[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Saturday, March 31, 2007

[A Guest From Africa]
1. President Musaveni from Uganda is here on an official visit. I attended President Nathan's lunch for him today. He is a strong leader who put the country right after Idi Amin's years of terror and misgovernance. It is his first visit to Singapore. He asked President Nathan many questions about how MM Lee Kuan Yew set Singapore on the path of development. He was eager to develop stronger economic links between our two countries.

2. Later this year, PM Lee will be visiting Uganda (capital Kampala) for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). I have no doubt that President Musaveni will be an able Chairman. Yesterday, when the Foreign Minister called on me at MFA, we talked about the first CHOGM held outside London in Singapore in 1971. Then President Obote was deposed in a coup while he was in Singapore for that meeting. I remember, as a 17 year-old Pre-U student, standing outside the Singapore Conference Hall watching all those foreign leaders stream in in their motorcades.

3. While Singapore made astonishing progress since 1971, Uganda and many other parts of Africa regressed tragically. There are many explanations why Africa went backwards while East Asia surged forward in the last 30 years. There is no doubt that leadership has been a critical factor. In terms of the human-resource ratio, Africa with its vast expanse of land, is much better off.

4. At the end of the lunch, I asked President Musaveni a personal question. There were four of them - Musaveni, Kagame of Rwanda, Afwerti of Eritrea and Zenawi of Ethiopia - who knew each other and represented a new generation of strong leaders in East Africa. One African minister told me a couple of years ago that these four men could have taken over the whole of Africa. It was a romatic period. But they fell out. Musaveni and Kagame fought each other; so too Afwerti and Zenawi. I asked President Musaveni what happened? He was honest and humble in his reply. He said that they were a new group who were not beholden to vested interests or to the Western powers. Together, they were able to resist Arab pressure from the North. Now they have to learn to develop their national economies. On his way back, he was stopping a day in Eritrea to mediate that country's conflict with Ethiopia. I wished him well. Thinking I was Buddhist, he said that Buddhist prayers might help.

Photo credit: The Sunday Times, Singapore Press Holdings

Becoming the London of Asia

Thursday, March 29, 2007

It's almost the end of term soon. That means exams are around the corner. Just turn and it hits you.

Since I have an hour to chill out, I decided to sit down at the benches to do a little blogging before I have no time to do so.

It's a rainy and cold day. Perhaps I'll go grab a cup of tea before my project publicity team meeting in half an hour.

People come up and tell me that I am pretty random sometimes, And yeah, it's true. You know, tonight's the closing date for the voting of the top 20 blogs for the Youth.SG blogging competition. I'm excited. But confident? I am sure that those who know about it will vote. Until the results tomorrow.

If you walk around SMU at this time of the year, you can be sure to see newbies coming for their interviews. Talk about new students, I do have some reservations about university admissions but well that can be discussed after my exams.

I'm looking forward to seeing a new batch of freshies. Then I will become a "lao jiao" (oldie). It's going to be a fun-filled four month summer break. The time is not right to release details. But I am excited.

So if you haven't voted, please cast your votes now. Voting is not compulsory though. Follow your heart.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

[I need your votes]
Dear readers,

This is not a joke. And nope, I am not standing for any election. It's the fun stuff!

B10 of Round6
Name: Ephraim
About his blog: Ephraim is back again after a long hiatus after Round 2. This time, he wants to tell us about creativity as he takes on our challenge to show the world that Singapore bloggers are not a boring bunch.

As you know I am in the top 20 for Round 6 (it is the final round) of the Youth.SG blogging festival and yeah, I need your votes!

Email :

Contestant Code:

Full Name:

IC (S1234567Z):

Contact Number:

Powered by Weikiat.NET

Deadline for Voting: 2359hrs on 29 March 2007

Do note that votes are restricted to one vote per person per unique NRIC number per unique email address. Repeated votes will be void.

If you are a foreigner, you may vote manually by emailing myvote@youth.sg in the following manner:

In the subject field, type 'I choose B10 - (Your name)' as the subject.
In the body of your email, include your Full Name, IC/FIN and contact number.

This form of manual voting is exclusive to foreigners who do not have an NRIC.

And yes, this is always a popularity thing so I really do need your support. Thank you!

P.S. Five lucky voters will get to win a $10 Sakae Sushi Dining Voucher.


Read more about the blogging festival on Youth.SG

Saturday, March 24, 2007

[Lorong Tua Pek Kong Dinner]
1. I have just come back from the Lorong Tua Pek Kong Dinner. There was a huge crowd of people (well over 10,000), many of whom came from as far away as Jurong to attend the deity's birthday dinner. Not having been there before, I asked to tour the temple complex by the sea. At the main shrine, the air was thick with incense smoke. What surprised me was the presence of a Malay keramat and a ganesha temple next to the shrine.

2. Because the devotees are generous with their contributions, the temple committee has been able to make large donations for various causes. Last year, they donated 21 ambulances to different voluntary welfare organisations. We in Aljunied GRC have also been a beneficiary of the temple's generosity.

3. The organisation of the dinner was very impressive. Food was continuously cooked and served free of charge. Because of limited access, the car park was located several hundred meters away. There were many volunteers guiding the traffic. Free trishaw rides were provided for senior citizens and those who could not walk the whole way.

4. The temple will be shifted to new premises nearby on August 4th. It is a multi-storey building with much better facilities. However, it will not have the space and the seafront of the present temple.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Friday, March 23, 2007

[All about toys]
I visited MINT the toy museum on Tuesday to do a story for Youth.SG. Since it was really near my school, I went there before class. It was an awesome experience.

Located at Seah Street, the museum has four floors of toys. The article will be posted on Youth.SG so do stay tuned.

MINT was officially opened by Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo at the early part of the month. There is a plaque placed at the entrance to mark the new beginning of Singapore's first toy museum. I shan't write too much here so as not to spoil the show.

One thing I must highlight though is the restaurant located at the basement.

Food here is reasonably priced like most restaurants. The set meal costs around $13.80 (add in the service charge and GST to get the full price). And is a three course meal with a glass of beverage.

The theme of the restaurant is synchronous with the museum. There are posters plastered on the wall and a montage done by artist Einstein adorns the entrance.

I had the chance to try their creamy mushroom soup which was delicious and on par with the usual restaurant food and a special fried chicken dish atop mashed potatoes with a lemon butter sauce.

Do drop by even though you are not visiting the museum to try some delicious stuff.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

1. Here in Nagasaki, the air is different. Located on the island of Kyushu close to the Asian mainland, Nagasaki has historically received more influence from the outside world than other parts of Japan (except the Ryukyus which only became a part of Japan in the late 19th century).

2. After the Basque Jesuit, Francis Xavier, arrived in 1550, many of the local inhabitants converted to Christianity. When the Shogun Hideyoshi found out that many daimyos (feudal lords) had converted, he was greatly alarmed sensing a political challenge to his position. He decided to get rid of this potential problem, root and branch. Christians were horribly persecuted. 26 of them were marched 800km in the heart of winter from Kyoto to be crucifed in Nagasaki.

3. When the Tokugawa Shogunate under Ieyasu took over, the policy against Christians was continued. The local guide showing me the sites explained that Christianity was a threat to the strict hierarchical order of Tokugawa rule. For two hundred years, Japan isolated itself from the outside world limiting all contact to the port of Nagasaki.

4. After the Western powers forced Japan to open up, the first foreign concession was established here. The area is now called Glover Park where a few old houses preserved from that era can still be seen.

5. Because it became a centre for naval shipbuilding and other military activities during the Second World War, Nagasaki was the second city after Hiroshima to be destroyed by the atom bomb. It is now a charming provincial town with excellent seafood. A monument reminds us of the blessing of peace.

6. The Nagasaki-Singapore Friendship Society was established many years ago to foster good relations between our two cities. There is regular student exchange. There is also a programme of collaboration between the doctors and scientists of NUS and Nagasaki University. I met some of them from Nagasaki this evening at a dinner hosted by the Mayor. They have warm feelings for us and wanted a larger framework of cooperation with Singapore for infectious diseases like avian flu. I agreed to put this to the Health Ministry for consideration.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

[Uniquely Japan]
1. The Japanese are a unique people. For cleanliness and orderliness, they must rank No 1 in the world. They set high standards for themselves. I remember seeing the Japanese Ambassador in Singapore picking up satay sticks which others had dropped on the carpet at a National Day reception some years ago. Few of us would even think of doing that. At a Japanese restaurant, the waiter or waitress would carefully wipe off bits of food dropped on the lacquer tray or table even as you are eating as if they would mar the aesthetic enjoyment of your meal.

2. These characteristics are in their cultural DNA. An ancient Chinese account of the Japanese (in the Bei Wei Shu, if I remember correctly) described them as an unusually clean people. At the Ise Shrine, a temple is re-built every 10 years. A new temple replicating the old down to the last detail is carefully constructed. Once done, the old one is burnt. Decade after decade, the tradition continues unbroken.

3. At the official dinner hosted by PM Abe, I was told that the old building was dismantled from the old site and re-assembled 50m away to free up space for the new Prime Minister's Office.

4. Singaporeans who live in Japan learn to conform. It is an intense social culture. Our diplomats do the same, picking up their controlled gestures and body language. As they say, in Rome, do as the Romans do. Even when they are posted back to Singapore, it takes a while before they lose some of those Japanese characteristics.

5. PM's official visit to Japan was very successful. All the meetings went well. Our bilateral relationship has been raised to a new level. Last year, the Emperor and Empress visited Singapore. The Imperial Household made sure that nothing was left to chance. Every event was carefully planned for. Both the Emperor and Empress carried themselves with dignity and simplicity, leaving a very good impression with the Singaporeans they met. On Monday, they hosted PM and Mrs Lee to a private lunch at the Palace here in Tokyo. This was a special gesture, not normally done. Although the Empress has been unwell, she would only take leave from her official duties after the lunch.

Read my post on Japan-China Relations here

Monday, March 19, 2007

[ASEAN youths unite]
ASEAN will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2007. Did you know that ASEAN stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and that there are 10 countries that comprise ASEAN?

The ASEAN logo has 10 padi stalks bonded together in the centre. Each padi stalk represents a country - Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

In conjuction with the 40th anniversary celebrations, there's the 5th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting for Youth (AMMY V) rocking youths from around the region from April 24 to April 27. The theme this time round is “Youth: Creating Our Future Together”. It is also the first time Singapore is hosting this mega-gathering.

Apart from that, there's also the 8-day Youth Caucus where 50 youth leaders come together for discussion, interaction, collaboration to tackle youth-related issues and address the concerns of ASEAN youths in the four areas of Education, Employment and Entrepreneurship, Engagement and Environment. Their recommendations will be presented to ASEAN Ministers and Senior Officials at AMMY V.

In Business, Government and Society class today, one of the project groups presented on NGOs and how they tackled the tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia. It was interesting and entertaining.

There was a little skit section showing the US helping Indonesia with their USAID relief programmes.

Singapore also made a little appearance in the form of the Singapore Armed Forces rendering aid to our friends in Indonesia.

But the best thing of all is having to play God in class. All of us had a chance to grade others and to have our presentation graded as well.

It is sad to see how Indonesia is treating their "little red dot" friend now. Surely we did give them all due assistance when we could when they faced a crisis.

Let's hope when youth leaders meet, they will be inspired to do something for the good of all of ASEAN. Let's put our differences aside and move on. Don't these words just sound so familiar?

Share your wish for ASEAN here

[Way Back into Love]
I've been living with a shadow overhead
I've been sleeping with a cloud above my bed
I've been lonely for so long
Trapped in the past, I just can't seem to move on

I've been hiding all my hopes and dreams away
Just in case I ever need 'em again someday
I've been setting aside time
To clear a little space in the corners of my mind

All I wanna do is find a way back into love
I can't make it through without a way back into love

I've been watching but the stars refuse to shine
I've been searching but I just don't see the signs
I know that it's out there
There's gotta be something for my soul somewhere

I've been looking for someone to shed some light
Not somebody just to get me through the night
I could use some direction
And I'm open to your suggestions

All I wanna do is find a way back into love
I can't make it through without a way back into love
And if I open my heart again
I guess I'm hoping you'll be there for me in the end

There are moments when I don't know if it's real
Or if anybody feels the way I feel
I need inspiration
Not just another negotiation

All I wanna do is find a way back into love
I can't make it through without a way back into love
And if I open my heart to you
I'm hoping you'll show me what to do
And if you help me to start again
You know that I’ll be there for you in the end

[Support Jasper]
My bro Jasper has made it past the preliminary round 1 of Campus Superstar. And yes, it is good to give him support. He is number 4646 (can go and buy 4D already lah).

Although we are not blood related but we share quite similar interests in terms of leisure activites.

It is surprising that I can connect well with a kid that is much younger than me. But hey, there are people aged close to that on the SHINE Youth Advisory Panel that I am on now. So naturally, I am able to interact with them. This reminds me, my cousins like to stick closely to me as well.

I am sure you people want to see a star in the making. Sometimes the process matters and not the final product. Just like university education - it's not what you learn but the development of one's thinking skills.

So yeah, do get your butts down to the Toa Payoh HDB Hub on 31 March to support our young talents. And hopefully, 4646 will get your utmost support.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

[Short takes]
It has been a long day. Therefore a long post.

I'm back to the Cathay fever again. After watching three movies at Golden Village, I was back at The Cathay today. The grand Cathay is well, pretty grand. As usual, the facilities that Cathay provides never fails to make watching a movie pleasant. There's even an elaborate stage (persumably for gala screenings) with a red curtain that is draped across. The ads begin on screen as the speck of light lightens up the screen after the curtains part.

I caught the movie 300. After watching Music and Lyrics, I must say 300 really sucked. I do not have a soft spot for Greek methodology movies. The last time I watched Troy I fell asleep in the cinema.

Then next at 4pm, I headed to the National Youth Council for a meeting. There were many people there. Some stared at me as though I am a celebrity. I found out why later. Because the Campus SuperStars were up and running at the Channel U Motocross Challenge 2007 @ *scape. You know how fans are like.

It is the first for Asia and it's the first time you see motocross on Orchard Road. And I hear that motocross is gaining popularity. Be dazzled by other starry appearances by Project SuperStars on April 21 and SuperHosts on May 19.

After a short dinner break at my uncle's place, I headed to Wala Wala at Holland Village. One thing that I'd like to thank NEA for is the smoking ban in pubs and clubs. Stinky clothes from smoky environments are now a thing of the past. I can enjoy my music in peace without smoke in my eyes. Heck, I could even sing along.

Also, I did try to get creative again. This time with the lights.

After the cake and all (it was Justin's birthday and he wore a red bra and was presented with matching panties during the cake cutting) a small group of us headed to Newton Circus for supper.

The bra thingy was not my idea. Just hope I don't get sabo-ed like that during my big day.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

[Behind the scenes of Vie]
There's plenty of reasons to grab the recent issue of SMU's school magazine, Vie. And it is not because I am one of the writers.

This will be the second issue since the latest makeover by the editorial team. And the obvious change is definitely the cover. Of course, the next thing that one will notice are the models.

The cover shoot was done at the top floor of the library at SMU. And subsequent shots were done in a library project room and SMU's campus green.

The art team planted two hot models smack in the heart of campus toasting white wine (it is real wine by the way).

Grab yours today to see what student life in SMU. So they say, student life, live it the SMU way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

[Weekly dosage]
I have been missing my weekly Meet the People Sessions (MPS) for two weeks in a row but will be back again today.

It is important to take such sessions seriously, I must agree.

Week after week, many residents are helped during MPS. Volunteers help to write petition letters to the various ministries on a wide spectrum of issues. This experience sheds light on what the ground feeling is.

Another contributing factor on why MPS is important is because, issues raised up during MPS will help iron out the creases in policies and can be feedback on how to sharpen policies made.

I've been paying attention to Parliament debates and many of what the MPs raise are pertinent issues that MPS volunteers write about.

Some are on housing. I had an encounter with en-bloc voting. Usual variations of such cases include some residents not agreeing to move out, feeling that the valuation amount is not right because of reasons like high floor and good view. This was reported in The Straits Times recently.

Another is the queuing to buy HDB flats. Most appeal about the long wait and queues. Some feel that it causes them to queue aimlessly. Fortunately, that problem has been raised and solved. You can now do it at a click of the mouse.

There was once a case of a child being adopted. The adopted parent had come to seek help on the long wait to get the legal framework done. Issues pertaining to the benefits of the adopted child was also raised. This was also mentioned in Parliament recently. I believe MCYS will be looking into the issue.

Transport is also another category. Once, a resident had come to ask for assistance to write to the LTA to open a LRT station in Punggol citing long walks to the station as an issue. The resident also added that there was a lack of bus services in that area. I saw a report about this issue in the newspapers as well. I believe LTA has responded to the matter.

So it seems that no matter how big or small the problem, it is important to let it out. The people that help out lend a listening ear or sometimes even a shoulder to cry on. But of course, some of these cases really tug at your heartstrings.

MPS is an important tool for the older ones who do not have the capability of the internet and email age.

Monday, March 12, 2007

[Foreign Workers]
1. Last week, a group of SMU students held an exhibition at the void deck of Blk 415 Hougang Ave 10. I was intrigued by their interest in the foreign workers who live in Singapore. Most Singaporeans take the foreign workers who work around us for granted. Consciously or unconsciously, we often exclude them from our mental frame of people we deal with in our community, as if they were not there or fully human.

2. The group included a few who were themselves foreign students. They collected old film cameras and gave them to individual foreign workers. The pictures these foreign workers took provided an interesting perspective of daily life in Singapore. They remind us that our economy would grind to a halt without the contribution of these foreigners. It is also good to remember that our forefathers who migrated here were caught in similar situations once upon a time.

3. I thank the SMU students for opening our eyes to a picture which is not always flattering. It is good that our young people should feel strongly for issues that older Singaporeans might have grown cynical about.

4. It was a great idea to have the exhibition in a void deck. Gay Chee's RC members gave full support when Bee Lan proposed the idea to them. We should organise more void-deck exhibitions and go beyond the tried and the traditional.

Do also read my post on philanthrophy in Asia on Beyond SG

Sunday, March 11, 2007

[i am @ Youth.SG]
It's the sixth round of the Youth.SG blogging festival.

And it has been a whirlwind ride. It's like as though you have been on the MRT train and you are at the station rushing to the destination: the finals.

I used to think why I'm always joining the competition and depriving others of the chance of getting into the winning 11 (not that arcade game but the top 11 of blogs). But heck. I wanna show off to the world that Singaporeans can be creative despite many undefined OB (out-of-bound) markers. After all, I am taking a creative thinking module now.

So what really is creativity? I was taught something about divergent thinking - linking non-related things together - in the first lesson. Last week, our professor Margaret Chan brought us on a field trip (yippee!). We visited the Singapore Art Museum to nurture our creative juices.

Here's the photo edition of my creativity guide.

Creativity is not so much the ability but the style that one has. In the past, rich men engaged artists to paint women that they loved. There were no cameras that time. And when Pablo Picasso was asked to, he evoked his own style. I recall seeing a cubist artwork done by him. It contains drawings of spheres, cones and various shapes. And it has feelings and emotions etched inside. It is also different from say, the Mona Lisa for example.

I guess the next aspect would be perspective - the way you look at a certain thing. Just a simple line of text on a wall can be seen from many directions. Some choose to look from the front, others the bottom and yet others from the side.

If I were to name this piece, I'll call it "converging statements" to make a point.

Colours or the lack of it do bring out the essence of a piece of art. Contrasting colours even better. Perhaps the art teacher would give you points for being creative. Who would ever paint the sky red?

And who would paint the town blue? Usually they say "let's pain the town red". Opposites attract. There's black and white. Yin and yang. Tian (sky) and di (soil). Huo (fire) and shui (water). Boy and girl. North and south poles of a magnet.

Creativity comes in many forms. Visual, interactive and dynamic. Paintings, photos and videos. A song, a poem or a prose.

Since I am supposed to show that I am creative and it is for Youth.SG, I shall attempt to fuse two elemets together - youth and Singapore. Ephraim Loy, 24, a young Singaporean (the official age for youth is up to 35 in Singapore) and his little story on Singapore. Youth+Singapore=Youth.SG Please don't blame me for revisiting history.

In the beginning, way after the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, there was a boy who lived at Kampong Java Road. Number 92. His dad was Lee Chin Koon and his mum Chua Jim Neo.

No one would have thought he would be the great man that he is today. But he did. But certainly, somewhere, somehow, something triggered that spur to succeed. The story of Singapore's first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

And here I present a series of two creative videos. First, the early days - face-off with a Japanese soldier was shot on location at the new National Museum of Singapore.

Those who study Singapore history should know how we became independent accidentaly. The 1962 Merger Referendum of Singapore kicked start the process of accidental independence. SIngapore joined Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form the Federation state of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. Two years later, because of ideology conflict of the PAP government and the Kuala Lumpur federal government, we decided to go our own way. This paved the way for Lee Kuan Yew to emerge as Singapore's first Prime Minister. The next video depicts a scene on independence day, 9 August 1965.

In Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs, The Singapore Story, there's a chapter that describes the events that occured on that very day. At close to 6pm, news of Singapore's separation was all over the airwaves. Some may reacall it as 'that tearful scene'.

Lest you think this is some brainwash National Education video, think again. It's supposed to trigger your mind on what we have achieved, how far the road we have travelled and the toil and hard work of our forefathers.

The baseline: whether it's a photo or a video, creativity can certainly exist. In all other forms too.

This post is in conjuction with the Youth.SG blogging festival.

Thought of the day: Perhaps if I get in again this time, I shall launch a major voting campaign. After all, I have been through a General Election.

Read more about the blogging festival on Youth.SG

Friday, March 09, 2007

[Hougang Ave 10 Road Crossing]
1. The crossing at Hougang Ave 10 from Blk 521 to the MRT station is unsafe. We had two fatal accidents in Jan and Nov last year. One problem is that vehicles tend to accelerate out of the road bend. On Wednesday night, I had a dialogue with residents there on this issue and other issues.

2. Some residents propose an overhead bridge which HDB is reluctant to build because of land constraints. An overhead bridge will also require a pedestrian barrier along the road's central divider. This will make crossing much harder for our senior citizens.

3. The other alternative is to have a signalised crossing at grade, meaning on the same level. To slow down vehicles, speed strips will then have to be built. This will result in noise pollution to nearby residents.

4. The CCC and RC have been talking to HDB and LTA on the best solution to this problem. Every alternative has its pluses and minuses. But we have to make a decision in the next few months.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

[Delicious portobello mushrooms]
I wanted to blog about delicious mushrooms that I learnt how to make but didn't have the time. I remember reading about food blogs in The Sunday Times. So here's my attempt to describe how to make delicious cheesy mushrooms.

First up, you need to prepare the mushrooms by doing the necessary washing. Then you cut the stems away so you can put delicious ingredients inside.

Then you stir fry bacon bit in a pan, prepare chopped chunks of avocado and lastly, shredded cheddar cheese.

Once all the ingredients are ready, put the bacon bits on top of the mushrooms followed by the chunks of avocado and sprinkle chredded cheese on the ingredients.

Preheat the oven and then stick the tray in on medium temperature for 10 minutes.

And there you have it: mouth-watering portobello mushrooms.

[Just follow law]
My good friend Zheng Xi a law student is going places man.

He will be the moderator for the discussion forum, “Our Democratic Processes: An International Perspective” that is organised by the National University of Singapore's Law Students’ International Relations Committee (LSIRC).

So for those who want to face-off with Sylvia Lim, our one and only Non-Constituency Member of Parliament in Singapore and hear what her views and thoughts from her perspective as a key player in our democratic process are, do mark down 10 March in your calenders. This forum will be held from 11am to 1pm at the NUS Seminar Room 2-2.

Other key players include Professor Arun Thiruvengadam who currently teaches Public Law and has a strong interest in constitutional law. Prof Arun will be sharing his expertise in constitutional law and democracy.

And also our local poet, playwright, writer and civil society activist Alfian Sa’at who will be sharing his views on the role civil society plays in nurturing a healthy democracy.

It will be a great forum I'm sure and since we live in a democratic society, shouldn't we be more aware about democracy and our democratic process and laws?

In SMU, there's a module on that for political science students too. It was made compulsory till last year. Anyway do support this event.

You can email lsirc@gmail.com for further enquiries.

Monday, March 05, 2007

[Official Opening of Museum of Toys]

1. A few years ago, Mr Chang Yang Fa and his wife suddenly appeared at one of my weekly Meet-the-People Sessions. My grassroots leaders alerted me of their strange request. Instead of the usual appeals or complaints, they told me of their plan to establish a Museum of Toys in Singapore. I was delighted to hear this. I remember recounting to him my own happy visit one cold Winter day to a puppet museum in Lubeck, Germany which my wife and I chanced upon when we were looking for a warm place to retreat to. It was fascinating to see in one location puppets from all over the world, including Chinese wayang puppets from Singapore.

2. I was in MTI then and glad to support Mr Chang's application for some grants from SPRING. He also asked me to appeal on his behalf to URA. I remember mentioning his interesting project once to Minister Mah Bow Tan.

3. Then, nothing heard for a long time, and I forgot about the project until Mr Chang emailed me a couple of months ago with an invitation to do the official opening this evening. I checked my calendar to make sure I was free and agreed immediately. This is a happy occasion and could not have come about without the lifelong passion of Mr Chang and his wife. Mrs Chang must share some of the same passion because Mr Chang's interest in toys is not a simple hobby or indulgence but a consuming fascination with what must be an anthropoligical phenomenon of homo sapiens.

4. It is curious why human beings all over the world, however primitive, make toys. No doubt there are many theories. For children, it is one way to prepare them for adult life. But whatever the educational use of toys, we enjoy them because they are cute or funny. It is a genetic urge for human beings to make toys and play with them. However, this Museum of Toys is not an attempt to analyse the phenomenon of toys. It is created for fun, for us to enjoy what Mr Chang has collected over a period of more than 25 years. We thank him and Mrs Chang for this wonderful contribution to our community. It is a real museum and not a toy museum, and is the first such museum in Singapore. Mr Chang told me that this is the first purpose-built Museum of Toys in the world. Our Tourism Board is proud to describe the Museum as being 'Uniquely Singapore'.

5. The architect Mr Chan Soo Khian was responsible for the design of the Museum and won prizes for it. He was able to realize Mr Chang Yang Fa's dream in a practical and aesthetic way. It has been a long and difficult journey for them with many obstacles along the way. But nothing worth doing in life is easily done. Without passion, there can be no great achievement.

6. One also needs resources. It is difficult for such a project to be completely self-financing. I hope government agencies will continue to extend their support. I am sure the Basement Cafe will be well-patronized not just for the food and beverage but also for the overall experience. For the Foreign Ministry, this is certainly an establishment which does us proud for what it represents. My wife and I add our congratulations to the many which Mr Chang and Mr Chan must have already received.

Visit Mint, the Museum of Toys here