About Abdillah Zamzuri



With education and entrepreneurship at the core of everything I do, this blog serves to provide you with information from my perspective, based on my knowledge, skills and experience on various issues close to my heart namely, general education, peacebuilding, public speaking, civil society and theatre/ drama.


The Price of Weddings


How many of us have heard of that phrase before? I’m sure most of us have and damn right you are.

‘The global wedding industry is now a $300 billion dollar industry. $55bn of that is the US wedding market, according to an IBISWorld report, and includes over 500,000 businesses, putting 750,000 people to work.’ – THIS WAS IN 2015. Imagine how much more the industry is worth today.

That said, that industry is one that is overarching and differs between places and customs.

An Indian wedding, for example, is traditionally paid for by the bride and her family. And the weddings are extremely elaborate consisting of not just the extravagant clothings and jewellery but also because it lasts between five days and a week. The average Indian couple will spend one-fifth of the money they make in their entire lives on the event’.

Traditional Indian weddings have several events happening before the wedding, during the wedding and after the wedding. Each one, unique and significant, holds a lot of meaning to it.

Chinese weddings on the other hand, usually have two key events – the traditional ceremony in the morning and the wedding banquet which takes place usually in the evening on a weekend. For two years as a young teen, I worked at a hotel on weekends as a banquet waiter serving guests for wedding banquets. So, I often gawk in awe at how much it’d cost to hold such a wedding there.

So, how much?

As of 2016, banquet prices at top hotels are on the verge of hitting the unprecendented $2000 mark for each table of 10. And that is before the addition of the Goods and Services Tax.

What do you get for paying that much?

An 8 course dinner and a 1-2 nights’ stay at the hotel is quite the standard. And the price for inviting 500 guests in 2015 at a top hotel is about $112, 396.

So, if you don’t get invited to a Chinese wedding at a hotel. I don’t think you’d beat yourself too badly for it cause you’d need to put in about $200 for the red packet to pay for your meal.

So, what then of Malay weddings?

Are they really ‘$50 void deck weddings’? A term famously coined by one Ms Amy Cheong.

Malay wedding invites are typically for 1000 guests on each side of the wedding couple. So, when you put two families together, average guest list for a typical Malay wedding is 2000 guests. Having 2000 guests to be seated at the hotel is a crazy affair and if we’re going by the same rates as how the Chinese community pays for it, for 2000 guests at about $2000/table, it’s going to cost the both sides of the family a total of SGD$400,000!

Thus, void decks are a more sensible option to accomodate the large number of guests invited. That said, the cost for void deck weddings aren’t $50.

Perhaps, what is more appropriate is that $50 is the amount that should be paid by a couple attending since the price range of a void deck wedding ranges between $14,000 to about $20,000 depending on the range of food served, the type of entertainment engaged and the other professional services that accompany it.

But today, we see more Malays holding their wedding in hotels or in venues owned by the wedding companies themselves.

Regardless which culture you belong to, weddings are typically an expensive affair but they can also be affordable IF you’re willing to scale down the pomp of the whole event or to just stick to, what’s necessary only.

If you’re planning towards an outdoor wedding, I’ll share with you in my next post how you can go about it and save money along the way.











Parliamentary Privilege, A Loophole To Being Above the Law?

Singapore’s PM, Lee Hsien Loong’s battle with his younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang, has grabbed Singapore and the world by storm, and now, the whole country awaits for his Ministerial Statement when Parliament sits on July 3rd. It is the day when PM Lee has announced to Singaporeans that he has lifted the party whip and has allowed Members of Parliament to question him and the Committee which has been looking into the deceased, Lee Kuan Yew’s final will.

The final will, of which probate has been granted is suddenly deemed to not hold any legality, which is the point of contention made by Lee Hsien Yang and the cause of this whole national and international fiasco.


The specific portion of the will being debated being:

Mr Lee Kuan Yew wrote in paragraph 7 of his will: “I further declare that it is my wish, and the wish of my late wife, KWA GEOK CHOO, that our house at 38 Oxley Road, Singapore 238629 (‘the House’) be demolished immediately after my death or, if my daughter, Wei Ling, would prefer to continue living in the original house, immediately after she moves out of the House. I would ask each of my children to ensure our wishes with respect to the demolition of the House be carried out. If our children are unable to demolish the House as a result of any changes in the law, rules or regulations binding them, it is my wish that the House never be opened to others except my children, their families and descendants. My view on this has been made public before and remains unchanged. My statement of wishes in this paragraph 7 may be publicly disclosed notwithstanding that the rest of my Will is private.”

So we understand a few things from Lee Kuan Yew’s will:

  1. He wants the house to be demolished immediately after his death or, if Wei Ling wants to stay, to be demolished after she moves out.
  2. If there are changes to the law, and rules & regulations bind the 3 children, then Lee Kuan Yew doesn’t want the house to be opened to anyone else except his children, their families and descendants.

Based on the above, the main point of debate by Lee Hsien Yang is:

  1. Why is there a need for a special committee to discuss on this matter before Wei Ling is even dead or moves out?
  2. Is there plans by the special committee to change the law or to enact new rules & regulations to ensure the house cannot be demolished? (This brings into question PM Lee’s abuse of power allegations)

Now, we have many other MPs who have joined in the fray against Lee Hsien Yang mentioning a few things:

  1. Who drafted the final will?
  2. Did Lee Kuan Yew had the mental capacity to understand his final will?
  3. Did Lee Kuan Yew have enough time (5 mins) to fully comprehend his final will?

Above and beyond what the issue is about, I would like to bring your attention to the upcoming Parliamentary sitting on July 3rd whereby PM Lee will address questions regarding this issue, thereby possibly invoking his Parliamentary Privilege.

For most of us who are unaware of what Parliamentary Privilege is, the statutes clearly state the following (I’ve selected several important paragraphs to ponder):

Freedom of speech and debate and proceedings
5.  There shall be freedom of speech and debate and proceedings in Parliament, and such freedom of speech and debate and proceedings shall not be liable to be impeached or questioned in any court, commission of inquiry, committee of inquiry, tribunal or any other place whatsoever out of Parliament.
Exemption from liability in certain cases


—(1)  No Member shall be liable to any civil or criminal proceedings, arrest, imprisonment or damages by reason of any matter or thing which he may have brought before Parliament or a committee by petition, bill, resolution, motion, or otherwise or may have said in Parliament or in committee.
(2)  No person shall be liable to any civil or criminal proceedings, arrest, imprisonment or damages by reason of any act done under the authority of Parliament or the Speaker and within its or his legal powers or under any warrant issued by virtue of those powers.
Exemption from certain duties


—(1)  It shall not be lawful —

to require any Member or officer of Parliament to serve as an assessor on any tribunal; or

while in attendance on Parliament or any committee, to compel such person to attend as a witness in any court or tribunal or at any commission of inquiry or committee of inquiry or before any like authority empowered to summon witnesses.

[43/2007 wef 01/11/2007]
(2)  The production of a certificate signed by the Speaker or the chairman of the committee shall be deemed sufficient proof of attendance on Parliament or the committee.
Privilege of witnesses


—(1)  No public officer shall be required —

to produce before Parliament any paper, book, record or other document; or
to give before Parliament evidence on any matter,
if the President certifies that the paper, book, record or other document or the evidence relates to affairs of State and that the public interest would suffer by the production thereof.
(2)  Every person summoned to attend to give evidence or to produce any paper, book, record or other document before Parliament shall be entitled in respect of such evidence or the disclosure of any communication or the production of any such paper, book or record or other document to the same privilege as before a court of law.
(3)  Sections 125 and 126 of the Evidence Act (Cap. 97) shall not be applicable in any case where a public officer is so summoned to attend before Parliament.
Immunity of witness in respect of evidence


—(1)  Without prejudice to section 16 and subject to subsection (3), no person who gives evidence before Parliament or any committee shall be liable to any civil or criminal proceedings, arrest, imprisonment or damages by reason of anything which he may have said in such evidence.
(2)  Except in proceedings referred to in subsection (3), no statement made by any person in evidence before Parliament or any committee shall be admissible in evidence against that person in any civil or criminal proceedings or in any court.
(3)  Nothing in subsections (1) and (2) shall prevent or be deemed to prevent the institution or maintenance of any proceedings against any person for an offence under section 191 of the Penal Code (Cap. 224) or for any offence under this Act in respect of any evidence given by him before Parliament or any committee.
Punitive powers of Parliament


—(1)  For any dishonourable conduct, abuse of privilege or contempt, on the part of a Member, Parliament may —

commit him to prison for a term not extending beyond the current session of Parliament;
impose upon him a fine not exceeding the sum of $50,000;
suspend him from the service of Parliament for the remainder of the current session of Parliament or for any part thereof; and

direct that he be reprimanded or admonished in his place by the Speaker.


(2)  Where a Member has been found guilty of abuse of privilege in respect of anything said in Parliament by him, Parliament may, by resolution and without prejudice to its powers under subsection (1), suspend him for such period as may be specified in the resolution from the privileges and immunities conferred by sections 3, 5 and 6 in so far as they relate to liability to civil proceedings.


(3)  During the period specified under subsection (2) such privileges and immunities shall cease to apply to the Member who shall be liable to civil proceedings in respect of anything said by him in, or any written statement made by him to, Parliament.


(4)  For any contempt on the part of a stranger, Parliament may —

commit him to prison for a term not extending beyond the current session of Parliament;
impose upon him a fine not exceeding the sum of $50,000;
exclude him from Parliament and the precincts thereof for the remainder of the current session of Parliament or for any part thereof; and
direct that he be reprimanded or admonished at the Bar of the House by the Speaker.
Okay, so that’s about it from the statutes about the Parliamentary Privilege.
So, what it looks at the moment is that PM Lee may be exercising his Parliamentary Privilege rather than to take this issue to court because:
  1. Whatever is being discussed in Parliament, cannot be tendered in court. This thereby puts Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling at a disadvantage.
  2. If PM Lee puts forth any evidence in Parliament, it cannot be used in court.
  3. It is going to be very difficult to find PM Lee guilty of abuse of power because if he was found guilty of abusing his power as alleged by Lee Hsien Yang, then Cabinet Minister who are sitting in the committee reviewing the Oxley Rd house may also be liable to the same offence and well, you think anyone in there gonna let that happen meh?

But the overarching question here is, and this is where I believe most Singaporeans are concerned with:

  1. The legality of the will – not in question.
  2. So, why not debate it in open court where the court can issue rulings on it when evidence is presented.
  3. If, this issue is debated in Parliament and nothing debated in there can be used in court, does this mean that Parliamentarians can be above the law? That exercising Parliamentary Privilege is a loophole to be above the law or to avoid actions by the court because if it can, then I don’t see how Singaporeans or the rest of the world can hold our Parliament and its Parliamentarians in high regard.

Money is Singapore’s Water-ing Hole

Water has always been a sticky issue for Singapore from the time of independence to today. In the past, the government had successfully conducted water rationing exercises which all Singaporeans were happy to partake in.

I remember my own experience in the 90s where my family kept enough water for our daily necessities. Unfortunately, the government of today is different from the government of yesterday. In the recent budget sitting, it was announced that the government will be raising water prices by 30%.

There wasn’t any lead up to it, no public education or campaign on water conservation (if there was, it certainly wasn’t successful) and then suddenly, Singaporeans are given the news that you are going to ‘need to bite the bullet’ and ‘bring up awareness of the importance of water’ by raising water prices.

This is of course, in contrary to a statement made by the previous Environment and Water Resources Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan who said, “I told them that I would consider it (water rationing), but at this point of time, fortunately, we don’t need to do it (water rationing). Our backs are not against the wall and we are not going to rush into a thing like that. Let’s focus on education, on passing the message (on conservation) and all of us doing our own part. That would be sufficient for now. I can give an assurance to Singaporeans that no matter how long this goes on, whether in the next few weeks or next few months, we’ll be all right.”

Of course, that was in 2014.

But here’s a statement from the current Environment and Water Resources Minister, Masagos Zulkifli in May 2016, ‘It is not necessary to conduct water rationing exercises for households at the moment, as there are already other outreach programmes to educate the public on water conservation’.

In the timespan of less than a year, Singaporeans are suddenly given the shocker. There was no water rationing exercises conducted nor was there any proper public education/campaign conducted and now, Singaporeans are told to feed the bill.

Lee Bee Wah also made to mention after the budget speech, “… but I am sure there will be families who need help so it is a good gesture to help” but I guess the Environment and Water Resources Minister had something else to say about it because according to him, ‘Handing out rebates to people who save water would be “counter-intuitive” to ensuring they pay for the cost of producing water’

If it is counter-intuitive to give rebates for saving water, it is similarly counter-intuitive to raise water prices if the reservoirs are not meeting our current demands. Because our money cannot raise water levels.

The government of yesteryears conducted water rationing exercises, which was extremely successful. (Because when you ration water, you store more water, isn’t that the primary objective?)

If your reason to raise water prices is to build future desalination plants or water treatment facilities, then Singaporeans would like to see the papers and the timeline in place. (If you want to borrow money from banks, they’d like to see your credit rating too right?)

At the moment, there is none and there is therefore no justification for an increase to raise water prices.

Several reasons have been given by PAP MPs but they have all been nothing but rhetorical, without any proper justification in place.

PUB needs to present concrete evidence of current levels of water consumption by homes and businesses separately, and the income generated from these as well as the expenses involved in maintaining the facilities including the salaries paid to the staffs.

And, what happened to ‘study the data collected to explore the potential for water efficiency benchmarks and good practice guidelines for the different sectors’ mentioned in 2016? Where is the data? Why wasn’t this data made public?

Public services, and its books, needs to be made transparent because the public have a vested interest.

“All of us have to do our part to conserve water. This way, our water resources can last longer. Every effort counts, and collectively, the amount of water saved will be significant.” – Minister Masagos, 9 May 2016

I guess it should be, ‘All of us have to do our part to pay for water. This way, we can buy more water and build more water desalination plants that currently we have no immediate plans for. Every effort counts, and collectively, the amount of money collected will be significant to pay …. ?

But you know what’s the easiest way to reduce water consumption. Immigration. Higher immigration = higher water consumption. So, slow down on immigration and we slow down our use of water. Move towards less labour/water intensive economies/industries. But that’s for another time to discuss.

Lumba Bahasa & Budaya Gerek!

Lumba Bahasa & Budaya Gerek! – a Malay Language & Cultural Amazing Race conducted in conjunction with Bulan Bahasa was recently held on 3rd September 2016. The race, a first for Bulan Bahasa and also a first for By Definition Pte Ltd attracted 10 teams; 3 teams from Ping Yi Secondary School, 1 team from MENDAKI, several teams sign up online as well as an all-Chinese team.


FLAG OFF at Cairnhill CC

The unique mix of participants and station masters (5 Stations Masters were students from Northland Secondary School) made this event an extremely memorable one.

Teams were tasked to complete a mission of completing a Mystery Quatrain by accumulating missing letters at each station they complete. The race begins with a location of the photo they are supposed to head to. These locations, were carefully chosen, as they were a reflection of Singapore’s past and Malay history, and are locations that not many Singaporeans visit today.

Having successfully made their way to the locations, each station requires teams to complete a 3-stage activity:

  1. Photo/Videovity
  2. Infovity
  3. Activity


Participants are required to strike specific poses or to re-enact a scene from a movie, reflective of the golden era of filming in Singapore in the 50’s. Participants were then tasked to upload the photos and videos to their Instagram account (who doesn’t have one right?) and to include the hashtag, #LumbaGerek.

Having successfully completed this, Stations Masters will then allow them to proceed to…


Teams will be posed questions about the locations they are at and they will be required to search for the answers either through using their mobile phones (why not capitalise on technology anyway!) or to search information boards located close by.


Once they get the correct answers, they proceed on to…


This is where fun part is.

Because the activities are all about the Malay Language & Culture, it requires participants to be adept at different aspects of it including but not limited to quatrains, poetry, food, games and many more!


Eventually, all participants did complete the race and reassembled back at National Museum of Singapore, the location of Bulan Bahasa launch for the prize giving ceremony.

Impressively, our all Chinese team came in 2nd place!


Runner-Up with Ms Julina Khusaini, General Manager, Malay Heritage Foundation

Now that this event is over, we’ve already started to receive plenty of word from participants whom most were first time participants in any Bulan Bahasa event that they enjoyed themselves, learnt a lot through the race, felt connected back to the Malay community and can’t wait for the next edition!

We’d also like to give our thanks and appreciation to Malay Language Ambassador, Riz Sunawan for joining us to receive participants at the final pit stop and of course to all our sponsors and supporters, Malay Language Council, Malay Language & Learning Promotion Committee, People’s Association Family Life Champion and Krave Cafe.

To view the official event photos, visit By Definition’s FB page here.

To view photos and videos of participants, search #LumbaGerek on Instagram.

For enquiries, feedback and collaboration, you can email info@bydefinition.net or drop us a FB message.

Thank you once again to all participants, sponsors, supporters and partners.


Singapore National Day 2016



Another eventful year for Singapore as we cross into 51 years of statehood independence and what a journey it has been for Singapore. Our forefathers have toiled this land to make this country a safe and prosperous one – a place where everyone can live, work and play (Pokemon GO) safely.

I am no doubt happy to be a Singaporean, as much as Singaporeans continue to remain in search for our unique identity. The debate between Singlish and English continues, and what do we make out of the strict ethnicity quota that hasn’t changed much as well as battling the evils of what globalisation has led us to (indiscriminate racism on social media and acts of terrorism through proxy funders).

But beyond the constant search for our Singaporean identity and mine (being of mixed ethnicity can get extremely confusing), the safety and security that this country has provided us all remains at the forefront of envy among others in the world. That is something that we cannot take for granted. We continue to be a place that is safe for our young and old to walk the streets at night compared to most countries regionally, our education system continues to be extremely rigorous in producing scholars and we continue to be a place where everyone can have freedom of worship.

True that there is a lot more that we could work on to become better than what we are today – a better pace of living, better work-life balance and to be a more affordable place to live in with better living wages to enjoy some of the best things in life when we choose to retire.

But as the National Day Parade yesterday has shown, we frequently still do travel back in time to revisit our historical past. We are a country of people that remains sentimental at heart, fillial to our ancestors and elders, and that helps to keep us grounded to who we really are.

Of course, while there were comments about the Badang narrative that was potrayed, I felt that what was more important is that there were those of us who knew the story and were trying to put things right to it. We believe in the right to potray what is truthful. There were contentions about Badang having tattoos, being a bit too muscular and flying at that but none of us were arguing about the legitimacy of his story because we know and we understand that Badang did exist.

So, I am proud and I am happy that Singaporeans were stepping up to defend Badang’s authenticity (looks, storyline, etc) and I wish that more people would step up to talk more about the other stories that we have in Singapore because the Singapore narrative is so much more beyond Sang Nila Utama and Sir Stamford Raffles, Singapore holds stories to so much more history that if one decides to venture out in search for it, you will be amazed at how much history there is (if you’re really keen on venturing out to these places and learning about them, give this a try Lumba Bahasa & Budaya Gerek).

More than just stories about Singapore, the stories that one can discover will make you realize how connected we are to our closest neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, and how much we actually share our history with theirs. It’s a lot like the prequel begins in Indonesia, then the plot thickens in Singapore, with the sequels in Malaysia.

But moving beyond our history and shared history, we need to create new stories, we need to create new heroes or have people stepping forward, we need to create new figures or have figures that we can all stand together behind and support. And I’m not talking about politicians or figures of state, but it’s the story of the everyday Ali, Muthu, Ah Tan or John that we can all connect with – the story of how a young Singaporean saves his country like the story of Hang Nadim, or the story of an immigrant who roots himself in Singapore and puts Singapore on the map like Badang.

We need this to move forward and to do that, we need to stop arguing endlessly over the small things, agree to disagree and start looking at the big picture, of how we are positioned in relation to the world and work together hand in hand, locals and foreigners, putting aside our differences but align our commonalities for what is most important to us all – and if you ask me what that could be, I’m guessing it’s HAPPINESS.

True to the words of Pak Zubir Said when he composed our National Anthem,

‘Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura Sama-sama Menuju Bahagia’

Let us all, Singaporeans head towards happiness

because if we aren’t happy, then really, what do we want?


About a month or so ago, my dad shared with me why he didn’t want to pay for my university education nor supported my decision to accept a place in a university and instead, asked me to work. 

It was a tough decision but it is one that I can accept, and I agree with, now that I’ve heard him explain. 

It was simply due to fairness of treatment between his two children. 

My sister had wanted to further her studies in Australia during her time but he didn’t support it either because if he did, he’d end up spending on her and should it came to my turn, and if I wanted to do the same, he wouldn’t have the means to send me instead. 

It was either one or none at all. It was a very rational and balanced decision that he took. 

It wasn’t that he didn’t want his kids to further their studies, but it was because if he couldn’t afford for one, he wouldn’t send the other or it would have been unfair. 

He didn’t want to take the route that most would have done – send one child to university and hope that the Golden child returns a graduate and repays the kindness to the other sibling and the family. He didn’t believe in that. He believed in equal opportunities. 

At that moment when he told me, I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry because I knew that he was looking after my interest as well when he denied my sister her opportunity because true enough, when it came to my turn, he said NO as well. (I still remember the University calling me to ask if I was going to accept my place) 

Such was our financial situation back then and I am forever appreciative of the decision he made and grateful that he shared this with me. 

To me, that decision, was a good parenting decision and is one that I can learn from. 

It was to avoid conflict and jealousy between siblings or accusations of favoritism. 

Simple as that

Innovate & Try

These are the two main reasons why a lot of companies and people fail. We all know this in our hearts but we just resist it at times. Here’s why.

When companies don’t innovate to change with the trends of time and continue to do what they’ve been doing because ‘you don’t change what works’, that’s when they will start to be obsolete.

When people don’t innovate/upgrade their skills and knowledge to change with the trends and needs, they will similarly be deemed obsolete and soon find themselves out of a job.

For companies that are extremely innovative and continuously develop and refine either new or current ideas without pushing the product out for market testing or launching it out, they will die out as well.

They die out because when another competitor enters the market with a similar product but dares to try to have their product tested by the market, they not only gain market share but they also learn and understand market needs better which helps them develop products relevant to the market.

Same goes for individuals who have great ideas but they continue to work to refine on their ideas because they are either not confident enough to have their ideas tested or they just believe that it’s not in their value system to have what they consider an unfinished or work-in-progress idea presented to be judged and criticized, then they will lose significant market share.

So, whatever you are doing today, keep innovating and keep pushing your ideas out to be tested.

That is how you and your company stay relevant with market needs, and those who stay relevant are the ones that end up being successful.

How do you or your company’s personality look like?