By the Singapore Democrats, 31 Dec 2008
SDP Assistant Secretary-General John Tan was released yesterday after serving a 15-day senetence for contempt of court. Mr Tan was in a buoyant mood and remained defiant in fighting for democracy in Singapore.
He was convicted together with Mr Shaffi’ie and Mr Isrizal for wearing kangaroo T-shirts outside the Supreme Court in May this year during the defamation hearing between Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the SDP. Shaffi’ie and Isrizal had earlier served their one-week jail term.
Mr Tan’s wife and younger son (see photo) greeted him with hugs and kisses. His party colleagues and friends were also on hand to welcome him.
“Apart from the little aches here and there from sleeping on the hard floor, I feel great!” Mr Tan said. “We must keep on speaking up and not give in because that’s what they want us to do.”
His appearance was telling. Apart from losing nearly 6 kg, Mr Tan looked none the worse for wear. In fact, he signaled his readiness to get back straight into work by checking his email and discussing with his associates the New Year’s Eve countdown. He will be the MC, together with Ms Jaslyn Go, for the evening.
By Sunita Sue Leng, for TheEdge Singapore
22 December 2008
TAIPEI’S CITY Hall is so proud of its mass rapid transit (MRT) system that it runs a competition every year, asking people to send in poems about the MRT. I can see why. The MRT is clean and comfortable (in addition to chewing gum, the nasty habit of betel chewing nut has been banned). People queue up in a civilised fashion before boarding trains. And, when the doors open, they don’t barge in before passengers can exit.
Signs and announcements are in Chinese and English and all carriages have electronic displays showing which station is coming up next. Every carriage has special seats for old folks, pregnant women or people with disabilities. I’ve never seen fit, young people pretending to be asleep in these seats.
However, the best part about Taipei’s MRT is its frequency. According to Taipei Rapid Transit Corp (TRTC), the company that runs the system, trains arrive at two to four-minute intervals at peak hours. Off-peak, it is four to seven minutes.
In reality, it is much more frequent. I know because I’ve timed it. At peak hours, trains come as often as every minute. As for off-peak hours? Well, I’ve never had to wait more than three or four minutes. As a result, even during the morning rush hour, the trains are never as packed as they are in Singapore.
Written by Chee Siok Chin, for the Singapore Democrats
29 December 2008
I first met John in September of 2006 during our three-day standoff at Hong Lim Park with the police. He had heard about our rally and march on September 16 and came to lend his support.
I remember him staying on into the wee hours of the morning with us that first day. He came every day subsequently and buoyed our spirits by encouraging us. He had brought refreshments and little things like raincoats and toiletries that would make our stand-off less taxing.
He has since been one of the most active members of the party as well as a dedicated practitioner of Nonviolent Action.
That’s John Tan.
Tan Kin Lian’s final rally for investors at Speaker’s Corner: The authorities have done little to help investors
Written by Ng E-Jay
27 December 2008
At the final rally for investors at Speaker’s Corner, Mr Tan Kin Lian lambasted MAS for doing scant little to assist investors, many of whom have lost their life savings. Financial institutions have also given very little compensation to investors, and frequently have dragged the cases and not even bothered to give investors a satisfactory reply.
Addressing a rally of around 150-200 people, Mr Tan Kin Lian gave a brief overview of the actions he has taken thus far. He has submitted a total of 4 petitions over the past three months, of which 3 were presented to MAS. The petitions were aimed at:
- asking the Government to look into any possible wrong doings by the financial institutions, in particular, whether the Financial Advisers Act and the Security and Futures Act had been breached,
- asking the MAS to investigate the sales training given by the financial institutions to their representatives, and
- asking the MAS to review the complaint handling process of the financial institutions, to set up an independent unit to receive and process the complaints, and to encourage the financial institutions to adopt a collective approach in offering fair compensation to the investors.
However, MAS has insisted that it cannot respond to Mr Tan or any individual investor directly, and would only communicate its intentions via official press releases. To date, Mr Tan has not received any communication on whether the specific requests contained in the petitions has been considered or implemented.
ST letter by Mr Yong Sing Wee
27 Dec 2008
ON SUNDAY evening, my friends and I heard a woman’s desperate screams followed by the sound of male shouts from the thick growth under the PIE flyover over Rifle Range Road.
I dialled 999 and the operator replied that a patrol car would be dispatched. I did not do more because it was getting dark and I was alone with two women. When the screams continued, I dialled 999 again, and was told that an officer had already been dispatched. About 15 minutes later, I called a third time to ask where the officer was but was told that an officer had already been dispatched.
By the time a police staff sergeant arrived at 7.30pm, the area was pitch dark and the screams had stopped. He apologised and explained that he was attending to another case and the police station could not dispatch anyone else. It was obvious he had tried his best to arrive at the scene as fast as he could. He spent 15 minutes combing the area before returning and telling us that he had radioed for more resources as he had not found anything. We left after my particulars were taken down.
This message is reproduced with permission from Mr Mohd Jufrie Mahmood.
By Jufrie Mahmood
23 Dec 2008
After a long lay off, my recent public visibility has attracted attention and comments from well-intended close and not so close friends. “Why, Jufrie Why?” they asked. “But if you must, why not associate with the more compliant group? Wouldn’t life be cozier and less stressful?” said several of them.
Such reactions have prompted me to in turn ask, “What kind of opposition do Singaporeans really want? Is the status quo satisfactory and does it serve Singapore’s long term interests? If not, what then should be done and where do I fit in? I am not that highly educated, let alone being a scholar.”
For sure I know that I am not going to be in it just for the sake being in. I want to make a difference and do it right. And definitely I am not going to be like the PAP Malay MPs. But again must a person be necessarily in parliament first before he can make a meaningful contribution?
There are many issues that need to be addressed. Can they be adequately attended to with the present lot of people who call themselves politicians?
Politicians come in all shades and mannerisms. But what factors actually motivate a person to go into politics?
Written by Ng E-Jay
22 December 2008
Going by Transport Minister Raymond Lim’s latest remarks, no one can possibly be blamed for assuming that as far as Singapore’s public transport fares are concerned, it’s a case of “heads the PAP wins, tails citizens lose“.
At a dialogue with about 300 MacPherson residents on Sunday 21 Dec, Mr Raymond Lim said that falling oil prices need not necessarily translate into a similar drop in fares, as “there is no direct correlation between the two“.
The minister was responding to queries on why fares had not come down given that crude oil prices have fallen to about US$33 a barrel from a record high of US$147.27 earlier in July.
“That’s a fair question,” Mr Lim answered. “The answer is that public transport fares are not directly linked to oil prices.” (ST, “Govt will try to keep transport costs down”, 22 Dec)
Yet in September, when the Public Transport Council (PTC) announced fare revisions for bus and train fares which came into effect on 01 Oct 2008, transport operators like SBS transit were quick to point out that the fare increase would help alleviate their cost pressures. (See here.) SBS noted that their fuel and electricity costs rose by 64% in the first six months of this year. It is common knowledge that these costs are closely tied with crude oil and natural gas prices. Fuel and electricity costs form around 30% of SBS Transit’s operating expenses. Can SBS Transit realistically say that these costs are insignificant?
For the past two years, transport operators in fact have consistently cited increases in fuel and manpower costs as reasons why fares should increase over this period.
According to the PTC’s latest formula for public transport fare revisions, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) forms a significant portion of the maximum fare adjustment calculation. Again, I need not remind readers that fuel prices have a significant impact on the CPI, because of the direct way increases in fuel prices are transmitted to the rest of the economy.
So who’s kidding who? Is Mr Lim taking Singaporeans for fools? When oil prices go up, the PTC and transport operators claim that serves as a reasonable basis for fare increases. When oil prices come plummeting down, the transport minister does an about turn and says there is no direct correlation between the two.
Truly, heads we win, tails you lose.
The transport minister also said that to run a completely free bus and train system, GST would have to be increased to around 8.5%.
My response is that if GIC and Temasek had not sunk countless billions into failing US financial institutions, we would have been able to afford precisely that long ago.
Written by Ng E-Jay
22 December 2008
Mathia Lee’s blog post on AWARE’s Comprehensive Sex Ed Programme (a Sunday Times letter penned by Dr Roopa Dewan and Mathia Lee) was quite thought-provoking. These are some of my reflections on the issue.
1. Looking for scapegoats versus educating the young.
When dealing with emotive issues like sexuality, sex education and responsibility, the easiest thing for authority figures such as parents and guardians to do when problems crop up is to engage in finger pointing and look for scapegoats. Such behaviour only alienates the young which we are trying to educate. When people are forced into a corner, they become defensive and focus on protecting their pride and dignity rather than responding to the real issue.
Sexual relations is one area where pride and primal instincts come heavily into play, yet very often the first respose by authority figures when a youngster has behaved irresponsibly is to trample on those sensitivities, resulting in breakdown in communications, heightened conflicts, and sometimes, irrepairable damage to relationships. Elders forget they were once young.
This letter was reproduced with permission from Mr Mohd Jufrie.
Hi little brother,
Our paths crossed not very long ago. But the more I get to know you the more respect I have for you. Your quiet ways seem to betray the strength that is within you. I suppose even the judge failed to judge your character correctly when he expected you to tender your apologies. He forgot the adage of not judging a book by its cover. Apologies are tendered only when wrongs are committed. Believe you me, you have done no wrong! If only we had more youngsters like you and brother Isrizal the battle would have been won long ago.
This Thursday morning I watched you marching out of Queenstown Prison and as I garlanded and hugged you I could feel your heartbeat. It somehow tells me that you are none the worse for the experience. Surely Singapore has not heard the last of this young patriot, I told myself . As for those who think that this young man had been misled into ‘committing a crime’ it would do them well to think again and be honest with themselves. How could a man with such a strong conviction to put things right ever be misled into doing something against his will?
Some, perhaps even members of your own family, may think that you are being ridiculous. But to many others you are simply extraordinary. Someday, I am sure, they will come round to see your point.
I read the piece written by Chih Mei. Like her I too have three young children. They may or may not trek the path which their father has taken. But I make it a point to engage and guide them to do the right things. They may or may not go astray in this materialistic world, but God willing they will ultimately choose the right path. And never be swayed by PAP propaganda.
In Isrizal I could see another man with a conviction that is equally strong. I could sense it as I watched him taking his stride from the prison gates. He knows exactly what he wants to do and where he is heading. Together with our brothers in the SDP we can play a role that even the Malay MPs and so called religious leaders shy away from, ie to stand up for our rights within the context of a multi racial setting. I cannot help feeling that his short vacation with you in Queenstown has made him much stronger and better prepared for the long journey ahead. We will not be making this journey all on our own. Many people I have been speaking to appear to be waiting to be led. Many issues need to be addressed and solutions found. Lets put our shoulders to the wheel and steer it towards the right direction.
Very best regards.
Written by Ng E-Jay
18 Dec 2008
Mr Tan Kin Lian has revealed on his blog that he was approached by a bank relationship manager who wishes to confess to giving wrong information to investors of failed credit linked notes due to his ignorance about the risks of the product.
According to Mr Tan, this relationship manager has agreed to sign a statement, and will be approaching other relationship managers who are in a similar position to do likewise.
This relationship manager should be applauded for doing the right thing.
However, Mr Tan Kin Lian also revealed that the bank had, in Mr Tan’s words, “put pressure on him (the RM) by stating that he would be held personally responsible to compensate the customers, if he admitted to giving the wrong information.”
Such a threat by the bank is in clear contravention of the Financial Adviser’s Act (Chapter 110).