest project initiated by the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score) to create work for inmates and to rehabilitate them while they serve their sentences. Score's first project was a 24-hour laundromat in the Changi Prison Complex, the largest in South-east Asia. It was rolled out last year.

Fifteen of the inmates handle outgoing telemarketing calls, while the rest handle incoming calls. All calls are controlled by the phone and computer systems.


Connect Centre's business operations manager, Miss Elena Lim, said: 'We run this place exactly like a commercial call centre - the difference is that we are doing it behind bars.'

Businesses need some convincing before they sign up as call centre clients. 'When we make cold calls to potential clients, they sound apprehensive,' said Miss Lim. 'But when we take them inside the centre, they end up coming out impressed.'

The reason: The women receive training of a similar standard afforded to people working on the outside. They are trained to project their voices, enunciate their words and handle difficult customers.

As a former Deputy Public Prosecutor, I used to deal with criminals on a daily basis. I have a fairly good idea of how devastating a past criminal conviction can be, for a person endeavouring to rebuild a proper life from scratch. The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE) therefore always has a fond spot in my heart because I think they do excellent and very important work to rehabilitate ex-convicts and reintegrate them into society.

When I was a DPP, my peers and supervisors sometimes criticised as being overly compassionate. "Soft" was the word. I think they generally misread me. Mr Wang is not a particularly compassionate person, except perhaps to little children and stray cats. Mr Wang, however, is highly utilitarian, future-oriented and big-picture in his thinking (all classic INTJ traits). These traits very much shape Mr Wang's perspective on criminal legal issues relating to ex-convicts.

A young man commits robbery, is arrested, charged, prosecuted and sent to jail for the next seven years. Case closed? No. Seven years will pass. One day, he will be released. He does not simply vanish into a hole in the ground and disappear forever. And without help and support, chances are that the same factors which originally drove him into criminal activity will continue to mess up his life and prevent him from being a normal, useful, productive citizen. He may continue to exist in his economically useless state for all the remaining decades of his natural life. Worse, he may be compelled to return to a life of crime.

"I need help, I tell you! I need counselling!"

It's therefore very much in the interests of society to put serious effort into rehabilitating and reintegrating its ex-convicts. In Singapore, this is even more compelling because we are so aggressive and efficient in prosecuting people even for relatively minor offences. I've previously come across a study suggesting that on a per capita basis, Singapore probably has more ex-convicts than any other country in the world.

Mr Wang also feels that society (and especially its prospective employers) often makes the grave error of tarring all ex-convicts with the same brush. The truth is that all criminals are human beings, and being human beings, they come in numerous different versions. Each of them only has particular weaknesses and tendencies, but none of them will be "high-risk" in all ways.

"I swear to God that I would
never think of molesting a woman."

For example, if a man had previously molested children, it would be foolish to employ him as a nursery school teacher. And if a woman had previously cheated money, it would be unwise to employ her as a finance officer. On the other hand, the ex-child molester may well make a good finance officer, and the ex-cheat may well make a good nursery school teacher.

Thus it is not a good reason to reject an ex-convict for a potential job solely because of his past conviction. One should consider the nature of the crime committed, and whether that kind of crime raises any bona fide concern that the ex-convict is inappropriate for that particular job.

In the above ST article, Aris is said to be serving a six-year sentence for cheating. She is now working from prison as a call centre personnel. A prospective future employer such as a bank may arguably have a legitimate concern about hiring her to handle calls from credit card customers (since Aris would have access to credit card numbers). However, her cheating conviction should not bar Aris from performing other types of call centre functions, for example, dealing with customers' queries about how to operate a consumer product.

Mr Wang applauds SCORE's good work and wishes them every success.

23 August 2005

Mr Wang is Back! Miss Me?

Obviously not. Mr Wang sees 37 comments on his preceding post! So this is what happens when he takes the wife and kids away for a long weekend. All his readers, fans and detractors alike, show up at his blog and throw a big party without him!

While the cat's away ...


Dr Thio Li-Ann had written an article on the Elected Presidency, which differed sharply from Tan Sai Siong's take on the matter. Akikonomu invited Mr Wang to comment on Dr Thio's article, but Mr Wang shall decline. This is because Mr Wang generally agrees with Dr Thio's article and has little else to add.

In fact, Mr Wang would have been able to guess beforehand what Dr Thio thought about all these presidential issues. You see, years ago, as a law student, Mr Wang had to study Dr Thio's academic writings on the EP. They formed a compulsory part of the syllabus at the NUS Law Faculty. Thus Mr Wang is well-acquainted with Dr Thio's views on the EP.

(Mr Wang was also in Dr Thio's tutorial group for Public International Law. But that's another story).

Dr Thio is quite an authority on the EP subject. Back when Parliament was trying to figure out how to create the EP, the Singapore government actually consulted her (and Professor Walter Woon) for their views. Thus Dr Thio was privy to all the inner workings and deeply engaged in the thinking behind the process. The flaws exposed by the 2005 Presidential Non-Elections were all potential problems that Dr Tjio and Prof Woon noted 15 years ago. Dr Thio knows very well what the EP is all about, and where its strengths and weaknesses lie.

Between Dr Thio and Tan Sai Siong, I have no doubt at all who is better-qualified to provide an informed, intelligent view on the Elected Presidency. Of course, dear readers, feel free to judge for yourself.

KS writes:
"For example, I do not agree with you either on such statements as "I do not consider SR Nathan to have been a candidate.". Mr Nathan, with all due respect to him, was a candidate!"
Mr Wang thinks this all boils down to your understanding of the word candidate. Mr Wang has already explained his own understanding.

It is essentially a wife-&-mother situation. You can choose your wife; therefore you can have candidates. But you cannot choose your mother; there is no choice; therefore there is no candidate. You cannot choose the President either; there is no choice; therefore there is no candidate to speak of, either.

KS goes on to write angrily:
Whatever "non-legitimacy claims" that most people have written about are the results NOT of Mr Nathan's actions for putting himself forward for re-election. There is nothing wrong with Mr Nathan wanting to be the President of Singapore again!
I agree. Did anything in my post suggest otherwise? SR Nathan is not to be blamed for this sorry state of affairs.

Several anonymous commentators criticised Mr Wang's unkindness to Tan Sai Siong. Mr Wang does not think he was particularly unkind. In a country like Singapore where serious competition does not exist among the media organisations, it is extremely important to hold our journalists to high standards. Otherwise this small group of writers may infect the Singapore public with erroneous ideas and flawed thinking. Unfortunately, the Straits Times disappoints Mr Wang far more often than not. See here, here and here for examples.

Notice that Mr Wang always keeps within the boundaries of fair comment. Every time Mr Wang is displeased, he does not simply say, "This journalist is lousy" or "That article is so stupid". No, that is not Mr Wang's style at all. Mr Wang always plonks down specific, detailed reasons to explain why this particular journalist is lousy or that particular article is stupid. The industrious Mr Wang will cite specific paragraphs, pick apart the reasoning, provide counter-examples and so on.

TSS might even feel flattered that Mr Wang bothered to read her article so thoroughly. Others would just dismiss her article and move on.

Mr Wang scrutinising a fishy situation.

Unlike ST journalists, Mr Wang has a Comments section on his blog where readers are always free to say why they disagree with Mr Wang's thoughts. Even anonymous comments are welcome. Mr Wang is not like the Singapore government and as he has said before, he welcomes critics and detractors.

Don't try this in Singapore, ok?
The police will say that you're a public nuisance

Regrettably, Mr Wang's critics largely refused or were unable to explain why they (presumably) agreed with TSS's article, or why they disagreed with Mr Wang's comments on TSS's article.

In his post, Mr Wang made the point that even if SR Nathan was a thoroughly unsuitable candidate on account of extremely poor health, he would still have become President. Specifically, Mr Wang wrote:
There is completely no point talking about SR Nathan's quality as a president, if he is the only one permitted to run. For example, imagine that SR Nathan was seriously ill with AIDS, epilepsy, diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic gastric ulcers today, but still wanted to be President. Nothing would stop him. Except death. As long as he manages to stay alive, he would become President.
Anonymous Nth criticised Mr Wang for mentioning the word "AIDS". He felt that it was "offensive and unnecessary". Mr Wang does not agree. The context of the post makes it clear that Mr Wang was describing a purely hypothetical situation, to illustrate a valid point.

Lest it be said that Mr Wang just does not like and does not accept criticism, please see the Comments section of one of his old posts. There a reader pointed out that one of Mr Wang's funny captions was potentially offensive; Mr Wang thanked him very much for the feedback and immediately replaced the caption with a non-offensive version. Here, Mr Wang would similarly amend his post, if he thought that the AIDS comment was offensive. He does not think so, and so it will stay.

Perhaps Anonymous Nth thinks about AIDS in a way that Mr Wang does not. I hope not. That would be sad.

AIDS mother & child in Kenya.
After all these years, should the stigma still remain?


In other news, Mr Wang attracted various little criticisms. The title of his blog was criticised. Since Mr Wang is always open to feedback, feel free to email suggestions for a new title. Just like "Mr Wang Said So!", the new title should be a little humorous and also reflect the idea that this blog is all about expressing views and opinions.

The commentator known only as KX also told Mr Wang to "go public" with his real name. As many of Mr Wang's old fans know, Mr Wang had tried that previously and his blog at that time was well-regarded and widely cited in blogosphere. However, during the Acidflask saga, Mr Wang regretfully concluded that circumstances in Singapore were not yet sufficiently conducive to free speech. He shut down the blog, a closure that ironically drew the attention of ST columnists in the Review/Insight sections of the Straits Times and was also noted by several international media organisations.

Mr Wang and Superman are quite similar.
Their "secret" identities are well-known to many of their fans.

19 August 2005

Oh Look! Another Silly Article From the Straits Times.

This time, it's by Ms Tan Sai Siong. Let's see what kind of nonsense she's up to this time. We'll start right at the beginning. The title of her article is:
There she goes again! Trying to mislead her readers. President Nathan WASN'T elected. There WAS no election. Oh dear, what other horrors can we expect, if this writer can't even come up with a factually accurate title? Let's see:
What I find surprising and disquieting is the noise, before and after the event, about the lack of contest for the post. Some even raised questions about the institution and the legitimacy of future presidents. And this is by people who, while acknowledging that Mr Nathan is the best candidate, nevertheless wished for his credentials to be tried at the polls


Why are some Singaporeans so obsessed with the idea of a contest? Why do they assert that the elected presidency isn't the same without one? To me, that is putting the wrong emphasis on the wrong considerations.

What I find surprising and disquieting is that Sai Siong seems to think that non-contests and walkovers are a natural, expected part of any democracy. No, no, they're not.

Recall the year when Ong Teng Cheong ran for President. At first no other candidate was willing to come forward. Sai Siong probably would have thought that this was a la-di-la-so-what-lah situation. But of course, the Singapore government, being much wiser than Sai Siong, did not agree.

Even though Ong Teng Cheong, a former Deputy Prime Minister, was a 100% establishment figure, the government was very worried about the legitimacy issues arising from a non-contest. In fact, the government was so worried that it practically arm-twisted the hapless Chua Kim Yeow, retired auditor-general, to come forward and run against Ong. The case of the Very Unwilling Candidate was far from ideal, but the Singapore government knew that it would still be much better than having no election at all.

"Nonsense, Mr Wang, nonsense! Elections are a complete waste of time."
- Kim Jong-Il, North Korean leader.

In 2005, the same kinds of legitimacy problems relating to non-contests have arisen again. That's why people are unhappy. But of course we cannot seriously expect Sai Siong to understand that, can we? After all, she consistently shows that she does not really understand the issues. See what she says here:
What should have exercised minds, especially those who call themselves academia, was the quality of potential candidates.

Although the criteria for presidency are generally described as 'stringent', the question is: Are they, if even a failed CFO of a statutory board had thought himself eligible?
I think that Sai Siong must be the first person I've ever come across who suggests that Singapore's constitutional pre-requisite conditions for presidency are not "stringent". It seems to me that either Sai Siong is a brilliant trailblazer in political thought, or she is simply a rather ill-informed commentator. You make up your own mind and decide for yourself, okay?

"I told you that a free press is dangerous!
People like Tan Sai Siong will run around everywhere!"

Yet even the stringency or otherwise of the presidential pre-requisites is, well, simply not the point. Suppose Andrew Kuan had never existed. Then further suppose that no other candidate had tried to run against SR Nathan. We would still have the legitimacy problem. The Elected President would still be a misnomer, for he would never have been elected. "Selected President" would be a more accurate term.

But we cannot seriously expect Sai Siong to understand that, can we? After all, there are so many things she does not understand. Take a look at her next sentence:
In my view, those who really revere the elected presidency must first be obsessed with the quality of the candidates ...
Here she misses the obvious point. There must be candidates, before we talk about the quality of candidates. If candidates do not exist, then there is no point being obsessed about their quality. One might as well be obsessed with the quality of Santa Claus or the Loch Ness Monster.

Rare sighting! A Singapore presidential candidate surfaces.

I do not consider SR Nathan to have been a candidate. Where a role, like the Presidency, is one which MUST be filled, a "candidate", practically by definition, cannot exist unless there are other candidates. There is completely no point talking about SR Nathan's quality as a president, if he is the only one permitted to run. For example, imagine that SR Nathan was seriously ill with AIDS, epilepsy, diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic gastric ulcers today, but still wanted to be President. Nothing would stop him. Except death. As long as he manages to stay alive, he would become President. That's because there are no other candidates. Why bother to talk about candidates' qualities then?

What other silly comments does the inimitable Sai Siong have to foist upon us?
... when the first election for the president was held, the People's Action Party did engineer a contest by persuading Mr Chua Kim Yeow, retired auditor-general, to stand against the late Mr Ong Teng Cheong.

However, the votes garnered by Mr Chua with just one speech underlined that some Singaporeans had seized the occasion not to vote for a president but as an opportunity to send a message to the Government, thus confusing the purpose of the exercise.
Ridiculous, isn't it? I have my views on why I should vote for this person or that person. You have your own views on why you should vote for this person or that person. Our views may differ. That's why democracy says that we all cast one vote each, and COUNT the votes. The majority wins.

And now, Sai Siong seems to be saying - "Gee, I just DON'T like the way some Singaporeans vote. They don't think like me, and in my opinion, they're confusing the purpose of the exercise. Therefore it's better NOT to have elections at all!"

Be your own judge. Am I misrepresenting Sai Siong's position? Or just making it crystal clear for everyone to see?

"In my personal experience, unelected leaders do tend to suffer
from a perceived lack of moral legitimacy."

Mr Wang Becomes A Library Book

Isn't this amazing? The US Library of Congress cites me as an electronic resource on politics in Singapore. I'd be really flattered, except that (1) I personally wouldn't trust myself very much as a library resource, and (2) looking at the list of cited Singapore blogs, I really don't get the impression that the list was carefully chosen.

Political animal.

Police Investigation into NKF

Some time ago, in the Comments section of this old post, Ivan raised the possibility that there could be something criminal in the NKF saga, necessitating a police investigation. Mr Wang tentatively agreed. More than a month later, the interim NKF board has indeed called in the police.
ST Aug 19, 2005
NKF board calls in police
Help sought to look into 'matters of grave concern'
By Theresa Tan

SINGAPORE'S white-collar crime-busters are investigating the National Kidney Foundation, after the charity's interim board came across 'certain matters of grave concern' in the course of its work over the past month.

In a two paragraph statement issued yesterday morning, the interim board said it had 'requested the assistance of the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) to look into these matters'.

It added: 'As these matters have been referred to the authorities, the NKF is therefore not at liberty to discuss these matters at this stage.'

A police spokesman yesterday confirmed that it had 'received a complaint' from the NKF. Officers believed to be from the CAD were seen at the charity's headquarters in Kim Keat Road yesterday.

When contacted, its chairman of one month, Mr Gerard Ee, declined to elaborate on the move. He would only say that he had briefed staff at the headquarters - numbering around 300 - about the CAD's presence and told them not to be alarmed.

Other than that, it's business as usual. 'Life goes on,' he said.

But the CAD's involvement suggests that a serious breach of the law may have been committed, said lawyers interviewed.

This particular blogger, Justice4NKFdonors, will no doubt be pleased. He had been unhappy at the apparent lack of action over the past few weeks.

Mr Wang speculates that the police will be looking into the following possible offences:

1. Cheating, under the Penal Code
2. Criminal breach of trust, under the Penal Code
3. Failure by director to disclose potential conflict of interests (section 156, Companies Act)
4. Failure by director to act honestly and exercise due diligence (section 157, Companies Act).

Don't hold your breath waiting for the next development though. Mr Wang, a former Deputy Public Prosecutor, has previously been involved with the investigation of white-collar crimes. These types of offences tend to take a long time to investigate, as the investigation officers need to pore over tons of documents with a finetooth comb. In the present case, political sensitivities will force the Commercial Affairs Department to speed up, but even then it may take many months ...

"That bloody Durai. Why can't he just rape or rob
or do a simple murder instead."

18 August 2005

The Presidential Elections That Never Were

"Look. I am NOT a real cowboy, ok."

Sometimes I wonder whether opinions and editorial articles in the local mainstream media will one day become extinct. Instead of paying 80 cents for a copy of the Straits Times, you might as well just turn on your computer and hop over to some place like Singapore Ink or Sze Meng's blog. Chances are excellent that you'll get more perceptive, more insightful commentary ... for free.

In the Straits Times today, Political Editor Zuraidah Ibrahim provides some "news analysis" on the Presidential Elections That Never Were. As you can guess, Mr Wang is not impressed. Xenoboy's perspective on the same topic is much more interesting and challenging. In comparison, Zuraidah sounded rather .... obvious. Zuraidah skimmed the obvious surface, stated the obvious facts and made the obvious points. She never went deeper.

Zuraidah notes that some people in Singapore are frustrated with the fact that there will be no Presidential Elections. She goes on to say that these feelings are "not surprising, but misguided and misdirected". And why are these feelings "misguided"?

"Misguided, because it betrays a lack of understanding of what the post of the Elected President is all about. Despite the extra custodial powers vested onto the President since 1993, the inescapable fact is that the post remains a mainly ceremonial and symbolic one."
What Zuraidah is saying is that the institution of Elected President is not very important. Well, if it wasn't very important, then why did Parliament bother to create it at all? And make voting compulsory for the entire nation? Even more ironically, if the EP is not important, then why bother to impose such onerous requirements as pre-requisites for presidential hopefuls?

I think Zuraidah is the one who does not understand what the Elected P post is all about. If the post was mainly "ceremonial and symbolic", the highly pragmatic yet far-sighted Lee Kuan Yew would not have spent so many years of his life musing over the details of its creation. Zuraidah writes:

The President's legal powers to take on the ruling party are severely limited. They are custodial powers, exercised in a reactive rather than pro-active fashion. They do not give him the right to initiate action against the Government.

According to the Constitution, he is supposed to act independently in only certain narrow circumstances, to do with the use of past financial reserves and certain key public sector appointments.

Mr Wang, however, notes that the EP's role remains ceremonial and symbolic only as long as all is going well in the nation. So long as the Executive acts responsibly, stays relatively corruption-free and does not seek to abuse its power, the President can happily attend tea parties, shake hands and let the annual Star Charity show be the biggest highlight of his year.

However, as Lee Kuan Yew tells us, we cannot assume that the Executive will remain that way forever. That is why the EP is important. Once the Executive turns ugly, decides to mangle our reserves and remove non-subservient senior civil servants, the EP could very well transform into the single most important political institution in the country for safeguarding Singaporeans' interests.

Zuraidah also offers a red herring:

Perhaps the critics are fired up not because of the presidency as such, but because they want Singapore politics to be more competitive and democratic. Perhaps the absence of voting for the President is just a lightning rod for a broader frustration with the political system.

This general sense of malaise is not unreasonable. Indeed, it is rational for Singaporeans - like any people - to want an insurance policy against bad government. Competitive, open and plural systems may not be perfect, but they remain the best protection against tyranny that human society has yet devised.

However, the critics' fire is misdirected because the presidency as it is constituted is hardly an appropriate vehicle to move towards greater democracy. If they see as the real problem the People's Action Party's dominance, the presidency is the wrong way to challenge it.

I think Zuraidah goes wrong here. The root unhappiness is not that the PAP is dominant (for goodness sakes, it has been dominant for the past 40 years). The root unhappiness is that the right to vote (for SOMETHING, ANYTHING) has once again been denied. People feel cheated (again) and they are angry (again) at the endlessly farcical nature of politics in Singapore.

It doesn't help that MSM like Channel NewsAsia is also publishing farcical nonsense like this. If you were a thick-skinned Singaporean like Mr Wang, you'd burst out laughing. If you were a thin-skinned kind of Singaporean, you'd weep tears of frustration because of the way the MSM keeps insulting your intelligence as if you were a retarded child.

I believe that among the Singaporeans feeling aggrieved about the Elections That Never Were, many would have voted for SR Nathan anyway. (He is a nice, decent fellow after all, notwithstanding the fact that he has well exceeded the life expectancy of the average male Singaporean). The point is that Singaporeans wanted the right to vote. Not necessarily for an establishment figure like SR Nathan, not necessarily for an outsider like Andrew Kuan. All they wanted was the right to vote.

Meanwhile, I suspect that Zuraidah will struggle with that concept.

"Nathan dear, would you mind if I blogrolled Mr Wang?
He's really quite good, you know."

17 August 2005

Heart Disorders & SAF Servicemen

ST Forum, Aug 17, 2005
Take hard-to-detect heart disorder seriously

THERE has been a spike in sudden deaths recently among Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) national servicemen and regulars after seemingly harmless exercises.

It was subsequently discovered in the post-mortems that the victims suffered from a hard-to-detect heart disorder called Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP).

From the recent exchange of letters in the Forum between Mr Terence Lim and Mindef, the public has also discovered that a complex defect such as MVP cannot be diagnosed during the SAF's enlistment check-up.

Nothing less than a heart scan at a cardiac centre will detect MVP. Unfortunately, this also means not all sufferers are aware that they have this disorder.

Therefore, I would expect Mindef's Medical Corps to take a more serious stand on such a disorder.

To my chagrin, my recent letters to the corps have been unfruitful.

Mindef informed me that MVP comes in various degrees of severity, and less serious cases do not warrant medical downgrading of afflicted servicemen.

When I asked about the specific criteria regarding severity, Mindef replied that such information was 'classified'.

Why would Mindef keep such information classified? With increasing public demands for transparency in government bodies, Mindef would do well to provide more information on this issue.

Undetected MVP has cost lives - it cannot be any more serious than that.

Therefore, the public has an interest in knowing Mindef's policy with regard to MVP and the specific criteria warranting medical downgrading.

I was also saddened to learn that MVP is a misunderstood illness within our medical fraternity. For mild MVP, practitioners here dismiss it as inconsequential and regard patients as functionally normal.

I beg to differ. Even at the mildest level, MVP causes inexplicable panic attacks, chest pains, breathlessness, depression and lethargy.

Just because such symptoms are wholly dependent on patient testimony, doctors harbour a suspicion that patients may be exaggerating their symptoms.

If pushed to their physical limits, patients with mild MVP can still suffer seizures like severe MVP sufferers.

We seem to harbour a callous attitude that if something cannot be detected by a machine, it is beneath consideration.

We must change the way we view MVP, even in its mildest manifestation, before more lives are expended needlessly.

Oliver Tan Kok Song

Mr Wang thinks Oliver Tan Kok Song has some of his facts wrong. MVP does come in varying degrees of severity and it is certainly not true that "even at the mildest level, MVP causes inexplicable panic attacks, chest pains, breathlessness, depression and lethargy".

Mr Wang himself has MVP (and not only that, he had ASD - atrial septal defect, more commonly known as a hole in the heart). Both conditions went undetected throughout his NSF days, until a routine FFI medical examination prior to ORD. Surprisingly, the conditions were first detected by a young, inexperienced-looking doctor wielding a normal stethoscope (and only subsequently confirmed using more sophisticated equipment).

Mr Wang was completely asymptomatic. He never had panic attacks, chest pains etc. He underwent openheart surgery during his university holidays to repair the ASD, but left the MVP alone. Within two months, Mr Wang was back to a normal routine, and within six months, Mr Wang was back to an active vigorous lifestyle. During his university days, Mr Wang climbed Mount Kinabalu; ran a half-marathon; finished a biathlon (1.5 km swim 10K run) and was a member of his hostel's road race team. Today, Mr Wang still runs and swims regularly.

Evander Holyfield himself became the world heavyweight boxing champion before discovering that he actually had MVP and ASD (like Mr Wang). This was after a boxing match when Evander's heartbeat was found to have gone irregular. Then again if you put a normal, average man in the same boxing ring as one of those 95kg, 100% muscle, ear-biting Tyson types, I bet you that the normal, average man's heartbeat is going to go irregular anyway.

I do agree with Mr Oliver Tan that MINDEF should be more transparent about its medical classification system.

Evander Holyfield on his way
to Pes C, for loss of ear.

The History of the Singapore Blogosphere

This blogger, Yuhui, whom I hadn't previously come across, came up with an interesting idea to track the ever-evolving history of the Singapore blogosphere.

Yesterday, I emailed him a couple of ideas; he used some of them; and then he invited me to be a member of his history blog. So there - Mr Wang is now an official contributor to Blog TimeLine.SG.

For starters, I posted something about Singabloodypore getting nominated for an international award, and blogger Thum Pin Tjin swimming across the English Channel.

If you come across any event which you think could represent a historic moment for the SG blogosphere, feel free to let me know.

Philosopher-blogger Hui Chieh makes a guest appearance in
the National Blogospheric Museum of Singapore.

15 August 2005

Mr Wang Reflects on the Lion City

Work is bogging me down, so I'll just present a quick selection of news bites:
Aug 15, 2005
Ex-soccer star fit to be president
MR GEORGE Weah, former soccer World Player of the Year, has been declared eligible as a candidate for the Liberian presidential election in October.

Mr Weah, 38, had an extraordinary career. With AC Milan, he won the European Player of the Year award in 1995. In the same year, he also won the African and World Player of the Year awards. \-- BBC, REUTERS

So it seems that Andrew Kuan was in the wrong line. Instead of being a Chief Financial Officer, he should have been playing ping pong or something.
Aug 15, 2005
No need for lavish constituency dinners

THE Upfront report 'Grassroots dinners go big, with 620 tables' by Peh Shing Huei (ST, Aug 8) gave me much food for thought.

It seems National Day constituency dinners, a major part of the celebrations, are getting out of hand. They get bigger with each passing year, putting pressure on grassroots leaders to find buyers for tickets and manage the logistics, and on corporate donors whose budgets must be spread ever so thin.

While these dinners strain resources, the citizens consultative committees (CCCs) seem hellbent on outdoing each other in organising the largest dinner, which makes no sense.

According to one CCC chairman, 'it's a loss-making business', but it seems the show must go on regardless. But must it?

Such dinners are usually rather impersonal affairs. Thousands turn up to dine for a couple of hours under a cacophony of chatter and inapt music. They dig into their hastily prepared dishes, almost never get into a good conversation with each other, and, after dessert (and often before), leave as unceremoniously as they came.

Many attend the dinners not because they want to but because they have been coerced to buy a ticket. Thus they come nonchalantly, taking little interest in the proceedings. Some don't even bother to show up, resulting in empty tables and chairs.

Where the gathering is large, it is sometimes difficult to hear the speeches amid the din. Disrespect for the speakers is common and irksome to watch.

Is this any way to celebrate National Day?

Frankly I think that the same point can be made about the National Day Parade itself. I feel sorry for the thousands of national servicemen like blogger Nicholas Liu who are forced to work Mondays to Sundays for weeks on end to prepare for this event. Poor little toy soldiers.

Aug 15, 2005
SM: Why I'm optimistic about future

Anti-terror fight at turning point
External environment favourable
Good team running the country

By Asad Latif
SENIOR Minister Goh Chok Tong last night gave Singaporeans three reasons to be optimistic about the country's future.

He said the global fight against terror may well have reached a turning point.

Singapore's economy is robust and its external environment favourable.

And there is a good team of leaders in charge, he said, in his National Day speech to his Marine Parade constituents.

Speaking in Chinese and then English, he drew on developments both here and internationally to explain his confidence.
Elections must be on their way. Hence the feel-good talk. Get ready for your election goodies, they come only once every five years!

Aug 15, 2005
Long hours in school take toll on students

I AM a parent of a student currently studying in a junior college. Recently, certain aspects of my child's school life have started to worry me.

My child starts and finishes school at the same time on some days. How is that possible? Simple. School starts at 7am and ends at 7pm.

A typical day comprises a few tutorials, lectures and practical sessions, not to mention the two-hour compulsory stay back for the S paper, and co-curricular activities.

Such a lifestyle takes a heavy toll on the physical and mental health of students. It is common for them to go to bed well past midnight, especially when revising for exams.

Psychologists have discovered that the human brain develops fully only well past puberty. As such, teenagers need a lot more sleep than adults for their brains to develop - and that means more than eight hours a day.

Secondly, teenagers need plenty of exercise, but how is that possible when they are released from studies only in the late evening?

If the school won't do anything, then Mr Wang can offer a few suggestions. Drop the S-paper; drop the 4th A-level subject and drop one CCA. The choice is really yours, you know.

13 August 2005

Mr Wang is so Ingenious, It's Unbelievable

I hope that the SDP or any other political party will pay me $50 as a token of appreciation, if they use my idea. I really deserve it, you know.

The next time they stage a 4-man demonstration for some cause such as increased government transparency, they should also arrange for another 4 group of persons to stand 15 metres and demonstrate for some totally unrelated, and politically neutral cause (for example, "Be Kind to Your Pets").

They should organise both demonstrations in highly similar fashion. For example, both groups stand in the same way and behave in the same way, at the same time of the day. The only difference will be in the messages printed on their placards and T-shirts. For example, the first group's T-shirts may read "More Transparency in the CPF!" and the second group's T-shirts could read "Be Kind to Your Pets".

It will then be interesting to see the police reaction:

1. The police could zoom in on the CPF Transparency group but leave the Pet Kindness group alone. Which will cause people to say, "So how come the Pet Kindness group is not a public nuisance? They were behaving in exactly the same way as the CPF Transparency group."

2. The police could zoom in on both groups. Which will cause people to say, "The government is crazy! Now they are arresting cat lovers and dog lovers and bird lovers!"

3. The police could leave both groups alone. Which means that demonstrators would have found a way to prevent police interference.

SDP demonstrator versus the Riot Police.

In an even more devastating version of this brilliant Mr Wang idea, we replace the Animal Kindness group with a "We Love the Singapore Government" group. On their T-shirts and placards, the 2nd group will reflect the PAP's favourite messages like "Embrace Foreign Talent!"; "Work Till You're 62!" or "Our Ministers Deserve Higher Pay!".

Meanwhile, the first group will stand 15 metres away and carry on their peaceful, passive demonstration about the need for greater government transparency etc.

Then we wait and watch the police reaction, and watch for any differences in how the two groups are treated.

"Gee. And they called ME a genius."

12 August 2005

Who Says Singaporeans Aren't Creative?

Here we have a rather clever example of innovative problem-solving, right in the heart of the Central Business District. For years, public speech, protests and demonstrations in Singapore have been stifled by a host of laws, including laws about "unlawful assembly". Under the Penal Code, "unlawful assembly" has the following meaning:

An assembly of 5 or more persons is designated an “unlawful assembly”, if the common object of the persons composing that assembly is —

(a) to overawe by criminal force, or show of criminal force, the Legislative or Executive Government, or any public servant in the exercise of the lawful power of such public servant;

(b) to resist the execution of any law, or of any legal process;

(c) to commit any mischief or criminal trespass, or other offence;

(d) by means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to any person, to take or obtain possession of any property, or to deprive any person of the enjoyment of a right of way, or of the use of water or other incorporeal right of which he is in possession or enjoyment, or to enforce any right or supposed right; or

(e) by means of criminal force, or show of criminal force, to compel any person to do what he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do what he is legally entitled to do.
The starting point, of course, is that there must be "five or more persons" getting together. So four or fewer persons getting together cannot constitute an "unlawful assembly". This little detail provides inspiration for the following event which took place outside the CPF Building yesterday:

Aug 12, 2005
Police break up 4-person protest

A PROTEST in Robinson Road demanding greater transparency in some institutions here was broken up by police yesterday.

The protesters - two men and two women - comprised two members of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and two others who were not.

The group arrived outside the Central Provident Fund (CPF) building at around noon yesterday, wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with the acronyms NKF, CPF, HDB, GIC and the phrase 'Be Transparent Now' in red.
This being Singapore, the police nevertheless went on to break up the little party. Apparently, no fewer than 12 anti-riot police officers carrying shields and batons came to put an end to the 4-man demonstration. (As a side note, if those police officers were not on official duty, they themselves would have DEFINITELY constituted an unlawful assembly. Please do not ever gather in big groups and carry weapons).

Anyway, there is an interesting point here. I am actually feeling rather doubtful that the police actually had any proper legal basis to break up this particular gathering.

According to the Straits Times, the case has been classified as an assembly without permit and/or causing public nuisance. As I mentioned, the group comprised only four persons, and therefore it seems very unlikely that any of the "unlawful assembly" offences under the Penal Code has actually been committed.

Picture by blogger Loupgarou26.

My intuitive sense of the law told me that four people standing peacefully at a public place without obstructing human traffic and with their clothes on are unlikely to fall within any legal definition of "public nuisance". Essentially, the situation is very similar to four young students standing together in a public place selling flags for charity (except that the hypothetical four young students, if over-enthusiastic, are even more likely to be a real nuisance to the public).

To verify my intuition, I decided to investigate further. I checked the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act. As I suspected, the facts of our 4-man case at the CPF Building do not seem to fit into the definition of "nuisance", which is as follows:

11. —(1) Any person who commits any of the following offences shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000:

(a) without authority in the case of public property, or without the consent of the owner or occupier in the case of private property, affixes or causes to be affixed any advertisement, bill or notice, or any paper against or upon any building, wall or fence, or writes upon, defaces or marks any such building, wall or fence with chalk or paint, or in any other way;

(b) bathes or washes himself, or any other person, animal or thing on any public road, or in, upon or by the side of any public tank, reservoir, watercourse or stream;

(c) obstructs or causes trouble or inconvenience to a person bathing at any place set apart as a bathing place by wilful intrusion, or by washing any animal at or near that place, or in any other way;

(d) being the owner or person in charge of any animal does not, if the animal dies, dispose of its carcase in such a way as not to be a common nuisance;

(e) places any dead animal on or near any public road;

(f) spits in any coffee shop, market, eating house, school house, theatre or public building, or in any omnibus, railway carriage or other public conveyance, or on any wharf or jetty, or in any public road, or on any five-foot way or sidewalk of any public road, or in any other place to which the public has or may have access;

(g) suffers to be at large any unmuzzled ferocious dog or other animal, or sets on or urges any dog or other animal to attack, worry or put in fear any person or animal.

I then went on to consider the possibility that there may be some other obscure provision of the law somewhere which could perhaps justify the police decision to break up the assembly.

My first suspect was the Road Traffic Act. As I recalled, it has some provisions dealing with public gatherings (assemblies and processions). But I believe that all those provisions deal with "roads", and the proper interpretation of "road" under the RTA should be roads on which cars are permitted to travel, not pavements or walkways outside buildings like the CPF Building.

Next I thought about the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (the same Act that recently gave the organisers of the Shanmugam Murugesu concert quite a bit of trouble). Essentially, that Act says that one cannot provide any public entertainment without a licence. "Public entertainment" has a wide technical definition and encompasses a variety of events that we may not typically think of as "public entertainment". For example, “public entertainment” under the Act includes:

(a) any variety act, performance of music, singing, dancing, gymnastics, acrobatics and legerdemain, demonstration, display or parade (other than ad hoc performances);
(b) any circus or any exhibition of animals;
(c) any amusement centre, amusement park or fun fair;
(d) any computer games centre;
(e) any exhibition of film, or any peep-show;
(f) any reproduction or transmission otherwise than in association with a film, by any means other than telephony or radio telephony, of any music, song or speech;
(g) any machine or device by the manipulation of which chances are given of obtaining prizes in money or kind;
(h) any pin-table;
(i) any sporting contest of any kind between any number of persons or animals, other than that organised by any registered society, trade union, company or association;
(j) any organised competition at games of skill or chance;
(k) any lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion;
(l) any arts entertainment; or
(m) any combination of any of the above forms of public entertainment,

....... and of all the above, the one we probably need to look most closely at is (k) - "any lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion". If the four demonstrators had uttered some words, they may possibly be construed to have given a "talk" or an "address" or to have engaged in "debate or discussion" in a public place; this may then be construed as providing public entertainment; and since they had no licence to provide public entertainment, they would possibly be guilty of an offence.

But from what the ST article says, the four demonstrators did not seem to have SPOKEN to the public at all. In all likelihood, they did their legal research beforehand and decided to stand there silently, with their specially designed T-shirts and placards. Therefore in all likelihood they would not be guilty of an offence under the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act.

From all the above, we begin to identify the principles by which it may be possible to legally stage a public demonstration in Singapore. Firstly, there must be a maximum of four participants. Secondly, you should avoid being a nuisance - for example, do not go nude; do not spit; do not have any ferocious dog with you. Thirdly, stay strictly on the pavement and do not step onto the road. Fourthly, do not speak to the public. Instead carry a placard or wear a T-shirt printed with the message you want to convey.

The Incredibles family. Eligible for public demonstration
in Singapore ..... if they leave one kid at home.

If my legal analysis is correct, then it may even be possible to have mass demonstrations in Singapore. They will just have to be mass demonstrations of a somewhat different kind. For example, if 100 people wish to demonstrate, what they can do is break up into 25 groups of 4 people each. They simultaneously demonstrate in 25 different locations in Singapore.

Alternatively, demonstrators can demonstrate in small groups of four, and take shifts. For example, the 1st group of four can demonstrate from 9 am to 11 am outside the CPF Building. They then walk away from the building. When they are clearly some distance away, the next group of 4 demonstrators can walk in and take their place.

"Now you know why we can't be the Fantastic Five."

Oh Well ....

Seems like Andrew Kuan turns out to be a dud, after all. I guess PM Lee knew what he was talking about.

ST Aug 12, 2005
Andrew Kuan was asked to resign or face sack from JTC
By Lynn Lee

JTC Corporation yesterday revealed that presidential hopeful Andrew Kuan was asked to leave the statutory board as the board and management were not happy with his performance.

In fact, the former group chief financial officer had to be told three times to resign, before he finally did so on July 2 last year.


Mr Kuan had been hired after going through JTC's selection process. Nothing in his resume or references appeared troubling and he was appointed as group CFO in June 2001.

When he was assessed the following April, both Mr Chong and Mr Lim found his performance unsatisfactory. They considered asking him to leave but gave him a chance to improve.

But they were still not satisfied by his next appraisal in July 2003. So in September 2003, Mr Chong and the other three board members all agreed that Mr Kuan should be asked to resign.


Separately, water treatment firm Hyflux issued a statement on Mr Kuan's three-month stint as CFO for its joint venture project with Dubai-based Istithmar. It expressed disappointment with him and said he was asked to resign or have his employment terminated. He left on May 13 this year.

A Smaller Lack of Freedom

Here is the big news:
Aug 12, 2005
NS call-ups cut to 10 years
Better technology and bigger pool of 18 year olds over next decade are the reasons
By Goh Chin Lian

IN-CAMP training for operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) will be shortened from 13 years to 10, from next April.

This is the effect:
About 25,000 NSmen, including those in the police and civil defence forces will be affected by the new policy, which was announced by Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

With the change, most Singaporean men, after completing two years of compulsory national service, will finish their NSmen obligations before hitting the age of 35.

Here is the official reason:
The reduction is possible as the Singapore Armed Forces relies more on superior technology and less on having large numbers of people ....

One is the transformation now taking place in the SAF. With better-educated NSmen, it is becoming a 'third-generation' fighting force that is exploiting the full potential of the latest in weapons, equipment and training systems.

The other is the bigger pool of 18-year-olds expected in the next 10 years.
And now Mr Wang will share his insights.

Mr Wang actually -predicted- this reduction in NS liability, many years ago (around 1996 or 1997). Mr Wang correctly predicted that firstly, the length of full-time NS would be cut (this has happened - it was cut from 2.5 years to 2 years), and secondly, the length of NSmen liability would also be cut.

Superior technology, baby booms etc are not the primary reason. Mr Wang predicted that NS liability would be cut because the aging leaders of Singapore and the aging leaders of Malaysia would come to the point when they would have to step aside and make way for new blood.

A new era would arise whereby there would be fresh opportunities for the new leaders of the two nations to leave aside the old animosities and work towards improving relationships between the two nations.

And then the need for a powerful, effective Singapore Armed Forces would wane. The need would still exist, but it would be greatly reduced, and logically lead to Singapore devoting relatively fewer resources towards the military. In turn this would lead to the reduction of NS liability.

The flip angle is that all this shows that for all these past decades, the nation of Singapore has had to spend so much money on the military, and male Singaporeans have had to give up so much of their time for national service -

to a large extent, just because Singapore's old-guard leaders failed to build strong relationships of trust and friendship with Malaysia. Yes, a definite failure.

Of course, you'll never read that in the mainstream media.

"Wah, you Singaporean men are so lucky. I step down,
then you all no need to do NS already."

11 August 2005

The Presidential Candidate

Here is one good reason to vote for Andrew Kuan -

The PAP doesn't seem to like him. This is very important. The Elected President, after all, is supposed to act as a check on Parliament and to ensure that our national reserves are not squandered or abused. Therefore it would be a good thing if the Elected President and the ruling party do not get on well. If instead the Elected President and the PAP government were the best of friends, smiling and agreeing on everything, then one wonders whether the Elected President can really function as an effective check on the PAP government.

I do wonder why the PAP doesn't seem to like Andrew Kuan. The man was, after all, the Chief Financial Officer at Jurong Town Corporation. Can the senior people who run our GLCs not be trusted? If they cannot be trusted, then I think Singapore has a very big problem.

"Nonsense, Mr Wang, nonsense! I watch all my GLCs closely.
I have full confidence in the integrity of all their CFOs."

In the Straits Times article below, PM Lee (husband of the woman shown above) seems to be hinting that there's something adverse about Andrew Kuan's employment history. It's not like PM Lee to be so twisty-twisty and beatey-around-the-bush. I would have thought that if he had a problem with Andrew, he should come straight out and say it. That would seem more in line with PM Lee's personality. Surely PM Lee should tell the public, if he knew something about Kuan that the public should know. Instead of casting these vague aspersions. If there is something bad about Andrew's employment history, I for one would like to know it. And I would also like to know why the Jurong Town Corporation still chose to hire him and put him in such a senior position.

And what is all this ambiguous nonsense about Andrew Kuan defaming or not defaming someone? I hope that Singaporeans are more educated and perceptive now, after the SPH-NKF saga. All kinds of people get involved in defamation suits, as plaintiffs and as defendants - from the likes of villains like TT Durai, to leaders like Lee Kuan Yew, to heroes like Singapore Press Holdings. Until we actually know the real background, the fact that Andrew Kuan is said to be involved in a defamation suit means nothing.

Aug 11, 2005
Kuan gives 5-page CV to the media
He sends it after being asked about PM's calls for presidential candidates to be open
By Peh Shing Huei and Lynn Lee

PRESIDENTIAL hopeful Andrew Kuan made public his full curriculum vitae yesterday, after some prompting from the media.

It all began when the former group chief financial officer of JTC Corporation held a press conference in the afternoon to deny charges that he had defamed someone.

He also then issued a copy of an e-mail he had sent to JTC chief executive officer Chong Lit Cheong. He said it was a resignation letter he submitted to the statutory board in July last year.

The letter, he told reporters, showed that what he had done while at JTC for three years should qualify him to run for president.

Among other things, he said in the e-mail letter that he had contributed to key projects, such as investing $800 million for JTC, divestment studies and financial streamlining.

At first, Mr Kuan did not comment on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's call a day earlier that potential presidential candidates should be open and transparent as the job is a serious one.

Mr Lee said on Tuesday he had read that Mr Kuan had had an 'interesting employment career', and had 'done quite a number of different jobs in the last few years'.

'I'm quite sure he will want to tell Singaporeans all about them, how it came about that he took these jobs and, in some cases, changed them very quickly,' said Mr Lee.

When Mr Lee's comments were put to him, Mr Kuan said he was being honest and open - about the defamation issue.

Asked by reporters, Mr Kuan said he would try to provide his full employment details but he 'may not remember' some details.

He was then asked to provide the CV he had submitted to the JTC when he applied for his job.

He replied that he would try, adding: 'After all these years, almost 30, you can't remember all the small, little details.'

Three hours later, he sent out a five-page CV via e-mail to the media.

In an earlier interview, he provided a brief resume showing he had held five jobs between 1980 and 1989. The CV yesterday showed that it was from 1979 to 1987.

In the first four years, he worked in two chemical firms, Kaiser Cement and Betz. From 1983 to 1987, he worked in Gould, a medical product company, eye products company Bausch & Lomb, and chemical firm Foseco Minsep.

He said he had been headhunted by four of the five firms and that he was a 'young man full of dynamism at that time'.

He then set up his own consultancy and job search firm Blue Arrow. He told The Straits Times that the firm had two offices, in Tampines and the central business district.

He sold one off and closed down the other when he joined JTC in June 2001.

At Blue Arrow, he said he had placed about 300 people in various companies and positions, ranging from CEOs to executives. Some of the companies are Singapore Food Industries and Ong & Ong Architects.

Asked if he could provide a copy of JTC CEO Mr Chong's reply to his e-mail letter on his resignation, Mr Kuan declined. It contained 'confidential' company information, he said.

In the e-mail letter to Mr Chong, Mr Kuan said he was giving two-months' notice. But he later clarified that he served only one month.

After JTC, he was CFO of water treatment firm Hyflux's joint venture, Istithmar Utilities EPC, for three months this year.

He then went back to Blue Arrow, operating from his apartment at the Tanamera condominium.