[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

Sunday, March 30, 2008

[Earth Hour]
1. An important start was made last Saturday with the launch of Earth Hour in Singapore. Almost 300 students from Montfort, Damai and Peicai Schools visiting some 10,000 households to explain the meaning of Earth Hour. Although not many families participated, word will spread. Earth Hour has become a global movement. Last year, it was an event in Sydney. This year, people in over a hundred countries participated. I hope Singaporeans will also do so in large numbers.

2. The challenge of global warming cannot be solved by governments alone. Without popular understanding and support, the hard decisions that have to be taken will be avoided or postponed. Global warming is a fact. How much that warming is caused by human beings is unclear. But we better err on the side of safety and cut down on the emission of greenhouse gases especially carbon dioxide. Energy conservation has to be a way of life. Protecting the environment needs to become a part of our survival instinct. It is good that the Earth Hour movement in Singapore is being spearheaded by the young. 'Earth Hour at the Heartlands' was organised by youths from the Singapore Environmental Challenge Organisation, Montfort Service Learning Club, Northeast CDC and Punggol Community Club Youth Executive Committee.

3. I was carried by the enthusiasm of the students who participated. At 8pm, we broke our light sticks, collected our food and watched the Simpsons Movie in darkness. This movement may turn viral. If it does, the work of the UN to broker a grand bargain among the nations of the world reducing carbon emissions will be made much easier. I left Punggol CC feeling greatly inspired.


1 I am delighted to join all of you here this evening for the “Earth Hour In The Heartlands”. It is a key event for the Earth Hour Singapore Grassroots Movement. We are part of a global initiative to promote energy conservation that was started in Sydney last year.

2 Led by the Singapore Environment Challenge Organisation, with Montfort Service Learning Club, North East CDC and Punggol CC YEC as partners, this event has been organised by youth volunteers aged 16 to 23 who are passionately concerned with the protection of our environment.

3 Global Warming is a huge challenge which the nations of the world have to grapple with together. As citizens of Planet Earth, each and everyone of us have the responsibility to make the right choices in our daily lives. Let the solution begin with us. Don't waste energy. Don't pollute our environment. Look after one another.

4 Earlier today, about 200 students visited some 10,000 households to spread the word about Global Warming and how every household can make a difference. They invited residents to turn off the lights tonight for Earth Hour and, if they could, to join us here with their family members.

5 Together with 128 countries in all the continents, we gather here tonight to celebrate Earth Hour by switching off lights for an hour between 8 pm to 9 pm local time. This is a symbolic act to express our personal commitment to a global cause. To help the hour pass faster, we are screening “The Simpsons Movie”.

6 I thank you all for participating and wish you an enjoyable meaningful evening. Remember, everyone has to do his part.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

[Flea Market at Block 522, Hougang Ave 8]
1. Each lot was let out at $6. The flea market at Blk 522 last Saturday was an interesting new activity organised by the RC. There were many stalls selling a range of bric-a-brac. Some were old stuff which could be recycled; others were pasar malam-type items which were either home-made or came from relatives and friends. No food items were allowed.

2. I chatted with the sellers. For some, it was a family affair. Not all the kids were helping their parents. Some played handheld games. One young boy sat slumped back on a comfortable chair surveying proceedings. There was a steady stream of visitors. One Malay couple from Sengkang noticed the flea market while riding on a motorbike along the main road and decided to look-see look-see. They ended up buying a beautiful pair of bookends with globes. Two young teenage boys had a pile of old or old-looking jeans for sale. They assured me that they were old unused jeans, not second-hand ones. I would not have been able to tell the difference.

3. Kenny Reyes, the RC Chairman, told me the flea market was an experiment. Well, it was certainly a successful experiment. It added life to the neighbourhood and got residents to know one another better. For the sellers, who were all residents, it was a plesant way to spend the day.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Friday, March 28, 2008

[Neighbourhood Dialogue]
1. Last night, I attended a dialogue session with residents living in the private housing estate at Serangoon 6th milestone. Lim Hwee Hua got the Neighbourhood Committee there to organise the event at a house in Flower Road which was attended by some 100 residents. After gobbling down my chicken rice, we had a lively exchange which went on till 10pm. As there was no media present, I was quite frank with my replies.

2. Rising costs in Singapore, especially for SMEs, was a hot topic. Increased levies, higher rentals and salaries, spiralling energy prices, 2% point rise in GST - they all add up. One struggling entrepreneur poured his heart out. Another asked why the Government could not be more generous since we had so much reserves.

3. I said that, while our reserve appeared large, they were tiny compared to the natural resources which other countries had. Kuwait alone has 100 billion barrels of oil underground, not counting what might be underwater. If oil is US$50 a barrel, that's a cool US$5 trillion. We have nothing here. Our ageing population is also a big worry. Even at present levels of servicing, our healthcare costs will shoot up as Singaporeans grow older. If we don't provide now and instead depend on taxes to finance increased expenditure in the future, the young will leave for greener pastures. Then we'll all be in trouble.

4. Mas Selamat was a big issue with one resident asking bluntly who should take responsibility for the unbelievable escape. Education was another major subject. When a retired teacher suggested that local universities require students to take H3 papers, I protested, speaking as a parent. An eloquent young man alerted us to the danger of chemical pollution causing cancer, raising specifically the level of chromium-6 in the environment. As I knew nothing about chromium-6, I promised to check and get back to him.

5. Before I knew it, the MC said, time's up, last question. Some residents stayed back to chat. At 10.15pm, I took my leave not wanting to overstay my welcome.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

[Good Friday Dinner]
1. Although it was a public holiday, I wanted to reciprocate the friendship extended to me by the good Senator when I was in Brasilia last year. Senator Heraclito Fortes, Chairman of Brazil's Senate Foreign Relations and National Defence Committees and three other Senators were passing though Singapore after a visit to Dili and Jakarta. Gerry d'Silva, President of the Eurasian Association, kindly agreed to let me host dinner at the Eurasian House. Two trustees, Joe Conceicao and Osaca Oliveiro also attended. On the Singapore side, many bore Portuguese surnames which fascinated our Brazilian friends.

2. Good Friday being a day of abstinence, the menu included no meat although fish and crustaceans were OK. One interesting dish was toufu devil's curry. Quentin, who runs the restaurant at the Eurasian House, did us proud.

3. Senator Fortes did not speak English and relied on Brazil's Ambassador, Paulo Soares, who could have been a professional interpreter. Joe Conceicao, however, still remembered his Kristang which the Senator could understood bits of. Despite the translation, it was remarkable how at ease we felt with the Brazilians because of a common cultural heritage. Senator Fortes is a big man. He gave me two decks of playing cards which featured his caricature. He was not impressed by Chris De Souza's youth because he himself first entered politics at the age of 29.

4. I told Senator Fortes that I would be accompanying PM to Brazil in November this year. He promised to host me to a Brazilian churrascaria dinner, probably to make up for the absence of meat at my dinner. For those of you who are not familiar with Brazilian churrascaria, it is an endless supply of different top-quality meats carved in front of you. According to Ambassador Soares, there are now seven churrascaria restaurants in Singapore!

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Sunday, March 23, 2008

[Happy Easter]
1. This year, Easter comes unusually early. In the church calendar, Easter is the first Sunday following the first full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox. The Equinox was on 21 Mar. Yesterday was the 15th day of the lunar calendar, a full moon.

2. Last night, I attended the Easter Vigil Mass at the Carmelite Monastary near Mount Faber with my family. As we cross the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, the full moon encircled by the Singapore Flyer looked as if it had a blue halo. Since the monastary is not a parish church, there was no baptism which kept the service relatively short. Easter is the most important day in the church calendar. The choir from St Theresa Church sang the 'alleluias' with gusto. I was surprised that the choir mistress and the organist were my nieces.

3. After the Vigil, we went to the Lagoon hawker centre for supper at our favourite 'cher char' stall. It was still crowded. By the time we went home, it was past midnight which was not too late as we could sleep late the following morning.

4. To all Christian readers of Ephraim's and Harold's blogsites, here's wishing you a Happy and Holy Easter!

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

[New Citizens]
1. We had a simple ceremony to welcome new citizens in Aljunied GRC on Wednesday night. I gave a short speech, then handed out ICs and citizenship certificates to almost 200 new Singaporeans. The ceremony ended with the recitation of the pledge and singing of the national anthem. They came from many different countries, principally Malaysia, Indonesia, China and India. I was surprised that there were also a few from Myanmar. Some were school children. Two or three could not come because of NS.

2. A simple buffet dinner was provided. Some families came up to ask for pictures to be taken with me which I happily obliged. It was a simple but meaningful event which uplifted everybody including the old Singaporeans.

3. In my speech, I talked about Singapore, a small country, being founded on a big idea. That big idea is our multi-racial, multi-religious society. We celebrate diversity. No Singaporean is expected or required to sever links with his ancestral homeland. I asked those from Malaysia to keep their links to Malaysia, those from China and India to keep their links to those countries. It is an idea which is not so common in the world. It is a precious idea worth defending.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Monday, March 17, 2008

[Youth for Peace Interfaith Symposium]
Through Habib Hassan of Ba'Alwi Mosque, I was invited on Sunday to deliver the first Peace Lecture at the Youth for Peace Interfaith Symposium organised by the Singapore Soka Association with the theme: Humanising Religions, Creating Peace. (Please see Harold's blogsite for the speech.) It was very well attended by some 4000 participants. I am always amazed by the self-organising ability of Soka youths. As part of the event, a book was published titled: 180 degrees - Yearnings for Peace. I wrote the Foreword below.


1. Everyone wants peace but peace is not easily achieved. Peace does not come without struggle. Sometimes it has to be fought for. In Singapore, all young men have to do National Service and bear arms. To have peace, we must be prepared for war. That is the hard reality.

2. Defence and foreign relations can help to create an external environment favourable for peace. Internally, however, we must also be at peace among ourselves and within ourselves. Very often, it is internal discord which invites external interference. When a person is not at peace with himself, it is difficult for the famly to have peace. When a group is unsettled for whatever reason, its relationship with other groups gets affected. Racial and religious harmony in Singapore cannot be imposed from the top by the government although the government's role is important. It has to be built from the bottom up, starting with the individual.

3. This Symposium brings together youths belonging to different races and religions in Singapore. The values and beliefs which divide us are not superficial. We will fail if we try to homogenize them. While we should seek common ground, we should never think that all the differences can be bridged. Therefore, the first condition for peace is an acceptance of diversity. If we can find it in our hearts to celebrate diversity, that will be very good but it is not always possible. However, we are united by a common yearning for peace and that is a good starting point for our interaction.

Read the speech at Beyond SG

Sunday, March 16, 2008

1. My wife and I attended Jeff Chang's concert at Singapore Expo on Saturday night. We were invited by Singapore artist Henri Chen who is Jeff's old friend. Before the show, we had the privilege of taking photos with him.

2. The hall was packed with his fans. There must have been close to ten thousand in the audience. Many came with glow sticks. Behind me, a large group of fans waved battery-lit placards bearing Jeff's name in English and Chinese.

3. Jeff sang many of his popular songs. The audience was able to take over many lines when he invited them. They were sentimental songs. Some were composed by Singaporeans who grew up during the xinyao era. As a young MFA officer said to me, Jeff's songs are easy on the ears and popular at karaoke sessions.

4. Accompanying Jeff was a 50-person orchestra from NAFA. The young musicians performed very well rising to the occasion. Before the show started, I chatted with the impresarios, Alan and Leslie from a company called UnUsUal. UnUsUal also does the sound for big events including the coming Beijing Olympics. Singaporeans are doing big things.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

[Transitions to democracy]
The following is based on Samuel P. Huntington's work and it is a very interesting. I have never attempted to discuss true blue stuff that I learn but I am compelled to share this.

Before explaining the three types of transitions, it is important to know the various actors involved. There are three groups in the government - standpatters, liberals and democratisers. Standpatters are strongly against transitions to democracy, liberals are somewhat open to democracy and democratisers are fully supportive of democracy.

Conversely, in the opposition camp there are two groups - radicals and the moderates. Radicals are against democracy but they expouse their own ideals. Moderates on the other hand are for democracy.

The power play is as such: radicals and moderates are at odds against the government. Moderates and liberals are for democracy but argue who to govern and have different views on how to govern. Standpatters and radicals, being the extremes, are against each other.

Now that the actors have been defined, here are the three transitions to democracy: transformation, replacement and transplacement.

Transformation is when the decision to be democratic or more democratic is decided by the government. Replacement is when the opposition overthrows the government. Transplacement happens when the government and opposition engage in discussion and have common ground.

Transformation happens because of several factors. The emergence of a strong group that strongly believes in having a more democratic rule plays an important role. These are usually from the people in power i.e. the government. In transformation, the stronger group is the government than the opposition. These groups of people (sometimes the leader) often realise this when they begin to see the opposition gainig power. In order to maintain their status, the ruling party allows for more opposition. This can be seen in South African politics during the Nelson Mandela era.

A leader would allow transformation to safeguard his/her position - leaders who allow transformation usually stay in power as compared to replacement.

In replacement, the opposite is true - opposing forces are usually stronger than the forces in power (government). There are three key stages - before the fall, the fall, and after the fall.

One clear example of replacement is in the form of military coups which overthrow governments in power. A recent example would be how the government in Thailand was overthrown by the military - and it's many other coups in hte past. In such cases, countries usually resume democracy afterwards (like the present Thai government). The military only steps in when it feels that the current government is ineffective or corrupt but temoporary rulers usually maintain that they would return the country to democracy. In such cases, military rule is merely a transitional stage. One counter example is the case of Myanmar, where the military has held on to power for more than a decade.

There have been cases where labour activists and students tried to influence and overthrow governments. In 1989, there was the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Protestors were against the corruption in the Chinese Communist Party that called for democratic reforms within the structure of the government. There was not much of an impact and the demonstration did not have the power to change society.

Another factor that plays a part in replacement is the death of a leader. When a leader passes on, there is loss of direction and this would allow the opposition to capitalise on the death and bring about change to the country.

Lastly, transplacement. I transplacement, both the government and the opposition have to realise that they need to work together. This happens when the costs of suppression of the opposition gets too high. Both sides have to have certain beliefs - the opposition has to believe that they have the power to overthrow the government and the government has to in turn believe that they can suppress the opposition. Tensions escalate when force and violence is used.

South African politics is a good example of this. The ANC had demonstrated against the President and had fought strongly for the equality of blacks in South Africa. They wanted a "one man one vote" system.

Transplacement ensued when the last State President of apartheid-era South Africa Frederik Willem de Klerk had the intention to allow the blacks to have more freedom of expression. He (de Klerk) worked closely with ANC activist Nelson Mandela to bring about democracy in South Africa. This is an example of transplacement.

So how do these three theories of transition to democracy apply to Singapore? More in my next post.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

[Speech at MAEC]

1 This Seminar cum Workshop is timely. As we discuss the direction the MAEC should take in the coming years, let us set this against the overall progress made by the Malay/Muslim community and Singapore’s future. Although the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore has made huge strides, we still face important challenges. Let me touch on three - international terrorism, globalisation and dysfunctional families.

International Terrorism

2 The escape of Mas Selamat has caused great concern among Singaporeans of all races. He is a dangerous man and having him on the loose is a danger to all of us in Singapore. Muslim and non-Muslim Singaporeans alike also worry that he might have received help from local Malay/Muslims. It is good that Malay/Muslim organisations made a special effort to look out for him.

3 September 11 and the discovery of the JI network in Singapore opened a new chapter in the relations among the different races and religions in Singapore. Understanding the dangers international terrorism posed to our society, religious and community leaders reached out to one another as never before. At all levels and in all parts of our island, activities were organised to promote understanding and bring Singaporeans closer together. We have been very successful so far. But this is a continuing process.

4 The RRG (Religious Rehabilitation Group) has played a major role in helping us maintain the security situation. It has also inoculated the local Malay/Muslim community against the extremist contagion. However, we must expect incidents from time to time which will put us to the test. The greater the involvement in fighting terrorism, the stronger our social immune system will be. Without our mosques, madrasahs and other Malay/Muslim organisations weighing in, we would be in a difficult position today.


5 On the whole, the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore has risen very well to the challenge of globalisation. In all fields, Malay/Muslim Singaporeans have excelled. It is no longer a surprise to see Malay/Muslim students to top examinations. In all the professions, the proportion of Malay/Muslims has gone up. This is reflected in the growth of the Malay/Muslim middle class and its purchasing power.

6 Because Malay/Muslims in Singapore have risen on the basis of merit, they can hold their own anywhere in the world. In recent years, it has become common to see Malay/Muslim Singaporeans hold senior positions in multinational companies both in Singapore and overseas.

7 Recently, a grassroots leader of mine who is spending a year in Australia on a project, emailed me his views about the recent elections in Malaysia. He said he felt proud that he was able to finance his children's university education overseas by his family's own effort. This is a story repeated again and again among Malay/Muslim families. In international science and mathematics tests, Malay/Muslim Singaporeans regularly score very high by international standards.

8 With Singapore becoming more and more an international city like London, the contribution of Malay/Muslim Singaporeans to our economy will grow. Chinese Singaporeans enhance our links to China, Hongkong and Taiwan. Indian Singaporeans enhance our links to South Asia. In a complementary way, Malay/Muslim Singaporeans enhance our links to Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Middle East. Singapore's multi-racial composition was the result of an earlier period of globalisation under the British. That same mix becomes a huge asset for us in a new age of globalisation in the 21st century. Singapore is hard to beat as a hub of economic and cultural activities because of our racial make-up. Because of good leadership at all levels, down to the grassroots, we are able to turn a weakness into a great strength.

Dysfunctional Families

9 Unfortunately, not all Singaporeans are able to benefit from globalisation. For a variety of reasons, some individuals and some families are not able to cope. They have to be helped. By subsidizing housing, healthcare and education, the Government ensures that there is a minimum safety net. VWOs and religious organisations also lend helping hands. But the key is what these individuals and families are able to do for themselves. In a sense, we must help them to help themselves and strengthen them from within.

10 The problem of dysfunctional Malay/Muslim families is a serious one which we must tackle with determination. The problem has to be analysed dispassionately and objectively so that we can find good, long-term solutions. As those of us who deal with such cases in the mosques, VWOs and meet-the-people sessions know, the underlying causes are usually the same - drugs, divorces, large families with neglected children who turn delinquent.

11 It is good that more and more Singaporeans are devoting time, energy and love to reducing the number of dysfunctional families. It is wonderful that such help often cut across racial and religious divisions. I know many of you here have contributed in ways big and small, often quietly.


12 Good leaders can make a big difference to the well-being of a community or an organisation. Bad leaders in contrast can bring tragedy. We are blessed in Singapore to have good leaders working in MUIS and Mendaki, in our mosques and madrasahs, in the many VWOs, and in our MAEC. This has enabled us to make progress year by year, often painstakingly. In organising our activities, let us always bear in mind our overall goals for the community.

13 I thank you for all the good work that you have done and continue to do.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

[Pulau Ubin]
1 Last Sunday, my wife and I decided at the spur of the moment to take an American friend for dinner at Pulau Ubin. The ferry terminal at Changi Point is only five minutes away from my house. Including my three sons, there were six of us waiting for the bumboat. Once there were twelve passengers, we launched off. The fare was only $2 per person. It was a pleasant ride and before we knew it, we had arrived at the Ubin jetty. We wanted to see the mangrove wetland at Kampong Che Jawa but it was past closing time. Instead, we walked around the village while my kids rented bicycles from a man who was once my NS Storeman at Signal Support Company, 3 Signal Battalion in 1978. Imagine meeting him again after 30 years!

2. Pulau Ubin is redolent of old Singapore. Even the mangy stray dogs at the jetty looked like they were from the past. But that is all part of the charm, escaping to an island without the need for a passport or having to worry about the things Singaporeans are concerned with when they travel overseas.

3. At 7pm, we had dinner at First Stop Restaurant, which is my regular restaurant on the island. It is in an old house which was once an opium shop before the War. The owner asked to take a picture. He had one with me taken some years ago pinned up on one of the walls. The food, as always, was excellent. We over-ordered. The mussels (the grey variety, not the green ones) were fresh, juicy and delicious.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Friday, March 14, 2008

[Malaysian elections and Singapore 2011]
The first thing that struck me about the Malaysian elections is the notion of a "two-party" system of government. That is the first step to a healthy democracy. Think republicans and democrats.

With a "two-party" system there will be more conflict in Parliamentary debates. Conflict is an important element in democracies. In authoritarian states, conflict is minimised or there is no conflict - people "Just Follow Law" and listen to an autocratic wise man. I can write a whole load about conflict but I shall save you from reading all that. If what the man says works out then outcomes are good. If outcomes are bad, we just need to admit his mistake and "move on" to solve the mis-judgement.

That said, would Singapore want to forsake and sacrifice economic growth just to become more democratic and pluralist? Economic growth would always be our number one priority. Does economic growth come about because we are politically stable? Or is it because we are politically stable which leads to economic growth? Does it matter?

Singapore is politically stable. Many countries look at our successful model and want to emulate it. They want to learn from us. My prof tells stories of SM Goh in the Middle East making friends and teaching them how to run their countries - teaching them the "Singapore model". Not the Singapore girl but the Singapore model of governance.

Singapore's model is unique. In fact, Singapore is unique. So much so that the Singapore Tourism Board brands Singapore as "Uniquely Singapore." We have to remember our unique roots. The path that we took to independence was bloody. And because of that we have to be careful about politics especially with race and religion intertwined. Remember Tang Liang Hong who was called an "anti-Christian Chinese chauvinist" in the 1997 elections? We have to be very careful what kind of leaders we want.

Singapore is the least corrupt nation in the world. And that is a strong point for Singapore. Malaysia's downfall according to recent media reports cited corruption as a key factor.

Singapore has a weak opposition. Some opposition parties are incredibly unpopular and unrealistic. Some need an injection of new blood. Others are daring and even sent a team to undermine the Prime Minister's ward. But as long as the opposition remains weak, we will never be like Malaysia in the recent elections.

Singapore has to appeal to the young voters using new media. I think Chua Mui Hoong pointed this out in her column. I think we are taking baby steps. But we did start out. Malaysia's blogger-turned-politician Jeff Ooi is a good example of "harnessing new media".

How voters vote will be determined by the fullfilling of promises by the winning party. Has the country been run properly? Were bread and butter issues tackled well? Does the PAP choose to be the king that rules with the eyes wide open and ears on the ground? Does that Yale, Harvard or Oxford graduate "hear only the good things" from his advisers and make the right judgement and implement the right policies? Or would he be like the king that has a blindfold over his eyes? Or the President that was behind the invasion of Iraq?

The PAP is almost mid-term since the elections in 2006. The answer to how Singaporeans will vote in 2011 is based on a confluence of factors.

The Prime Minister will have to make his choice very carefully and decide who he wants on his team to continue running the marathon to the next general elections. Just like what Mas Selamat is doing now - he is also running another marathon. The marathon to escape from the authorities.

Photo credit: Calvin Yang

Nope. I am not going to talk about DPM Wong today. Please don't call my handphone. And I don't want letters too. I really mean it. It's scary.

This week was a very busy one. Plus, my Internet access was screwy so no updates till today. Indeed.

It's about four more weeks to the exam period and I have four this term! I am so busy I have no time to blog. And I need to really mug since my CCA credits are much more fulfilling than my academic credits.

I really wanna write about the Malaysian elections. Just read Chua Mui Hoong's take on it and would want to give my views. Maybe.

TOC asked me to write about my MP. Shall I be cheeky and submit a blank document? His presence in Parliament is worthy of some words though. Maybe.

Monday, March 10, 2008

[S Rajaratnam Lecture]

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Friday, March 07, 2008

[The helipad]
As mentioned in my first post today, I have been invited to many parties recently. A lot means three parties in the last two weeks - Ministry of Sound, Velvet Underground and Equinox - plus other buffet sessions.

The kind people at EA invited me to a gaming party last night. I was also supposed to go for the SMUSA Awards Night at Velvet Underground the same night but gave it a miss (you'll find out why later).

The EA party was held at Equinox. It was my first time going to Equinox (I heard it was really cool from others). At first I didn't know that it was gonna be at the Equinox. The venue on the invitation was "helipad".

When I realised that it was at level 69 I was like: "Cool, I finally get to see the very much talked about Equinox." And then, I sensed more.

There was a mystery about the helipad. A friend that I met there asked me if I had been up to the helipad. I asked him what he was talking about. He said: "See that queue over there, that is to the helipad."

I was like cool, you mean there's really a helipad. I thought it was supposed to be a metaphor. Well, the perks of being Editor-in-Chief, I grinned.

It was a long way up. From level 69 to 72. Up and up and up (not the GST mind you).

Finally you see the black EA boards. And the fresh air enters your nostrils once you climb the stairs to the top. Am I reaching the helipad?

Okay. Got it. At first it looks ordinary. There's red and white wine, free flow of beer and lots of people lounging around.

The gobo lights swirl. The strong wind blows, there's music spinning. Must have burnt a hole in the pockets of the organisers.

There's only one thing that cannot really be experienced as and when you want it. The superb view from the top of Singapore's tallest building. The view is magnificent. My friend commented that SMU is just like a small flat piece from above.

So there you go, the helipad. Nice place to visit.

When Mayday was in town on Tuesday, I had an upclose encounter with them (except Stone who was not in town).

It's my first time attending a concert cum MediaCorp TV show Press Conference.

The guys from Mayday look very ordinary really. I guess this is where the "persona" factor comes in.

Do catch Mayday on MediaCorp Channel U's SuperBand 2008. The quintet are the ambassadors for the group singing competition.

I have so much to blog about and one of the reasons is because I have been so busy attending events that drain me.

But first, let me give some updates. I have so many community projects, school projects and special projects on my hand that I am almost going mad.

I was in school just last Sunday doing the March issue of The Blue and Gold and preparing for the MR 500, a dragonboat race at Lower Seletar Reservoir. Haven't been training hard but training will start tomorrow for another dragonboat race in April.

The March issue is finally on schedule. I was busy with it almost the whole week. Of course there were parties too. More on that in the next.

It has been months of compiling articles, looking at drafts, setting the agenda on what to cover. Then the real work begins.

After my overworked Art Director does the layout, it's time for the second round of editing on the large-sized proofs.

Many edits later, the file is sent to the printing company where the final proof-reading is done. It's printed on the actual newspaper material where finals quality checks on the printout is done. When that is completed, it goes to print.

I'm so happy we're gonna get the March issue tomorrow just in time for the SMU Open House. It's our final issue (it's quite a bumper one as it has 12 pages) for the accademic year and plans for the next have been underway. Exciting.

[VIVA Jacky!]
1. Jacky Chan brought cheer to kids with cancer at NUH on Wednesday morning. He volunteered to be the ambassador of goodwill for VIVA Foundation which was formed two years ago to improve the survival rate and cure of children with cancer, especially childhood leukaemia. VIVA Foundation has facilitated an important partnership between St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and NUH/NUS. St Jude is the No 1 children's cancer hospital in the world.

2. Jacky and a group of doctors attending an international seminar on leukaemia toured a new facility for bone marrow transplant at NUH funded by generous donations from well-wishers. It has special air filters to reduce the risk of infection for low-immunity transplant patients.

3. Senior Minister of State Balaji was the guest-of-honour. Because my wife has been actively involved in the work of VIVA Foundation, I tagged along.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG

Thursday, March 06, 2008

[Her World Woman of the Year]
1. Let me first apologize for my wife's absence this evening. She wanted to be here but has to host a function for some foreign visitors. In fact, she was the one who persuaded me to accept this invitation from Her World.

2. Since the organizers of this evening's event told me I could dispense with a formal speech about foreign affairs, which I'm sure is as much a relief for you as for me, let me read out excerpts from a passage I received by email a few days ago. It is titled: Why I Love Mum. Those of you who've already seen it, please bear with me. "Mum and Dad were watching TV when Mum said, 'I'm tired, and it's getting late. I think I'll go to bed.' She went to the kitchen to make sandwiches for the next day's lunches. Rinsed out the popcorn bowls, took meat out of the freezer for dinner the following evening, checked the cereal box levels, filled the sugar container and put spoons and bowls on the table. She then put some wet clothes in the dryer, put a load of clothes into the washer, ironed a shirt and secured a loose button. She picked up the game pieces left on the table, put the phone back on the charger and put the telephone book into the drawer. Mum then washed her face with 3 in 1 cleanser, put on her Night solution & age fighting moisturiser, brushed and flossed her teeth and filed her nails. Dad called out, 'I thought you were going to bed.' 'I'm on my way,' she said. She looked in on each of the kids and turned out their bedside lamps.., hung up a shirt, threw some dirty socks into the basket, and had a brief conversation with the one up still doing homework. In her own room, she set the alarm; laid out clothing for the next day, straightened up the shoe rack. She said her prayers, and visualised the accomplishment of her goals. About that time, Dad turned off the TV and announced to no one in particular. 'I'm going to bed.'"

3. It is tough being a mother. And it is tougher still for career women. Watching my female colleagues in Parliament, I know how difficult it is for them to juggle so many balls at the same time. Many of them are superwomen.

4. The differences between fathers and mothers or, more generally, those between men and women, are deep in our being. I am not making a plea for men to be better understood, just stating what I think is a fact. Some years ago, when I was Health Minister, I had an interesting conversation with Dr K C Tan, our top liver transplant surgeon. He specializes in taking a piece of the liver from a parent and transplanting it into a child who needs a new liver. Dr Tan told me that the plumbings of a child are tiny compared to those of an adult and you have to be skilful in connecting big tubes and very small ones. I then asked him whether he preferred to take the piece from the father or mother. He said, if both have suitable livers, the mother, anytime. Why? I asked. He replied that, if it is from a father, the first thing he thinks of after recovering consciousness from general anaesthesia is his own pain. As for the mother, her only concern is how well the child is doing.

5. How much of the difference between genders is inborn and how much is cultural is still unclear. In the 60’s and 70’s, the view that differences were principally due to differences in upbringing gained currency. A fascinating book published in 2005 by Leonard Sax called ‘Why Gender Matters’ quoted one professor explaining why boys and girls behaved differently: “ Because we expect them to. Imagine a world in which we raised girls to play with tanks and trucks, in which we encouraged boys to play with dolls. Imagine a world in which we played rough-and-tumble games with girls while we cuddled and hugged the boys. In such a world, many of the differences we see in how girls and boys behave – maybe even all the differences – would vanish.”

6. Such a view is way too extreme. It has now been scientifically established that there are important differences between the way the male brain works and the way the female brain works. One day after birth, baby girls are much more interested in faces while baby boys would rather train their eyes on mobile toys. Leonard Sax cited studies of primates – monkeys, baboons and chimpanzees. “Male monkeys do wild and crazy things, just like teenage boys. For example, these researchers found that male monkeys take stupid risks around highways: they try to scamper across a highway, only to be crushed by an oncoming truck. Female monkeys are much less likely to take the same risks. They tend to avoid highways.”

7. The relationship between men and women varies across societies and in different times. The balance in American society is different from the balance in, say, modern Chinese society. Looking at the position of women in Chinese society, one might even argue that the greatest contribution of the 1911 Revolution was not in politics but in the liberation of women. In Islamic society, the proper relationship between men and women is prescribed in detail in the Quran. I don’t think there is a right balance for all times. In wartime, for example, the division of labour by necessity becomes much sharper.

8. What seems to be constant, however, is that societies with strong cultures invariably have strong mothers. Without strong mothers and grandmothers, it is much harder to keep families together and transmit culture and values to the next generation. To put it in another way, societies which honour their women are strong while those that dishonour them must eventually break down. Tonight’s event is a way Singapore society honours our women.

9. But, somehow, men seem to get more of the attention in our society. Maybe it is because men speak louder. When I was a young boy, we had in the old house a little hour-glass timer for half-boiled eggs. It had a little saying on the side which went like this: “ The cock does all the crowing; but it is the hen which delivers the goods.” Three cheers for the hen!

Woman of the Year award winner Dr Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

Photo credit: The Straits Times/Singapore Press Holdings

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