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.

38-oxley-road---3

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

6.

—(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

9.

—(1)  It shall not be lawful —

(a)
to require any Member or officer of Parliament to serve as an assessor on any tribunal; or
(b)

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

16.

—(1)  No public officer shall be required —

(a)
to produce before Parliament any paper, book, record or other document; or
(b)
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

17.

—(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

20.

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

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

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

[23/86]

(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.

[23/86]

(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.

[23/86]

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

(a)
commit him to prison for a term not extending beyond the current session of Parliament;
(b)
impose upon him a fine not exceeding the sum of $50,000;
(c)
exclude him from Parliament and the precincts thereof for the remainder of the current session of Parliament or for any part thereof; and
(d)
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.

The Next Decade – 30 to 40


12265787_10153402709743668_7789368710127483646_o.jpg

At the turn of my 30th birthday, I reflected on my life and told myself that I had to do or achieve a list of 30 things before I turned 31. This list was of course, a list of goals for me to work towards, rather than something that I really needed to achieve.

At the start of 2015, I had my list. I knew exactly what I wanted and perhaps needed to achieve. These were the things that would keep me motivated, focused as well as kept me in good momentum for the next decade or rest of my life.

I lost my list along the way because I had hand-written them but I never lost the spirit of trying to achieve the list.

Now, because the list was finalised only in January and my birthday is in December, that gives me an additional month to finish whatever else that I’ve set myself out to do.

Though I can’t quite remember all the 30 things on my list and also because things took several changes along the way, here’s the list of things that I’ve managed to achieve or done thus far this 2015:

  1. Got myself a 400cc motorcycle, a Super 4 Spec 3 – awesome deal
  2. Invited as judge for NUS PBMUKS ‘Pesta Pantun’ competition
  3. Climbed ‘Danau Tujuh’ – an alternative to Mt Kerinchi as it was closed
  4. Launched By Definition Pte Ltd‘s first book, ‘Lagu-Lagu Rakyat – Belajar Bernyanyi Bersama’, the first fully illustrated phonic friendly Malay sing-a-long book in collaboration with my very good buddy, Reyza Hamizan.
  5. Conducted an overseas youth motivational programme
  6. Grew By Definition Pte Ltd’s clientele and number of projects
  7. Performed in ‘Semoga Bahagia’ production 🙂
  8. Emcee-ed several functions
  9. Watched Maroon 5 concert ‘LIVE’ in Singapore
  10. Joined a political party, Singapore People’s Party (SPP)
  11. Stood as a political candidate for General Elections 2015 as an SPP candidate in the SPP-DPP team at Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC
  12. Passed my IPPT
  13. Ran my first injury free 10km run (the first 10km in a long time)
  14. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (balance of exercise and healthy diet)
  15. Met a gorgeous lady who became my partner
  16. Booked and God Willing, my mini pilgrimage to the holy land

I’m far short from my intended list of 30 things but I’m happy with what I’ve managed to do in a year.

To put everything into perspective, there’s only so much I can do in a year. 30 things may have looked too much to achieve given time and situational constraints.

Looking back on the past 3 decades of my life, I can’t say that I’ve had any regrets. I’ve done pretty much most of the things I really wanted to since I was young and while I’m far from the multi-millionaire appearing on FORBES and TIME magazine cover page by 26 years old that I had set my sights on since I was 12, I’m still on path towards that dream now that I know what needs to be done.

Moving forward, to start the next phase of my life on the right track, I’m really looking forward to my upcoming pilgrimage and because I’ve received several requests from dear non-Muslim friends who are interested to know more about this, I’ll be blogging my experience from time to time throughout my entire journey.

While my experience may differ from others, I hope that the information and journey that I will share with my dear non-Muslim friends (whom I hope will read la hor) will be helpful to them as since we may have shared experiences, it will be an emotional journey for us as well.

For now, I need to think about my 10 year plan before I break it down into my yearly goals.

PREPARING FOR THE NEXT GENERAL ELECTIONS – ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES


This past General Elections provided me first hand, on the different roles that are crucial to the success of any candidate or party. Let me break it down for you in terms of the roles and responsibilities:

Campaigning

Campaigning

ELECTION AGENT

The right hand man of the candidate. The election agent plays an extremely crucial role and you need to have the following:

– GOOD ORGANISATIONAL SKILLS

– GOOD COORDINATION SKILLS

– GOOD INTERPERSONAL SKILLS

– RESOURCEFUL

– GOOD ADMINISTRATION SKILLS

Your job is basically to manage all expenses of the candidate which needs to be kept properly. To help organise the schedule as well as plans for the candidate. To coordinate the schedule that has been planned. To manage people that the candidate needs to be in touch with such as media. To be adept at finding resources and be good at negotiating to get the best deal out of it.

PRINCIPAL ELECTION AGENT

Same as above but this person is the OVERALL IN-CHARGE of ALL THE ELECTION AGENTS in the team. In the case of Singapore, we have the GRC. So, the Principal Election Agent’s job is to manage the other Election Agents and ensure things run smoothly and according to what has been planned.

Besides the ELECTON AGENT and PRINCIPAL ELECTION AGENT, the other roles which will go towards the success of the candidate and help ease the candidate’s stress level, as well as help the candidate conserve and focus his energy on the campaign are the following roles.

MEDIA MANAGER

Each candidate should preferably have a media manager. It is basically someone who will help to manage the media for the candidate. This person should help the candidate receive as much media coverage as possible and to ensure content on released by the concerned media is favourable to the candidate. Media forms include mainstream media as well as social media.

Preferably someone with experience from the media industry with friendly connections.

PHOTOGRAPHER

Each candidate should also have a personal photographer tagged with him. The job of the photographer is to take photos that the media would have otherwise missed as well as to ensure that photos uploaded to social media pages of the candidate are favourable and provides an alternative to photos that other media outlets may upload that may jeopardise the candidate.

SPEECHWRITER

The candidate is busy campaigning during the day and may not have time to prepare his own speeches. The speechwriter helps the candidate by going through the news first thing in the morning, updating the candidate on the news that may be of concern and preparing the speech that the candidate needs to deliver at the rallies that will address issues highlighted in the news by the opposing candidate or information highlighted by residents/constituents.

RUNNER

Each candidate should preferably have at least 2 runners. The job of the runner is basically to assist in any other duties that is required by the Election Agent or the candidate. This could be as simple as buying meals or being the advance party in block visits, to prepare constituents to meet the candidate.

CONCLUSION

With all these that is required for a candidate. Where does one learn and hone his skills in being an ORGANISER, COORDINATOR, MEDIA PERSON, SPEECH WRITER, RUNNER?

That’s where being in Grassroots Committee helps you hone the skills.

Being in Grassroots, you’d need to learn to be a runner, you’d also need to learn how to coordinate and organise events and if you’re really good with people and with words, you get to hone your skills to manage the media and be in the contact with the media frequently.

If you’re good with language, very likely you’ll get to the opportunity to write Press Releases and this is where you get to hone your skills as speech writer as well. Well, not exactly, but at the very least, you’ll know what kind of information the media needs and the knowledge to craft proper words is important as well.

And the photographer?

Well, the more events you’re used to, the more you’ll know how and when to position yourself to take those good shots that could tell the story for the candidate without any need for words.

So, when someone says preparation for the next elections begins now, it really does begin now. If you’re really keen to get started and prepared for the next elections in any of these roles, let me know!

GENERAL ELECTIONS 2015 – MY REFLECTIONS


If you believe in something, stand up and fight for it.

I’ve always been the kind of person with such a strong conviction in my beliefs. Like how when I was 5 years old and all my cousins said that it was impossible to go down a flight of stairs with two bicycles, I believed I could and I tried. It worked for the first 2-3 steps before I took a tumble and landed at the bottom of the stairs with two bicycles on top of me.

Stupid? Maybe or perhaps I just hadn’t figured out the right balance to do it back then.

Or perhaps like how someone once told me that I could never go to University of California Los Angeles. Well, I didn’t end up there as a student but I ended up in University of California Irvine as a teaching assistant and advisor to a student group. What made it even more sweeter was that it was on a fellowship by the United States Department of State.

So, now that the dust has somewhat settled on the recent Singapore General Elections, while my team nor party won any seats in parliament, I am certainly proud that we took a huge step to stand up for what we believed in – in Democracy, in speaking up for the voices of Singaporeans and in competing as fairly as we could, even if the decks were stack against us.

I remember when I was in Secondary School, my friends used to say, “Cakap tak guna, tembak tak kena” (No use talking, won’t hit the target when you shoot) or perhaps an easier term more familiar with most Singaporeans would be “No Action, Talk Only”. I always believed that if you wanted to make a change, you’ve got to be the one to make that first move. It has to be an action and not mere words.

Looking back on this experience, I am happy with my performance. I am happy with my team’s performance. In fact, I am happy with the performance of most, if not all the parties that came in to give the People’s Action Party a good fight. We gave options to Singaporeans and we let Singaporeans hear their voices.

Of course, the loss could be attributed to many factors as many have already mentioned, the sympathy over Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death, SG50 celebrations, pay raises for the civil service, SG50 handouts and the ever controversial, New Citizens voting.

That said, I also realise that Singaporeans are perhaps a group of people that would choose safety and security – a believe that perhaps only a minority would disagree with (especially entrepreneurs) because businessmen like myself have the belief that in order to achieve greater things, one has to be willing to step out of their comfort zone.

Like how, if Bill Gates or Steve Jobs didn’t drop out of school to work on growing their projects, we wouldn’t have seen the Personal Computer or Apple products in the last two decades. But these are things are most Singaporeans aren’t willing to pursue because these are ideals from the west, not an oriental culture.

Most Singaporeans are comfortable with their full-time jobs and as long as they can come home, put food on the table and take well-deserved holidays once in a while, cafe hop and receive pay increments, they are a satisfied lot. Inconveniences like having more people living in Singapore, frequent train breakdowns, raises in GST/ERP, language barriers with service staff are minor inconveniences which most Singaporeans can live with by posting their rants on Facebook.

Moving forward, while most of my friends are devastated by how Singaporeans have voted, I hope those who turned up in support for Workers Party or Singapore Democratic Party rallies in huge numbers would look towards volunteering for these parties because without good ground support, every elections will remain the same.

People speak of machinery and they don’t realise that machinery comes from people. The PAP has a good machinery in place with mainstream media, PCF Kindergarten, People’s Association and PAP branches, all of which are activated the moment General Elections is called and which constantly engage the public throughout the entire 4-5 years prior to the next General Elections.

So, unless the opposition parties is able to build their alternative grassroots to counter what People’s Association has and to begin developing their own Kindergartens which also acts as a party branch, opposition parties will remain on the fringes and will never be seen, no matter how hard they work the ground because they won’t be seen at events and the mainstream media won’t cover their events.

The future of Singapore is really in the hands of Singaporeans, not the PAP nor any of the other political parties.

My suggestion is really for Singaporeans to take an active role in shaping Singapore to be what they want it to be through activism. Volunteering for causes they believe in and standing up for what they believe in beyond just simply expressing them online because clearly, online noise is only rants if it doesn’t translate to what is being seen on the ground.

So, take action for your own future, for the future of your children.

As how George Bernard Shaw put it, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”.

Political Reform For Singapore


The National Day Rally is going to be held this coming 23rd August. I have no doubt for sure that perhaps in the week after or so, parliament will be dissolved and we will begin to see political parties campaigning to win the hearts of the voters to put them into parliament for the next 5 years.

All parties have been working hard at looking for new candidates whom they feel can best represent the party and the people they seek to serve at the respective wards that they are contesting for.

And as how the last elections has shown, Singaporeans are less interested in the affairs of the Town Council but are more concerned at what happens at the national level. Elections, is no longer just about municipal issues but national issues.

More than just that, we need the right candidates who can represent the people at the national level.

If anything, I believe that we need to have a political reform in terms of how elections are held. It should no longer be about representing wards alone. It should be about representing the people. What we need is a parliament that works like council members, elected not by wards but by the entire nation or by the community that they seek to represent.

For example, to have a good representation in parliament, we should perhaps try to work on this:

ALL Singapore Malays vote for a selected number of Malay Candidates who have been nominated by their organisations or have chosen to step forward to represent the community.

For instance, AMP, MUIS, MENDAKI, PERGAS, PERTAPIS, etc.. each nominates one member from their organisation whom they feel can best represent the Malay community. If these guys accept the nomination, then they go on to campaign to win votes of the Malay community for the available number of seats and these guys will represent the Malay-Muslim Community.

Let’s say there are 14 seats available for the Malay-Muslim Community and there are 30 guys contending for the seat. Voters can mark the ‘X’ on 14 of these names/faces who they want to represent them.

This way, no candidate shall be subjected to party politics and will truly represent the people and they can represent the people best because there will be diversity in terms of opinions and alliances. These guys, are then the Malay Members of Parliament.

For those individuals who are not nominated, they can campaign as well to win votes. Campaigning can be managed by the Election Department who will organise the ‘Campaign Tours’ to the different neighbourhoods to allow candidates opportunities to speak. Each candidate given a specific amount of time for their speeches. This puts additional pressure on candidates to be concise with what they want to campaign for and not beat around the bush.

Now, after they win and what about the choice for a Minister of Malay Muslim Affairs. The candidates representing the Malay Muslim community can discuss amongst themselves as council members and elect a person whom they feel best fits the job.

What about Town Councils?

Leave the Town Council management to private firms who have no political affiliation or interest. Town Council managers will have to submit their bids and proposals on how they wish to improve the town to the Ministry for National Development who can issue tenders.

In assessing the suitability of the Town Council to be issued or recontracted, MND can have a KPI or checklist or even conduct household surveys to assess performance of each Town Council. Town Councils that fail to meet a certain percentage gives a good red flag that they are perhaps undeserving of a contract extension.

And what then of the People’s Association and it’s CC Advisers?

Leave that to the staff and passionate volunteers of People’s Association. In doing so, we can eradicate party lobbying where volunteers feel obliged/indebted to help/vote their Advisers/MPs or are interested to volunteer because they’d like to be able to receive benefits (whatever that may be). 

I know I’ve only mentioned an example for the Malay-Muslim community but this can be replicated for the rest of the communities and causes as well because at the end of the day, we really want to vote for someone who knows the community really well, is committed to serving the community WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR, FOR JUSTICE AND EQUALITY (Borrowed this from the Singapore Police Force pledge).

I certainly do not want to vote for someone whom I know eventually is bounded by party politics and has their hands and mouth tied from speaking up, when that is exactly what they should be doing.

PERMITS AND ELECTIONS


With the General Elections picking up speed, the People’s Action Party (PAP) has been unveiling their candidates at very unique spaces, in the heartlands, where the action is.

Nothing really wrong with that just that I’m curious to know if they had actually obtained permits, and if so, how long did they take to apply and receive the permit?

One thing for sure, according to this website, http://singaporelegaladvice.com/public-assemblies-and-processions-in-singapore-police-permits-and-the-public-order-act/, no permit is required from the Singapore Police Force. Fair enough. It’s not in the park, so NParks permit is not required.

So, that leaves it to HDB and Town Council, but here’s the issue or the challenge that the opposition will face is getting the same kind of permit if they require one from the Town Council.

The Town Council is managed by the PAP MPs.

So, do the PAP MPs apply and approve their own permits?

If they did, wouldn’t it tantamount to an abuse of authority?

If they didn’t approve their own permits but had subordinates approving them, wouldn’t the subordinates feel compelled to approve because these guys are their bosses?

That’s is if the permits required is from the Town Councils but same goes for the opposition as well of course. On a different note, what if they required permits from the Community Centres?

That would really put the opposition at a disadvantage because the Grassroots Advisers to Community Centres are PAP Party Members, either the PAP MPs or the losing candidate.

Thus, going into this elections, I think I need to see clarity and fairness. Separation between politics and community. Authority and control.

A Good Political Public Relations Lesson in Roy Ngerng vs Singapore’s PM Lee Saga


This is the first time I’ve decided to speak my thoughts about this issue.

1 – Was he right to have blogged about it in the first place? 
YES. It’s a free country.

2 – Was he right to have accused the PM of siphoning the money? 
YES. It was a theory he developed. That was his right.

In the world that I live inside my head, I am right until proven wrong. So, PM Lee has to prove that this guy is wrong but in this case, this guy has to prove himself right. He counterproposed for a dialogue but it failed and now, he’s getting charged. NVM.

NO. He should have done a bit more research first by seeking information from the CPF and all the other organizations that he mentioned so as to build his case and present it such that he was left with no other alternative plausible view.

I think that would have bolstered his cause and credibility.

3 – What do I think of his crowdfunding capabilities?
I think he’s done a fantastic job. 1000 people who have contributed want the truth about the CPF. I’m not sure how much more will it take before PM Lee decides that it would be best to let CPF share the information that Singaporeans are asking.

4 – Who’s gonna win?
Singaporeans.

Confidence in PM Lee is probably at an all time low since he decided to pull this stunt. PM is probably getting a shock and frustrated at how Roy has decided to respond through rallying support from fellow Singaporeans. Never before happened.

Roy would probably lose this case but he would have earned some respect over the PM. I’m not sure how PM Lee Hsien Loong will respond as he has yet to make any public statement with regards to this issue.

PM is probably now in a predicament, carry on fighting in court and win the case but lose some respect and votes (possibly another GRC since Singaporeans also now realize that even with an opposition in Parliament, all is well) at the next GE. PM Lee could suck in his ego and retract his charges, and probably end up looking like he is guilty to what has been purported by Roy.

OR he could issue a public statement to explain where and how the CPF monies works, thereby possibly opening a larger can of worms on where and how the money is being used and possibly risk losing public confidence in the CPF, GIC and Temasek Holdings or any other organization that is linked to the use of the CPF.

Ask Your Member-of-Parliament


If you’re living in Singapore and you belong to the community that is affected by Malay/Muslim policies that the government rolls out. You’d probably want to carry on reading this.

As of last Friday, 11 April 2014, Minister for Communications and Information, and Minister for Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, will be going ‘LIVE’ on air, on Warna 94.2FM from 5pm – 6pm, every fortnightly to answer your questions or listen to your views on the state of the community, on a new programme called, “Tanya AP anda” (Ask your MP).

This initiative is only going to run for 11 episodes ONLY, and since the first episode has passed, you only have 10 more episodes to go.

So, how can you contribute to this segment?

  1. CALL 6691-1942 when the show is on air.
  2. Comment on Warna 94.2FM Facebook page, http://www.fb.com/warna942
  3. EMAIL warna@mediacorp.com.sg

Personally, I think it’s a good outreach that the government and Malay Minister is trying to do, although of course, it’s intentions are questionable as how most of you sceptics would think so too with the only one being:

  • Politics at Play
    You’re a politician, your party has lost a GRC and an SMC to the opposition for the first time in history. Your community is famous for being swing voters, which may give a win or lose result to the constituencies. Ground sentiments are anti-party, your party. So, obviously, some work has to be done on the ground and best way is still through the mass media outlets and radio, as a channel where people still listen and get emotionally connected to/with has proven to still be one of the best media channels.

Otherwise, I would say that regardless of the political strategies in place, to win votes in the next General Elections (which I strongly this is part of the outreach strategy), it’s a good initiative nonetheless.

It provides an opportunity for the captive audience (home-makers and the elderly), to air their views and concerns since most of them are probably less IT-savvy and wouldn’t use the internet as much as the young. 

There is no doubt that there is plenty of misinformation and misinterpretation on the ground with regards to policies and this gives them a good opportunity to try to understand and learn about what policies mean. I can only hope that there is sufficient enquiries to air these concerns because otherwise, it will only be another under-utilized platform.

So, if you’re a Muslim and you’ve got questions to ask or opinions to share, I hope you understand the Malay language enough to be able to understand what is being shared on radio. Otherwise, perhaps you could just surf on to Warna 94.2FM facebook page to air your views and hopefully, get a reply in English there.

On a sidenote, I think it’s also a good opportunity for those of us who’s Malay Language isn’t that good, to be listening to this, so we are forced to listen and understand.

The case against Napolitano and the UCs


It was a beautiful Monday afternoon with a slight overcast and the smell of rain as I stepped out of my house to catch the 12:15pm OCTA 79 bus to University of California, Irvine for my Sankofa class at 1:00pm.

Little would I know that there was a student protest going on which had locked down the entire Donald Bren Hall Building until I saw something amiss from a distance – what was usually quiet and empty, filled the air with voices of students protesting against the new UC President, Janet Napolitano.

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I’ll be honest to say that because I’m not a student here and I’m merely a fellow on a Dept of State grant, I have absolutely no idea what was going on, but it sure did piqued my interest into the student – university relationship because in Singapore, I can’t recall at the top of my head if there ever was any form of student protest against who would be the new President of a university and even if there was one, no one really bothers about it.

The only few significant ones that I did manage to scour for on the internet are Students at NTU protesting against fee hike for hostelstudents protesting against opposition party member, Dr Chee Soon Juan’s visit and Students and Faculty unhappy with NTU decision about Dr Cherian George tenure.

Unfortunately, all of them were from Nanyang Technological University. 

Regarding the case with Janet Napolitano, she was previously the Cabinet Secretary of Homeland Security and during her tenure there, based on people I spoke with, she is unpopular because she deported undocumented immigrants and that makes it a big issue with students at the UCs. Source: Huffington Post. There are apparently, quite a significant number of undocumented immigrants studying in the UCs, based on conversations with the people I spoke to on campus.

That aside, students worry that her presidency will see tuition fee hikes in a bid to continue to pay higher wages to staff and herself as how one student puts it, “She will make friends with the same administrators who get paid to ignore your concerns,” Shadee Malaklou, 28, a Ph.D. student in culture and theory, told the protesters. Source: OC Register.

So, there are indeed general concerns raised with regards to her presidency.

What will happen to undocumented students and will there continue to be a rise in the cost of education?

Definitely, what is lacking here is the dialogue between the Administrators, Regents and Student Leaders, and even if there is, how will these issues be resolved looking at the political and economic climate surrounding not just the US, but the rest of the world.

One thing I know for sure, there were students who definitely wanted to continue with their classes and were disappointed that the protest wasn’t held at someplace else that wouldn’t disrupt their classes.

And well, isn’t this bumblebee looking so lovely? 

It had a crash landing at my ears and ended up on my keyboard.

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Understanding Hijab and Singapore


I’m weighing in on this issue as a Singaporean living abroad, in a country where everything is possible, the United States of America. Where perhaps, Singaporeans who feel discriminated by such issues can take their governments to court using their constitutional right.

BUT America is not Singapore and I don’t think I want Singapore to be an America as well.

The systems in place here, will not work in Singapore. It may satisfy the needs of a few in the short run, but it may have the potential to cripple Singapore in the long run.

Now, this hijab issue is not new. Some 10 years ago, 4 children went to school in hijab and were sent home and a man by the name of Zulfikar stepped forward to fight for their rights, their equal rights as Muslims to don the hijab in the school. The fight ended with Zulfikar migrating to Australia and I hope he is doing well there.

The issue we have today, is one where we see Singaporean Muslims signing an online petition requesting for freedom to don the hijab in their workplace. I don’t think donning the hijab in your workplace is an issue. It certainly isn’t in my company, in fact, I have hired ladies in hijab and they do a really good job, equal to that of the men. (This is not to say that men were setting the standards. The company did.)

But different organizations have different policies, which may be related to the branding that the organization is trying to project.

So, let’s understand a few facts first:

1 – Singapore is a secular and democratic country. That means you have freedom of choice to practice religion without discrimination.

2 – Islam is a religion which makes it clear that women should cover themselves except for their face and hands. It is however at the end of the day, a choice for the practicing Islamic lady whether or not she wants to don the hijab or not. That is between her and God (and her dad if she is single and husband if she is married).

3 – Government agencies/Companies have rules and code of conduct towards the kind of image they want to project to the public. This is branding.

So, if you apply for a government job and you are outrightly discriminated for your religious practices, you could probably take it up with them. But if they gave a clause for you, then the ball is back into your court. It then becomes your choice.

I have been to several Singapore Airlines flight attendant interview and I have never seen a woman dressed in hijab try for it. Why? Perhaps SIA has conveyed their branding very clearly the type of person they want to hire, that women in hijab understand that they will not fit into SIA’s branding.

Similarly for other organizations, each organization would have their own branding image. Some may include women with hijab, some might not.

I have been in uniform organizations and I have seen women in hijab report for work in the hijab but change out of it to perform their duties but put it back on after duty. I wouldn’t say they are playing with Islam, but its a personal choice they make on how they want to practice Islam.

True to say that when they joined the service, they weren’t in hijab but over time, they decided to put it on as part of their religious obligation. They made that personal choice to compromise, they didn’t demand for the organization to compromise to their religious obligation.

God is merciful as well and our rezki is in his hands. So, if one door closes, another will open and as Muslims, it is imperative that I remind us all that God knows what’s best for us. So when something we want doesn’t happen the way it is, we should thank him for something greater than he has planned for us.

In the best of words, “Relek la brader! Rezki masing masing”.