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8/31/2010

A letter from a surviving hostage

Events that lead to the death of eight tourist inside the bus Postscript Of A Bloodbath by Bang Lu Min (One of the Hostages) Mr. Mendoza was already upset even before he saw on television what the policemen did to his brother. The other tourists who remained inside the bus were complaining. Wei Ji Jiang wanted to go to the bathroom. Dao Chi Yu was hungry and the rest were just groaning and whining like they have forgotten that our lives rest in Mr. Mendoza's hands. The hostage taker, as you know him was really nice. He treated us okay and even let the elders and the children leave the bus. He said your policemen treated him unfairly. He was a policeman too and was accused of doing something he had no knowledge of. But your government didn't listen so he used us to get everyone's attention. Things would have never turned for the worst if he didn't see how his family was dragged out of their house and taken into custody. He was watching the news all the time as we huddled around each other behind the bus. He shouted some words in your language then started shooting in the air. A girl about my age started screaming. Mr. Mendoza demanded her to stop but she didn't understand English. God, he had to slash her neck with a knife just to put her to rest. Her boyfriend who tried to hit him was shot in the head. Tension was rising. You can see in his face how scared and confused he was. The bus driver ran away leaving him alone with strangers from a distant land. I can see him walking across the aisle, sometimes pointing his machine gun to one of the tourists. But he tried his best not to hurt us, especially those who really cooperated. I guess its in your nature not to inflict pain on others unless it was necessary. I remember him saying that he will free us before sundown and implored us to forget everything when we return home. But his words don't matter now. The policemen were trying to force their way in, while we all lied down to shield ourselves from bullets. Mister Mendoza blindly shoots at his enemies which I think kept them from rescuing us. I hear sobs under the chairs. Some were even shouting the names of their loved ones even when the air merely eat their words. Kevin Tang tried to escape when the glass door was was shattered, but one shot and he slumped on the floor with blood gushing from his mouth. Heavy rain pitter-pattered on the rooftop. In old Chinese saying, it means an end to a struggle. Finally, somebody was able to open the escape hatch at the back of the bus. Freedom. But I knew Mister Mendoza was still alive. I knew he was just waiting for a chance to strike back at his enemies. So I told those around me not to escape. Let the authorities come for us instead. Then there was gunfire. He was firing at his enemies with a machine gun. Those who were at the escape hatch fled abandoning us once again. It's like a nightmare with no end and to wake up means a certain death. Then somebody from outside the bus threw a canister. It forced out a black smoke that is so painful to the eyes and putrid smelling to the nose. People started screaming. We cannot breathe. Some ran in front of the bus but Mister Mendoza warned them of stray bullets. It was too late. One was hit on the head, the other was hit on the shoulders. Bullets were now flying. Its like the authorities thought we were all dead. Mister Mendoza finally realizes his mistake and said sorry to everyone, dead or alive. He then ran towards the front of the bus where he would meet his maker. As he passed by my chair with bullets whistling overhead, I clutched my hand on the velvet curtain and wrapped it around my face. All I could think of was to stay alive - for my child who is waiting for me back in Xinjang. I know I will survive, I will come home. Bang Lu Min Survivor, Quirino Bloodbath

A Jewel in the Jungle of Asia.

Reflections of a Foreign Student on Religious Harmony in Singapore. by Rev. Fr. Athanasius Atta Barkindo. Priest-Student of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies 89, Viale Trastevere, 00153, Rome – Italy Dear Editor, I refer to your news item “Breaking the Fast Together” in the Strait Times of 13th August 2010 which clearly portrayed the invitation extended by the Muslim Kidney Action Association to all other religious faiths to join them and participate in the Muslim breaking of the fast. I have attended so many conferences on religious harmony, visited different institutes for peace studies, attended seminars and participated in workshops for community and religious leaders to help rebuild the lives of families shattered by religious bigots in Nigeria, Egypt, Italy, UK, etc. While attending all these programmes, reference was always made to Singapore as the “Jewel in the Jungle of Asia”; evidently a gift from God to the entire Asian region. I made up my mind to visit Singapore; to see for myself the gift God has given to Asia. From my seat on the Singapore airlines flight, to the warm reception of the air hostesses, the beauty of the Changi Airport, the skyscrapers, the well fed trees to the sea of humanity eating away in different locations. The orderliness is amazing. I whispered to myself, this is called political stability, economic success. No question was directed to me about my religion, my faith and my creed. No one seems to care if I worshipped the mountain or the emperor. All that matter was I am human and I was treated as such, with dignity and courtesy. My amazement was complete when I was invited on the 13th August 2010, by the Muslim Kidney Action Association of Singapore to participate in the breaking of the fast at the premises of the association in Telok Kurau Road. It was absolutely magnificent to see all the representatives of different religious faiths including government officials, seated together in harmony and sharing together with our Muslim brothers and sisters in this most important month of Ramadan. There was no distinction based on religion, creed or race. There was no prejudice, sentiments or fear. Religious arrogance and superiority was completely absent. The most important thing was being a Singaporean. Singapore has indeed understood the advantage of pluralism whose core value is “humanity and meritocracy”!! I watched the President of the Muslim Kidney association as he passed the dates from the Catholic Archbishop to the Taoist Master, the Buddhist Venerable etc. The sincerity of the atmosphere made a tear tickle down my smiling cheeks (cheeks shining and smiling from the two weeks of hospitality rolled around the mixture of the satay, chicken rice and roti prata all tasted in Singapore). I told myself, this is the real Singapore. This is the real Jewel in the jungle of Asia. For once I thanked God for giving us such a beautiful gift as Singapore. I thanked the Singapore government for its cooperation with religious leaders to educate Singaporeans on the importance of religious harmony and pluralism in the world today. I even stole a thought of envy at Singaporeans yet proud that I am a Singaporean by association. I wondered how many Singaporeans appreciate what their government is doing in promoting religious harmony. It is a hardworking government, a sincere government, a government committed to the physical and spiritual welfare of its citizens; it is indeed Majulah Singapura and not Malulah Singapura!!! I hope some African governments and Africa at large is learning from Singapore; a country tolerant in nature, progressive and religious in outlook, where all peoples, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist, Atheists, Secularists, and Traditionalists coexist in mutual respect and harmony, and contribute selflessly to the development of their country. Africa, the Middle East, Europe, America and indeed the entire world has no choice than to learn from Singaporeans and their government. Singapore is indeed a gift from the God not only to Asia but to the entire world. Congratulations to the Muslims Kidney Action Association, Congratulations to the Inter-Religious Dialogue council of Singapore, Congratulations to the Government of Singapore, Congratulations to Singaporeans. Long live Singapore, the Jewel in the Jungle of Asia. I just have to repost this to remind ourselves that we have done many things right.

The mission of HDB is to build flats for all Singaporeans

Really? Ask the singles. Oh ask the young professionals who happen to be earning a bit more, exceeding the arbitrary ceiling of $8000/$10,000 pm income. Are they not Singaporeans? Are they less deserving than the new citizens? What is their crime? The premises for creating such rules have changed. Solutions need to be found to look after all Singaporeans so that no one is left out for whatever creepy reasons. After all these years, have the policy makers become enlightened, betterer in their thinking processes, bigger hearts, or still living in the closets? The prices of HDB flats are no longer cheap. And the private sector is a killer. Why forced these people to buy from the private sector? To help the developers to get richer, or to help to shore up the prices of private properties by increasing demands so that speculators who own many private properties can be assured of higher profits? The reasoning that they will add to the demand for public housing and compete with the lower income HDB buyers is bull. They will be looking at the more expensive flats, the DBSS and Exec condos. And the rulings can be tweaked to see to that. Then of course more flats can be built to cater to the demands of those who want smaller and cheaper flats. It is a supply and demand issue. The biggerer the demand, more flats need to be built. Blaming on a small group of Singaporeans is silly, a poor excuse. If HDB does not want to build enough flats to meet the increasing demand, it is unfair to put the blame on other deserving citizens.

What Hsien Loong did not say

We all know that he did not talk about the recent hike in transport fare. We know that he did not say anything about the high cost of living or the high medical fees. There are many things which obviously he did not touch on. More pertinent are the sources of feedback that he depended on and acted on. The frustration of first time flat owners, the jam packed trains, the overwhelming presence of foreigners leading to a citizen versus foreigner controversy and tension, the high property prices, the concerns of parents of their children’s education, these were some of the key issues that he spoke about intensely and announced measures to deal with them. What he did not say is that these issues were the daily grinds in cyberspace, the kpkbs, the whinings and gripings that were hardly reported in the main media. If left to the main media, or if Hsien Loong were to rely solely on the main media for his feedback, there were no problems to talk about. Everything is perfect and blissful. Report only the good stuff and hear only the good stuff. Only the irritants in cyberspace are complaining incessantly, deafening at times, on these issues that really hurt them badly. What Hsien Loong did not say is that he read the feedbacks from cyberspace, probably mainly from Reach for sure. He may also read some of the frustrations and whinings from other non govt blogs and forums. How else would he come to know that the people were grousing if the grouses were not reported in his normal channels of communications? The whinings and gripings are important. Who say not so? Without these kpkbs, the problems will not have surfaced or taken notice of. No complaints means no problems to look into. And what Hsien Loong did not say is that he took these kpkbs seriously as well. And if the complaints are legitimate, the govt will take actions to resolve them. There is an important role for the alternate media or new media in throwing real issues for the govt to tackle. The new media can tell the truth and can be a good source to listen to. They may be the messengers of bad news, but still important news and can be taken seriously by the govt. Relying just on the main media is a handicap and many problems may not be given the appropriate airings. And lastly, what Hsien Loong did not say is to tell the new media to shut up. There is a complimentary role for the new media as a source of feedback to the govt.

8/30/2010

Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally

The main media will have a good coverage of what Hsien Loong said last night. Cyberspace will have a diametrically opposite version from the main media. What should I add to the yin and yang of reporting the same event? I must say that he made my life quite difficult, from the point of writing something that is expected from the new media perspective. And I am trying hard and still fumbling as to how to be critical with what he said. I can’t blame him for not listening to the people’s grouses and brushing them aside or calling Singaporeans names. I can’t blame him for not doing anything towards the people’s complaints. He covered most of the issues that we have discussed here, from NS men, housing issues, immigrants, transportation and education. More recognition will be given to NS men, more substantive and tangible than just mere talks. Of course, it would be better if more were given. $9000 could not even pay for the first down payment, only meaningful if buying direct from the HDB. The issues of immigrants and transportation were tackled, explained and the follow up actions and plans were revealed to minimise the problems. New citizens and PRs will be managed more stringently and at a slower pace. More MRT lines are in the pipeline. Then the runaway housing prices and the promise of more flats to be built. He reiterated the original mission of HDB, to build affordable flats for ALL citizens. Mah Bow Tan will be coming out with his new plans to clear up the mess that should not be there in the first place. This appointment is inappropriate. Mah Bow Tan has his own definition of affordability that no one agrees except those in the party. He has his own queer ways of interpreting supply and demand for housing. He has his own convenient time frame while the anxious flat buyers would be biting their fingers as housing prices soar to the sky. Many ended up buying more expensive flats, paying excessively more than necessary while the more unlucky ones were kicked out of the HDB queue because they waited too long and their incomes exceeded the ceilings imposed. My main misgiving is that no sacred cows were slaughtered. He never did what LKY did like removing retirement age once and for all. The HDB income ceiling stays. It would be more refreshing and exciting if he announced that there will be no more income ceiling and ALL Singapore citizens shall be entitled to at least one bite of the cherry. No citizens shall be excluded from buying his first flat from the HDB. But that was expecting too much. A little tweak in the income ceiling like retaining the $8000 for the cheaper HDB flats and those earning above $8000 can be eligible for Design and Build or Executive Condos will be a better change. The silly $8000/$10,000 ceiling is irrelevant given the high cost of private properties and HDB flats. It is becoming an irritating anomaly. What more when multi millionaires are now allowed to buy HDB flats, though in the resale market! This Rally speech came out as one that promises more actions, acknowledging the problems raised by all the whinings and kpkbs, instead of words or excuses and nothing can be done as in the past. It is more pleasant to the ears.

8/29/2010

How political or apolitical is our Civil Service

We inherited the British system of govt where there is a separation of power between the judiciary, legislative and executive branches of the govt. The three are supposedly to function independent of each other. The assumption is that while the political leaders could change at every election, the judiciary and executive branch could continue to function without being embroiled in a political tussel for power and control. Somehow it works in the British system and to a certain extent even the American system. Our system is designed or copied to work the same. Our civil servants are apolitical in this sense, not part of a political party and will serve which ever party that comes to power in the electoral process. When Vivian Balakrishnan spoke to a university crowd of students, an innocent student popped out the innocent question of how political are our civil servants, are they able to continue to function when there is a change of govt? Vivian did not answer her question directly but gave the standard reply that no one can deny the party from picking the best talents for the job. The adult population will not ask such a question. They have a clear understanding of how our political system works. A student is still innocent and untainted in their views and idealism. They expect things to work the way it is said to work. Why should the students have such a notion and popped such a question? Are they seeing things in a different light? Our civil servants are completely neutral to party politics. The govt has made sure that they are not politicised. The People's Association and the PAP's kindergarten are also not political. They are there to serve the people in general, all, regardless of political affiliations. Our Civil Service is definitely apolitical in this sense. The fear in the student's mind is that should there be a change of govt like the tsunami in Malaysia, very unlikely to happen here, what would happen to the civil servants? Would they resign en bloc or be asked to leave by the new leadership? Or would they go on strike or mount a revolt? Whatever, it means that the country will be disrupted. These are just suppositions. The talents in the Civil Service are indispensable to the smooth functioning of the country and any new political party coming to power is likely to keep the Civil Service intact. And the civil servants only need to pledge loyalty to a new govt and continue as per normal. It is good for students to raise such idealistic questions. Idealism is only for the youth. The pragmatism of the adult world does not have room for youthful idealism. Anything goes for one's personnel benefits and interests. Most adults will be asking what is in it for me instead?

8/28/2010

Not just economic growth

People are expecting a miracle speech coming out of Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally. It is like waiting for a sermon by one of the miracle healer in the National Stadium, where the sick and woes of human suffering will be lifted away into thin air. Unfortunately a National Day rally is likely to be more down to earth. And if problems and issues are raised, if they can be solved, the better, if not, they will be simply explained away. The two key issues of immigrants and housing prices are expected to top the list of concerns. Both are problems of economic growth and economic data. Looks good on paper, but they come with intrinsic and long lasting repercussions if other factors are not carefully looked into. Not economic growth alone, for the superlative data of growth can be deceiving, in the sense that the growth came from where and how and how it benefits the society and people in general. We are building a country and with real people, not running a casino where the winners take all and the losers lose all. Take housing for example. It seems like a happy problem. Then why the angst and pain and complaints? Maybe they are inconsequential and can be conveniently ignored. Maybe not. Over the years many policies have changed, from the policies of building flats, from definition of demand and supply, the definition of affordability, the eligibility criteria, the private property owners allowed to buy another HDB flat, the uses of HDB flats for subletting and speculation, market pricing etc etc. All these have contributed to the mess that the affected people are complaining. This could be an issue that could swing votes in the general elections. Despite all the big changes, there are some that are seen as fundamental and unchangeable. The eligibility of singles, the income ceilings, the building of smaller flats. There is still this blinkered mindset that HDB prices are affordable which are obviously not. The income level of the lower segment of society lagged far behind the price inflation of HDB flats. They can only keep downgrading and lower their expectation, but up to a point. The income ceiling is bull. The fact that many are still able to buy higher priced flats is because they were upgrading and had a base to spring from. The young couples buying their first flats, even with a $10k income, will be hard pressed to put down that huge deposit and COV. At best it will clean up their savings. Going to the private sector is jumping from a frying pan into the deep blue sea. Same as the singles that are crying for a decent place to stay without bursting their bank accounts. And every day they failed to get their flats, their worries get worst as the prices keep on escalating. While these citizens are grappling with their plight against unthinking robots replying that they should lower their expectations and policies cannot be changed or are good, the foreigners are happily swarming into the market to pick up bargains to be sold later to the locals that missed the boat, at a quick profit. While we bent all over to welcome and accommodate the new citizens, should not the govt think that they need to take care of the citizens first and foremost, especially when housing is a critical factor in their lives? Would Hsien Loong come out with earth shattering changes in govt policies like LKY did to retirement age? Would Hsien Loong take the casino road and say old ways that are irrelevant must give way to the new? Or would he just explain the current problems faced by the people as something that they must lived with, market forces, nothing can be done, or pack up and go somewhere? Is there anything new in the coming National Day Speech or more of the same? Will there be any sacred cows to be slaughtered to make way for a better tomorrow? Or the premises of the sacred cows are still relevant and necessary, and not sacred bulls that must be kept at all costs?

8/27/2010

Singapore under threat

By Patrick Lee, FreeMalaysiaToday KUALA LUMPUR: A PKR leader promised that if convicted Malaysian drug mule Yong Vui Kong is hanged, it will have grave repercussions. "I warn the Singaporean government: if they hang Yong, I will come back and bring a coffin here! (Singapore High Commission)," said Kapar MP S Manikavasagam. He also took a swipe at Foreign Minister Anifah Aman for not doing enough. “I am ashamed of the minister. He should put more pressure on the Singapore government,” he said. Added human rights lawyer N Surendran: “Our government claims that it's doing great things for this country. But if it cannot stand up for one Malaysian in trouble overseas, can Malaysians rely on the government?” Earlier, Manikavasagam and Surendran joined some 20 mostly PKR members to present a memorandum to the Singapore High Commission here today. Also present were Teluk Intan MP M Manogaran and PKR information chief Latheefa Koya.... The above is part of an article published in FreeMalaysiaToday. The brave and bold PKR leader declared that he was warning the Singapore Govt not to hang Yong Vui Kong. I am wondering whether he is trying to help Yong or helping to nail his coffin. This kind of garang talk about threatening a foreign govt, especially Singapore, is only forcing the issue. And the ending is one that is exactly the opposite of what Kapar intended to achieve. Or perhaps that is exactly what he wanted to achieve, force the Singapore Govt’s hand, and then he can stand up as the champion of Yong. Kapar is giving the Singapore Govt no way out but to hang Yong. For no sovereign govt can uphold its integrity by giving in to the demand of a crazy foreign politician. This is different from the demand of a disgruntled policeman asking for reinstatement of his job. Carry on Kapar. Well done!

Ming Yi is out of jail

The monk Ming Yi is out of jail and under house detention. Is he still a monk or has he been derobed? Monkhood is open to all, criminals and non criminals. It is a place to seek repentence for wrong doings. So, shall he be derobed and not be given a chance to seek repentence in the solitary life of a monk? With religious people getting closely involved in society and social works, and collecting big money, and with many self anointed or self appointed priests and monks, is there a need for a regulatory body to remove the criminals in them? Oops, how can criminals be removed from becoing religious people when they have turned over a new leaf, to be good, to seek God's forgiveness? But there are those who are hiding under the facade of the holy orders to cheat and swindle the innocent and naive believers. How should these hustlers or crooks be dealt with? Quite a complex situation. To make things simpler, in the case of Ming Yi and Father Kang, are both still in their previous status as a monk and priest or should they remain in their orders?

Medals for the Philippines police

With more facts and evidence in the open, Aquino should seriously consider awarding the Police Chief and his SWAT team a medal... for Stupidity. The Police Chief should get a higher award, Medal for Stupidity of the Highest Order. In the public inquest he was asked why he didn't accede to the simple request from the ex police officer. His reply was a rigid text book version 1.01, that if he gave way, more officers will repeat the act of holding hostages to make demands. How ridiculous could this be. Even a machine could be more flexible and think better. And for the police officers running around the hijacked bus wielding their sledge hammers that could do no damage to the bus windows, did they know that the hijacker could spray his M16 at the hostages and finished them off in 5 secs? And they were happily hammering away as if they got the whole day to do so. The fact that the hijacker was willing to talk, to release hostages said a lot about his lack of intent to kill the hostages. And the fact that after all the messing around, many hostages were still unhurt and alive is proof that he was not really interested in killing them. Medals of Stupidity shall be part and parcel of the awards of any country and be conferred to the well deserved recipients when necessary.

8/26/2010

What is appealing about the Abdul Malik arrest?

He blogged about burning Vivian, the Minister. He called on the people to vote out the govt. He was arrested for inciting violence. And cyberspace is on fire with many voicing support for Abdul Malik. I must say that the word ‘burn’ is a very sensitive word here. We kind of developed a phobia for burning politicians. Bloggers are well advised not to use such a word in their blogging. I don’t know if Abdul Malik’s call to vote out the govt is against any law. Or could it be a call that can only be uttered during a general election? What is important here is to look at Abdul Malik himself and ask if he is a terrorist, someone trying to incite violence, or is he just a blogger, like many bloggers, including me, spurting generalization and at times nonsensical and provocative comments. My only concern is not to treat bloggers as terrorists or dangerous elements out to destroy the social fabric of our country.

What is appalling about the commando assault?

Some wonder why the hooha over the bungled commando assault by the Philippines police. Many who have watched the drama live on TV would have the same impression as well, without any prompting, that it was an amateurist work of art. And the truth is revealing itself to confirm that it was a bungle, nothing less. Even the Philippines Govt admitted it outright and calling for a thorough impression. What is appalling about the whole episode is the total disregard of the lives of the tourists. That was the impression that I got. The police were running around the bus in full view of the kidnapper and that itself is the most provocative act. You could see that killing the kidnapper was their only concern. Now with the truth disclosed that the kidnapper was no terrorist, no hard core criminal or robber or extremist, it is much harder to swallow that the incident ended in so many death, including the death of the kidnapper. He was an unhappy man. No, he was a model cop that was unjustly dismissed or framed up. At least that was his version of the story. Would such a man who was demanding for an investigation and probably a reinstatement of his job become a killer? His demands were proof that he wanted his job back, with no intention to kill. And who would want to kill him and let to the killing of the innocent tourists? Why couldn't they appease him with an investigation to his dismissal and settle his grievance later, saving the lives of the tourists? The priority, it seemed, was to apprehend or kill the kidnapper. The lives of the tourists did not matter all. The tourists were just calafares in a police and robber movie. Donald Tsang tried the whole day to get in touch with Aquino but in vain. They did not want Aquino to speak to Donald Tsang. And when Aquino appeared on TV the same day and the day after, he was all smiling with no hints of sadness that so many innocent lives were lost for nothing. And now they are still going to investigate the dead cop's dismissal, which was what the dead cop wanted. And there were many pictures of the cops involved in the botched operation taking photos with the bullet ridden bus as the backdrop. It was all like fun, a picnic. These pictures are now circulating in the internet. I have seen several of them. All the police men and women were smiling like they had just completed a movie shooting and celebrating for a job well done. That itself would tell what was important and what was not to them. It is appalling and disgusting, really.

8/25/2010

My National Day Inputs

1. Bring down the price of public housing. Remember it is the citizens that have to pay and pay. Paying for a life time for a public flat is a life sentence. 2. Make sure that all citizens, especially NS men, be eligible to buy a HDB flat. Make it a right attached to NS. If not, what’s the point of NS? And worst, new citizens who have not done NS are eligible to buy HDB flats. 3. Bring down the cost of medical services and hospitalization fees. 4. Bring down the cost of public transport. 5. Stop the mad population growth. It is a vicious cycle that will lead to doom. Nah, nobody will listen.

One happy problem out of the way

Singaporeans are now all smiling with the prices of their HDB flats going higher by the days. And with this good feeling of becoming millionaires and near millionaires, they should all be very grateful to the HDB and the govt for their windfalls. For those singles, young professionals etc who are not eligible to buy a HDB flat, just accept your fate or migrate to a place where housing is cheaper. And being professionals, they are in demand and can always find good employment elsewhere. And don't worry, their absence will not be felt as there are millions of foreigners waiting to become new citizens and buy HDB flats. Bon voyage!

More concessions

While the anger has still to subside, and the benefits yet to come, more reasons were given to explain and justify how fair and good the transport fare hike under the distance based system is. Everyone, or every article or speech heard is that it is a better system. Better for who? I read a small column in the ST saying that NSF man's train pass cost $50 now instead of $48. And it gets a bigger concession than before. Heh heh. This sounds like HDB, bigger subsidy. Or Singapore Sales, big discount. I think they should mark up the price higher and announce higher discount. That will sound even more impressive, 70% discount! The plain fact is that students and seniors are paying more. And these categories of people are not income earners or mainly small income earners. The rich seniors will be so rich that they will be driven around. So big concession good ah? Good reason to explain away the fare hike?

8/24/2010

The Philippines commando assault

Against one gunman holding hostages in a tourist bus, the Filipino commandos launched an assault against the gunman who was a disguntled ex police officer. They killed him and at the same time killed 8 Hongkong tourists and wounded several others. They think they are Rambos or Israeli commandos? Or there are more to it than just a simple trigger happy troops thinking they are Hollywood heroes? Hongkong should put a ban on their tourists visiting Philippines for a year and demand compensation and an apology from the Filipino govt. The assault was not only uncalled for but badly executed.

Apparently good news

With the high cost of COEs and cars, many Singaporeans are still able to afford 2 or 3 cars. The way it is reported, it seems so easy to own cars. And this is good news as it reflects how wealthy Singaporeans are. They have the dollars, and money is plentiful. There is a small happy problem though. Not enough car parks. And the car owners are complaining. Heh heh. Now here's the trick. You know what happened to the problem of overnight parking? Not enough car parks right? The solution is so simple. They kena pay double for overnight parking, in every car park, empty, half full or over parked. Now I can see the brilliant solution going to be enacted. But no need to worry lah. Only the car owners would have to pay a bit more. Double the $90 it is only $180 pm. Cheap, cheap, cheap! When the roads are congested, make the motorists pay to use the road. When car parks are congested or ful, increase parking charges to reduce the number of cars in the car parks. Then motorists can park more easily. I am beginning to think like a genius.

Corruption of Power

I heard in the news that Deutsche Bank has been allowed to conduct Dark Pool operations in the Hongkong Stock Exchange. This is as good as allowing big time drug dealers to conduct drug business with approval from an authority that is tasked to apprehend drug traffickers. The Exchange has a responsibility to ensure that all trading activities are transparent so that all parties big and small are privy to such activities. Now it is allowing the big boys to conduct activities that small traders are not supposed to know. Why don't they take a share as part of the drug syndicate? They too can make money selling drugs. Does it mean that the authority is above the law and can violate the law to its advantage? If this is not corruption of power, then what is? The only place when the authority can commit murder and get away with it is paradise. God is the biggest murderer, killing at his fancy, wanton killing of all living things during the big flood. And he is believed to be the most forgiving and kind. No one wants to tell him that he is a murderer, or no one dares to. So God walks around with a halo on his head like he is so pure and innocent, above the law. Oh, he is the law. Corruption of power is corruption of power. It cannot be otherwise.

8/23/2010

Who's talking?

Quote by Michael Richardson, visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies. If America fails to send the carrier into the Yellow Sea with South Korea, it will embolden hardliners in China and set a precedent that will be widely interrpeted in the region as a sign of US weakness. Below is a quote by Redbean by substituting America with China If China fails to keep the American carrier from the Yellow Sea, it will embolden hardliners in America and set a precedent that will be widely intrepreted in the region as a sign of China weakness. Reading the two quotes it is obvious what arrogance of power is all about. To the Americans, sending their warships to someone's front porch is not provocation but to tell the other party that America is the big power. China just have to accept it. To the Chinese, it is provocative and they will not be intimated by the Americans and will tell the Americans to back off from their front porch. And they are going to stand up to the Americans now that they are able to. Then to the Americans and westerners, China is the aggressive party. Of course many WOGs and anglophiles will say yes, yes, America must send their warships into the Yellow Sea.

Buy to profit versus buy to stay

The speculators, investors and developers are happy that property prices are up. And with limited land, the formula in investing in properties here is a sure win formula. Foreigners and swarming into our shores to swipe up whatever they can get with clean money and money to be cleaned. It is a happy story. Speculators and developers are in the property business to make money. Our citizens buy properties to stay, with a few exceptions in the speculator category. The respectable word is investors. Who do the speculators and developers made their money from? Of course from those who need to buy a roof over their heads. In the end, the people who needed a place to stay, a home here, will have to pay double, triple or quadruple for a roof over their heads. And this is good. Our residents paid through their noses for something that cost so little but to enrich the speculators and foreign investors. Who ends up the winner and who the suckers? And some jokers said don’t worry, when the demand is high, they will build more to manage the bubble. With our limited supply of land against an unlimited supply of money from abroad, who is going to call the shot? Oh, don’t worry, we can build many Towers of Babel. I don’t know whether the guy up there has anything to say about this.

Singaporeans must not sell their HDB flats

This is a serious call. Never, never sell your HDB flat! Yes it will appreciate in value at the way things are moving. But that is not the main concern. Many Singaporeans think that they could reap a handsome profit by selling their flats, maybe a couple of hundred thousand which could buy them the new car, the holidays, that new wardrobe or to splash around for a while with the new found wealth. This call may come too late for some who had already done that and live to regret it. The problem is that once the flat is sold, even with the same money untouched, will not be able to buy another similar. The price would have run away. And how could those who splurged on their profits and ended up with lesser money in their CPF afford another similar flat? The only people that may think of selling for a quick profit are those that already have alternative accommodation and have no need to buy another flat. On the other hand, those whose incomes are increasing substantially may want to sell and upgrade, assuming they could afford better housing. Once again, those who are thinking of a quick profit to feel rich for a while, better not try. There is no turning back and you will only be worst off than before. That's how some ended up living in the parks and beaches.

Good news for HDB and property owners again

New MRT line driving property boom in Bukit Panjang. COV $120k for 5rm and at least $30k for the rest. Singaporeans are getting richer again, without having to work for it. Just sit on the property and ask for higher price and they will get it. For those who cannot buy HDB flats, pray hard that the bubble will burst. But this will not happen as the price inflation is carefully managed and everyone can afford one, be it 1rm, 2rm or bigger. Everytime there is an increase in $100k, it means someone will have to work another 10 years for nothing just to pay for it. We are a country of happy property owners.

How real are polls and reports?

Singapore is the most desired country for migration and its population could go up by 200% if those who wanted to come are allowed to come. But the US is still the most preferred country to migrate to. Wow, we are number one again. If one ask anyone from a third world poor country if they want to migrate to a first world country, would they say no? If the survey were to be conducted in India or China, at least 1% would say they want to come to Singapore and we would have 20 million instant citizens. If the survey were to ask the respondents about Australia and that there is no racist policy to keep them out, at least 50 million each from India and China would be there in no time. So how much good can we attach to a survey like this? And of course as been pointed out, if 10 million want to come here, our population will be inflated by 200%. If 30 million want to go to the US, its population will only go up by 10%. In percentage term the US is less favoured than us. It is like surveying 5 people and claim that 100% of the respondent say yes.

8/22/2010

So, littering by fliers is ok?

If the ST is the official mouthpiece of the govt, then littering by fliers is ok. I say if. Of course ST is not the mouthpiece of the govt and its position is not necessarily the position of the govt. It just exercises its right to express its view and position on any issue it wants. This morning's editorial on littering by housing agent is blaming the Singaporeans for being too well taken cared of, a spoilt lot. It asked, why can't the heartlanders just pick up the fliers and put them into the dustbins? Let's see, 3 or 4 fliers daily, at different times, will mean that the heartlanders will have to perform this cleansing daily a few times if they did not want the flier/litter to adorn their entrance. Why should heartlanders be responsible for clearing the fliers left by someone else? They are not simply nuisance as I have said. What if all the spoilt heartlanders just let the fliers accumulate in the corridors? It is not a matter of just the cleaners to come cleaning. It is a slum in the making. The heartland will become another third world slum, with litters everywhere. Is this the standard that we want, permitting litters to be strewn everywhere? Heh heh, I love the idea.

8/21/2010

Why need foreign talent in finance?

Look at the three local banks that we have, big strong and financially sound. These banks were built, brick by brick, under conservative and traditional principles and practices of banking. They grow in a slow pace, under strict regulations and scrutiny. Their conservative and traditional practices have lagged them behind the multinational American and European banks, the Citis, Goldmans, the Morgans, the Lloyds, Barclays and the UBS. These American and European banks grew rapidly during the period of liberalisation and deregulations. But then many grew big fast and quick and went pop fast and quick as well. In banking and finance, the hare and tortoise race is still applicable in many ways. With the benefits of hindsight, the Americans and Europeans are trying to rein in the free wheeling days when high finance is nothing more than a casino and selling snake oils. Liberalisation and deregulation were what they demanded and what they got, and the whole system nearly collapsed with trillions lost across the world. The situation is best summed up by an article in the ST by Howard Davis, former Chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority and now director of the London School of Economics. He quoted Andy Haldane from the Bank of England, …‘Only when markets were deregulated and liberalised from the early 1970s onwards did finance once again leap ahead…. He argues that much of the apparent growth in value added has in fact been illusory, based on increased leverage, excess trading and banks writing deep out of the money options, for example, credit default swaps, a US$60 trillion (S$80 trillion) market in 2007....What all these strategies had in common…was that they involved banks assuming risk in the hunt for yield – risk that was often disguised because it was parked in the tail of the return distribution.’ The era of fool’s gold may be over and America and Europe may not see its heyday sooner. But fear not, for if America and Europe ‘over constrain the finacial sector, risk may migrate outside the regulatory frontier, where it will be harder to measure and monitor.’ And this is where Singapore can step in. The rejects from the American and European financial industry are welcomed here to do their damages. Our local banks is in need of these foreign talents to spurt growth, to grow as big as Citibank, Lehmans, Goldmans, Morgans, the Bears and Stearns and the likes. Shall we or shall we not welcome these foreign talents into our financial industry? They will bring growth and innovation and boost our productivity and bottom line practically overnight. We don’t have to wait a millenium to grow our local banks to super banks. They can be super banks with the foreign expertise and their innovative banking practices and writing off debts. Banks need to take risk, high risk, and operate like casinos if they want rapid growth and high yield. With our greed for instant growth, like our infamous instant tree formula, we have no choice but to embrace these foreign talents with open arms. PS. Below are the causes of the financial crisis listed in Wikipedia. You can actually tick those that are applicable and happening here to see the risk that we are exposed. 1 Background and causes(2007/8 financial crisis) * 1.1 Growth of the housing bubble * 1.2 Easy credit conditions * 1.3 Sub-prime lending * 1.4 Predatory lending * 1.5 Deregulation * 1.6 Increased debt burden or over-leveraging * 1.7 Financial innovation and complexity * 1.8 Incorrect pricing of risk * 1.9 Boom and collapse of the shadow banking system * 1.10 Commodities boom * 1.11 Systemic crisis * 1.12 Role of economic forecasting

8/20/2010

US carriers the perfect targets

'Setting the stage for a possible conflict, Beijing has grown increasingly vocal in its demands for the U.S. to stay away from the wide swaths of ocean — covering much of the Yellow, East and South China seas — where it claims exclusivity. It strongly opposed plans to hold U.S.-South Korean war games in the Yellow Sea off the northeastern Chinese coast, saying the participation of the USS George Washington supercarrier, with its 1,092-foot (333-meter) flight deck and 6,250 personnel, would be a provocation because it put Beijing within striking range of U.S. F-18 warplanes. The carrier instead took part in maneuvers held farther away in the Sea of Japan. U.S. officials deny Chinese pressure kept it away, and say they will not be told by Beijing where they can operate. "We reserve the right to exercise in international waters anywhere in the world," Rear Adm. Daniel Cloyd, who headed the U.S. side of the exercises, said aboard the carrier during the maneuvers, which ended last week. But the new missile could undermine that policy.' The above is extracted from an article by ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press. The article is about China's new missile technology that is specifically developed to take on the American aircraft carrier group that is proving to be a menace in the East China Seas. The Americans have enjoyed naval and air superiority over all nations for a long time. This superiority is now being negated by the Chinese missiles that have the precision to knock out an aircraft carrier. It would be a cheap missile against a big, high value and worthy targets in terms of lives and machinery. Going down with an aircraft carrier will be several thousand crews and several hundreds of aircraft. A good bargain definitely. The Americans will now have to be very careful pushing their sitting ducks in the waters around China. They will come within the range of these high precision missiles designed specially to take them out of the equation. It is no more an invincible task force. It is a lame duck! The arrogance of American raw power has met its nemesis.

Pavlov’s Law in action

Pavlov is famous for his experiment in substituting a stimulus to elicit a desired response. Animals can respond for instance to a bell or a light and salivate as if it is responding to a food stimulus. After reading the papers these few days, I can relate to how we train our young to respond to money as a stimulus. Little school children were given tickets to watch YOG programmes but have to sign an undertaking to forfeit a $5 deposit if they did not turn up. If we keep training our children to respond to this money stimulus, soon their minds will respond to it in a predictable manner. It will be very effective when they become adults. Do not litter or you will be fined. Our streets will be cleaner. We can save a lot of time and trouble teaching children to behave responsibly as a rightful thing, as an ethical thing, as a good thing. Just use the money stimulus will do. Efficient and effective! No need to explain and explain on the whys. Pavlov called this kind of reaction as conditioning. The circus, the zoos and bird parks around the world also use this method very effectively to train animals to behave in the way they want them to.

We have overcome

Asia Insurance Building was the tallest building. Bukit Timah Road was the longest Road. Two battalions armed with 303 rifles and a few guns, we used them for ceremonial salutes today, were all we had. We had 3 tiny reservoirs and had to depend on Johore for our water supply. Each family had 8 to 10 children, mostly uneducated, under employed, and crammed into attap huts or Chinatown cubicles. There were unemployment and shortage of housing. Small businesses had to pay protection money to secret societies to remain in business. We had several small family banks run by self taught businessmen. We overcame the odds. Asia Building is now dwarfed by HDB flats. Longest road is either AYE or PIE. We have an armed force equal or better than anyone in the region. We are self sufficient in our water needs. We have full employment, solved our housing problems, educate our people to the highest level possible. Now what? We have housing problems all over again. We have unemployment among our own people in spite of full employment. We cannot solve a little flooding problem. We do not know what to do with littering by flyers. We built 3 large local banks that operate in the international market, all by our local talents. Now we are sneering at our local talents that they were not good enough to run these banks, and we need to employ foreign talents to run them. And very likely none of these foreign talents even know how to start a banking business. We have one of the world’s highest saving rate only to find out that many will not have enough money for retirement. A visit to the dental clinic or hospital is like offering oneself to be robbed. Maybe it is true that our local talents are hopeless, despite paying them top dollars. That is why we are struggling with little petty problems and got caught off guard now and then. Those days when we could overcome all odds and surmount all problems, no matter how big are over. We can’t even come out with a simple fare structure for public transport and the oldies/students have to subsidise the able, and no one can do anything about it. They just put up a show of protest and live with it, as what had happened to all the unpopular policies. What is happening?

8/19/2010

YOG and empty stadium

Why students not attending YOG events despite being given free tickets? Why, maybe transport fare is too expensive. You think travelling around is free and the students got so much money to spare?

War crimes in Sri Lanka and Myanmar

America is behind the war crime investigations in Sri Lankan and Myanmar under the UN umbrella. How come there is no war crime investigation against America in Vietnam, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Guantanamo? Why were there no war crime tribunal against the indiscreet killing of civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima by the Americans. And pushing it a little back, why no crimes against humanity against the Americans for slavery of Africans and genocide against the Red Indians? When will the UN grow some balls to initiate war crimes or crimes against humanity against the Americans?

How much are the fare increases?

We know that the fares were raised. We know that it was meant to be a fairer system. We know that 3 out of 4 commuters would benefit from the fare hike and 1 out of 4 would have to pay more. How much more and how much less? We also know that the transport companies would lose $88m in revenue. Really? Let’s look at some numbers. I am using what I know to extrapolate the impact on all the commuters. A senior citizen will save 15c if he travels a short distance of 4/5 stations, (68-53). If he travels longer distance, he would have to pay 18c more(86-68). Before the changes, a senior citizen pays 68c for maybe 24 stations. With the new changes, the transport company would even out the reduction in the first 4/5 stations from commuters who travel the next 4/5 stations. Subsequently the rest of the journey or more than 10 stations will be pure additional profits. Give away 15c for 4/5 stations and collect 18c from the next 4/5 stations is already a profit. The rest of the journey collects 18c. Not bad a formula. How could they lose $88m? And the same principle is applicable to students and normal fare commuters. The percentage increases could be much more in the normal fare category. When you collect more and give out less, I think the profit is enormous rather than losing $88m. I stand to be corrected on the exact numbers as I am just extrapolating from the fares of senior citizens. SMRT are cordially invited to provide the exact numbers here.

8/18/2010

The financial industry getting darker

With more big players coming here to operate dark pool electronic trading, the activities in the finance industry will surely get darker. Dark pool operations are against the merits of transparency. Ronald Arculli, chairman of Hong Kong Exchange said that ‘dark pools pose a “systemic risk” to financial markets because of their lack of transparency.’ However, when the industry practice is less then virtuous, playing in the dark side seems to be easier to accept. Many experts in US and Europe have cried out loud against this practice and have told of the dangers it presented. It is also unfair to the rest of the investors for not having such information and trading in the dark. It is no longer a level playing field when information is withheld by some parties. Stock exchanges that see it their responsibility to provide and level playing field and transparency need to re examine themselves and ask if they are violating the very principles and regulations that are supposed to uphold. Will dark pools turn out to be as toxic as toxic notes and mini bonds one day? Welcome to the dark side.

Why are the oldies complaining about fare hike?

The recent fare hike, or to put it better, fare adjustment, was not meant to be a fare hike. Whether commuters, especially the senior citizens, travel longer or shorter distance, need to make a transfer or not, there will be a saving. I am a senior citizen and I am speaking on my first hand experience. I am benefitting by adjusting my pattern of travelling. Before the fare hike, if I travel 1 station or 2 stations, I would have to pay 68c. If I travel 5 stations or 11stations, I would still pay 68c. With the new changes, if I travel 1 station or 2 stations, I will have to pay 53c. If I travel 5 or 11 stations, I will have to pay 86c. My normal route will mean that I will have to pay 18c more one way or 36c more daily. This is a 26% hike every day! Now, how can I benefit from the changes? I figure out that if I get in at station 1 and out at station 2, I will save 15c (68-53). So if I break up my journey into ten trips, in and out of every one station, I could save $1.50 per trip or $3 daily. Wow, I am saving more than the 36c hike daily by changing my travelling pattern! Can make money some more. I am an oldie and my mental faculty may be a little faulty. Please don’t take advantage of oldies. And thank you for helping me to save $3 daily.

8/17/2010

The virtuous deaf frogs

The fare hike was meant to benefit the commuters. But it is ok that 1 out of 4 got to pay more. Lily Neo was furious and asked, 'Is the minister aware of the frustration and anger of many...on the ground? Raymond Lim 'acknowledged that some seniors face "significant fare increases". And it was an agonising decision that the Public Transport Council had to make. Then what? Stop whining and move on? Hey, the little money that the seniors have is crucial to their daily lives. Every cent counts. It is not a matter of whether they can take bus, mrt or taxis, it can mean going with one meal less or trying to make ends meet. Many of these seniors did not earn $2m or $3m a year. The few cents may be nonsense and meaningless to people earning millions, but please don't brush it off as just too bad. Do something and not let the poor seniors being robbed of their cup of kopi O.

Vandalism or littering allowed?

Inserting flyers into people’s doors and gates is not vandalism and not littering. Ok, I accept that. Is it trespassing when they are not wanted? It is public nuisance when the owners would have to make the effort to throw them away? Is it a fire hazard when too many are left around and a lighted cigarette could set them ablaze? Is it a security risk to the owners when the flyers are a tell tale sign that the owners are not in for a long duration? Who should be responsible if someone slips on the fliers and get hurt? But it is so complicated and confusing an issue that our top talents in Parliament could not come out with a clear position. The fliers’ owners claimed that they have to do it to generate business. And some jokers even agree to it, saying that they cannot prevent people from doing business. What kind of bullshit is that? Why are the nasi lemak and kalipok boys and girls and small time hawkers not allowed to peddle their wares? Oh they got no licence, never pay protection money is it? Why should flat owners be troubled by the fliers and have to clear them away? What if the owners opened their doors and the fliers drop onto the floor, and left there? Is it littering on the part of the owners? The fliers are litters and will litter the whole corridor. When have littering been allowed? What happen to the $500 fine for littering? This looks like another serious and complex problem, like loan sharks and motor insurance scam, no one is able to solve. It’s not elementary, Watson. So the people should continue to be harassed and bombarded by fliers and they can do nothing about it. And Parliament too cannot do anything about it. It is just doing business. Did I see a big bull somewhere? Shall someone engage a prominent lawyer to clarify the legal position on this? There must be a position, black or white. Of shall it stay grey forever, impossible to solve?

8/16/2010

I am back!

Practically every week there will be news on LKY making some calls on national affairs. After his revolutionary statement that there shall be no retirement age, the reports are the surest sign that he will be standing in the next GE. I believe he was the man who advised Deng Xiaoping to replace the old Chinese leadership with younger men and women in charge. China has done so and their leaders are mostly younger than ours now. We still have LKY, Jayakumar and Chok Tong in an age group that makes the Chinese leaders look boyish. So, why the dramatic change to keep the oldies going for as long as they are still kicking? Is it dearth of leadership, dearth of good political leaders? China is a big country with depth in talents. We don’t have the luxury. Look at the banks and you will understand why. The locals are just inept, not good enough, and you just cannot risk the banks with them. So there is a need to keep looking for foreign talents when the locals are just not good enough. For political leadership, things are a bit trickier. PRs cannot be political leaders for one. They need to change their ICs to pink. Only pink can do. For any newly minted citizens, preferably they should be pinkies for a few years to lend some credibility to be our political leaders. There is thus an urgent task to find and attract more foreign talents to boost up the quality of our political talent. In the meantime, the oldie trinity of LKY, Jayakumar and Chok Tong would still be needed to warm the seats and hold the fort. If this theory is true, then soon we could be seeing a Clinton, Brown, Gandhi or a Hu becoming our PM and leading us to a brighter future. Let’s welcome the foreigners with open arms. It is quite sad that with 2 million people we could carry ourselves to the first world. Now with 4/5 million people we are saying that our future will be doomed without more talented foreigners coming here to help us.

Is Superbug another health crisis?

The fear of H1N1 has just subsided after hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to stock up the vaccine by fearful nations, particularly those countries that have a lot of money to pay for the drug. The pharmaceutical companies must be very thankful for the monetary windfall for a crisis that was blown out of proportion and is now seen as not worst off than another variation of the common flu. The new hype, Superbug, is catching the attention of news hungry media. It is seen as another big thing by the European experts, and the monetary potential for big profits is very tempting. The Superbug is claimed to have its origin in India. The Indian health authority is not amused and angry that India is being picked as the culprit for the bug. And they too are questioning the vested and commercial interests of parties crying wolf. Could this be another cry wolf episode and a money spinner? Or would the world take this less seriously as the H1N1? Would WHO raise the alarm and pronounce this as another epidemic waiting to happen? Let’s hope that this is a false alarm. Let’s hope that countries were not made to waste precious money to hoard vaccines that may not be necessary. In this case there is no vaccine available for the next 10 years. But huge sums of money will have to be set aside for R&D to come up with a wonder drug. What if this is real? How are we going to be affected should we be found to harbour a big pool of carriers living in our neighbourhood? One thing for sure, our economy will shrink immediately if we are to repatriate in bulk, all the foreign workers from affected countries. There is a health risk and an economic risk. Our HDB flats will be vacant with no more tenants or foreign talents vying to buy resale flats. The property bubble will surely to burst, not because of a world financial crisis, but a Superbug. I recall the Year 2000 bug and how that also led to a crisis of worldwide proportion. This Superbug is an interesting development that could prove comical.

8/15/2010

Notable quote by Lee Hsien Loong

"Let us welcome them with an open heart, help them to fit in and encourage those who will become citizens to strike roots here. If we do this well, by the next generation, their children will be native Singaporeans." Lee Hsien Loong The future of Singapore is looking very bright and exciting. We are going all out to woo the brightest talents from all over the world, including those who helped in one way or another to create the world's biggest financial collapse, to work with us. Yes, if we handle this well, Singapore's future will be rosy and good. And we have hundreds of billions in our reserves that would serve our future well too. And the large reserves will come in handy to the financial experts coming into our shores. Together with GIC and Temasek, if we manage these monies well, we may not have to work in the future. The money will work for us, with the help of all the financial talents. We are talking about our future getting better and better. Presumably we are doing very well now. And yes, many are doing excellently today except for the few oldies that needed $20 to help out in their transport fare and a few who have to live in the parks. Tell them not to worry, the future is looking really good, that is, if we handle the situation well. What if we did not do it well?

$20 for senior commuters

Gan Kim Yong is dishing out $20 from his CCC fund to senior citizens affected by the recent fare hikes in public transport. Only those who are 60 and above and have less than $1,500 monthly family income qualified. It is expected that this will cost the CCC $20,000. This is a one time payment though there is possibly of further payments. Is there a real problem affecting the senior citizens? After all it is only a few cents per trip. And this is not enough even to buy a can of soft drink. So why the hooha? Gan Kim Yong had received many complaints during his meet the people session. So there is a real problem. Other MPs are also getting more complaints on the same issue. If there is a problem, how is a one time $20 going to help remove the problem? Is this just a gesture of kindness or a temporary measure while the MPs are seeking a real solution to the plight of the poor oldies? Should those who made the decision to increase the small and irritating few cents of financial burden try to do something, like donating their bonuses to help them? After all their bonuses can come to several hundred thousands each and quite likely paid by these small increases? I don’t think anything will happen as the small hike is going to bring in many benefits to the oldies in the future. The hike is a good thing, helping the oldies. It becomes ridiculous to dish out more money for the oldies when they are supposedly benefitting from the hike. Or is it?

8/13/2010

The Bankrupt of America

‘The US is bankrupt and it doesn’t even know it. Economy won’t be big enough to handle US$4 trillion in entitlements owed to 78 million baby boomers. Let’ get real. The United States is bankrupt. Neither spending more nor taxing less will help the country pay its bills….’ This is the heading and first paragraph of an article in Bloomberg, by Laurence Kotlikoff, Professor of Economics at Boston University. Yeah man, The US of A is a bankrupt country. And it is still strutting its stuff everywhere thinking that it is still the big boy in town. But the best part of this fiasco is that they think that they can act rich and spend their way out of this rut. They are going to print and print more greenbacks for the Americans to go on spending. This is the happiest solution that anyone can ever think of. In fact it is ingenious. A bankrupt spending like a millionaire and as if there is no tomorrow. And the problem will go away. When is America going to carry a bowl and go a begging in the streets of London?

Notable quote by Seelan Palay

“Before we begin, I’d like to clarify that I’m in the dock in shackles, cuffs and chains not because I have committed any crime. I am here in this state because of another unjust law administered on behalf of the PAP Government.” Seelan Palay I copied the above quote from jacob 69er. Seelan was speaking to the judge just before the proceeding of his trial. I totally disagree with the way we treat and handle our political activists with cuffs and shackles. Do we have to be so mean? They are not criminals and not violent. Many are well educated and responsible citizens. The Americans have their Guantanamo and think it is an acceptable thing. And the world kept quiet about the whole sordid happenings there.

A frightening and uncanny similarity

Please read the extract below from an article by Laurence Kotlifkoff, an economics professor of Boston University. ‘We have 78 million baby boomers who, when fully retired, will collect benefits from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid that, on average, exceed per capita GDP. The annual costs of these entitlements will total about US$4 trillion in today’s money. Yes, our economy will be bigger in 20 years, but not big enough to handle this size load year after year. This is what happens when you run a massive Ponzi scheme for six decades straight, taking ever larger resources from the young and giving them to the old while promising the young their eventual turn at passing the generational buck. Mr Herb Stein, chairman of the Council of economic Advisers under US President Richard Nixon, coined an oft repeated phrase: “Something that can’t go on, will stop.” True enough, Uncle Sam’s Ponzi scheme will stop. But it will stop too late….’ Just think of our CPF scheme, and also the public housing scheme. The ever increasing price of HDB flats, direct from HDB or resale, is like taking from the young to pay the oldies. And of course, promising the young that the housing bubble will go on expanding, never ending, and they will reap their millions tomorrow. How long can this go on? Or as Stein above said, ‘Something that can’t go on, will stop?’

8/12/2010

What is $10 million?

This is a statement that a friend of mine used to gripe about. He was cheesed off when he heard this statement made by an elite. That is another world of successful people who have made literally tons of money and $10 million is not money to them in the real sense. It is better that we come down to earth and talk about $100k. What is $100k? Some foolish people take this just as a number. What is $100k if the resale price of a 3 rm or 4 rm flat goes up by that amount? To the owner or seller of the flat, wow, I am richer. Think again. What is this amount to the young couple earning a combined income of $3k means to them? It simply means that they will have to work for 3 years for nothing, and that is if they did not spend a cent, to earn $100k to pay for the flat. In reality, people who earn $3k can at best save $500 pm. This means his debt or burden because of this $100k increase in the price of a flat will drag him down for at least another 10 years. For those foolish people who cannot see any meaning in a $100k increase in public housing price, please sleep on it. Or you may want to rubbish it as another gripe that is best not spoken and not heard. It is the problem of the losers.

Be thankful for the gripes

What would this island become if there is no gripes? One thing for sure, we will continue to see 3,000 public flats being built annually and the resale price of 3 rm flats could be $1m by now. And yes, our population will have hit 6m! And SMRT will be happily recruiting pushers to push the commuters into the sardine packed trains and happily announcing more profits. What else could happen? Ministers would be laughing to the banks with $10m salary. Floods in Orchard Road will be time for celebration and parties. Car insurance would be more expensive than the value of the car itself. And there will be many more mind blowing stuff that would be taken for granted, or as normal and acceptable. Gripes are like symtoms of a sickness. The symptoms appear, crying for attention to treat the disease. Failing to heed will only see the disease going from bad to worst. Imagine if there are no symtoms, like no gripes, the victim could be dead sooner without knowing why. Be thankful, be very thankful, that the people are whining and griping. Only deaf frog would not be bothered with whining and griping. They would not know and live in their own state of oblivious bliss. And some choose to be deaf frogs. The drones of vuvuzuelas are irritating. But they serve a very important purpose. Why have Reach? Waste of time and money indeed, if griping is seen as unhealthy and to be ignored, buried under the carpet. Don't want to know. Put on that 4m smiles and everything will appear fine.

8/11/2010

Japan PM apologises to South Korea

Japan PM Naoto Kan apologises to the people of South Korea for the humiliating colonisation of Korea in the early 20th Century. The thought of colonising a people of another country, robbed them of their pride, culture and identity, treating them like animals and murdering them at their fancy, is something unthinkable today. How could any country go around thinking of colonising and subjugating another people of a different country? Such thinking was prevalent during the days of colonialism. Prior to that, hunting slaves was also acceptable in the European world. Though the world has changed since then, the domineering thought of superior race and of controlling other inferior races is still in existence in many countries. And some Japanese are still harbouring this grandeur of their past supremacy. The apologies by Kan has been attacked and rejected by some extreme quarters in the Japanese govt. It is disgraceful to make such an apology as far as this group of people is concerned. They would not apologise for the humiliation and atrocities inflicted on the lesser races, especially to the Koreans and Chinese and other Southeast Asian countries. Would Japan really repent and denounce their past militant doctrine given the fact that there are still many 'conservatives' who would want to relive their past glory? America is encouraging the remilitarisation of Japan as a lackey to wage war with China. Would this foolish act of the Americans, in unleashing the animal in the Japanese psyche, lead to more turbulent times in Asia? There is no honour in war and in invading another country. It is gangsterism at its worst.

We are doing it for Singaporeans

The govt is doing it for the sake of the Singaporeans. This is the most explicit commitment made on National Day by Hsien Loong. We need to bring in more foreign workers for the sake of Singaporeans. Can’t the Singaporeans understand what the govt is doing? What else were done for the sake of the Singaporeans? Higher GST, for the sake of poorer Singaporeans. Higher HDB prices, for the sake of Singaporeans who have bought their flats earlier. Higher minimum sum and Medisave, for the sake of Singaporeans during old age and when hospitalised. Higher medical fees, a world class medical care for the sake of Singaporeans. Higher public transport fare, for the sake of Singaporeans, benefits akan datang. The govt has been doing so many good things for the sake of the Singaporeans. Why are Singaporeans still complaining, whining and griping? Are the Singaporeans so dense that they cannot appreciate what the govt is doing? Look at the foreigners, they know exactly what the govt is doing and know how good they are. And they are very appreciative of what this govt is doing and fully support this govt. The dense Singaporeans should talk to the foreigners and get enlightened. KNN, the $100 levy to enter the casinos is also for the sake of Singaporeans.

8/10/2010

Would your parents love you less?

Would your parents love you, or love you less, just because you are a little slow, a little dull, a little complacent? No, parental love transcends all the superficiality of physical perfection or human perceptions of goodness and cleverness. No parents will send their children packing because they are less able, and replace them with other people’s children. It is always children first, under all circumstances, and the more disadvantaged the children are, the greater the parental love and attention. Parents are protective and will sacrifice everything to care for their children. Would parents, deserving to be parents, bring home other people’s children to share the bowl of rice with their children, on the presumption that other people’s children will in the end make life better for their children? And why would other people’s children care for the well being of other competing children? Is this a fallacy or a high falutin theory? No worthy parents would ever think of bringing home better looking or more able children to replace their children, to bestow them with loving tender care. They make do with what they have, their less than perfect children. Most parents would continue to provide more, to make sure their less able children will not be disadvantaged. That is what true and genuine parenthood is all about.

Singapore’s two addictions

Be in Ice or Heroin, an addiction is an addiction. The danger of all addictions is that it takes more and more to get the same high. This means it cannot be stopped or hell will break lose. It is a vicious and very destructive cycle. Our country’s two main addictions are OPM and OPT. OPM comes from statutory boards and the CPF. These money becomes cheap loans to be invested, some called it gambling for big stakes, for high returns. Theoretically it sounds good, borrowing cheap money to invest for big returns. The problems come when the returns are not enough to pay for the low interest or the high operation cost. Then what? Don’t pay back! But this cannot do. The payback can be delayed, even for generations, but the time must come when someone will call for payback time. The Americans have been very successful in borrowing OPM and thinking that it was a good thing. It was a good thing when they can afford to pay back. Now their debt has ballooned to a point that they cannot pay back. It becomes a debt that is too big to pay back and too big to default. The consequences are grave. We are intoxicated by OPM and happily plunging into the same deep end as the Americans, thinking that there is no need to pay back. The truth is that no matter how many spins and schemes can be created to delay the payback, the spins and schemes only add to the gravity of the problem. There is no running away unless we strike lottery. For the last ten years or more we have depended heavily on OPT, Other People’s Talent. We saved a lot of cost to produce these talents and we used them cheaply, making more savings. Our whole economic growth formula is now dependent on OPT. Like OPM, it is another deadly drug. There are side effects to the addiction and there is a big price to pay for. No drugs that give one a high does not come with a price. What is this price and when will be pay back time? For the moment, we only see the good side of OPT and OPM. But like all good things, they are too good to be true. Anything that is too good to be true is dangerous. And the more dangerous part of it is that we cannot see the danger of it. The fundamental economics principles of hard work, thrift, small but genuine profits, not easy profits, high productivity, better goods and better services are discarded for high risks, high returns, for easy profits that we don’t have to work for it. Like the Americans creating all kinds of fictitious and worthless paper products to be sold to the suckers. Worthless notes, toxic notes, derivatives, are illusions that will go pop as they designed to do. OPM and OPT will also go pop one day. They cannot keep piling up with no limitations like turning on the tap and they will keep following. And like all fixes, you need more of them to sustain the next high.

South China Sea, an issue of US Commitment or Interference

Chua Chin Hon, ST’s Bureau Chief in Washington, wrote an article titled, ‘South China Sea issue a test of US Commitment’. The article can best be summed up as a western interpretation of events in South East and East Asia and the role of US to take charge as the undisputed Empire. It touched on how China was staking its claims to 80% of the South China Sea and how this would have rattled the littoral states. It took for granted the US position that 80% of the four oceans are part of their national interest without mentioning how the countries of the world would react to it. Then it pointed to the increasing Chinese military presence and drills as unacceptable developments while the huge military exercises of the American naval fleets in the East China Sea, Yellow Sea and South China Sea as how things should be. What is pertinent in the article is America’s leadership role in Asean. After Hilary Clinton’s attack on China’s position in the disputed South China Sea islands, which provoked a strong reaction from China, the Americans were quick to use this as an excuse to stake their claims to leadership in Asean and their role to lead Asean against China. As Ernest Bower of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies(CSIS) remarked, ‘If you rattle the cage with China like this and depart, you probably can’t be forgiven.’ And Bower added, ‘To be honest, there’s enough pressure now, particularly with the Chinese reaction, that it may require the Americans to take a leadership role (at this stage).’ This is exactly the intent of the Americans. Provoke a crisis situation and instigate the innocents to be a party to a dispute with the Americans as the undisputed leader. In Bower’s words, ‘I don’t see many Asean countries with the political courage to stand up and take the lead when the elephants are butting their heads.’ The Americans do not see the Asean countries capable of taking on the Chinese in a contentious situation when military is needed. Only they are capable of fighting a big country like China. Would the Asean states be dragged into a confrontation with China instigated by the Americans? The relationship between Asean and China has been one of diplomacy and peaceful negotiation. And Asean was and is able to take on China on an equal basis with no fear of China’s use of force. Would this stance be changed and Asean becoming another SEATO, an extended arm of the American Empire set to pitch against China in a military contest? Or would Asean be wise enough to steer clear of the American scheme of things and remain neutral and independent? The US is coveting a leadership role in Asean and this is the real issue, a test of Asean’s resilience and independence from big power domination. Has Asean been less effective over the years without carrying a mighty sword to the negotiating table and now see it necessary to have the backings of a superpower to conduct its dealings? Would Asean be goaded into a confrontation with China and turn Southeast Asia into a war torn region like the Middle East? This is what will likely to happen if the US is allowed to lead and dictate how Asean shall behave.

8/09/2010

Notable Quote by Allan Snyder

‘I will be most distressed if my son comes back with a string of As. Going by my research, it would mean that he is probably not going to do anything exceptional.’ Allan Snyder, Director, Centre for the Mind, University of Sydney. Would words like these give comfort to our mothers and fathers of children without straight As and with some struggling at the bottom of the heap? I am no expert in education or predicting the future of children or assessing their potential. According to Snyder, his research shows that the champions and successful people have nothing to do with their academic achievements. Many have been very successful, even in technical and professional fields, without having straight As. Quite a number were drop outs from schools. The Americans have many luminaries in this category and so do we. Some billionaires in our midst would have been in the Normal Stream of our education system. The mystical thing is that their talents are not in the books. They are gifted or blessed to shine in different fields. How then can we persuade our parents to view things from a different perspective and not just straight As? Are there ways to change the mindset, change the branding and labelling, to accord recognition and acceptance of talents that are not academic geniuses but geniuses in their own rights in other fields? Where shall we start? We have been bungling with this notion of academic brilliance equals success and a good life, which is generally true but not the absolute truth. We need to take a different path, jump into the river or swim the ocean, to find ourself and our own meaning in life. Straight As will in all probability end up being a good civil servant, a good employee, and nothing spectacular. Many of the great inventions today came from non straight As students.

Aerial Photos of NDP

NDP Aerial Display
Just a few aerial pics of the NDP taken earlier.

8/08/2010

National Day Message, A Retake

Every National Day is a time for reflection about what this country is all about. National Day brings to light the meaning of nation, and the perennial question being asked is whether we are a nation, or are we getting there. After 45 years of strenuous nation building exercises, sadly, we acknowledge that we are not getting near there. It is still a work in progress. Maybe this is a blessing. Why should we want to build a nation when we can have the best of both worlds? We can have the best people, the most successful people coming here to live in the best city modern history can provide, and we don’t have to be bothered with the responsibility of looking after incompetent and loser citizens who could not make the grade. Just simply tell them to go else where and the vacated place can be quickly filled up by more able and talented individuals who are hungrier and less demanding. An indirect way is to make the cost of living so high that they will quit voluntarily. Should we therefore be craving to build a nation? Or are we chasing a construct that is no longer relevant to a small city state? A hotel, a piece of prime land for those who can afford the best, with no obligations or commitments, no responsibility, run by a mercenary force of hardnosed businessmen should suffice. Let’s be real and pragmatic and reinvent ourselves. Ooops, ourselves is no longer relevant. There is no us or them. Only the board of directors of a prime estate offering its space for those who appreciate how well it is being run. No citizen to please, no need to plan for social security and cheap public services. Pay for what you get and pay to live here. Nothing is free. The present citizens can always opt out of the scheme, sell out, clear their CPF savings and move on. Let this be the last National Day and everything shall start anew on 10 August, no citizen, no NS, no govt services, no social services, no subsidies, no handouts, no entitlement mentality, no gripes. And no need to be bothered by unreasonable and demanding citizens. Ah, no need to build cheap public housing. Sell private properties only, to the highest bidder, to the one who can pay the highest market price. Welcome to the world’s Best Run Private Real Estate. PS. Of course I am talking cock. The difference is that I know I am talking cock.

8/07/2010

More flats to be built in 2011

Mah Bow Tan has come out to assure the first time home buyers that more flats, to the tune of 16,000 units will be built next year, and more to come if the demand is there. It is good that he has implicitly acknowledged that there is a serious mismatch in the demand and supply of HDB flats and is trying his best to meet the penned up demand. The current spate of new flats being offered would ease the demand somewhat and perhaps slow down the surging prices of resale flats. This does not in anyway help those first time buyers that have been adversely affected by the shortage over the last few years. Many have to put off their marriage plans, baby making plans and whatever plans. Even with the current measures, it means that they will still have another 3 years to go before anything will happen. It is still a consolation that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Would Mah Bow Tan stop at this? How would he compensate those that have missed the boat to get a HDB flat and were booted out of the HDB scheme when their incomes exceeded the $8000 ceiling, while trying to get a flat when the supply was low. And the policy then did not give first time buyers higher priority? And there are those that would now have to pay for much higher price HDB flats because they could not get their flats earlier. These first time buyers were callously dismissed by HDB and fell victims to its slow building phase and are adversely affected both in their plans to set up family as well as financially. Their plight cannot be ignored and the boosting of building programmes did not in anyway help this group of buyers or alleviate their problems. Some are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, not enough savings to buy private and not eligible for HDB. Let’s see whether Mah Bow Tan would consider doing something for these people, or would he say just too bad, water under the bridge. Let's move on. Their problems were not totally of their own doing and Mah Bow Tan should shoulder some of the responsibility for not anticipating the mismatch of supply and demand. They have every right to demand HDB to reconsider their cases and bring them back into the HDB scheme. _________________

8/06/2010

3 most costly expenditure of Singaporeans

The 3 most expensive items that Singaporeans have to throw their money at are property, car and hospitalisation. A simple flat is likely to cost an average Singaporean $1m by the time he pays up his mortgage. The cars which he would have to purchase in his lifetime would range from $300k to more than a $1m, to an average Singaporean. The rich would spend more than $1m for a car, let alone several million dollar cars in the backyard. Then, given the fact that a Singaporean will live past 80 or 90, the luck of spend a month in hospital could cost him another few hundred thousand. Add another $500k to raise a child through university, geeze, that's quite a lot of money to pay in one's lifetime. But Singaporeans are rich, so not a problem paying for them. Time to celebrate National Day for the good life and able to pay for it.

HDB flats are cheap and good

Kudos to HDB, said Chan Kok Wah in a letter to the Today paper forum. I agree with him completely. HDB flats are so cheap, when compare to the prices of private developers. They are extremely cheap when compare to those in HongKong and Tokyo. We should be so grateful that our public housing flats are so cheap when comparing with the two most expensive cities. Why don't we look closer and compare with what the Malaysian govt is giving to their people? You can get a 3 rm landed property for MY$120k. And this is about $50k! My god, if our $500k 5rm flat is cheap, I will go crazy trying to find a word to describe the Malaysian public housing. It all depends on what one is comparing. We are very good at using the worst to tell our people how fortunate we are. We never use the best in other countries to show how bad we are. Cheap, cheep, chip. Next please.

Who is littering my country?

Singaporeans are being blamed for the increasing littering on the streets. If this be so, our education system has failed badly. Our anti littering campaign has failed badly. Our heavy fines and CWOs have failed miserably. It saddens me to think that all the education and campaigns and fines could not teach our people to keep our streets clean. Don’t forget our toilets are still the dirtiest among the world’s worst. How then could we call ourselves a first world city with first world people and with first world etiquettes and conducts? Living among us there are more than 1 million foreigners, maybe 1 million. Would they be the one who are doing the littering and dirtying of our streets and toilets? I would suggest that we set up a task force to catch some of these culprits and check on their identities. If most of them are Singaporeans, then the schools are not doing enough. If most of them are foreigners, then we should know what to do. Living in our midst, in HDB estates, the school children, the foreign workers and the office workers, there are many foreigners. We need to know why are we failing in cleaning up our city and raising a population that takes pride in keeping our country clean.

8/05/2010

The Rules apply to babies and toddlers

There was an impressive news clip last night showing how serious SMRT was in enforcing its No eating and No drinking rules in the trains. The officers were meticulous to the word, very professional and polite, checking on commuters eating or drinking in the trains. For babies or toddlers sucking their milk bottles, they cordially invited the parents and babies to their staff room to drink in comfort and privacy. Now this is nice. I hope no one will come out with a betterer idea to provide special feeding rooms for babies and toddlers in every station, with hot water and wash basins as well. Please don't get any idea on this. This is my country. I love my country. I celebrate National Day on this.

Time to buy another car

COE is down. It was $36k last month and now $32k. Cars are now getting cheaper. Better hurry down to place my order for the next one before the price goes up again. I am hearing everyone saying, cheap, cheap and cheap. (It was $10k a short while ago.) I will call the car salesman today and place my order. How much to bid for the COE, any amount, no problem. If he wants to bid $100k also can. I know that I don’t have to pay for that sum as the monkeys cannot afford to pay so much. So many monkeys will scramble and count how much they could afford before submitting their bids. And knowing that they don’t have much money, how much could they afford to bid, $30k or $40k? They would exhaust every little savings they have. That is all they can afford. To me and those who are, ahem, very comfortable, what is a few million? So bid $100k, bid lah, what is the problem? The system is so kind to people like us, bid high high but no need to pay high high. : ) I love this system. It is an amazing system, very well conceived. Sometimes I feel sorry for the monkeys.

Ding dong policies

The family is the core unit of our nation building. We want our young to get married, have children, at least two. We want them to be filial, to visit their parents, look after and care for their parents. And better still, 3 generation family under one roof. We want our womenfolk to be productive, to go to work and provide that second income to pay for cheap HDB flats where one pay check is not enough. On the other hand we build flats that are smaller and smaller. Not only that the flats cannot accommodate 3 generations together, with 2 or 3 children, there is no room for a maid which is becoming a necessity to many families. The car park fees keep going up. How to visit parents when every hour is charged? How to be filial and stay overnight with parents when over night parking fee is doubled? Don’t they want the children to visit their parents, spend time with their parents, to share quality time with the family? And the parking fees for second car of children who want to spend more time with their parents are so costly. And instead of providing for adequate car parks, they only know how to increase the fees to keep people away. Parking is not just parking. It is a social activity, an essential family activity, an activity related to filial piety. It is also an activity where grandparents can help to look after the grandchildren while the parents are at work. The parents don’t just come back to pick up their children and scoot off immediately. The parking policies, providing inadequate car parks and prohibitive parking fees are anti social and anti family. The shoe box flats are also anti family and anti procreation. You mean you don’t know? Ding dong, ding dong, like two balls banging against each other happily ever after. It is unbelieveable to think that this doubling of carpark fees is universal and applicable to all car parks whether they are full or half full. Will it be implemented like dat?

8/04/2010

Manifesto of Reform Party

Below are the 19 policy pledges of the Reform Party that I copied from its site. This is a list of 19 policy pledges that are on the top of our agenda for action when we gain a majority in Parliament: Providing Cheaper and Better Lower-Income Housing by releasing more land for house-building and allowing the private sector a greater role Universal health insurance to be funded through current CPF contributions replacing current Medisave and Medishield schemes Basic Old Age Pension payable to all provided they have worked and paid into CPF for a sufficient number of years Reform of CPF to make contributions above those necessary to fund health and unemployment insurance and basic pension voluntary Universal child benefit scheme (as part of Guaranteed Minimum Income) to replace current tax breaks that heavily favour women on higher incomes Guaranteed Minimum Income for those in work to replace current Workfare system and to be integrated with child benefit and tax system A Minimum Wage to encourage businesses to raise productivity Reforms to Foreign Worker Policy to ensure that business gets the skilled labour it needs but that our own citizens come first Reductions in or exemptions from GST for certain categories of goods like food that form a higher proportion of total expenditure for those on median incomes and below Universal free and compulsory education from pre-school through to secondary level Expanded university enrolment and increased investment in improving quality of education for everyone Increased assistance for older workers and women re-entering the labour market to retrain and acquire new educational qualifications Reduction in NS to 18 months initially with aim to reduce it to one year as soon as feasible Requirement for new citizens and PRs to do NS or to pay lump sum tax instead Privatization of Temasek and GIC and distribution of equity to Singaporean citizens of more than five years standing Continuing Business and Foreign Investment Friendly Environment coupled with low tax rates Greater help and support for local SMEs to grow world-class companies Abolish restrictions on freedom of expression to encourage creativity and innovation necessary for a 21st century knowledge-based economy Reduce waste and inefficiency in government starting with slashing ministerial salaries and replacing it with performance-linked earnings tied to indicators directly related to your welfare I am sold to these pledges. I just want to add one point on the housing policy. Do away with salary ceiling. If we build enough flats, there is no fear of those who earns a bit more fighting with those who earn lesser. Forcing young people to buy expensive private flats is wicked. Also, every citizen who has served NS should be entitled to buy a flat from HDB as a recognition for his sacrifice to the nation. I support all the 19 pledges.

Are we at war?

My eyebrows were raised when I read an article by Ong WeiChong in the ST today. The article 'Preserve the link between citizens, SAF' mentioned our soldiers involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I quote, 'As part of the multinational effort to restore stability in Iraq, 998 SAF personnel were deployed in Operation Blue Orchid in and around the Iraqi theatre from 2003 to 2008. The SAF presence in Afghanistan to date has included provincial reconstruction teams, medical teams, a weapon-locating radar team, an unmanned aerial vehicle task group, aerial refuelling aircraft teams and artillery trainers. The technicality that Singapore is not at war does not disguise the fact that SAF personnel are operating in a war zone.' Fortunately, I believe, we have no casualty yet. What if one of our boys come back in a black plastic bag? Would he be considered KIA, killed in a war? I pray nothing of such will happen to our boys. Such missions are not the same as those in Meubulah during the tsunami crisis when our boys were there to provide and assist in humanitarian aids.

A warning to triple A countries

The Americans continue their provocations against the North Koreans with more military drills and a series of offensive anti North Korea media reports. Many western reporters have been roped in, including some from Asia and even Singapore, to write derogatory and biased reports about North Korea and Kim Jung Il. Now they are intensifying their provocations by attempting to freeze North Korean bank accounts in US banks and western banks that the US could manipulate. And they cry out loud that the North Koreans are provocative. But the western world and the American lackeys could not see any provocative acts on the part of the Americans. What did the North Koreans do to be branded as provocative? Could not they react to such provocations by the Americans? The freezing of North Korean bank accounts is a warning to all the triple A countries that their turn will come. These Asian, African and Latin American countries should take heed of this warning and move their money out of America and American banks, including those banks that are American allies, particularly those in Europe. They should park their money in banks that the Americans cannot lay their hands on or touch them. But if they choose to be silly and continue to park their money in American and European banks, they will have to take the risk of their money being frozen one day.