GRADUATE SEASON


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

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.

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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.

JBK009

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.

JBK017

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 (info@bydefinition.net) 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.

“When you’ve worked with the best, you know what it takes to be the best”


“When you’ve worked with the best, you know what it takes to be the best”

AIRCRAFT INTERIOR CLEANER

I consider myself really lucky to have had the opportunities to work with a lot of awesome people who are not only the best at what they do, but also the best at being a human.

I’ve learnt a lot about how to work and I’ve also learnt how to be a good person.

I worked as a cleaner at 16, fresh out of the GCE O Levels. I worked in a system that requires one to not only work fast but also be effective. The makciks I worked with taught me that I needed to clean the interiors of the airplanes within 30 minutes for the smaller ones (777,737) to 45 minutes for the big one (747) because that’s exactly how much time most planes remain on the tarmac for.

And quality of cleaning had to be high because regardless of the aircrafts (SQ, Aeroflot, China Air, etc), passengers want to sit in a clean and comfortable airplane.

So, working in a team of between 4-6 people, each of us had our designated tasks and responsibilities, and we had to perform them with integrity because if we failed to do so, the other team members had to pick up on the slack we left off to redo what we had done wrong or to help us finish our job, and we would inevitably also cause a delay in boarding.

The shifts weren’t long, 3pm-11pm, but we always had to report at least 30mins to an hour before we start work to allow the big boss to arrange us according to our teams based on how many people decided to turn up for work.

Then we were assigned which terminal and stations we would be handling before we got in our van to be driven immediately to our first aircraft.

There were times when we had to wait because there was a delay in the aircraft landing, and with every delay, it also meant that we had to work doubly faster whilst maintaining the same quality of work because boarding times for the next flight, rarely changed due to tight schedule of aircrafts landings and take-offs.

And when the aircrafts did land a little later than on schedule, those were the times we took to bond with one another. The makciks shared stories and food while we listened, but the moment the aircraft lands, everyone gets into ‘work’ zone mode and from the time we get into the aircraft to the time we are done, rarely do we hear anyone talk about anything else other than the task on hand.

The values I learnt from being a cleaner, are still some of the values I believe is important to be successful.

Through being an aircraft interior cleaner, I learnt about the importance of:
– Timeliness,
– Producing High Quality of Work,
– Integrity,
– Teamwork,
– Organisation,
– Delegation,
– Time Management,
– People Management,
– Adaptability,
– Focus and
– Professionalism.

Today, these values are the same ones I believe is important in the success of a business which is why at By Definition, our values are:
– Honesty
– Integrity
– Timeliness and
– Customisation

Most importantly, having worked as a cleaner, I’ve learned to appreciate the cleaners we have and the amount of work they have to put in and the job has taught me to be humble, to remind myself constantly of my humble beginnings.

Every time I go to the airport or when I board the plane, I will always remember the times when I was the cleaner and I’m proud of the people who do the cleaning.

Most of us never see them because they are hidden away from sight before we board the plane but they are truly the beginnings of a pleasant trip the moment you sit on the chair in the plane.

MAJULAH SINGAPURA – GOLDEN JUBILEE


5 years ago, around the same time, I blogged about my hopes and dreams for Singapore as part of the National Day Celebrations (‘Live Our Dreams, Fly Our Flag’).

In case you missed it, here’s what I wanted:

“As a Singaporean, one of my dreams is for us to be able to experience a state which encourages the following:

  1. FREE DOM OF SPEECH & EXPRESSION BEFORE AND AFTER SPEECH & EXPRESSION HAS TAKEN PLACE
  2. A MORE ACCURATE AND MENTALLY PROVOCATIVE REPORTING OF NEWS BY MEDIA THAT IS IMPARTIAL and
  3. FOR THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT AND IT’S AGENCIES TO BE MORE ACCEPTING AND OPEN TO CRITICISM FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD AND TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTAND THAT CRITICISM, WHEN CONSTRUCTIVE SHOULD BE SEEN AS A MEANS TOWARDS IMPROVEMENT

I also have a dream for all Singaporeans:

  • TO STAKE A CLAIM IN THE AFFAIRS OF THE STATE AND NOT JUST LEAVE IT TO THE POLITICIANS WHOM WE HAVE VOTED FOR”

How different have my views been over the past 5 years?

Not much really. I still believe in each and every single one of those hopes and dreams that I spoke of. More than just that, I actually have one more to add.

I would really like to see Singaporeans learn more about one another, our cultures, our ethnicities, our faiths, so that we can better engage foreigners who come to live, work and play in Singapore and make this country a better place for not just Singaporeans, but also for them as well.

Government policies aside, we can exercise our vote this coming General Elections, but as a community, a nation, we need to show the rest of the world that we are loving, caring and have the ability to accept people of all backgrounds.

Why am I so focused on this?

Because over the past few years, Singapore has had to deal with many issues related to conflicts arising out of Interfaith-Intercultural misunderstanding or miscommunication (Amy Cheong, Anton Casey, Cook A Pot of Curry). But these issues are not just exclusive to Singapore.

This issue affects each and every single country, globally, all around the world.

In the US, you have had a non-white Miss America winner which caused a huge ruckus. To quite a significant number of ignorant Americans, the typical American had to be blonde and white, which in my personal experience, is far from it. And even for those who have been living in America for a long time or are even Americans, they still face issues that recur time and again (Blackface).

These are issues related to ethnicity, culture and to some extend, faith.

Since 2014, I have been actively trying to engage the community through my own personal endeavour to spread the importance of interfaith-intercultural understanding, a personal commitment arising out of my fellowship in the US. Nonetheless, an issue I strongly believe in and champion for.

Achieving Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding Through Games

“Achieving Interfaith-Intercultural Understanding Through Games”, National Day Celebrations 2015, Hwa Chong Institution

I am thankful for the opportunity that I have been given to give lectures and talks on this issue. More than that, I hope that the audience I have engaged in, have a better understanding of the dangers of what social media can do to them. Going forward, we all need to learn how to “RESPOND, NO REACT” to situations that invoke our emotions. We need to rationalise the situation and provide the best response that will create positive outcomes not just for us, but for everyone.

In the words of Zubir Said,

“Mari Kita Rakyat Singapura, Sama-sama Menuju Bahagia”

(Let us all, the citizens of Singapore, move towards happiness)

“Cita-cita Kita Yang Mulia, Berjaya Singapura”

(Together with our noble dreams, hopes, ambitions, success Singapore)

“Marilah Kita Bersatu, Dengan Semangat Yang Baru”

(Let us all unite, with renewed hope/energy)

“Semua Kita Berseru, Majulah Singapura”

(Let us all proclaim, Onward Singapore)

We all need to internalize the lyrics of our National Anthem and work towards it. The lyrics resonate with us even today as we struggle with issues and as we seek to find renewed hope/energy. But we can only achieve success and happiness, if our ambitions, dreams and hopes are noble.

So, my dear Singaporeans, this National Day, let us focus on these lyrics. Let’s remember this lyric as we enter the General Elections and vote for the candidate/party that will be able to bring everyone together to achieve our noble dreams, ambitions and hopes for our success and happiness, and most importantly, to bring Singapore forward.

HOW I FAILED BEING AN EMCEE


I’ve been emceeing for 10 years now covering many different types of events from Kindergarten Shows to Product Launches to Dinner & Dance to Campaigns to Community Events. That pretty much covers the whole entire spectrum of what one could get when they embark on their emceeing journey. I even coached other emcees.

Emceeing plays an important role for the organisers as you are the face of the organisers and you basically represent them which is why picking a good emcee is always important simply because YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE MISREPRESENTED.

But that’s what happened to me just last week when I had perhaps misrepresented a client.

Truth be told, this was the first emceeing gig I did without having a good understanding of the client. Usually, I’d have a sit-down meeting with the client to learn more about them, their values as well as who their audience will be and to get a good sense of what to expect from the audience. This is my research phase (YES! Being a good emcee requires some form of research first).

This research phase also includes me tailoring my style of delivery as well as games/activities that need to be conducted to ensure that it is suitable for the audience.

But last week, I met the client just about an hour before the event. This was out of my comfort zone because I was engaged by an events management company and wasn’t provided with the information I required but since I was quite familiar with the audience profile (or so I thought), I knew I could get a homerun with this but boy was I wrong.

The audience profile had changed so much!

When years ago, the audience would have been the rowdy type, this time, it was nowhere near rowdy. Crowd was reserved and wasn’t the type that would poke fun at one another, not at anyone, AT ALL.

Definitely out of my comfort zone and I knew that the games/activities I had prepared could either make it or break it. There was no safe zone in my games/activities and I didn’t have enough time to prepare a different set of games/activities because I needed to be in focus (This is why having someone you trust as an assistant is important, they will help you think of something else while you focus for the stage).

I’d say the whole night started out pretty well although we started 15 minutes late because guests were being reseated elsewhere. Energy was the audience was not too bad, a little low but it could be built up and we kicked off the night with a birthday celebration of someone from the audience.

Dinner came and I had hoped that by feeding the audience first, they’d have some energy to play. Well, they always do! Food always helps to make people happy. So, the first game played and this is when everything seems to go wrong for me. Participants were a bit too perfectionists and too shy to play. It’s really an easy game to play, don’t need to think too much because you’re supposed to in no other better word, “Just Do It!” but we got through the first game well enough.

Long silences on stage because participants didn’t want to start – we know that’s not too good but the emcee can’t be speaking too much either because the focus is on the game right now. No worries on this one.

Break for food and then second segment.

This is when everything just went horribly wrong with the second game. This game has been played many times, over and over again, the participants usually more enthusiastic and the crowd goes wild on this game. NO – total opposite.

Giving credit when due – first line of participants were responsive but the moment the next group of participants, all hell broke loose for me. They were too worried and too shy.

Now, this is when it gets a bit difficult for any emcee because you can’t just stop the games and you just can’t change the game (well, you could but that’s why knowing how the audience is like initially will prepare you sufficiently for it). So, this whole segment goes on for a good 30 minutes or so, which is considered to be A LONG TIME but that’s what I was asked to do anyway – to stretch the segment.

Games are always good to be kept at 15-20 minutes max. Any longer and the audience bores out.

At this point, I was ready to throw in the towel and just stop everything but I knew that it would just suck too much from there so I held on and continued telling myself, “Let’s just try to get them to cooperate for this and then we’re done”, the same way I’d talk to my students who are super naughty and under the watchful eyes of their teachers who hate them for their guts.

Apparently, this strategy worked and the game moved on and completed but the audience wasn’t as thrilled and the energy died out a bit. Thankfully, there was one last segment which couldn’t go wrong because it was the highlight of the entire night.

That ran smoothly at least.

By the end of the night, I was demoralised and the weather was a good expression of how I was feeling – WET, COLD and RAINING.

But this episode taught me a few things now that I’ve had a few days to think it through and talk it out to myself and a few other people that have worked with me, have seen me emcee and have engaged me (clients):

  1. I’ve NEVER FAILED in emceeing before. So, having this failure is a huge dent to what I’ve always enjoyed doing.
  2. Whatever I’ve always done, before the day itself is crucial. The research and preparation work. The need to sit down with the client to understand them or at least have as much information as possible on the programme and activities. THIS CANNOT BE LEFT OUT.
  3. On bigger occassions such as this, have your trusted assistant with you to help you mitigate and think through of other strategies that you could work on while you’re on stage delivering.
  4. Most importantly, if you don’t think it’s a good idea to do it. Then don’t. I’m not saying don’t try though.

Regardless, this was a good humbling experience for me and though it had me questioning my ability to emcee, I think I’m convinced that this was just one of those times where you just gotta fall and learn to pick yourself back up again.

Well, I’ve fallen down and now, I’m sitting down thinking about it. It just sucks because just like that, I lost two other emceeing jobs though I guess I shouldn’t be complaining because it might have just been worst for me.

I hope the one who took over me can do a better job though!

At the end of the day, 10 years of emceeing is clearly not good enough. Time to get back out there and learn more.

TRIFF

TRIFF

At least I’ve got this costume to hide behind for a while now when I’m on stage.

Teater Pelajar 2014


Teater Pelajar 2014 Trophies

Teater Pelajar 2014 Trophies

I haven’t written much this year in view of my busy schedule but the next few posts deserves an entry.

Going into the competition, I was only informed a month before the auditions date by a friend of mine, who teachers at Tanjong Katong Girls School. The information for the competition was just received then and she wanted to send a team to the competition and had sought out for my help, knowing that I train students for drama and have also taken part in competitions as well as sent students for competitions and have also judged drama competitions.

But this competition, was new for me. I’ve never watched the competition much less know what it’s all about but as with most things I do in life, I do it because it’s a challenge and because I know I will enjoy the process.

Training the girls was a challenge, for all of us – Teacher in Charge, Students and Myself. My friend was juggling between her work and this, the students were juggling between school, CCA and tests and performances and me, well, I was pretty much just trying to see how much time I can have with them.

My minimum time required – 6 Days, I ended up with only 5 days.

With the theme made known as Storytelling focused on Folklore, that made me feel at ease since I’ve been doing so much Malay Folklore over the years of teaching drama and I also run ‘Pentaskan Ceritamu’ under By Definition Pte Ltd to schools. So, there was absolutely no way I was going to let this out of my sight.

Meeting the girls for the first time, I had a plan in mind. An idea of sort with nothing concrete but I really needed to know what the girls knew and understood about Malay Folklore. Apparently, not much with the exception of one person who seemed to know almost every single story because she had been helping her teacher previously prepare slides on them. I guess that worked to our advantage.

Ideas aside, I took a few days to prepare my script and on the day I was to pass the script, it rained so bad my motorcycle broke down in the middle of the expressway! So, that’s how I lost ONE PRECIOUS DAY.

But all that aside, I was lucky because these girls were already drama trained. I could skip the basics and jump right into the script and directions. But I had another challenge, not everyone was present at the same time and my rehearsals were often only 1hr long with them since most of the time, they’d be chatting away BUT these girls were committed and dedicated to giving the best that they can.

And that’s what they did with 4 days of rehearsals with me before the preliminary rounds, followed-up by another two days of rehearsals with me, with the final script that had an additional character in. With that, the school holidays set in and they were left on their own to prepare with preparations with their teacher in charge.

The next time I saw them, was during the Finals.

I never had the chance to do any final rehearsals with them and off they went on stage, and perform they did. While they didn’t get as much applause as another group did, they sure did score the right amount of points because they walked away the winners.

Teater Pelajar 2014 Champions

Teater Pelajar 2014 Champions

With the Guest of Honour

With the Guest of Honour

This victory for them was sweet for me as well as I walked away with the ‘Best Scriptwriter’.

Best Scriptwriter

Best Scriptwriter

I hope these girls will continue to put in the same amount of effort, commitment and dedication to their studies as well as their life.

And I must say, that I am impressed by them because when they began, they admitted that they grasp of the Malay Language was not as good compared to now. Imagine how much of a difference drama can make to any student if they had the opportunity to explore the many uses of the Malay Language beyond the classroom.

Because the Malay Language, just like any other language, needs to be used often in order for it to come alive. And for schools which do not believe in sending students for such competitions, I do hope they’d reconsider because the experience, though cumbersome for you as teachers, will bring greater benefit to your students in the long run.

Best Actress

Best Actress

The experience they get just from participating alone, will bring out the best in your students.

You’ve got to trust me on this because I was a student that enjoyed taking part in such competitions/performances.

Overcoming The Wall – Seeking Solutions for Peace


I promised that I would share a transcript of my speech. So, here it is.

This is dedicated to my Peacebuilder friends back at University of California, Irvine, especially to my fellowship supervisor, Dr Paula Garb, who’s a conflict negotiator as well as to the other groups of peacebuilders that I had the opportunity to meet.

I also dedicate this to my Israeli and Palestinian friends who now have some peace in their lives. 

————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Introduction

A very good evening fellow Singaporeans. It brings me great pleasure to be standing here, once again, surrounded by many who believe in peace and in making a positive change, not just in Singapore but overseas, in Gaza.

At the last event that we organized, the war or massacre had taken the lives of 800 Gazans. Today, a month after that event, after more than 2000 dead Gazans and 69 IDF soldiers dead according to IDF or 150 IDF soldiers dead according to Hamas, a truce is finally in place.

A truce, that would perhaps be considered a victory in all instances to Gazans. A victory, because several deals critical to restoring normal life were reached in the demands for a truce by Hamas, which signaled a defeat to Israel, in my opinion.

When this event was first planned, there were many concerns. Some of those concerns were:

  1. How many people would turn up, compared to the last event?
  2. Would this event still be relevant if a truce was called?

And we agreed, that while numbers mattered, it was important that this event continued nonetheless because a truce does not mean that the conflict is over and more importantly, the Singapore community also needs to learn and know that civil activism is a long process and change cannot happen overnight.

At the last event, I mentioned that it is important for us to ‘Respond, not React’, in any given situation, to ensure that we are aware, responsible and accountable for the actions that we choose, and not let it be a knee-jerk reaction to a situation.

Purpose

Today, we are to talk about solutions for peace, positive peace that will ensure the walls that separate Israel and Palestine, can be overcome.

This truce we see today, this is negative peace. Peace in a volatile situation whereby conflict can erupt at any time. Peace in a situation where there is still much distrust. Peace in a situation where civilians on both sides, still do not have access to each other.

Steps & Solutions

Step 1

To achieve positive peace, to overcome the wall, the first and most important step is already in place – the truce.

Step 2

The next step, is for both sides, civilians especially, to begin talking to one another, to engage one another in conversations to build trust, to build relationships with one another, to find commonalities with one another, so they know, that at the end of the day, they want the same thing, share the same hopes and dreams.

This, I learnt from my mentor, Eboo Patel, who is on Obama’s Council for Interfaith Relations, who shared that to find peace, conflicting sides must find commonalities that they can work together and agree on.

Putting Theories into Realities

Commonalities, is also something that all of us, not just here in Singapore, but also in many parts of the world, share, when it comes to this conflict.

Most of us believe and agree that the occupation must stop and I also believe that we also agree that violence is never the solution to resolve any conflict.

But a conflict such as this, requires a lot of people power, not just from the people in Palestine, but internationally and a conflict such as this, also requires a lot of support from the international community because this is not just a conflict between two states.

It is a conflict which involves citizens of the world, just like any other conflict in any part of the world. And we, cannot afford to sit comfortably in our homes, as bystanders to this conflict, only sending our prayers in private and messages of goodwill through Facebook, because a conflict such as this, requires a visual, it needs to be seen and it needs to be heard.

It needs to be seen and it needs to be heard, so governments can get involved. It needs to be seen and it needs to be heard, so people involved in the conflict know that they have support from the global community. It needs to be seen and it needs to be heard, because activism requires action to be taken.

Change through activism can happen, but let’s do it through peaceful, nonviolent means.

Example 1

In 1915, Mahatma Gandhi, organized peasants, farmers and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. He led several peaceful campaigns nationwide and advocated for others to practice nonviolence and truth in all situations.

He was a man, who lived a peaceful, nonviolent life and was active in civil society. Without him, we may not have India today and the concept of nonviolence would not have been well-known.

Example 2

In 1955, a young pastor and other civil rights activists held demonstrations, drawing attention to racial discrimination, demanding civil rights legislation to protect the rights of African-Americans. The young pastor, was of course, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and his peaceful mass demonstrations attracted more than 250,000 protestors to Washington D.C where he delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech. Through his peaceful demonstrations, positive change was made and African-Americans now have equal rights as any other Americans.

His peaceful demonstrations took close to 10 years of activism before a change was seen.

Importance, Impact & Effects of Actions

And if we, Singaporeans, truly believe in this cause for Palestine, that they deserve to be recognized as a state and that the walls have to be brought down, then we need to continue to be civilly active, to participate in civil activism that is peaceful, to help push for statehood for Palestine.

And being active in civil society is important because change can only happen, when there is enough pressure on the people in power, and the people in power will always listen when there is a large crowd of people who believe in the message that is being delivered.

While it’s true that the internet is a great platform to gather people and to hear opinions, but the internet only gives a number, which could be a number of people internationally or from bots. But when people come together in numbers, in real life, those numbers become a reality and that is what’s most important.

The impact and the effect that the news carries on the number of people who ‘Like’ a certain cause or page is vastly different as compared to the impact and effect when a news outlet covers an event with thousands of people involved.

Newsworthiness counts as well in civil activism.

If a police officer arrests one of the speakers here today because he wasn’t registered to speak and one of you records the incident, and this incident goes viral, it will get picked up by the news outlet because it is newsworthy.

Not only that, the police force will also be put under pressure to answer queries as to why a peaceful gathering with people speaking peaceful things are being arrested in a democratic country, in a space where individuals are supposedly allowed to speak freely without the need for a permit?

Conclusion

So my dear Singaporeans, we can also help to seek solutions for peace to overcome the wall, even though we are far from Palestine.

We can take theories, and turn them into realities by taking action, by remaining active in civil society.

Ask our friends to contribute actively in online discussions, to participate in events such as today and to encourage others to join in as well because the impacts & effects of what we seek for, is the long-term effect beyond the truce we see today – a recognized peaceful statehood relationship between Israel and Palestine, without walls.

This is a journey, a very long journey that we need to carry on because though the conflict may be age old, but the people involved aren’t and while our activism may die out, the people involved in the conflict might die should the truce be breached.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————–

END NOTE:

The irony of mentioning about the Police because even though I was a registered speaker with NParks, they still came up and approached me because I wasn’t one of the approved 3 speakers under the permit issued (I was informed that permit classified this event as ‘Religious in nature’).

Rebuild Lives in Gaza from Singapore


After seven weeks of war between Israel and Gaza, they have finally come to a truce. 

While the war may have seen more than 2000 Gazans (Mostly civillians consisting of females, children and elderly) dead and 69 according to IDF/ 150 according to Hamas (IDF Soldiers) dead, this truce is more of a victory for Gaza than it is for Israel.

It is a victory for Gazans because, they have won demands to:

  • Remove Israeli blockade of their borders. This increases the current crossings from 2 to 5, with Rafah border under negotiation with Egyptians.
  • Widening of their fishing zones
  • Lifting of money transfers

Moving forward, there are major reconstruction and rebuilding of life work that needs to be done.

Homes, Schools, Hospitals, Places of Worship need to be reconstructured but normal life, needs to resume most importantly.

The living will continue to live without the dead, will envision and will forge a better future ahead for themselves as how their fallen friends and families had once hoped for.

Most of these rebuilding and reconstruction will be reliant on one very important key resource – CLEAN WATER.

As such, being far away from Gaza, the least we could do, from Singapore to Palestine, is to contribute what we have in excess, our wealth. 

So, let’s try to contribute and encourage others to do the same as well so that we can collectively be a part of the rebuilding process in Gaza.

Clean Water 4 Gaza

Clean Water 4 Gaza

And do join us this Saturday, 30th August at Hong Lim Park for another Peace Gathering event. This time, we will be hearing speakers talk about solutions to overcome the wall. 

Overcoming The Wall - Seeking Solutions for Peace

Overcoming The Wall – Seeking Solutions for Peace

I will be there. I hope to see you there as well. 

A Peace of Singapore


It was an idea sparked through a Facebook comment exchange with a fellow friend, who suggested that I should organize an event to support and call for peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as I was expressing my unhappiness with what was happening there.

That was all it took and not before long, the status update, although only shared 33 times, provided an opportunity for me to be linked up with a few other individuals who were keen to join and organize one, which eventually led me to ‘From Singapore to Palestine’, who coincidentally were also planning to organize and was looking for people who could help.

Facebook Status Update

Although there were those who ridiculed the idea or suggested that rather than organize such an event, it would be better to just send prayers, I knew that it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to only send prayers because I was raised and taught that prayers alone will not bear fruit because it also requires effort. And I had friends there, I knew people there and I knew that they needed HOPE.

Hope, to encourage and motivate them to carry on with their daily struggle, and hope cannot be felt through prayers alone.

So, that was how it began for me.

Right up to days before the event, we weren’t sure if we would receive the Police Permit approval but we did, at the 11th hour and the turnout at Hong Lim Park on 26th of July at 4pm, was encouraging and motivating.

Planned for only 3 speakers, but we ended up with 8.

Regardless, thank you everyone for your attendance. Your support has given hope to my friends involved in the conflict.

There will no doubt be another of such event in the near future.

To those who left early or didn’t have the opportunity to attend and be a part of it, here is a copy of my script.

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A Peace of Singapore
A very good evening, ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, fellow Singaporeans, it brings me great joy, to be here with you today, in what, would go down in Singapore’s history, as the first ever peace gathering.

A peace gathering, that is an irony in itself, because this gathering, could not have taken place, had the peace, between Israel and Palestine, been broken.

So, while we celebrate, this achievement of being able to organize this peace gathering today, and will be celebrating the end of Ramadhan with our loved ones. We, are gathered here today, because we believe that peace is important, because we, reject violence and because we, reject the sufferings that people have to go through because of violent conflict.

Today, I will speak and share with you about my beliefs, my personal experience and how, I am involved in this conflict, and the perspectives that I see.

My dear friends, like many of you here, I am affected, by the pictures and videos, that have been shared on Facebook. I am affected, by the physical violence that continues to kill and injure civilians. I am affected, by the speech violence that I continue to read in the comments on Facebook.

Violence, my dear friends, is beyond just the physical violence that we are so familiar with, but violence, can also come in the form of words. Words, that cause emotional hurt, to people that we love or to strangers. Words that serve no other purpose than to cause discord and unhappiness between people.

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, violence, is often a result, of OUR REACTION. Like a volcano that erupts, and blows its lava up into the sky, causing destruction to everything and anything in its path. Or like a young child, who hasn’t learnt how to express its emotions properly, throws a tantrum when the adult fails to understand its message or request.

That is how violence is. It is destructive, it is noisy, it does not make you or me happy and it is extremely challenging to control. To exercise self-control from being reactive, is not easy my dear friends and we all know, that when we react to situations, we often end up in regret.

So the question then, why do we still continue to react, when we can choose to respond.
We are all humans, gifted with the use of our intellect, to be able to tell what is right, and what is wrong. To be able to assess, and understand, the repercussions of what we do today, will have consequences in the future.

Because when we respond, we are in control, of our decisions, of ourselves. When we respond, we determine the outcome and we, are aware of the consequences. Most importantly, when we respond, it is an informed choice that we have taken.

And I learnt about making choices to Respond, and not to React, when I was serving my National Service and I understood about the importance of Responding through the life of people that I met when I was serving my fellowship in the US.

About a week before the end of Ramadhan last year, I flew to the US and spent 4 months, completing my fellowship, at the University of California, Irvine, as advisor, to a student group called, Students for Global Peacebuilding.

It was there, that I had the opportunity, to not only learn about Peacebuilding, but also to meet the very people who have committed their lives, to peacebuilding work. The circumstances which led them on their journey, may not have been the best, but they certainly believed in the importance of positive peace, as how it is called in the peacebuilding community.

I met a church pastor, who at one time was so adamant about blowing up a mosque, that he had already prepared himself, his family and his congregation to die, in the name of God, when he realized he was wrong and turned instead to peacebuilding work.

I met a gangster, who at one time, never wanted to be a gangster, but because of his environment, he ended up in one. He, who at one time, wanted to quit and was ready to quit after the last mission given to him, but he ended up paralyzed, because he had received two shots in his back, one of which, hit his spine.

I met a Muslim, a Briton, who was the founder of an organization that served to kill non-Muslims, but was arrested before he could commit that act.

And I met a mother, who lost her daughter through violent conflict. She was a PhD student doing her research in the area, helping others.

And all of them, had one thing in common – they believed in peace, no longer interested in the violent activities that they had once engaged themselves in, because they could have caused destruction to others, and to the people they love.

Besides meeting such inspiring individuals, I also worked with students from the Olive Tree Initiative, students who were passionate about the Palestinian – Israeli conflict, students who had travelled to the region to learn in-depth and to gain experience first-hand, and to listen to the stories from the people involved in the conflict, from the settlers who live in constant fear to the academics and the policy makers, and they returned home, more confused than when they first embarked on their journey, because they no longer saw the conflict as how they previously did.

During one of the classes that I was a Teaching Assistant, we had guests from The Parents Circle Families Forum, who were on campus to share their experience of losing a family member directly to the conflict.

The Parents Circle Families Forum, is a group of people who had come together to provide emotional support to one another. These individuals, have lost a family member to the conflict, and consist of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Let us all exercise the use of our imagination. You can choose to close your eyes and listen if you want to. If you are a parent, I want you to imagine this. If you are not a parent yet, I want to imagine that you have a sibling.

Imagine that you have a son/brother, your son/brother has always been a peaceful person and is also involved in peacebuilding work. Your son/brother, strongly believes in nonviolence and condemns war.

One day, your son/brother receives a reservist call-up. This reservist call-up, requires your son/brother to put on a uniform that another party recognizes as an enemy, and will kill on sight. The other party does not know or bother that your son/brother is a peaceful person because when the moment son is wearing that uniform, he is an enemy to the other.

So, your son/brother contemplates on reporting for duty because he does not want to kill anyone. And after much thinking, he decides that he should serve. He will serve because he believes that if he is on duty, he will be able to protect the other by being in control of his men. He will serve because he believes that he can educate and influence his men to take up nonviolence and join him in being peaceful.

And so, while your son/brother is on reservist duty, protecting the other side, he gets shot by a sniper because he was wearing that uniform, the uniform recognized as an enemy to the other.

How does that make you feel as a parent/sibling?

Would you take vengeance if you had the opportunity to?

These were the same kind of questions and emotions that went through the mind of this young man’s mother. And she decided that in order for her to move on, she had to find this sniper. So, she went in search of his sniper and eventually met up with him.

And what did she do?

She decided, that it would be better off for her, to forgive him, because that was what her son would have done. That was what her son believed in – nonviolence.

How many of us here would have the courage to be able to do that? To meet and forgive the person who killed our family member, in person.

This lady, this mother, that I’m talking about, is a real person. She did lose her son to the conflict, shot in the head by a sniper.

My dear friends, this lady, taught me what it meant to Respond, and not to React. Now, she travels to share her story together with many others from The Parents Circle Families Forum, to talk about peace and why as outsiders in this conflict, we should not be picking sides.

And I quote her, “Don’t bring this conflict back to your friends. Don’t choose which side to support. This is not a soccer team where you can choose sides to support. This is a real conflict. People die.”

If we had to choose a side, then choose peace. Choose peace because for as long as we choose to take a side, we are still supporting the conflict, if death does not come to the team we support, death will come to the other side. And this is not a conflict where we want to keep toll on the number of deaths, we want to have peace. Positive peace.

So, what is positive peace some of you may ask? Positive peace is a time of peace where people are able to trust one another. When we can trust one another, we can live in peace, happily, and that is what positive peace is all about.

And how am I involved in this conflict?

I have friends who are Palestinian Muslims and Israeli Jews. Not only have I met them, I have photographs taken with them and I share memories with them, and they, these two friends of mine, have memories with one another as well.

I fear for their safety. I fear for their lives. I fear for the lives of their family. I fear for the lives of their friends and students, who do not support this violence, who only want to live in peace with one another.

Ever since the start of this war, I have been keeping myself updated through them on what is happening on the ground in Israel. Trying to confirm with them, the authencity of the stories heard on the media and they have been actively demonstrating against the war and for as long as peace does not come to the region soon. They may die in the hands of a Hamas missile or an Israeli bomb, and it doesn’t matter which one will kill them, because when they die, I will lose a friend, or two friends.

Even my Israeli Jew friend is not spared from the violence of his own Israelis when he was protesting. The right wing Jews were there and had reacted violently towards the peaceful protest that my friend was involved in, because he, wanted the war to end.

Today, I hope that all of you here, will support for peace. I hope that all of you here, will side for peace and for humanity because the blood that flows out of an Israeli or Palestinian, is the same type of blood that runs through our veins.
Let us stop this war through nonviolent means, through education and through cultivating love and trust amongst, and between one another.

Thank You.

So being here today, let us spend the next 5 – 10 minutes, sitting in silence, in remembrance of the lives that has been lost, not just through this violent conflict, but also, the other violent conflicts that is happening around the world today, in Syria, in Myanmar, in Ukraine, in Iraq, because every single life is precious.

Every single life that is lost, is a life that could have made a difference to the world in a positive way. Because every single life that is lost, could have been the life of your own family member or a close friend.

So, let us all sit in silence, and reflect upon ourselves, how we, can choose to respond nonviolently from today onwards, through our actions and especially through our words.

Peace for Israeli – Palestinian Conflict


It’s been a few days since the war between Israel and Palestine began again, and just like old times, lots of Palestinians have died but who’s fault is it this time?

The story that we know, is that 3 Jewish settlers were kidnapped and killed prompting other Jewish settlers to kidnap a Palestinian boy and burn him to death. In retaliation, Hamas decided to launch missiles into Israel and in self-defence, Israel counters with their own form of offensive which has killed more Palestinians than ever before.

While the anti-Israeli movement and overwhelming sympathy has poured out to Palestine, not many have questioned the legitimacy of the story or have given thought to why this even occurred in the first place.

So, over the past few days since the exchange of fire began, I began asking my friends as well. Not just any friends, friends who are directly affected by this situation. Friends who are living in fear and who are more well-informed than any media because they live there.

And this is what I’ve been able to gather:

– The 3 Jewish settlers weren’t kidnapped. They did die. They died in a car accident. The cause is yet to be known. I don’t suppose anyone is going to bother to investigate it at this juncture.
– The parents of the 3 Jewish settlers claimed/alleged that their children were kidnapped and killed by Palestinians.
– The rest of the story remains true. Hamas fired first before Israel, in self-defence launched an all out air offensive, attacking targets believed to be where Hamas was hiding missiles. Unfortunately, these targets were homes of people.

Nevermind who’s to be blamed for this problem we have at the moment because the problem right now is that Hamas does not have the capability to cause any serious damage to Israel compared to what the Israeli forces are able to do. Not that I’m suggesting Hamas should be shooting if they had better weaponry.

Going by this, Hamas has to apply all logic to stop, in order to save civilian lives. They shouldn’t have even begun firing those missiles in the first place but as an extreme political power, they decided to retaliate, shooting missiles from underground bunkers where they are safe.

THIS IS STUPIDITY. THIS IS NOT THINKING FOR PALESTINIANS.

Yes. You get angry when your own gets kidnapped and burned alive. There is no question about that but this is where you need to learn to RESPOND and not REACT.

One wonders how over decades of being in such a disadvantaged position, these guys still have not learnt how to respond but instead, continue to react, putting their own people at a disadvantage OR is this could simply be a trick that Israel is pulling to launch an offensive OR a trick that Hamas stupidly came up with.

Now, it’s easy for me to say this but the reality of the matter is that these guys live separated by a large wall. A wall so large that the other has no idea what is happening, and when either side does not have an idea what is happening, both sides have a lack of trust that each once to make peace, but instead wants to take up arms to end the others’ lives.

That is the reality of what it’s like.

That is what I know based on experiences shared by students from the Olive Tree Initiative, a group of students in Universities who have an interest to learn and understand about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Students who travel to Israel and Palestine, and talk to locals and academics and politicians to gather information before they try to make any conclusion out of it. Most of the time, it leaves them even more confused and this is where they learn that fighting for a side, will not help the cause.

But this is war and like it or not, death is still death. Death in a warzone does not recognize your faith or race, but the pain of having a loved one die is the same. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Palestinian or an Israeli, because when a loved one dies, you feel that pain, the same pain.

This pain and disdain for war is what drove the bereaved parents of the conflict from both sides to come together to work towards peace. They call themselves, The Parents Circle and they have a message that they want to send out,

“Don’t take sides. This is not a soccer game. This is real. People die.”

The experience of listening to them share their experience of losing a loved one to the conflict and then forgiving the other in order to come together to work for peace is a powerful message that I’d like to share with everyone, and I hope you’ll share this too.

If the parents of those who have lost a loved one to the conflict, can come together to work towards Peace and Reconciliation, why are we taking sides other than for Peace?

So, regardless of the religious group that we belong to, in this conflict, there is only one side that we need to take, PEACE.

Without peace, we can’t learn to build trust and trust is one of the building blocks of any positive relationship.

Without trust, we can’t sit down on the same table to begin discussing plans on how we’d like to move forward.

Without plans, we can’t see what are the potentials that we can create for future generations.

And there are groups within Israel and Palestine itself, who believe that the only way to solve this conflict, is to move towards a two-state solution. Isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day? A recognized Palestinian state living in peace with the state of Israel because let’s face it, the reality is that the state of Israel is here to stay, and until we can all come to that page, this conflict will never end.

Shalom
Salam
Peace