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 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?

Eventful March and April

March was a really exciting month and seems like April is going to look like a very long one as well. Every Saturday in March, I saw at the judges table, on invitation from National University of Singapore’s Persatuan Bahasa Melayu Universiti Kebangsaan Singapura or better known as NUS PBMUKS, to judge quatrains for a Pesta Pantun competition.

This year was the competitions’ 20th anniversary and aside from the regular local teams/schools that took part to compete, this years’ competition was opened to teams from across the causeway, Malaysia, and what a competition it was.

Competition was tough and clearly, standards in language and delivery were different between the two countries.

Nevertheless, one thing remained in the world of quatrains, ENTERTAINMENT VALUE.

Quatrains, always had one thing that I enjoyed the most, was its’ ability to send out subtle messages in the most entertaining manner. Of course, some messages aren’t so subtle but take pot shots at the other.

These days, not many people speak in quatrains and well, while we may have lost a small part of our daily culture, I am also thankful that we no longer speak in quatrains except on certain occasions or otherwise, it’d be really tiring to get a message across and if you’re someone who is unable to read between the lines, quatrains will leave you lost.

Pesta Pantun

Pesta Pantun 2016 judges (seated) with NUS PBMUKS Pesta Pantun Adviser (Standing Left) and NUS PBMUKS President (Standing Right) and Vice President (Standing Centre)

Aside from Pesta Pantun, By Definition Pte Ltd was also busy judging for a Storytelling competition organised by Tiong Bahru Youth Executive Committee (YEC). So, that’s two events in March.

No, I couldn’t do it so got one of the #TeamByDef family members to do it instead!

Story Alive

Hidayah (in hijab) together with the winners and judges from Story Alive!

And just yesterday, in support of a collaborative effort between Chong Pang CC MAEC, Woodlands CC MAEC, and Woodlands Galaxy CC MAEC together with Masjid Darul Makmur and Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, we took up two booths at Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, the last standing kampong mosque in Singapore for a ‘Jom Balik Kampong’ event, selling cold drinks and our traditional games.


Awesome friends volunteering their time to help out with the booth!

Response from the crowd was very encouraging as we marketed and sold many of our traditional game items, games that we usually conduct in schools. So yes, we are now also plying our wares to ensure that our traditional games can continue to be played even at home.


A very sporting Grassroots Adviser, Amrin Amin, who decided that he’d give the Tapak Gajah a try in socks, watched on by fellow Grassroots Adviser, Khaw Boon Wan.

So, if you’re looking for traditional games to play at home, look no further.


Tapak Gajah, Gasing Buluh (Bamboo Spinning Top), Batu Seremban, Yeh Yeh, Gasing and Lagu-Lagu Rakyat book all available for sale at the event and now, will be made available for public sales.

Of course, as these items are personally sourced out, we always keep a limited stock in supply. So, if you’re keen to get your hands on them, drop us an email ( to order and once the games arrive, we’ll let you know!

And finally, I’m really excited for the end of the month.

From Pesta Pantun in Singapore to PISMA, a regional pantun competition in Melaka held over 4 days and yours truly has been invited as one of the judges. All praise to God really for the opportunity. Without Pesta Pantun, I don’t think I would have received the invite at all.

So, I’m really looking forward to the 5 teams from Singapore Polytechnic who will be representing Singapore! That’s happening from 29 April to 2nd May. And yes, I’ll be sourcing out for more traditional games in my travels.

Malay Language Responsibility

Today, I woke up and as per usual, I was scrolling through my Facebook updates when I came across a Berita Harian link which a friend had posted, I thought long and hard and assessed all angles possible as to why the journalist had decided to use the word ‘HANFON’ instead of ‘Telefon Bimbit’ to describe, handphone.


So, I took out my mobile phone or handphone and checked on my Kamus Pro app as to whether or not Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) had decided to adopt and accept  ‘Hanfon’ as an official Malay word.

I typed ‘handphone’ and I got nothing. I typed ‘mobile phone’ and I got nothing.

I typed ‘phone’ and I got 2:

  1. n (colloq) telefon: can I have your address and – number?, boleh beri saya alamat dan nombor telefon kamu?
  2. n (phonetics) bunyi, fon.

So, I saw the word ‘fon’ for the second one. MAYBE, I missed something out. I mean, I’m conducting Malay programmes in schools and it’s my personal responsibility to use the correct words and terms in the classroom. Perhaps, in the course of my busy schedule, I could have missed out on something.

So, I searched for ‘hanfon’ in the same Kamus Pro app, which is the official Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) Malay Dictionary application, the same organisation that researches, writes, prints and distributes Malay Dictionaries which Singapore students and teachers (and I hope those who use the Malay Language as part of their work) use.

The search was futile.

Okay, so maybe DBP isn’t updated so I google searched for ‘hanfon’ and the first hit I got was that it was a WELSH translation on which meant, ‘SENT’.

So, at this juncture, is where I feel extremely angry because the reporter had not exercised personal and professional responsibility to ensure that they were using the right words to report in a national publication read by thousands and used by thousands of students and teachers in schools.

I cannot imagine the horror of Malay Language teachers trying to explain to students that ‘hanfon’ isn’t a Malay word and that it cannot be used in writing compositions but then again, how can the Malay Language teacher justify it when a professional writing for the official Malay newspaper in Singapore is using improper words.

For us, Malays and Malay Language Teachers to claim that Malay Language is not being used by students and the young properly, and have difficulty to teach it isn’t just the responsibility of Malay Language Teachers alone. It is and should be the responsibility of all who use the Malay Language, especially so if you are a working professional publishing the NATIONAL MALAY LANGUAGE DAILY.

To cut corners in view of space constraint and switch with using a word that does not even exist in the Malay dictionary is simply irresponsible, lacks integrity, lacks professionalism and clearly, shouldn’t even be allowed to in the first place.

If this improper and unjustified use of the Bahasa Melayu continues at Berita Harian, I cannot imagine how the future of Malay journalism will look like.

So, I’m appealing to all of you reading this, to not only share this post but also, to write in to BH to provide your feedback. That is about all we can do.