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September 30, 2005

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PAP? No, ST Bugs Me More.

September 30, 2005

PAP? No, ST Bugs Me More.

With morally righteous and pro-establishment articles on the ST, how do we keep kids from believing everything they read?

By XenoBoy

The past few weeks have thrown up another worry about children and the newspapers, as if bloggers don’t have enough on their hands.

I’m talking about the Straits Times.

As a Sg blogger, I’m naturally wary of ST already, mainly because ST journalists are wont to throw objectivity out of the window.

That’s because regime criticism seems to be the last thing on ST journalists’ minds, unlike, say blogs which, for the most part, do their darnedest to make sure that they question the validity of State policies.

For ST journalists, saying what the regime wants them to say seems to be de rigueur, consequences be damned. Now, the ST have never generated much controversy, but what happened here about two weeks ago takes the cake.

Just in case you missed it: Three people were charged with making racist comments in their blogs. And we suddenly have an onslaught of ST articles teaching bloggers how to be responsible, followed by another barrage of articles with a fetish for blogging doom.

In one particularly galling incident, one of the journalists, actually maligned the entire community of bloggers. That just about did it for me and ST articles. I’m sad the authorities did not haul the journalist to court. If they had done so, it will send a message to like-minded ST journalists that they’d better start putting the brain before the pen.

As far as I’m concerned, ST articles are possibly the worst things about Singapore media. Sure, the PAP and governance stuff rightly furrows the brows of parents, but the things some ST journalists say go far beyond the pale.

After news of the charges broke, some ST journalists made comments that seemed far from the realm of common sense to me. Here were three people charged with making inflammatory statements — in a society where being tolerant is constantly drummed into us, no less — and ST journalists were unworried about the chilling effect of the use of the Sedition Act in the general media landscape.

As I said, ST articles, to me, is the biggest danger out there. It’s also given me more work to do when it comes to my children.

Now, I have to find a way to keep my kids from believing what they read when they come across such ST articles.

And compare this to Carl Skadian’s article entitled “Porn? No, blogs bug me more” (Sept 28, 2005). Highly throught provoking and enlightening, as compared to the our daily staple of “news” (or as according to quidnunc not really..) papers.

Read From the Singapore Angle for a round up of responses on the article by Carl Skadian. I just burst out laughing when I found out Molly Meek had died, again, due to the developments arising from the sedition cases, jc students asked to censor their blogs and so on. Blogging in Singapore has taken an interesting turn. And I must simply quote her about this:

“If you condition them to believe everything in their National Education classes, in the ST, in Channel NewsAsia, etc, then they will inevitably tend to believe everything an inflammatory, venomous, seditious, subversive blogger has to say since you have effaced their critical abilities” — Molly Meek, Anouncement (


September 29, 2005

Thanks to yong ping for informing me that my blog has been listed in Singapore Ink! Yeah! Feel quite proud to be among all the prominent Singaporean bloggers, who are my daily dose of sanity, rationalism and intellect in the crazy place we call “home”! Looking forward to reading many many more interesting atricles on Singaporean life, an alternative voice to our “not-so-fantastic” ST, or so I claim. Heehee.

My Call for Intellectual discourse in Islam has been Answered!

September 29, 2005

Reclaiming Islam from extremists

Moderates must speak out, says Dr Tan; We are, says Muis
Loh Chee Kong

AS GLOBALISATION sweeps the world, the trend of religious revivalism is becoming a “potent force” in many countries, said Dr Tony Tan, chairman of National Research Foundation, former Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for Security and Defence.

“For a variety of reasons, people in many countries have felt the need to return to religion,” said Dr Tan. “By and large, the call to religion is to be welcomed … However, religious resurgence can be a problem when people’s need for faith is twisted.”

Addressing about 100 participants at the opening of a two-day conference organised by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), Dr Tan called upon moderate Muslims in Singapore to “dispel suspicion by unequivocally denouncing terrorism, countering erroneous teachings of jihad and working with the Government to root out extremists and radical teaching”.

Said Dr Tan: “The challenge for moderate Muslims in the Islamic community today is to seize back the agenda from the small band of extremists … It is no small thing to speak out against terrorists.

“But to stay silent would be wrong as the radicals and extremists would take the silence of the peace-loving majority as support for their outrageous acts.”

Referring to the recent “forthright denunciations” of violence and terrorism by the Muslim communities in the United Kingdom and Australia, he said that these are examples which Muslims in other countries should “consider emulating”.

While Dr Tan applauded the efforts of local Islamic religious leaders who have “taken it upon themselves to go down to the ground, to counter the extremist ideology”, he stressed that “the community as a whole, and not just individuals, must partake in such efforts, if we are to stand a chance of keeping the vulnerable segments of our community, like our youths, from the clutches of terrorism”.

Responding to this call, the president of Muis, Mr Mohd Alami Musa, said: “The local Muslim community has been and will continue to be vocal against acts of terrorism, violence, the abuse of religion. There is a sense of ‘enough is enough, we do not want to bear the brunt of all these’.

“The Singaporean Muslims are very focused and clear in their minds what the teachings of Islam are and they know that what had been put forth by these irresponsible groups and individuals are things alien to Islam and have to be rejected in its totality.”

Mr Mohd added that a fresh approach is needed to reach out to young Muslims.

“Gone are the days when the ustaz (teacher) will stand at the blackboard, using a chalk-and-talk kind of approach and everything is either halal or haram,” said Mr Mohd Alami. “We are changing our tack and making our Islamic education more connected to their lives and more relevant. We are talking about issues which mean a lot to the young now such as issues of identity, relationships and self-esteem.”

Calling traditional Islam the “antidote to extremism”, Professor Syed Farid Alatas, from the National University of Singapore’s Department of Sociology, questioned the label of “moderate Muslims”.

“What we need are not moderate Islam or Muslims, if by moderate we mean Muslims who are less strict about their religions,” said Prof Syed Farid. “What we need, in fact, are Muslims who are strict about their religious observances, practices and values.”

To help Muslims better understand challenging issues, Mr Mohd Alami announced that Muis will roll out its Distinguished Visitors’ Programme next year. The programme, of which Dr Tan will be a patron, will invite personalities of high stature in the Muslim world to deliver lectures here.

Thank Allah swt for my prayers have been answered! I am certainly looking forward to such lectures, giving me an opportunity to understand what it means to be a Muslim and the role of Muslims in a highly globalised and modernised world of today.

While the first portion of the article deals with the much emphasized “Muslims-must-speak-out-against-extremists” platitudes (seriously, there is much more than we can do besides denouce their evil acts!), the second part promises some inkling of change in the Muslim mentality of endless self-denial, aggressive finger pointing through arbitrary labels, and the acute sense of insularity of the role of Islam in our modern world itself. I applaud MUIS for taking a first step forward, ever since the JI tried to carry out their heinous plans of bombing one of our MRT stations a few years ago.

However, I could not stifle my disbelief over the fact that religious education in Singapore has gone through a paradigm change, or has gone through any change at all. Tthe fact still remains that in the classroom, the ustaz ultimately has the power to influence the minds of the children with whatever they seem fit, even though it may not be reflective of our modern times. When he said, “We are changing our tack and making our Islamic education more connected to their lives and more relevant”, I just recalled anecdotes by my old ustaz and how he used stories of teen pregnancies, drug abuse and other “Western-related” excesses (or so they claim) to justify the return to Islam as a form of salvation, and how the West is evil and so on. Its basically the same thing. Is there any change? If so then what has been done?

The issue of labels is a highly contentious issue which needs careful explication and understanding (something, which I confess, am not very good at yet). What Professor Syed Farid Alatas said is true, but the term “Moderate Muslims” came about more as a reaction against extremists and fundamentalists, rather than too strict or too literal in their practices. Using peaceful methods of discussion and consensus as a form of communication, rather than the more violent forms of miscommunication.

Simply cant wait for the lectures next year. Hopefully, it will be conducted on weekends when I am out of camp!

Do Housemaids Need a Day Off?

September 26, 2005

Do Housemaids Need a Day Off?
Stanislaus Jude Chan

SINGAPORE, Sep 24 (IPS) – Gruesome as it was, the discovery of the severed head and limbs of a Filipino housemaid, abandoned in a travel bag on fashionable Orchard Road, has rekindled an old debate on whether foreign domestic workers in this affluent city-state should get a weekly day off or not.

The immediate concern in businesslike Singapore, following the Sep. 9 discovery, was that the rather overworked ‘Maid in Singapore’ headlines were beginning to overshadow the ‘Uniquely Singapore’ campaign slogan, carefully crafted for the tourism department.

There were few tears shed for Jane Parangan La Puebla and none for Guen Garlejo Aguilar, arrested for the murder of her compatriot and ‘best friend’. They were just more trouble than the usual run of ‘havoc maids’.

But the scene was different in the Philippines where demonstrations were mounted in front of the Singapore embassy demanding that Aguilar gets a fair trial and justice. Parallels were drawn with the controversial hanging of Flor Contemplacion for the murder of fellow domestic worker Delia Maga, a decade ago.

Contemplacion’s execution strained relations between Singapore and the Philippines and caused many Filipinos to vent their frustration at governments in both countries that were, seemingly, not doing enough to prevent the abuse and stress that are the lot of Filipino overseas workers.

This time, Manila appealed for calm, urging local media to cease sensational reporting on the La Puebla murder. ”I appeal for sobriety from everyone and not to come to rash conclusions on the basis of media reports or stories being circulated,” Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Belen Anota was quoted by newspapers as saying.

Officials fear the sensational reports could stir up public sentiment and set off an unwarranted reaction against Singapore–though there was relief that this was a case of one Filipino maid allegedly killing another, rather than extreme violence between Singaporean employers and foreign domestic help.

Singapore courts frequently hear cases of housemaid abuse–or those concerning retaliatory murder, the usual plea of defence lawyers on behalf of their clients being that they were driven to homicide after suffering extreme abuse.

Last month, Singapore’s image as a destination for foreign job-seekers took yet another beating when homemaker, Sazarina Madzin was arrested for the abuse of her Indonesian maid, Wiwik Setyowati, last year.

The 28-year-old Madzin was charged on 80 counts of abuse, including bludgeoning her hapless victim, Setyowati, with an assortment of household items, including shoes, a tomato sauce bottle and a plastic chopping board.

Apart from fines, Madzin now faces seven years in prison for threatening to kill her employee.

On the other hand, two Indonesian maids who robbed and killed their employer Esther Ang were found guilty of manslaughter last month but escaped the death sentence.

The judge determined that Juminem, 20, ”was suffering from a psychiatric disorder of a depressive nature” and awarded her a life sentence, while he sent 17-year-old Siti Aminah to ten years in prison after noting that she was only 15 at the time of the crime and that she was ”intellectually and psychologically immature”.

The three cases in the space of a month have dented Singapore’s reputation as a safe and lawful city, besides leading to concern over the treatment of migrant workers here.

There are currently some 150,000 foreign maids working in Singapore. Most of them are from the Philippines and Indonesia, with the rest from Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand.

But more than 27 years after foreign domestic helpers first started working in Singapore, debate on issues like whether maids should get a day off and also how much they should be paid, continues.

Filipino maids, who can converse in English, usually receive around 215 US dollars a month while Sri Lankans rate less at 150 dollars. Indonesians get paid around 120 dollars, slightly more than the 117-dollar levy that employers must pay the government per worker.

The wages seem exploitative in a country with one of the most affluent societies in Asia and having a per capita monthly income exceeding 2,000 dollars. And for round-the-clock work.

”Even machines need rest,” says Filipino domestic worker Ellen Elancanal, who has been here for eight years. ”We work so many hours. We must have a day a week, whichever way we want to spend it”. She gets to spend her Sundays with a church choir, or helping fellow workers in trouble.

”Not giving people time off can make people disgruntled and stressed,” said Helen Tan, spokeswoman for the Association of Employment Agencies, Singapore.

But many employers are wary of ‘social problems’ and choose to keep their maids at home.

Employers in Singapore risk forfeiting a 3,000 dollar-security bond if the maid goes missing–or if they fail to repatriate her at the end of the contract or in the event of pregnancy.

”They (domestic helpers) know that if they do that (get pregnant), they stand to lose everything. It’s not in their interest to jeopardise the money they send home to their families,” said Braema Mathi, president of Transient Workers Count Too, an agency defending the human rights of workers here.

”If employers are worried about pregnancy, then workers should have sex education. We can’t control human behaviour to that extent and say that we are protecting her by not giving her a day off”.

On the ground though, many employers are sceptical about days off. ”They have boyfriends and all that!” says Mary Lee, 58, a Singaporean homemaker who has employed several domestic workers over the last two decades.

”Some even go to Geylang (Singapore’s red-light district) and earn extra cash, you know? We can’t control the maids, so it’s best that when we employ the maid, we tell the agent we don’t want to give days off,” Lee said.

Fear of ‘social problems’ causes employers to deny maids a day off and the stress of working without a break results in pent-up frustrations that create rather than solve a delicate problems which can be tackled on with responsibility and understanding.

”The bold maids are often those who have worked here for some time. Their employers trust them and some abuse their privileges,” said Alice Cheah, owner of the Singapore agency, ‘Caregivers Centre’, stressing that ‘havoc maids’ are in the minority.

”Maids should be given days off. It’d be unhealthy psychologically if the maids are cooped up in the house every day. If the maids treasure their jobs, they will behave well,” Cheah said.

Malay Wedding: Revisited

September 26, 2005

I attended my Grand-auntie’s daughter’s wedding yesterday at Chua Chu Kang. It was an overwhelming experience, not because of the marriage per se but the people who came to the wedding itself. I have come to a realisation that it is highly probabale that almost every single one of us living in singapore is somewhat related, and that somewhere within our family tree are ties which bind each and every single one of us together like some huge Adam and Eve family! Its scary! What if your future girlfriend is your grandfather’s uncle’s second wife’s granddaughter? Or your great grandmother’s disowned sister’s cousin?

On my mother’s side alone I have two uncles and four aunties (all of them, including my mother as the eldest, siblings). Among them, they have over thirty cousins from both my grandmother’s and grandfather’s side! And this does not include my Father’s siblings who includes more than ten in total!

I dread the near future where I would have to entertain guests for my own brother’s or sister’s wedding (or which ever comes first! :D) with little recognition of the various relations I am supposed to have. It would be sheer torture having to remember the names and how they are related to you somehow or rather. And it would be scary (and extremely freaky!) to find out that someone you know is directly related to you! But thankfully I am the youngest of three in my family so the onus is more on my brother who is the eldest, having more relatives remembering his name then my own individual existence.

On a related note, I also learnt that my maternal grandparents wedding was attended by the Sultan of Johore! This was because my great grandfather knew him somehow and had invited him over. That would have been very grand during that period of time.

I didn’t help out much during the wedding. There were too many hands so I was left sitting down at the side just talking to my aunties, uncles and cousins about miscellaneous stuff, like how heavy the headset the bride was wearing, how off key and off tune the singing were, how they served delicious sweet and sour fish and this friend jemput-jemput udang which was pure heaven!

I will post pictures when I book out. Was to lazy to do so when I came back home yesterday. Can’t wait for the next wedding to happen!

Dream Interpretation Please?

September 24, 2005

I had the weirdest dream last night in camp.

I dreamt that I was at a video shop, trying to get the latest Zoe Tay and Lee Nanxing ch8 drama serial (though the latest one where both had acted was the Unbeatables) in VCD. And they also had released four telemovies from the same serial which I also wanted to buy from the shop. At first the auntie (whose face looked familiar to me then but now remains a vague distant memory) had the telemovies in stock and I really could remember the sadness I felt for not having the two seasons of the show. But then she later found them and gave them to me.

When I received the cds, I also remember that the whole serial was entitled “The Stigma of Love” (though how can love be stigmatised was beyond me) and that the two seasons cost 236 bucks! The telemovies though only cost $11.20 each. So due to the lack of finances (even my financial problems persist in my semiconscious state!), I could only afford the telemovies.

Then I woke up.

The dream was particularly memorable simply because of the intensity of emotions I presumably had felt throughout the whole dream. This leads to several interesting questions. Why do I want to buy four telemovies and two seasons of “The Stigma of Love” starred by Zoe Tay and Lee Nanxing? And why does the auntie at the video shop look so familiar? And why in the world can I remember the cost of each individual cd?

Any interpretations?