[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

Monday, July 30, 2007

[Sports star awards]
I was invited to attend the CSC Sports Night on Saturday. And that was after a very long day - in the morning I had a meeting with various religious leaders in Singapore and in the afternoon was Coffee Talk with George. Plus I had to change out of my PAP attire to attend the dinner. And that meant having to rush home to change.

But it was all worth it. Because the dinner was held at the Suntec City Convention Centre and the food should be good I figured.

Our table 126 was far behind. Those who were nearer the stage area had several invited MPs. The guest-of-honour was Minister in Prime Minister's Office, Mr Lim Boon Heng, who is also a member of the People's Association Board.

They probably spent a bomb as the whole hall was carpeted. There was even a red carpet that ran the whole width of the hall.

The food served was the usual fare. There was the usual cold dish, fish, mock shark's fin, noodles, and other dishes that I can recall now. The unusual one was this mango juice dessert with pomelo inside. It's sweet and sour at the same time. Exciting.

[Food and ice cream]
After two very hectic week and weekends, I am finally taking a well deserved break today.

I mean, when you sleep at 4am in the morning and wake up at 6am, you are bound to be tired.

But I won't see it as torture. I see it as pushing myself to the limit. Wonder which youth does community work like me these days sacrificing personal time to do things not for self.

But of course there are times to relax and chill. My friends keep me sane. So when I jio-ed my da ge (big bro) to go out for a Fish and Co feast (I call it a feast cause we could not finish all the food), he took some time off to accompany me.

The fried calamari is super delicious. It is crunchy and the squirts of lemon tinge the tongue. The New York Fish and Chips is pretty tasty too with a little bit of cheese.

Such meals are rewards that I pamper myself with after a successful event. With the schedule that I have, it is so difficult to even have a proper meal. And that is why I treasure the time and make it a point to go out to a special place to eat.

Ben and Jerry's is another of my favourite hangouts. The branch near my school is so accessible that I can visit anytime I want. Heavenly.

[Dominoes of Dreams and more]
A school charity project called Dominoes of Dreams was launched yesterday.

50,000 dominoes were laid for in various pictures depicting the economy, family, sports, environment and the hopes of youth.

SMU students and freshmen had a series of sales booths during the month of July to encourage the public to adopt a domino at $2 each. The booths were all around Singapore at various shopping malls.

At the malls, I also did some domino laying to attract the crowd. This one at IMM was one of my best ones so far.

At The Cathay, I came up with a different concept as the ground was not very smooth. It looks like blocks of flats but the creative person would see it as several tables stacked up in a column.

Dominoes of Dreams was funded by SHINE. The SHINE committee had provided a grant of $20,000 to cover the project costs. As such, this project also involved SHINE (and directly also involved me).

It like leveraging on each other. So at most places, there were also SHINE booths.

There was a green carnival on 07.07.07 and it was at One Fullerton. You can also get full view of the stunts by the navy upclose here (as there were NDP rehearsals that day). It was awesome and cooling as the night breeze just ruffles your hair.

Other booths were set up at my school - Singapore Management University.

It's a little awkward as there's a super-sized banner of me at every booth. It makes it more fun when people start to recognise that the person on the banner is me. But alas, I am used to such attention and can deal with it with a laugh easily.

Having had some experience in these projects, what I feel is that networks are important - having the right people on board will make a difference to your project.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

[Afternoon Coffee and Kaya Toast]
1. The Young PAP organised an afternoon 'coffee with George'. Ahem, that's me. It was held at Ya Kun's coffee shop at the basement of Hougang Mall.

2. The subject was: Do our views matter? Taking the cue, I did not speak much by way of introduction and quickly opened the floor to questions. They covered a wide range, from foreign affairs, the Opposition, promotion in the Civil Service, handling public complaints, lack of freedom, the blogosphere to the challenge of China and India. Although we ended at 4.30pm, as the coffee and kaya toast were getting cold, many stayed back to ask more questions or to offer comments. It was a lively section. Shoppers paused to observe the proceedings which was what we wanted. I told the media reporters that one objective of the public meeting was to be accessible and seen to be so.

3. Joy and her YP members had designed a nice T-shirt made of dry fit material. Not the usual PAP T-shirt, this, but one looking quite trendy. To introduce it, four girls from Damai Secondary School did a hip-hop dance which drew a sizeable crowd. They choreographed the dance themselves. When I asked who was the leader, they said they had no leader; it was a group effort. Not bad.

4. Our first public meeting was at the Ben and Jerry's ice-cream parlour at Cathay. This was our second. I wonder what we are going to do next. I told the YP that I will do as told.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Monday, July 23, 2007

[Meeting the Party Secretary of Shantou]
1. I was delighted to meet the present Party Secretary of Shantou Mr Huang Zhiguang this morning. He is visiting Singapore as the guest of the Singapore Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan. He gave me a good briefing on the developments in Shantou. After quite a few years in the doldrums following Beijing's clampdown on smuggling, the local economy is booming again. The growth rate last year was 11.6%. The growth this year is expected to exceed 12%.

2. Among the major projects underway is a major bridge to the island of Nan'ao, which is also a county. I visited Nan'ao many years ago especially the Song Jing, a well by the sea which was a source of sweet water. During the last days of the Southern Song Dynasty, the boy emperor, who was the last in the dynasty, took refuge there for a few months. Later in a great sea battle near Hongkong, the Mongol Yuan forces defeated the Song and, rather than having the emperor taken a prisoner, an official carried the boy and jumped into the water. Nan'ao is a beautiful island rich in seafood. Secretary Huang promised me to take me there once the bridge is built. About a hundred years ago, when Nan'ao was split between Guangdong and Fujian Provinces, a massive earthquake occured. Some of the people there migrated to Taiwan, then a Japanese colony, where their descendants still live near Hengchun.

3. Recently, a Ming Dynasty ship wreck was discovered near Nan'ao with some 70,000 pieces of pottery. CCTV will be covering the lifting of the ship from the sea in September which promises to be an exciting event. Secretary Huang will send me a video recording of the salvage operation. I have not visited Shantou for a few years now and look forward to going again.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

[Running for charity]
More than 50 SMU students banded together to run for charity at the Toa Payoh Stadium on Sunday 15 July.

The project was called Olympic Dream 2007 and needless to say, this event was also part of SHINE.

For every round that someone runs, blades or walks, $5 will be donated to fund disability sports.

Dressed in jeans and my Team Singapore t-shirt, I headed down and promised to race with Ephraim Lin (a SMU freshman) who is wheelchair-bound. Initially I wanted to race in a wheelchair, but the wheelchairs had been transported back since they were used in the morning.

I decided to run in my current attire in the end. I did 10 laps and received a certificate for my efforts. But what's most important is that it raised $50 for charity.

[Video Clips of Yemen]
Some clips from my visit to the Hadhramaut in southern Yemen. Most of the Arabs in Singapore and Southeast Asia came originally from there. Some of the major buildings in the Hadhramaut were partly financed by money remitted from Arabs in Singapore including the Sultan Palace in Seiyun. My host, the Deputy Governor of Hadhramaut, is the grandson of the Hadhrami merchant who gave Aljunied GRC its name. We visited two Islamic schools where there are Singapore students studying - Ribat Tarim and Darul Mustafa.

Tour of the Sultan Palace in Seiyun

Visit to Darul Mustafa in Tarim

Attending lunch hosted by Arab Association in Yemen

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This is a blog post to talk about the CCA Day 'This is' publicity materials.

You know what this is. This is CCA Day.

Cool or uncool? What you see is what you get.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

[Punggol CC Youth Group and Harry Potter]
The Punggol CC Youth Group of Bedok-Reservoir Punggol held its Bi-annual General Meeting (BGM) today at a function room provided by Eng Wah Cinema, Suntec City. It was followed by lunch and viewing of the latest Harry Potter movie. What a great idea! We had the whole cineplex to ourselves complete with coke and popcorn. Boy, times have changed.

Below was the foreword I wrote for the BGM programme:


1. MM Lee said recently that Singapore is entering a golden age and that young Singaporeans will inherit a Singapore full of hope and promise. Many older Singaporeans feel the same way. Some wish they could live a long time to see that future.

2. However, the thrill is in the journey, not the arrival. Every generation must rise to its own challenge. Indeed, every individual must take the test himself. Others can help but it is the individual himself who has to respond and cross the mountain pass. Every life is a drama whatever the Singapore we live in.

3. If we live only for ourselves, it is an empty life. We fulfil ourselves through others, by contributing to the community of which we are a part. It is only when we sacrifice and do good that our lives are transformed and have meaning. The Singapore that we see evolving into something wonderful is the result of many people working together to make it what it is. And it is for each generation to take that Singapore forward from strength to strength.

4. I look forward to working with members of the 9th YEC and wish you success in all your endeavours.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Thursday, July 19, 2007

[World Council of Religious Leaders]
1. I had an interesting meeting with members of the World Council of Religious Leaders yesterday at MFA. They were here for their board meeting. Ven Ming Yi is the Director General of the Council.

2. The most significant aspect of the Council was the strong representation from the Middle East - Saudi Arabia, Israel and Syria - where religious harmony is a major challenge.

3. We talked about the importance of dialogue and tolerance. Singapore's multi-religious character was of great interest to them because it represents on a small scale what they hope to achieve worldwide. A few of them held Singapore up as a model. I said we should be viewed as an experiment instead because there are still many problems we have to overcome. It is only by being sensitive and watchful that we are able to maintain the present harmonious relations.

4. The next meeting will be held in Hongkong under the chairmanship of Ven Kok Kwong, the Chairman of HK's Buddhist Association.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

[Canoeing fun]
Chin Koon told me last night to plug his event that will be happening on August 11 so here goes.

It's a canoeing event so for those who love the sea, this is for you.

I tried a double kayak before during my freshmen teambuilding camp. I also did try it for the first time some years back. But I never had the opportunity to try a single kayak. I'm not sure if I have to be qualified to do that. I think it'll be quite fun.

So Chin Koon, if you are reading this don't forget to race with me on a kayak soon. Bedok Reservoir is a good place to do that. It's home ground.

Oh yah, for those watersport enthusiasts, please support this event by the Ngee Ann Canoeing Club.

Monday, July 16, 2007

[The journey]
Last Saturday I had an awesome experience at the National Day Parade NE Show 1.

It has been a long and winding journey for all - the organisers, the performers and everyone involved in one way or another. I've been following the journey, rehearsals after rehearsals. show after show.

And i must say they are impressive.

During the show, the primary school children were all screams.

It's like first the fireworks then the screams. 21-gun salute followed by screams. It was a screaming session full of excitement for them. I sometimes wonder how they can have so much energy to, well, scream.

Not only that. They can wave their torches on and on and on.

And when the fun dies down the scene is quiet and tranquil. I'm looking forward to the actual day.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

[New NKF Centre at Blk 628 Hougang Ave 8]
1. This morning, I was invited by Mr Gerard Ee of NKF to do the brick-laying ceremony for the new kidney dialysis centre at Blk 628. It will be ready early next year and serve kidney patients living in the Hougang area. In fact, all the slots have already been booked. This will free up places in dialysis centres further away.

2. When the problems of NKF blew up two years ago, many Singaporeans were very upset. Some stopped supporting the NKF. It was fortunate that we had someone like Mr Gerard Ee who, when asked by the Health Minister, stepped forward to put things right. It was a trying period. Thanks to Gerard and many others, we now have a new NKF which is able to serve kidney patients better.

3. During the crisis, it was critical that NKF continued to look after the kidney patients. Without regular dialysis, they could not survive. I remember one evening talking to Mr Lee Bock Guan from the Singapore Buddhist Lodge. He said that it was important to continue supporting the NKF and offered to work with other religious organisations. I was skeptical at first and told him that raising money at that time for the NKF was difficult to explain to the public. But then I realized that he was right and suggested building a dialysis centre which everyone could see would directly benefit kidney patients. When I discussed this with Gerard Ee and Minister Khaw Boon Wan, they were immediately supportive. My colleague, Yeo Guat Kwang, quickly got a group going to spearhead the project with the NKF. Mr Tan Thiam Lye from the Taoist Federation agreed to head the fund raising committee. Other religious groups also signed on. The surrounding coffee shops chipped in as well. Many grassroots organisations helped in various ways. We still need to raise a bit more money and will appreciate any help that we can get.

4. Community support for kidney dialysis is very important. The patients and their families come under great stress, not just the financial burden but also the severe disruption to their daily lives because of the amount of time needed for dialysis, four hours each time, three times a week. The new CEO of the NKF mentioned that they are now thinking of 24-hour operations. Patients can sleep while being dialysed. I thought it was an interesting possibility which our new centre at Blk 628 might be a candidate for.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Saturday, July 14, 2007

[Marketing SHINE]
For the past week, I have been busy promoting SHINE.

And by now if you do not know what SHINE is all about, then our efforts to create awareness have failed.

On Thursday, we had a booth at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. It felt so good to be back to a polytechnic again - meeting people, smiley faces and all.

It was also one of may favourite booths to date. I just felt that the whole layout was great. I'll share more about the other booths soon when I get down to uploading the pictures.

A supersized me banner of me (in green) jumping travels together with the SHINE team all the time.

I guess the marketing for this year's SHINE is pretty much the down-to-earth kind as panellists were involved in the process from start to end. Though it means having to do a lot of things ourselves even after the planning and throughout July, it is well worth the effort.

I'm so drained but by the end of the festival on 4 August we can finally see the fruits of our labour.

Friday, July 13, 2007

[Meeting Bedok Reservoir Residents]
1. After visiting the homes at Block 704, Bedok Reservoir Road from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on Monday, 9 July, I had a lively dialogue session with residents from the nearby blocks (BRP Rise RC). I invited those residents who had personal problems to come see me the following day at my Meet-The-People Session (MPS) at Blk 713 (second and fourth Tuesdays of the month).

2. Uppermost on the minds of most residents was lift upgrading. Our population is getting older and having to walk one or two flights of steps is a great effort for an increasing number of our older folks. I told them that this is the No 1 priority for me. Because of budget constraints, the Government can only agree to a certain number of upgrading projects a year. But our turn will come; that was my assurance to them.

3. It is a settled neighbourhood. Most people who live in the area are reasonably satisfied with the environment although things could always be improved. The Malay residents are actively involved in grassroots activities. Every Ramadan, they hold evening prayer sessions at the void deck. Some of the nearby rental shops have been suffering from poor business. Five of them were given generous grants to quit a few months ago. The three remaining ones have been grouped together including a popular medical clinic which charges affordable fees.

4. Bedok Reservoir nearby is getting more interesting. It is nice to see students paddling, rowing or sailing in the water. Fishing has become quite popular. There are more and more joggers doing the 4.3km circuit around the reservoir. I jog there occasionally with some friends. Join us if you're interested although the time may only be fixed on the day itself because of my work commitments. Henry will message you the way the SAF mobilizes NS men.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

[Coffee Talk with George 2]
Does public feedback get heard or does it go in one ear and out the other? How much feedback from the public really gets considered in policy making?

Why not quiz Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo on this during the Coffee Talk with George, a dialogue session with a twist organised by the Bedok Reservoir-Punggol Young PAP. It's one that promises coffee, conversation and connection.

Do join us!

Email your details to ypap.brp@gmail.com to sign up. Places are limited so sign up fast.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

[Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple]
1. Last Saturday, a group of us visited the seaside temple before its impending shift to new 4-storey premises nearby. Although the new temple building is modern and has good facilities, its site cannot compare with the old next to the Commando jetty where you can hear the waves lapping the shore.

2. The success of the Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple in recents years is quite remarkable. It is opened 24 hours a day and festival events are extremely well-attended. Some say that many who pray there touch 4D lottery. Because of the generous donations, the temple has been able to help fund many good causes. All of us in nearby constituencies have benefited in one way or another.

3. What is fascinating is the co-location of a Muslim keramat and a Hindu ganesha temple. Both will be shifted together with the Chinese temple to the new location at a midnight ceremony before National Day. I was told that the Hindu Endowment Board has appointed a priest for the ganesha temple. As for the keramat, it has no remains, only the grave stones. While it has long been the custom of Chinese Taoists at this temple and elsewhere in Southeast Asia (like Kusu Island) to revere certain Malay datuks (holy men), orthodox Muslims have never felt completely comfortable about this. But it is good that there has been no problems. Indeed it is common for religious leaders from other communities to turn up at charitable functions organised by the Loyang Temple.

4. The Temple receives many foreign tourists. During my recent visit, I greeted a number of Taiwanese tourists and took a group photo with them. Tua Pek Kong and Mazu are two deities worshipped by Hokkiens and Teochews and connect us to the Southern Chinese provinces of Fujian and Guangdong and to other parts of Southeast Asia. I hope Singapore Tourism Board will help to promote the Temple at the new site. Not only is it good for tourism, it will also build bridges of friendship to other countries.

5. On the third floor of the temple building, a TCM centre will be established to treat patients, especially those who are less well-off. I congratulated members of the Temple Committee for this philanthropic act.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Friday, July 06, 2007

[School's almost in]
It is just slightly more than a month more till school starts in August.

And this time, after all the large-scale events, I am back to where my roots are - SMU.

I'm kindof involved in three school projects and I shall aim to explain each one in detail. But first a little introduction of what's going on in school now. It's matrculation week where the freshmen make their way down - some with parents in tow (I shall whine about that later) to register for university. And there's action and eye-candy.

I digress.

Because I so want to get this off my chest: I don't understand why parents have to come with their sons or daughters for matriculation. Hey this ain't kindergarten man.

What are the people of Gen Y doing? First their parents write in to the newspapers to question why their precious son/daughter did not manage to enter university. Now this. I wonder what would be next. Maybe follow their children to school and attend their classes everyday? That will be the ultimate.

There's also the compulsory Freshmen Teambuilding Camp. And no, parents are not allowed. No maids at your beck and call to clean up too.

And there was and will be 'live' entertainment. Of course by the SMU Broadcast and Entertainment.

My first large-scale school event is being the Video Manager for Convocation - the official beginning of one's university life. For this I have to liase with the producers and the location managers to make sure the video team gets the best shots. And come August 18, I will have to make sure all the videos are ready and that they play correctly at the correct time.

I was cooped up in the music studios listening to tracks and tracks of music. It's kindof like research for the background music for a photo montage.

Instead of the editing suites for video, I entered the DJ studios. It's the place the DJs do their daily recordings before it goes on air. The enviroment is so comfy - one can doze off once inside and slouch on the armchair.

My other project is one that aims to benefit the underpriviliged. Our team sells a domino at $2 each and the money goes directly to the beneficiaries - these are homes where the mentally challenged young and disabled old live.

There's also the Social Science camp where I play the facilitator of a group. Their booth is interesting and colourful. Plus points if you can spot me.

I love the SMU School of Social Sciences. Rocks totally.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

[Dialogue with Women Professionals]
1. I've just had a lively dialogue with some twenty to thirty women professionals at a function organised by the PAP Women's Wing. Hwee Hua and Jessica chaired the session.

2. The subject was our foreign policy but the discussion covered a wide range of subjects. I talked about our relationship with our neighbours, ASEAN integration and re-emergent Asia.

3. One person asked what was our greatest political concern. I replied: our domestic cohesion. With globalisation, incomes are going to stretch out. Unless we pull everyone along, there's bound to be a political reaction. Many countries are not able to seize the new opportunities thrown up by globalisation because of difficult domestic politics. We have been able to respond reasonably quickly because of trust in government and our solidarity. But we must pay particular attention to the post-War, pre-65 baby boomers who are now, roughly, 40 to 60 years old. The majority in that generation had less than 6 years of education. Many don't speak English. In a recession, they are the first to be retrenched and, in an upturn, the last to be re-employed. Fortunately, their children are generally better educated and equipped for the modern economy.

4. In this new situation, we need more public philanthropy. Government has to do its part but what government does cannot provide the social glue to hold us together. It is important that those of us who are better off keep an eye out for those who are left behind. Only then can our society be kept united and whole. What Warren Buffet did in the US, donating billions of dollars to the Gates Foundation, was truly heartwarming. The Americans have a wonderful tradition of public philanthropy which makes the country great.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

[Honour and glory]
I didn't win the medal but I did gain race experience on Sunday during the inter-council dragonboat race.

The event was held at usual home ground - Bedok Reservoir.

I was approached by PAYM to row for PAYM's Cental Youth Council and this is set to be a yearly affair according to the People's Association's Chief Executive Director.

So I'll train more, race more and train harder for next year.

It's good to build up experience for bigger things to come in the future.

It's an honour to be rowing for the council I must add.

Drumming for success. Until next year team.