Singapore’s Education System, Good But Not Enough

Singapore students up to their teens are among the brightest in the world according international testing. Singaporeans shoud be proud and not be dismissive of this achievement. Singapore is up there with other Asian giants and they can’t be terrible peers to have. However, while Singapore students compete and are among the best in PISA rankings consistently, there are valid criticisms on why we don’t produce the right type of scientists, artists, engineers etc enough to propel Singapore in industry, commerce, the arts to be right at the top of the world. Since education is the foundation of one’s future, what happened between impressive PISA rankings and the real world?

The lack of creativity, risk appetite, and recently even EQ at work are reasons posited. The assumption is that everyone agree on what is creativity, risk appetite and EQ should be seeded in school ready to bloom when the students enter the workforce. The stellar education system that made Singapore teens top in problem-solving (with Korea) is just not enough for real world problem solving it seems.

Focusing on creativity, can it be seeded in school? Yes and of course, depending on what one means and wants out of creativity. Oddly and as a fleeting thought, that people say Singaporeans are not creative is a close-minded close-ended argument which lacks creativity, and in a way proved that Singaporeans lack creativity. The foundation for creativity seeded in schools would be a holistic education i.e. diversity and divergence opens minds, and even ways to handle selected deviance. Which is a separate deep question altogether as semi-tolerated deviance in behaviour and ultimately discipline in schools is a double-edged sword.

Despite criticisms, education system delivers, says PM Lee
By Joy Fang –
April 11

SINGAPORE — Although the education system here has often been criticised, it is essentially a good system that has delivered good results, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

“We often see and read or hear criticisms of Singapore’s education system — it’s too structured, it’s too pressured, it’s too competitive, it’s too much hard work, (it’s) so stiff,” he said.

While he acknowledged the pressures faced by parents and students, Mr Lee said the Government had taken steps to address the issue and reduce unhealthy competition, such as ending the practice of publishing the names of top Primary School Leaving Examination performers and using a banding system, instead of grades, to assess students’ performance in co-curricular programmes.

“I think it has helped to reduce some of this pressure-cooking sentiment, that you must get it exactly right, the last one-quarter of a mark,” said Mr Lee, who was the guest of honour at Chong Boon Secondary School’s 20th Anniversary Dinner in his Teck Ghee ward.

However, while the Government tries to improve the education system, he added: “Don’t forget this is a good system and it delivers good results for us”.

Mr Lee said there is no youth unemployment problem here, unlike in many other countries. Graduates from Singapore’s schools, such as universities, polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education, are highly sought after by employers and manage to get good jobs.

Singapore students have also performed well in international competitions and comparison studies, such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Mr Lee said.

He cited the recently-published results from a new PISA test, which had assessed 15-year-old students around the world for problem-solving skills.

“It’s a new test, no 10-year-series, no studying for the test. You need common sense, you need to be able to think, you need to have creativity and judgment,” he pointed out.

About 1,400 Singapore students were randomly selected by the PISA team for the test.

Every secondary school had students who participated and they formed a representative sample of Singapore’s student population.

Singapore students came up tops among the territories and countries that had participated, outperforming students in developed countries such as in Europe and the United States, as well as Asian economies that have high-pressure education systems, such as Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.

“I think the test shows that we are not doing badly. We are not near the bottom, we are not even at the middle. We are well above many countries in the world,” Mr Lee said.

However, he added, Singapore must continue to learn and improve, as well as raise the quality of all institutions, whether they are neighbourhood schools, schools for those with special needs or special talents, or institutes of higher learning.

“We have to teach skills like critical and creative thinking; we have to help our students to climb higher, especially those from the less-advantaged homes,” Mr Lee said.


Changi Airport Interpol Passport Database Screening

Malaysian authorities were criticised for letting through MH370 passengers using stolen passports.

Trying to distract from the Woodlands Checkpoint car driving through an anti-car barrier last week, ICA and its parent Ministry found the opportunity to show that they are not that all incompetent despite that recent circus. ICA proudly thumped their fist on their table and declared that passports at immigration checkpoints in Singapore are screened against the Interpol database to see if they are lost or stolen. And this done in a few seconds. Give criticism when it is due, and credit when it is due.

Missing MH370: Singapore among the few countries using Interpol database
Friday, March 14, 2014 – 06:34
Karamjit Kaur
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – Visitor passports presented to immigration officers at Singapore checkpoints are screened against Interpol’s database of lost or stolen travel documents, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on Tuesday.

And if a passport is one of more than 40 million on Interpol’s list, the officer is automatically alerted and the traveller pulled aside for further checks.

This procedure has been in place since May 2008, an ICA spokesman told The Straits Times.

He did not elaborate on how the system works, but security experts said that this verification typically takes just a few seconds.

But despite the fact that checks are quick, Singapore remains one of only a few countries that use Interpol’s database to ensure border security, experts noted.

Checkpoint security has come under scrutiny since it was revealed that two passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which disappeared on Saturday, had boarded the plane with stolen passports.

ICA uses biometric technology for identity verification when Singapore citizens and other known travellers opt for automated clearance, which is swifter.

The traveller’s thumbprint must tally with ICA’s data before the gates open for him to pass through. In this case, there is no need for verification against Interpol’s database.

For effective border security, immigration authorities must rely on various levels of checks, said Mr John Harrison, senior analyst at security provider CyberPoint International.

Interpol has long urged member countries to make greater use of its database to stop people crossing borders with false papers but it notes few countries do so.

This is probably because there is no requirement to do so, suggested Mr Harrison.

Countries may also be unwilling to invest in computer systems and software that they would probably need to link up to Interpol’s database, experts added.

Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna from Singapore’s S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies said it should be mandatory for governments to report lost and stolen travel documents, as well as for immigration agencies to screen passenger passports against the Interpol database.

Still, there is no one foolproof system, noted one security expert.

“There are passports that are stolen or lost and never reported and that’s why the authorities ultimately rely on several layers of checks.

This includes ensuring that ground officers are properly trained and vigilant to look out for suspicious cases,” he said.


Confrontation and the Singapore Story

Singapore has stuck to its narrative that it is in a neighbourhood where friends can turn hostile overnight. Malaysia threatening to cut the water supply from Johor to Singapore, a constant threat by UMNO and its proxies from the 60s until recent years when we showed signs of water self-sufficiency. Indonesia revisiting its Konfrontasi days if there was a regime change, especially when Habibie came to power in 1998.

Without doubt the Singapore narrative was politicised to root Singapore, to rally Singaporeans.  Although it was not to scare the populace into backing the PAP, but to enlighten the populace into backing the state. The state of Singapore which would be 50 years old next year. However, the narrative is not all fiction or a creation myth. It is built upon hard facts from history, and as the saying goes, history repeats itself. That is human nature and the fact of geopolitics in this region.

While Indonesia has the right of sovereignty, Singapore should not relent in criticising Indonesia’s action to name its ship after two terrorists who went after easy civilian kills.

Singaporeans should not forget that Indonesia conducted a terror and guerrilla campaign to “crush Malaysia” and there were also numerous bombings in Singapore during Confrontation and our troops were also  involved in skirmishes with Indonesian infiltrators in peninsular Malaysia.

1965 bombing still stains relations between Singapore and Indonesia
Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 9:44pm
Satish Cheney in Singapore

Jakarta’s insistence on naming a warship after two marines who bombed Singapore in 1965 has re-opened old wounds, analysts say

It’s a diplomatic row that stretches back half a century, tainting Singapore-Indonesia relations with memories of a bomb, bloodshed and executions.

Now the notorious Orchard Road blast of 1965 is back in the spotlight, thanks to Jakarta’s decision this month to name a warship after the bombers, who were a pair of undercover Indonesian marines.

Political experts believe the recently reopened wounds are unlikely to spur physical confrontation or economic fallout – but caution that they may continue to fester, especially since neither side feels it can afford to appear weak in a region with a history of strife.

Indonesia is already preoccupied with an upcoming election, and has major differences with Australia over asylum seekers and allegations of spying. Jakarta might have to engage in some delicate diplomacy with Singapore, especially since it is the wealthy city state’s third largest trade partner.

The problems began after Jakarta officials confirmed they will name a navy vessel “KRI Usman- Harun” after Usman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said – the two marines who bombed an office building in Singapore’s main shopping district on March 10, 1965.

The explosion left three dead and 33 injured. The two marines, who were acting under orders, were convicted and hanged three years later by Singapore authorities. But they were hailed as heroes back home in Indonesia, where there were protests over their executions.

Personal calls from Singapore ministers to their Indonesian counterparts to reconsider the naming – and spare a thought for the families of the victims of the bombing – failed to break the diplomatic impasse.

Political analysts say Singapore, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence next year, will not let the matter rest.

“The political terrain in Singapore has changed and Singapore leaders cannot be seen to be lax in handling an issue that touches a raw nerve for many Singaporeans,” said Dr Mohamed Nawab, an expert in Indonesian and Malaysian politics and foreign policy at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “I think relations in the long term are likely to be affected unless the Indonesian government apologises for its current actions.”

Naming the warship KRI Usman-Harun (right) after the bombers has sparked Singapore protests.The bomb blast was part of the then Indonesian president Sukarno’s policy of konfrontasi (confrontation) against the Federation of Malaysia which formed in September 1963.

Sukarno was against the idea of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah joining to form the federation, which he felt would only serve British interests as a puppet state.

Sukarno’s regime sent groups of saboteurs to the federation to create trouble. Numerous bombs that were set off in Singapore, but most were minor compared to the Orchard Road attack.

Relations between the two nations improved only after Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, visited Jakarta and scattered flowers at the graves of the two marines in 1973 following much careful consideration by Singapore.

Amid the current spat, Singapore cancelled invitations to the Indonesian Navy chief and some 100 Indonesian delegates to attend the Singapore Airshow. Other Indonesian military leaders then pulled out.

Speculation is rife about why Indonesia would want to revisit old wounds.

Mohamed Nawab said: “Politicians in Indonesia have often used Singapore and Malaysia as whipping boys to enhance their nationalist credentials.

“Given that the coming election is likely to be a tough one for the Partai Demokrat [The Democratic Party led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono], they are using this issue for their political purposes. It is likely to be driven by political expediency on the part of the current leadership that is fully cognizant of the Indonesian people’s nationalist fervour,” he said.

Observers say both sides will eventually move on.

“In fact, the nature of the spat is far less serious than allegations from last year that Singapore helped the United States and Australia tap telephone conversations by senior Indonesian officials,” said assistant professor Ja Ian Chong from the National University of Singapore. “If Singapore and Jakarta were able to overcome the flap from last year, I am confident that relations will be able to weather the current furore.”

Documents leaked by American whistleblower Edward Snowden last year alleged that Singapore was involved in US-led spying operations of countries in the region including Indonesia and Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Singapore has raised concerns over possible haze covering the island next week due to forest fires in Indonesia.

The fires and the smog have been an annual issue. Last year, the amount of pollution hit record levels with the city skyline barely visible for a few days.

In a Facebook post, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan had said: “We will try to encourage them to take action – but we all know the welfare of close neighbours is not their priority.”

Allah, God, Sultans and Malaysia

After BN and specifically UMNO was slighted by the supposed loss of Chinese votes in last year’s Malaysian election, the machinery is out to punish, or so it seems. In October last year, the Malaysian court ruled that Allah can only be used by Muslims and Christians can’t use it in their bible or in any reference to their common Abrahamic God. Christians were offended and felt persecuted more when Islamic authorities seized bibles from a Christian group because of the term “Allah” in those bibles.  There is no such restriction on Allah in Indonesia at the moment and those bibles were actually imported from Indonesia.

Expectations of protest and tensions are rife although there were also pockets of calm. With the court ruling on the use of Allah, this is a pivotal challenge to the Christians. Are they going to concede and give up a term they have used for years all because UMNO and the Sultans want to legitimise their Islamicness to voters? Their argument is that Allah is an Arabic term that was used even before Islam came around.The issue is more complex than that and encompasses how religions negotiate with each other, and how racial bumiputra and ketuanan Melayu politics is intertwined in Malaysia.

The emergence of Sultans as protectors of Islam is an emerging trend, besides the Brunei Sultan’s declaration of shariah law in that kingdom last year. The bible raid happened in Selangor as its Sultan put his foot down that Christians should not use the term Allah. The Johore Sultan recently decreed that weekends in Johore should be Friday and Saturday as it would be more Islamic. Sultans are now jumping into the game that they are more Islamic and Malay than UMNO and PAS. All this means is one up manship amongst each other, at the expense of the non-Malays. Rocky times up north with religion being used to win votes.



Monday, 06 January 2014 19:47
CHRISTIANS in Malaysia can no longer remain SILENT OR APOLITICAL
Written by Simon Neoh

A press conference was called by the Bible Society of Malaysia last week, only to be cancelled shortly thereafter.

No reason was given whatsoever, but judging from an earlier press statement that was released by the Society, it appears that the BSM officials did not want to kick up a fuss over what happened on the second day of the new year.

News about the raid shocked not only the local Christian community but the international community. In the most recent development over the court ruling, the international community including Islamic scholars have mocked the Malaysian Government’s stand on the ban against the use of the kalimah Allah by the Catholic Herald, despite the case still pending at the Federal Court.

In a press statement released by BSM, its officials had urged the Christian community to remain calm. This could be seen as its efforts to seek for peace with all parties, although this is against the basic teaching of Jesus Christ that one has to carry the cross and follow Him.

The Christian community has to learn to get out of their shell, and face the ugliness of Malaysian politics, which have been largely a reflection of UMNO Baru’s culture and its warlords who have been nurtured mainly by the contentious Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The Christian church can no longer live in isolation, and still remain effectively the ‘salt of the world’ – a description used by Jesus himself when talking about the preservation of society from further moral decay – rather, it is as good as salt that has lost its flavour, and only meant to be “thrown out to be trampled underfoot as worthless.” (reference: Matthew 5:13)

As aptly put it by Edward Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The church has only two options: to take the bull by its horns, or remain forever silent. It has come to the crunch as whose law it would obey.

However, the situation warrants public criticisms, whether the raid was instructed by someone higher up or otherwise. No one, including the Sultan, is not above the Federal Constitution, which is the supreme law of the country.

In the case of Selangor, the Sultan has to understand that, although Islam is the official religion in the country, the Consitution does not make provision to push for the supremacy of Islam over other religions, in the same manner where Dr Mahathir tried to create what he calls the supremacy of the Malay race.

It is dangerous that any religion should be given any form of supremacy. Today, it may be the Bible Society, but tomorrow it may be the Hindu shrine or the Buddhist temple, and this will become more rampant unless the non-Muslim community makes a final stand that it would no longer tolerate the nonsense anymore. The BSM has to take JAIS to task and bring it before the courts of this world, while waiting for the Final Judgement.

To desecrate another Holy Book is as good as putting one’s own holy book to the ridicule. Although not done in the public, this would have been done in private many thousands of times. Until such a lesson is learnt, the bullies will continue to intimidate and antagonize.

Freedom to practise other religions, as enshrined in the constitution, does not allow infringement of other religions. The JAIS has no reason to confiscate the Alkitab sold at the Bible Society of Malaysia on the premise that it was used to propagate Christianity to the Muslims, although the state enactment forbid the use of 34 words they claim to be peculiar to only the Muslim world.

With the Federal Constitution being the highest law in the country, any state enactments that go against the Federal Constitution have to be thrown out of the window. It is therefore up to the Selangor State Government now to remove these enactments that have become the centre of controversy between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in the State. The motion should not only be tabled by the non-Muslim state assemblymen, but supported vehemently by any right thinking Muslim politician from both sides of the political divide.

Language is basically a communication tool. Many of the words in Bahasa Malaysia are in fact borrowed from other languages – words like bumi, van, kek, bas, bag, beca, kad, gas, jag, gam, pam, cek, jem, pen, jip, zip, pin, tin, botol, sup, sos, and ros. There are in fact no word that can be copyrighted or becoming exclusively belonging to any community.

Words like Injil have often been used to refer to the New Testament, and prophets sent by God had existed for centuries before even Mohamad claimed himself to be a prophet. In other words, Mohamad would not have known that he was a prophet, unless the word had already existed. The enactment, formerly passed by the BN Government, along with the list of words, can be thrown out of the courts if found that it contravenes the Federal Constitution.

The raid by JAIS on the Bible Society therefore means the BSM can lodge a police report against JAIS for the illegal entry which amounts to trespassing the private premises belonging to another religious community, or file civil suit against JAIS and the Sultan, with ramifications on both sides if things come to stalemate.

While the BSM is contemplating its next move, there are others who trying to jump into the bandwagon to add insult to the injury.

Barking up the wrong tree


For example, Dr Mahathir said that the Christian community should not irritate the Muslims by insisting on using the name Allah. What the old maverick failed to understand is that the word Allah has been used even before the nation of Malaysia was formed, or the constitution drawn up.

Even within the Federal Constitution, it has only stated that Islam is the official religion; it did not restrict others from using words so-called belonging to the Muslim community. The name Allah, or Elah, does not belong to any community.

Allah cannot be defined, and can certainly not be confined to only a band of narrow-minded Muslim community in Malaysia, when everyone else around the world has condemned Malaysia’s official position about the use of the word.

Dr Mahathir has failed or probably chosen not to understand is that, in the Internet era, anyone who chooses to read a copy of the Alkitab in Bahasa Melayu can do so by just visiting http://www.youversion.com; it does not have to be just the printed copies of the Alkitab which were being confiscated physically.

What a lot of people fail to understand again is that JAIS does not report to the Menteri Besar of Selangor; instead, JAIS reports directly to the Selangor Islamic Council (MAIS) and to the Sultan of Selangor as Head of Islam in the State.

Therefore, for Penang Gerakan young lad Tan Keng Liang to call on Menteri Besar of Selangor to explain to the people what happened is simply barking at the wrong tree.

Call for Peace


Call for peace can only work when the invading party calls for truce. Under the present circumstances, BSM has to weigh its stance against the reality of more onslaughts.

If JAIS continues to raid religious institutions, it is obvious that at the losing end is the ruling coalition. For it to stay in power, it has to be able to win the hearts of the people, instead of using its political tools such as JAIS or the Utusan Malaysia to “play with fire” involving the religious sensitivities of 40% of the non-Muslim community.

Even former Home Minister, Hishamuddin Hussein is asking the rakyat to stop the ‘Allah’ row for country’s peace, when he could have dropped the charge against the Herald for using the name Allah, unless the word is used in a desecrating manner. After all, the Catholic Herald is meant only for the Catholics, and no other Christian demonization would have access to it – not to mention that any Muslim would have read the publication.

UMNO Baru, and BN, have to realise that not all Malays are supporting its cause. UMNO membership, if it is worth its salt, is just 11% of the country’s population, and with just the Christian population of 9%, with the help of Sabah and Sarawak Christian community, it is enough to finish off the Barisan Nasional Government come the 14th General Election. – Malaysia Chronicle


Hackers, Criminals and Terrorists

Singapore recently underwent a series of high profile hacking. The CHC website, then the Istana and PMO sites, then some school websites. These were defacements, childish graffiti more akin to spraying on walls and the Cenotaph. Art, prank or vandalism, it depends on who is asked. The website owner might not be so flippant and amused while others might think it is perfectly fine although it is illegal. As Singapore government sites were defaced, whether it was tantamount to an actual attack against the State is a worthy debate. If it was an attack against the state, should there be a harsh and proportionate response if the culprits can be apprehended.

The debate is changing quickly after the Singapore Art Museum database was also broken into and hackers grabbed personal information of about 4,000 art supporters. This was more serious and downright criminal in action regardless of intent.

If the museum database was not broken into and its personal information data pillaged, we would tend to be more accommodating and laid back about hacking, and think that hackers like Anonymous are cool hacktivists and folk heros however childish. However, as school websites were attacked, senseless online victims,  and the museum data stolen, hackers whether pranksters or hacktivists are at least deemed as cyberbullies in a way, if not criminals.

What sort of deterrent messages do we want to send to hackers before they try steal our CPF, IRAS, LTA or HDB information? Even if it is futile to prevent hacking or chase down hackers. They are not Al Qaeda terrorists to be hunted down to the ends of the earth.  Or do we shrug and treat hackers and hacking just as unavoidable criminal acts. To end, despite the fear factor message by the Law Minister, hackers so far are not terrorists. So far.

Hacking ‘nothing short of terrorism’ if lives are affected: Shanmugam

SINGAPORE — The spectre of hacking — which had dominated headlines in recent weeks — reared its ugly head again yesterday, as two Cabinet ministers separately underscored the gravity of hacking incidents and urged Singaporeans not to trivialise such acts.

At an evening dialogue with 75 Singapore Institute of Management students, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam responded to a question on why the Government appeared to be taking the recent hacking threats and attacks so seriously, even though there was little tangible damage, by denouncing hacking attacks as “nothing short of terrorism”, when it affects the lives of people in a world that is thoroughly dependent on information technology.

Citing the example of how facilities such as airports and hospitals are heavily dependent on IT for smooth operations, he added: “When somebody says, ‘You, the government or you, the people of Singapore, do this, and if … you don’t change these laws, I’m going to hack’ — it’s no different from saying, if you don’t change the laws in the way that I want, I’m going to bomb you, or I’m going to put your house on fire.”

Mr Shanmugam noted that “not enough people” understood this. “They tend to think of actions online as somehow different from physical actions,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, said on Facebook that “any forms of cyber attacks or threats are actually threats on the people regardless if the intent was malicious or mischievous”.

He said that these include attacks or threats from “curious netizens who claimed to have followed instructions found online”.

The comments were made on the same day when the Singapore Art Museum revealed that the personal data — names, phone numbers, email addresses and, in some instance, nationalities — of about 4,000 individuals who had attended its events in 2011 and this year were found to be illegally published and uploaded on another website. The incident, which was reported to the police, has not been classified as hacking.

And in between the remarks made by the ministers, the websites of 13 schools, including Canberra Primary School, Raffles Girls’ School and St Andrew’s Junior College, were defaced.

The Ministry of Education has referred the matter to the police.

Dr Yaacob said the Republic has been under “cyber attack” since early this month.

He likened hacking to “someone coming into your home uninvited. They snoop around, leave their mark or steal your valuables. They damage your property, and violate your personal privacy.”

At the dialogue, Mr Shanmugam pointed out that cyber security has become a key part of national defence capabilities and that weapons systems are dependent on IT, as are national power grids, air traffic control, hospitals and road traffic signals.

“You use IT to hack into power grids, you can hack and control the air traffic, you can cause accidents … essentially no different from someone going out there and saying, ‘I’m going to kill you, I’m going to set your house on fire’,” said Mr Shanmugam.

Referring to the youth gang attacks a few years ago, he noted that Singaporeans were unhappy about the incidents and generally value law and order.

In the same spirit, one should not condone violence online, he said.

On Oct 31, a YouTube video purportedly by hacker collective Anonymous threatened “war” against the Singapore Government due to discontent over the new licensing scheme for online news sites.

This was followed by the high-profile hacking of several websites, including some belonging to the Government.

Six suspects have since been hauled up by the authorities and one has been charged in court.

Sticker Lady’s Community Service and Justice

Samantha Lo’s street art, or vandalism or mischief by law, was funny, bold and so popular that many wanted the law to look the other way when she was arrested. “Press Some More” Stickers on traffic lights were borderline fine but “My Grandfather Road” sprayed on the road crossed the line in the eyes of the law. A crime was committed, artistic or not, and the police charged her and her accomplice Anthony Chong with mischief. Fortunately for her, the police did not get carried away and charged her with vandalism instead which entailed a harsher punishment. The Cenotaph vandal would have wished for a mischief rather than a vandalism charge that he was slapped with.

Furthermore, fortunately for Samantha, the court then sentenced her to community service of 240 hours or about 30 8hr days, rather than a harsher penalty e.g. the maximum sentence of mischief under Section 426 is a one year jail and/or fine.  Again the court was enlightened enough to give a community service sentence to rehabilitate the offender. One past example  was the racist blogger Gan Huai Shi who was charged under the Sedition Act and was sentenced 180 hours of community service rather than a maximum 3 year jail or maximum $5,000 fine sentence. The enlightened court then realised that he was a youth and there were mitigating circumstances for a community service sentence.

Is humour the Get Out of Jail card in crime? Joker in the Batman comics is a pop culture example that humour is not a shield in court and a funny lawbreaker does not get away with his actions.

The court however should have the decency and common sense to slap hard or tap softly on the offender regardless of the existence or absence of humour in unlawful acts. The Cenotaph vandal should not get leniency as his crime offends by law and culturally. In contrast, the Sticker Lady’s action is not of the same magnitude and her punishment is hence creative. Her talent can be put to good use e.g. doing sanctioned public murals to give back to the community, and is also lenient compared to the by the book alternatives.

Related to the idea of creative and rehabilitative justice, should Leslie Chew be given a light tap on the hand and given community service as well for his not-so-funny dumb Demon-cratic cartoons? Or should the book be thrown at him as allowed under the penalties of being charged under the Sedition Act? I hope the court would be enlightened too in that case.

The Todd Investigation

Last month, Financial Times broke the captivating story on Shane Todd’s unusual death in Singapore. “Unusual” from the account of Todd’s parents as they had to grapple with the tragic news of the death of their son in a foreign country so alien and far away from their Montana.

The story FT told, with an intertwined implied hook of murder-suicide, Chinese espionage, US national security, was a riveting one. The Todds added in accounts of Singapore police’s standoff over evidence that the Todds refused to handover unconditionally. What was exaggerated, imagined or real, is anybody’s guess. The Todds were lucky as their story captured the imagination of an American audience and senators, with China spying fresh in the news and Huawei’s hunger for the global market and its fierce competition with Cisco in the background.

The Todds can never truly let go yet as which parent can readily accept the death of their child. Their biased and sensational hints of Singapore police incompetence and Huawei’s hand in murder made to look like suicide is understandable as most Americans have an ethnocentric view that their FBI and government are the best in the world, and that China is the new threat to the USA’s global hegemony. Was the Singapore police incompetent and uncooperative as what the Todds and FT tried to portray? Maybe, but I don’t think so as past cases showed that they know their business and do cooperate with foreign police.  Especially in a death, they would make sure there is no foul play.

In the end, the unfortunate tragedy of the Todds is pivoting from a personal to a political affair. The Todds are sowing  the accusations that Singapore is a backwater country with an incompetent police at best and there is a conspiracy with the Chinese government that threatens US national security at worst. The more sensational the story, the more the media can sell it to interest people.

Singapore has pledged full cooperation already and the US government has remained tactful as they know it is a domestic police investigation. Whether or not this escalates into a bilateral hiccup all depends on how much the Todds, US right wing politicians and the foreign media push it.  With a small far away country like Singapore, they will shove it hard as they think they can get away with it.