Pouring acid. Check. Vandalise cars. Check. Glue mailboxes. Check. Glue doors to frames. Check. Pig heads, however, are getting a little too expensive, and red paint leaves behind an unpleasant smell for the neighbours. No, you are not hearing what loan sharks are doing to their debtors. This is what is being carried apparently to coerce residents of a potential en bloc application into signing the form.

In order for an en bloc to be successful, 80% of the residents are required to agree to the sale. In Laguna Park, only about 65% have reached this consensus. The rest are either against it or sitting on the fence.

Apparently, to coerce those who are vehemently against it, some lessons must be taught to them. The short list above is probably just the tip of the iceberg. We have not talked about smashed windows, dog droppings being left outside or even helping them to repaint their windows. Yes, paint on the window glass (so that you won’t need a curtain anymore).

When it comes to greed, the monster in us comes out in hordes. It’s unimaginable how each of us are already "loan shark-trained" without even working for one. It got so bad at Laguna Park that residents wonder when someone will just pour acid on their faces. Not enough? Then perhaps burning down the flat should do the trick; since it also helps increase the agreement rate by getting rid of 1 resident.

For those who are sitting on the fence, this is just a prelude of what could happen to them should they disagree to sell.

Eventually, even if the en bloc doesn’t pull through, everything will be different. The environment will become hostile because the sellers may start bearing grudges against the non-sellers, while the non-sellers will start living in fear. It may become so bad that everyone might just want to sell their place and move out. However, by then, the en bloc will no longer be applicable.

And the person behind it? Well, no one has been charged yet, but the chairman of the management committee at Laguna Park was arrested this week on suspicion of gluing shut 2 residents’ apartment doors, although no charges were brought against him, who has been released on police bail. The authorities are also looking into new moves against loan sharks. I wonder if any of the new measures will help in napping those behind these loan-shark-alike activities.

THE chairman of the management committee at Laguna Park, recently hit by a spate of vandalism, was arrested this week on suspicion of gluing shut two residents’ apartment doors.

No charges were brought against Mr Lee Kok Leong, 61, who has since been released on police bail.

He could not be contacted yesterday despite several attempts to do so.

A resident who declined to be named said he was surprised by the news of the arrest as Mr Lee was well respected in the 530-unit East Coast condominium, whose residents are now split over a collective sale.

The resident said of Mr Lee: ‘Although he supported the en-bloc sale, he had claimed he was a victim – he said his mailbox was glued shut.’

The rift over the collective sale has turned ugly in recent months after several instances of vandalism against those opposed to the sale.

In the latest incident on Monday, two residents found their apartment doors stuck to the frames by glue.

Both live in Block E, and are against the sale.

In recent months, cars belonging to residents not keen on the sale were splashed with a corrosive liquid or paint, or scratched; mailboxes have also been found with glue in their keyholes.

Some residents were hit more than once.

One resident who found glue on the door to her apartment this week said she was worried that the culprits have accomplices, and did not feel safe.

To address the fears of residents like her, an extraordinary general meeting will be called in October.

Contacted yesterday, a spokesman for the management committee told The Straits Times that the purpose of the meeting was to find out where the residents stood on having closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed.

‘The big question is whether they would be willing to pay. Everyone wants security, but who is going to pay for it in the end?

‘If they want a CCTV camera outside every unit, it would be very costly,’ he said.

The move was in response to the vandalism in the estate, he added.

The possibility of a collective sale of the units in this seaside estate arose last December.

Residents have until the end of this year to secure an 80 per cent vote to put it up for sale.

So far, 65 per cent have indicated their agreement to it.

Residents have been told by a property valuer that an average unit could be worth more than $2.1 million in a collective sale, and the penthouses, almost $4m.

cheekin@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Singapore/Story/STIStory_272671.html

Article extracted on 28th August 2008

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I noticed that quite a number of people had been searching for “free air asia tickets” and had been directed to my older posts. So, instead of letting people hit the wall when they reach here, I thought I’d just do something nice – post details of the free ticket. =)

So, if you have to know, here’s the details of the email that I got some 2 days ago, which is probably also available here. Heh heh. I wonder why they keep their eDM content online. =P

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Wah! Formatting the email to fit this post wasn’t easy at all, especially when they decide to try funny things with their HTML styles. Anyway, I believe that the tickets are free but the tax isn’t; not to mention whatever visa that you might need for some countries. Do check out, calculate well (single return trip ticket vs. 2 single trip tickets) and enjoy!

And oh, do send some photos to me too! =P

If you think mrbrown’s revelation on changing headlines on the Straits Times website is bad, wait till you see changing content. I got news of some new EZ-Link card that the LTA is rolling out to replace the current ones (no mention of paying new non-refundable deposits) by the end of next year. They were supposed to look for 10,000 public transport commuters to test the new EZ-Link card if the following article is anything to go by:

On trial: New ez-link card

By Christopher Tan, Senior Correspondent

WANTED: 10,000 public transport commuters to ‘test-ride’ a new ez-link card between Aug 29 and Oct 28.

Those who clock at least 100 rides with the new card – which will eventually have several non-transit applications – will receive $20 public transport vouchers.

Volunteers can sign up at TransitLink ticket offices located at most bus interchanges and MRT stations. They will get to exchange their existing ez-link cards for the new Cepas-compliant cards.

Cepas stands for Singapore’s ‘Contactless ePurse Application’ – a secured platform for all non-cash transactions using contactless cards.

Besides train and bus fares, the new ez-link card can be used to pay for electronic road-pricing (ERP), carparks, cabs as well as a meal or merchandise.

Currently, few outlets other than McDonald’s and 7-Eleven offer this payment option.

Public transport commuters and motorists who take buses and trains occasionally should sign up for the trial. This is because the existing ez-link card will be phased out by around end of next year.

There are now about 10 million valid ez-link cards in circulation.

The Land Transport Authority said on Tuesday it hopes commuers taking part in the trial can clock one million rides in total. It said this number would give it ample opportunity to identify and weed out any glitches there might be before the new card is launched by ‘end of this year or early next year."

LTA deputy chief executive Lim Bok Ngam said some $100 million has been invested to roll out the new card. The sum includes modifying the 22,000 card readers on buses and at trains stations, obtaining the new cards and other related costs.

‘We currently have two card platforms in Singapore. One for public transport, and another for cars and other commercial transactions. With the new Cepas-compliant ez-link card, you can make all transactions with just one card," he said.

The move also opens up the market for new card issuers to enter the transit market, which has so far been exclusive to LTA-owned EZ Link Pte Ltd.

The competition, Mr Lim said, would ultimately be good for consumers. For one, the price of the card should come down (both Nets’ Cashcard and the current ez-link card costs $5 today).

In fact, the LTA said there is little to prevent a card issuer from giving the card free of charge – like credit cards.

Mr Lim expects card companies to build in loyalty programmes as well, to attract and retain customers.

As for motorists, they can look forward to using the new ez-link card for ERP payments from early next year, when a new-generation in-vehicle unit is installed in new cars.

Owners of existing vehicles who want the new gadget can have it installed, for $150, excluding GST.

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_272050.html

So the enthusiastic me went down to the nearest TransitLink ticketing office to enquire on how I can embark on this trial. Much to my surprise, the staff at ticketing office #1 doesn’t seem to know about this and claimed that the trialists are pre-selected. Puzzle, I asked the staff at the station control who were equally fazed by this. They did, however, receive a fax presumably from the HQ on this, although they couldn’t say for sure how I can enroll myself into the trial.

Hence, a rather pissed me went down to town to inquire at the ticketing office. Ticketing office #2 told me the same story that the trialists are pre-selected and that they would only know upon topping up of their card. Since I am on Giro, I asked how I could be notified if I was one of them. The answer was less than ideal because "I would have to try my luck on the 29th of August".

I decided to give up and went about doing my business (no, not the toilet, but to get my things done). While doing up my other posts, I decide to read the fine lines in the earlier article and guess what I found?

On trial: New ez-link card

By Christopher Tan, Senior Correspondent

FOUND: 10,000 public transport commuters to ‘test-ride’ a new ez-link card between Aug 29 and Oct 28.

Of these pre-selected users, those who clock at least 100 rides with the new card – which will eventually have several non-transit applications – will receive $20 public transport vouchers.

The new ez-link card is the first stored value card here to comply with the new Cepas standard.

Cepas stands for Singapore’s ‘Contactless ePurse Application’ – a secured platform for all non-cash transactions using contactless cards.

Besides train and bus fares, the new ez-link card can be used to pay for electronic road-pricing (ERP), parking and cab charges, as well as a meal or merchandise.

Currently, few outlets other than McDonald’s and 7-Eleven offer this payment option.

The current ez-link card will be phased out by end of next year. There are now about 10 million valid ez-link cards in circulation.

The Land Transport Authority said on Tuesday that it hopes commuters taking part in the trial can clock one million rides.

It said this number would give it ample opportunity to identify and weed out any glitches there might be before the new card is launched by ‘end of this year or early next year.”

LTA deputy chief executive Lim Bok Ngam said the authority has invested some $100 million to roll out the new card. The sum includes development cost, modifying the 22,000 card readers on buses and at trains stations, getting the new cards manufactured and other related costs.

‘We currently have two card platforms in Singapore. One for public transport, and another for cars and other commercial transactions. With the new Cepas-compliant ez-link card, you can make all transactions with just one card,” he said.

The move also opens up the market for new card issuers to enter the transit market, which has so far been exclusive to LTA-owned EZ Link Pte Ltd.

The competition, Mr Lim said, would ultimately be good for consumers. For one, the price of the card should come down (both Nets’ Cashcard and the current ez-link card costs $5 today).

Observers said there is little to prevent a card issuer from giving the card free of charge – like credit cards.

Mr Lim foresees card companies to build in loyalty programmes as well, so as to attract and retain customers.

As for motorists, they can look forward to using the new ez-link card for ERP payments from early next year, when a new-generation in-vehicle unit is installed in new cars.

Owners of existing vehicles who want the new gadget can have it installed, for $150, excluding GST.

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_272050.html

Hello?! I thought they were looking for 10,000 trialists! How did they manage to change from WANTED to FOUND in just a matter of… a few hours? The article was published no earlier than 4pm and was updated at 7:47pm. I don’t think people actually started swarming the ticketing offices because no one seemed to know anything. However, I guess it’s probably a miscommunication between the LTA and Straits Times.

Of course, I am a little disappointed at not being able to use the new EZ-Link card. Come on, I am a geek and geeks like me like to try out new stuffs; even though the EZ-Link card is nothing new. Come to think of it, there are about 10 million valid EZ-Link cards in circulation and a non-refundable $5 charge had been imposed on EZ-Link cards purchased after EZ Link Pte Ltd (or some previous companies) decided that they will be in the red for a long time should they not doing something about the quick turnover of cards. Now, imagine if all of these 10 million EZ-Link cards have to be replaced, that means a hefty cost of $50 million! Hmm… I wonder who is footing the bill.

So, there could be a few scenarios:

  • 1 to 1 exchange of EZ-Link cards (best scenario, I guess)
  • 1 to 1 exchange of EZ-Link cards for people who have paid the $5 non-refundable deposit; and commuters who bought the earlier free EZ-Link card will have to pay the $5 now (what the?!)
  • everyone just pay another $5 more for the new EZ-Link card, have the remaining value on the old card transferred to the new card and allow the commuter to keep the old card for posterity (?!?!)

Reading from the articles, I guess the Cepas-compliancy is another initiative to standardize all cards into 1. This effectively eliminates the need of the CashCard, which had been issued for as far back as I can remember, but is only good for ERP, carparks and paying library dues. Yes, that’s the only time a student gets to use the CashCard. So… "Hey pa! Look! I have a CashCard just like you do!"

Well, reading further, in-vehicle units for this new card will be install on all new cars. There’s no mention if these new units will support the CashCard. Should the driver wish to install the new units, it will be a hefty $150. Thank goodness they are not phasing out the CashCard instead, but letting it die a natural death. Going by this, the CashCard will probably be around for another 10 more years or so, since recent car owners will now be stuck with the old vehicle unit.

Hmm… the article also says that some $100 million had been invested to roll out the new card – including replacement of card readers in buses and train stations. I wonder how they are going to get their ROI on this investment.

Just for fun, Alice Cheong In Wonderland did a comparison of the 2 articles. I did similar comparison (underline denotes new material in article, strikeout denotes removed material from old article) with comments, but you should still drop by to see how she too, was affected by the unwarranted error in the papers. So much for consistency.

On trial: New ez-link card

By Christopher Tan, Senior Correspondent

FOUND:WANTED: 10,000 public transport commuters to ‘test-ride’ a new ez-link card between Aug 29 and Oct 28.

What? I thought it was WANTED? Since when did it become FOUND? (Ans: When they decided so)

Of these pre-selected users, thoseThose who clock at least 100 rides with the new card – which will eventually have several non-transit applications – will receive $20 public transport vouchers.

Since when did pre-selected users come in? (Ans: When they decided so too)

The new ez-link card is the first stored value card here to comply with the new Cepas standard.Volunteers can sign up at TransitLink ticket offices located at most bus interchanges and MRT stations. They will get to exchange their existing ez-link cards for the new Cepas-compliant cards.

See? I knew I wasn’t dreaming when I thought they were looking for volunteers! In fact, they were saying that volunteers can sign up at TransitLink ticket offices!

Cepas stands for Singapore’s ‘Contactless ePurse Application’ – a secured platform for all non-cash transactions using contactless cards.

Besides train and bus fares, the new ez-link card can be used to pay for electronic road-pricing (ERP), parking and cab charges,carparks, cabs as well as a meal or merchandise.

Currently, few outlets other than McDonald’s and 7-Eleven offer this payment option.

The currentPublic transport commuters and motorists who take buses and trains occasionally should sign up for the trial. This is because the existing ez-link card will be phased out by around end of next year.

Yup. We no longer need to sign up for the trial because it’s only for pre-selected commuters.

There are now about 10 million valid ez-link cards in circulation.

The Land Transport Authority said on Tuesday that it hopes commuterscommuers taking part in the trial can clock one million rides.

in total. It said this number would give it ample opportunity to identify and weed out any glitches there might be before the new card is launched by ‘end of this year or early next year.”year."

LTA deputy chief executive Lim Bok Ngam said the authority has invested some $100 million has been invested to roll out the new card. The sum includes development cost, modifying the 22,000 card readers on buses and at trains stations, gettingobtaining the new cards manufactured and other related costs.

Heh. Claiming credit on where the $100 million come from; and not to forget adding in the development cost into perspective.

‘We currently have two card platforms in Singapore. One for public transport, and another for cars and other commercial transactions. With the new Cepas-compliant ez-link card, you can make all transactions with just one card,”card," he said.

The move also opens up the market for new card issuers to enter the transit market, which has so far been exclusive to LTA-owned EZ Link Pte Ltd.

The competition, Mr Lim said, would ultimately be good for consumers. For one, the price of the card should come down (both Nets’ Cashcard and the current ez-link card costs $5 today).

ObserversIn fact, the LTA said there is little to prevent a card issuer from giving the card free of charge – like credit cards.

Observers? Not LTA? Sure?

Mr Lim foreseesexpects card companies to build in loyalty programmes as well, so as to attract and retain customers.

Expect (obtained from dictionary.com):

1. To look forward to the probable occurrence or appearance of: expecting a telephone call; expects rain on Sunday.

2. To consider likely or certain: expect to see them soon.

3. To consider reasonable or due: We expect an apology.

4. To consider obligatory; require: The school expects its pupils to be on time.

5. Informal To presume; suppose. (I think this is not what they want people to think it is)

Foresee (obtained from dictionary.com):

–verb (used with object)

1. to have prescience of; to know in advance; foreknow.

2. to see beforehand.

–verb (used without object)

3. to exercise foresight. (I think this is the more important definition they were thinking of)

As for motorists, they can look forward to using the new ez-link card for ERP payments from early next year, when a new-generation in-vehicle unit is installed in new cars.

Owners of existing vehicles who want the new gadget can have it installed, for $150, excluding GST.

See? I knew I wasn’t dreaming when I was queuing up at the TransitLink ticket office, perspiring and all…

Article extracted on 26th August 2008

3 Norwegian brothers, born in Singapore left Singapore at the age of 5, 3 and 2 and leaved in Norway for 10 years before returning here, presumably to study for their O levels before leaving for Norway again. Mindef had apparently sent them enlistment letters, which were perpetually ignored as they had already decide to stay on in Norway to be citizens there. All 3 served in the Norwegian army with intention not to come back to Singapore (as citizens). In fact, 2 of them are already Norwegian army regulars while the 3rd is a postman. For them to come back to Singapore to serve in the SAF would be treason.

While I am no position to question Mindef’s decisions, what raised my eyebrows is this statement on how Singapore does not recognise dual citizenship and therefore the "able-bodied male Singapore citizens" would then have to serve National Service. It’s almost like… the government closes both eyes shut and shaking the head vigorously and saying "no, no, no, I don’t recognise your dual citizenship so no count!"

The exceptions to this (application for exemption from NS) applies only to those who emigrate at a very young age, which is not specified by Mindef; and that they should not have enjoyed the privilege of Singapore citizenship. Previous sources have found the magic number to be 11 from the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Consular page. However, the page has since been removed and no mention of the renunciation of the Singapore citizenship has been made.

Searching for any cached copy of that had been tedious, since most sources citing the magic number usually leads back to forums. However, I managed to find a remote link in the US Embassy website that had been updated on 15th May 2008, stating that:

… Singapore does not recognize dual nationality beyond the age of 21, and it strictly enforces universal national service (NS) for all male citizens and permanent residents. Male U.S. citizens who automatically acquired Singaporean citizenship and continue to reside in Singapore are liable for Singapore national service once they reach the age of 18. Travel abroad of Singaporean males may require Singapore Government approval as they approach national service age and may be restricted when they reach sixteen-and-a-half years of age. Under Singaporean law, an individual who acquires Singaporean citizenship at birth retains that status even after acquiring the citizenship of another country, including U.S. citizenship.

Males may renounce Singaporean citizenship only after having completed at least two years of national service. U.S. citizens are subject to this law. Dual nationals, Singapore Permanent Residents, and their parents should contact the Ministry of Defense in Singapore to determine if there will be a national service obligation. For additional information, please see the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site for our dual nationality flyer, and contact the Ministry of Defense Central Manpower Base (tel. 65-6373-3127), or visit http://www.ns.sg/nsPortal/appmanager/nsp/default?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=nsPortal_NSREG_ABT&nsp_community=ENLIST.

National-service-liable males who migrated from Singapore before age 11 and have not enjoyed significant socio-economic benefits of citizenship (e.g., applied for a Singapore identity card or studied in Singapore beyond the age of 11) are allowed to renounce their Singapore citizenship, but not before they turn 21. Until then, they are required to register for national service with Central Manpower Base and apply for a deferment. After turning 21, they are then eligible to renounce their Singapore citizenship and, if successful will not be required to serve NS and may continue to make short social visits to Singapore.

Forums who have cited similar phrases can be found here, here and from a commenter here. It was certainly tough finding the sources but it was worth it. What completes the picture would be an official government document. Even then, they can still push it aside as being outdated.

Of course, since I am not affected by national service, it would probably not matter much to me. However, the part that troubles me is on how the Singapore government can choose not to accept the renunciation of citizenship (although the context here is for male citizens who have yet to serve their national service). Does it mean that, should I one day decide to take up a citizenship elsewhere and migrate, the Singapore government can choose not to let me renounce my citizenship, and more importantly, not allow me to withdraw my CPF balance? Since my last post about giving up citizenship in Singapore, many have emailed me to tell me that they have had relatives/friends whose CPF money is still stuck.

If this urban legend is anything to go by, then perhaps it is indeed scary on how we will not be able to move to a new place to start life all over. Loosely translated, I can use the CPF to buy houses in Singapore, but there’s no way I can use my CPF here to buy a house over there. In short, unless I am cash-loaded, it’s probably going to be tough for me to move over even after I have gained citizenship in a new country. This does give the phrase "starting a new life from scratch" a whole new meaning.

As for the 3 Norwegians, the mistake they have committed is perhaps to return to Singapore to do their O levels. Unless they entered on Norwegian passports (and either applying some special visa of sorts or going in and out of Singapore every 30 days or so), they would have deemed to have enjoyed socio-economic benefits of citizenship in Singapore should they have used their Singapore passport. There is, however, not enough information in the article on that, although I would presume that their Singapore passports (if any, in the first place) would have expired in the 10 years that they were overseas; unless of course, they renewed their Singapore passports (again, assuming that they still had it) in the Singapore Embassy in Norway; if this was even possible back then.

What’s pressing now though, is the clarification of the government’s stance on this. I figured that this information is hidden on purpose so as to prevent foreigners residing in Singapore to misuse the benefits of the Singapore citizenship; and it will remain as it is for as long as the Singapore government deemed it necessary. The Norwegians’ situation may not be the first, but it will definitely not be the last as more foreigners flood Singapore for work and settling down. What they perhaps do not want, is for their children to go through national service for a country that they are not sure of staying in the long run; since I already have friends (combination of 1 Singaporean parent and a non-Singapore parent) who are planning to ship their children out of Singapore before 11 years of age.

Just for the sake of completeness, the 3 brothers could have gotten Norwegian citizenship by birth, citing from the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration:

Norwegian citizenship by birth

A child does not become a Norwegian citizen automatically, even if he/she is born in Norway. Different rules apply for the citizenship for children, depending on when the child was born.

Children born after August 31st 2006

According to the current law, a child with a Norwegian mother or father acquires Norwegian citizenship by birth. This applies no matter if the child is born in Norway or abroad, and no matter if the parents were married or not.

Children born before September 1st 2006

Children born before September 1st 2006, acquired Norwegian citizenship by birth if:

  • The mother was Norwegian
  • The father was Norwegian and the parents were married, or
  • The father was dead, but he was a Norwegian citizen and married with the mother of the child at the time he died.

Dual nationality

Whether a child whose father or mother is a foreign national also acquires his or her nationality at birth depends on the legislation of the country in question. Queries in this connection must be addressed to the relevant authorities of the country or its diplomatic mission (Embassy, High Commissioner,  Consulate General) in Norway or abroad.

Norwegian law accepts dual nationality where it is the consequence of a child’s acquisition at birth of its parent’s nationality. See also "Dual nationality"

Last updated: 11.06.2007
Published: 11.06.2007

This information, however, would not have been of much use since the Singapore government seems to tolerate dual citizenship before the person reaches the age of 21, at which, he or she would have to decide which country he or she would like to be a citizen of.

Inset:

NS regulations

WHO NEEDS TO DO NS

  • All able-bodied male Singapore citizens.
  • Those holding concurrent citizenship in Singapore and one other country, because Singapore does not recognise dual citizenship.

EXCEPTIONS

  • Those who emigrate at a very young age – the exact age is not specified by Mindef – with their families and have thus not enjoyed the privilege of Singapore citizenship. Such persons can apply to renounce their Singapore citizenship without serving NS.

PENALTIES FOR NOT SERVING NS

  • On conviction, NS defaulters are liable to be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to $10,000. The exact sentence will be determined by the courts.
  • Defaulters will also have to serve NS if they are still liable for it.

Article:

Give up citizenship? Brothers must do NS first Norwegian trio’s bids rejected.

Only those who haven’t enjoyed privileges of citizenship exempted, says Mindef

By Amelia Tan

THREE brothers, born to a Norwegian father and Singaporean mother, want to give up their Singapore citizenship.

But the Ministry of Defence has said no. Not until they do their national service.

The Bugge brothers – Thorbjoern, 33; Ingvar, 31; and Frode, 30 – left Singapore when each turned 18 and have tried and failed several times for over a decade to renounce their Singapore citizenships.

They want to renounce their citizenship so they will be free to visit their parents – Mr O.M. Bugge, 65, and his wife Margaret, 55 – who still live here.

They cannot return here because they have been classified as NS defaulters and risk arrest on arrival.

They were all born here and are considered Singapore citizens. But they also hold Norwegian citizenships, like their father.

They first left Singapore when they were five, three and two years old respectively, and lived in Norway for 10 years before returning here.

But each left Singapore after their O levels, and just before they could be called up for national service.

Mindef sent them NS enlistment letters, but in turn, each brother ignored the call-up. Instead, they enlisted in the Norwegian armed forces for a 19-month national service term.

All three decided to renounce their Singapore citizenship when they turned 21, but Mindef rejected their initial bids to do so.

They tried several more times over the years, writing to the ministry, then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong and the late former president Ong Teng Cheong to explain their case.

Their parents have also met staff from Mindef.

But all their attempts have failed.

When contacted, Mindef’s director of public affairs, Colonel Darius Lim, said: ‘Only persons who have emigrated at a very young age together with their families, and who have not enjoyed the privileges of Singapore citizenship, will be allowed to renounce their Singapore citizenships without serving national service.’

He said the three men are Singapore citizens and are required to fulfil their NS obligations. Their requests to renounce their Singapore citizenships can be considered only upon completion of full-time NS.

The brothers said they were disappointed by Mindef’s position.

When asked, they maintained that they did not leave Singapore to avoid NS. They preferred to be in Norway, they said, and their enlistment there showed they were not shirkers of NS, they said.

Mr Frode Bugge is a career soldier with the Norwegian army and has seen action in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Brother Thorbjoern is also a career soldier, while Ingvar is a postman.

For now, they will have to continue meeting their parents in Malaysia. Their mother spends six months in Norway each year.

Their father, a marine consultant, said he cannot afford to spend extended periods in Norway because his business is based in Singapore. He tries to visit his sons once a year.

He said: ‘My sons’ cases are about a choice of citizenship, and not a case of national service…They would like to get this matter cleared up and be able to travel to Singapore for a visit like any other Norwegian.’

He is hoping that the law will be changed.

‘My sons’ situations may seem unique now. But as more foreigners marry Singaporeans, there will be more of these cases,’ he added.

NS defaulters can be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to $10,000 if convicted.

ameltan@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Singapore/Story/STIStory_271584.html

Article extracted on 26th August 2008

The ban on demonstrations have been lifted and now you are free to speak your will, but only at the Speakers’ Corner. You can speak about almost everything except issues on races and religion and you no longer have to report to the nearer police post to register with your NRIC. In fact, if you wish to speak, all you have to do is to register online, although the URL isn’t explicitly given. It should, however, be under the Online Services on the main page of the NParks website.

Loud hailers are also permitted at the Speakers’ Corner, although there’s a time restriction on the actual usage. It was also mentioned that the Speakers’ Corner, located at Hong Lim Park, will be patrolled by any other police officer just like any other parks. There will not be special attention given to the speakers at the park although, after some prior knowledge, I am not sure if plain clothes police officers will be recording everything down on video so that they can determine if there was any violence, or if there were any racists or anti-religious statements made.

Ever since the Speakers’ Corner was opened up for people to speak in 2001, it had been under utilized because the process to register for it was deemed too "big-brother-ish". Not only did potential speakers need to apply at the nearby police post, but they were banned from using microphones and loud hailers. 8 years down the road, the government probably decided to be more relaxed because they probably felt that there was an increasing pressure for the people to speak up.

Well, I am not sure how things will turn out, but I am quite sure that the response to this will still be a little lukewarm. Let me also end off this post by presenting one of the short videos (actually more of audio) that I found from You Tube. This is definitely something that will not be allowed at the Speakers’ Corner, so don’t even think about trying it.

Article:

Ban on outdoor demos eased from Monday

Groups can gather at Speakers’ Corner, but race and religion are out

By Sue-Ann Chia , POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT

SINGAPORE’S political liberalisation takes a small step forward with outdoor demonstrations being permitted at Speakers’ Corner from Monday.

Its evolution into a protest park comes eight years after the site at Hong Lim was first designated a national soapbox.

Releasing details yesterday, officers from the Police and the National Parks Board (NParks) held out the promise of less regulation and monitoring.

For a start, NParks will take over the administration of the venue from the Police. Demonstrators need not pre-apply at the Kreta Ayer Police Post as is the case now for speakers. They need only to register online at the NParks website, similar to applying for barbecue pits in public parks. This can be done from Saturday.

While they need to state the topic of their demonstration, NParks chief operating officer Leong Chee Chiew gave the assurance that there would be no prior screening. ‘We are not going to go through and screen…what you say and want to speak on,’ he said.

The liberalisation however comes with caveats: Race and religion issues are out of bounds, as are lewd or violent visuals.

Foreigners will be barred from organising or participating in protests, unless they have obtained a permit from the police in advance. They can however be passive spectators.

The current rule limiting activities at the park from 7am to 7pm will be lifted; demonstrations can be held round the clock. Loudhailers, however, will be allowed only from 9am to 10.30pm.

There will be no limit on the number of demonstrations on any one day, as long as they are contained within the park which can hold between 3,000 and 4,000 people.

This means two opposing groups could face off at the park. ‘People will need to learn to co-exist,’ said Dr Leong. ‘If the authorities need to decide, it defeats the purpose of having a more open system.’

Can demonstrators burn effigies of political leaders? His reply: ‘We are not pre-judging anything. Just please, in burning the effigies, don’t burn down our trees and shrubs.’

The Police will patrol the park in the same way they do any other area, but will take a hands-off approach.

‘There will be no conscious monitoring,’ said Mr Wong Hong Kuan, the Police Force’s director of operations. It will investigate only if it receives public complaints.

He said that since Speakers’ Corner was set up in 2000, there have been no major law and order issues there.

So far, there have been 2,144 registrations and 508 occasions of people speaking.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first broke the news of the impending relaxation in his National Day Rally address two Sundays ago.

Yesterday, reactions to the news ranged from a lackadaisical ‘It’s no big deal’ to doubt that Singaporeans were ready for demonstrations, even in a controlled environment.

‘Maybe we need to go through a course, Public Demonstration 101,’ said Mr Jolovan Wham, executive director of the maid welfare advocacy group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).

Think Centre president Sinapan Samydorai said: ‘It’s good to see Singapore opening up, even if people will remain sceptical about what they see as small changes.’

sueann@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Prime%2BNews/Story/STIStory_271842.html

Article extracted on 26th August 2008

Sexing up the game

Singapore August 23rd, 2008

Well, sex does sell, doesn’t it? Adding sex to any “thing” boring will probably help liven thinigs up a little, although I am not sure if such a move actually defeats the purpose of the “thing” in the first place.

There had been lament that some sports are not appealing enough and the organizers are thinking of adding more spice to it. Sports like table tennis has been identified as one such event. Since Maria Sharapova has already been sporting one of the sexiest sportswear and it, perhaps, unintentionally gained more media attention (as well as the spectators’), the people at the table tennis associations are probably thinking of implementing that strategy in table tennis.

So, instead of the usual loose top and baggy shorts, you can probably look forward to nice sports dress with a flare towards the end, or a short A-line skirt with a fitting top. Don’t forget to dress up the coach and the umpire too! Now, that will really bring the attention of all the guys.

As for the men’s game, perhaps tight fitting lycra bicycle pants will also help – since… well, it’s supposed not to restrict the movement of cyclists, so I figured that it’d be good for the players and ice cream for the female spectators. =P

Sexing up table-tennis  

BEIJING – MARIA Sharapova’s dresses may never make an appearance, nor the Williams sisters’ bling, but table tennis is at least trying to sex up its sport.

Some women paddlers gave a nod of approval this week to suggestions from a senior governing body official to wear skirts during matches to make their game more stylish in an attempt to pull in the crowds.

‘We are trying to push the players to use skirts and also nicer shirts, not the shirts that are made for men, but ones with more curves’, International Table Tennis Federation vice-president Claude Bergeret said.

With loose-fitting shorts and baggy shirts the usual attire, table tennis, mostly played in bland gymnasiums around the world, has never had the glamour of women’s tennis nor the sex appeal of beach volleyball.

Wang Chen of the United States, who used to play for China before moving to New York eight years ago, said some players were already moving to skirts.

‘Some players are already wearing skirts, I think it’s a good idea, the game (already) looks more beautiful than before’, said Wang.

‘I think women should wear dresses like tennis players’, the 34-year-old added. ‘I think our outfits are so boring, not sexy’. Wang said sexing up the uniforms would draw the crowds.

Japan’s Ai Fukuhara is one player already taking the initiative, opting for a ‘skort’ – a tight skirt with cycling shorts underneath – for her round of 16 match on Thursday against China’s Zhang Yining, who wore black shorts and shirt with a striking yellow dragon printed on the front.

Plans to sex-up the image of a sport, which is an obsession in Asia but associated with damp, community halls and youth clubs in the west, are nothing new.

At the 2007 Women’s World Cup in Chengdu, a range of sleek table tennis dresses were shown off with top fashion designer Lu Kun called in to handle the design.

‘Although the skirts are just a small part of the changes, they may spark a revolution by changing the image of table tennis’, explained Steve Daiton, the Director of the ITTF Asia Office.

‘It might be a revolution if women paddlers wear skirts during games just like tennis and badminton players, which will definitely help win back the lost interest in the game’. Not all fans are supportive of the idea.

‘Don’t get me wrong – as a healthy red-blooded male I’m all in favour of table tennis women wearing more attractive clothes’, wrote one blogger on a table tennis fan website.

‘But I’m not in favour of them being pushed or coerced into wearing outfits they aren’t comfortable to play in. And how about the men? Why not bring in compulsory lycra bike pants instead of the baggy shorts many men wear currently?’

‘I’m sure our female audience would appreciate it. And don’t forget the umpires and referees – a little black and white striped skintight number with sequins would surely boost ratings.’ — AFP  

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Sport/Story/STIStory_270760.html?vgnmr=1

Article extracted on 23rd August 2008

The F1 craze is getting nearer by the day and my friends have started to collect their F1 passes. I didn’t know that the cheapest non-seat, walk-about ticket costs only S$68 and it’s already out of stock. Darn. Now I can only droll from afar. I am not sure if you have been to any of these Grand Prix races, but it’s usually very noisy… wrong, deafening, and you walk out feeling no better than having just exited from a pub playing trash music. Oh well… but I must say that the passes look really nice – with 1 pass for each day. It comes with nice lanyards too! =)

Anyway, it seems like everyone is cashing in on the F1 cow. I have just gotten my decorative tabs (sort of like a folio with some stamps in it) from Sing Post at a whooping S$35! I must say that the presentation was quite nice, but still… I shouldn’t be complaining right? Since I willingly wanted to collect it. Yeah. It’s just the craze.

Of course, that’s not the only cow. Models of F1 racing cars have been put on display everywhere. Vivocity, for one, has a life sized model right at the lobby, attracting much attention and creating a magnetic effect on the cameras on many passerbys. That’s not all, they even have a life sized game station for people to pit their skills against each other. Best Denki, however, has taken a step further by creating an entire game system – PS3, steering wheels and pedal, seat and LCD TV and selling it for a whopping S$11,999! That’s perhaps just a little too much for me to stomach. I might just settle for the steering wheels and pedal for S$598. Of course, PS3 not included.

As the date draws nearer to the actual race on 26 September 2008, I am sure more promotional stunts will be in town. I, however, will not be able to bask in the nosiness of the F1 race because I will probably be somewhere in the air by then. Yes, thank goodness I didn’t get myself a ticket since I am not sure if it’s totally transferable. If you are lucky enough to be attending it, do send some pictures to me, ya? =)

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I was shocked beyond words reading the letter by Yeh Siang Hui in the ST Forums. In particular, I was put off by his declaration that "a pregnancy in the workplace is nothing but bad news". With narrow-minded people like him, I wonder how many of his female colleagues will suffer should he become their superior one day.

As I read through the letter, I realised too that everything that he mentioned seemed to go against not just government efforts to encourage higher birth rates, but also throwing the call for more grace to the dustbin. It is also people like him who will probably and can only rule with an iron fist; not that there’s anything wrong, but I feel that this impairs creativity at work and spells a mundane work life.

Ever wonder why people enjoy working at Google?

Maternity leave not a perk

I REFER to Tuesday’s letters, ‘Working mums penalised in other ways’ by Ms Mabel Tan and ‘Pregnant employee bullied by manager, now stay-home mum’ by Ms Swee Bee Lan.

Their letters suggest they expect employers to reward pregnant employees in the same measure as other employees, even though a pregnant employee who takes maternity leave is (other factors being equal) inevitably less productive than her single or non-pregnant colleague in a similar position in the company.

This would be unfair, not only to the employer, but also to other employees who have to cover the duties of their pregnant colleague.

Consider this: Two employees each have 120 units of work to complete in a year. One becomes pregnant and goes on maternity leave, completing only 90 units. The other has to cover her duties, thus completing her own 120 units, as well as the 30 units of her pregnant colleague – a total of 150 units.

In such circumstances, it is right and legitimate for an employer to reward the worker who has been more productive, more than the worker who has been on maternity leave, whether by a bigger year-end bonus, better promotion prospects or more days of leave.

The rationale is simple. The measure of reward and recognition an employee receives is commensurate with the level of her contribution. An employee who chooses to become pregnant and take maternity leave chooses to compromise her level of accountability to her employer.

In the same way, if I cover the duties of a pregnant colleague over and above fulfilling my own duties, I rightly expect to be recognised by my employer.

There is nothing discriminatory in an employer rewarding one employee over another on the basis of different performance levels, regardless of the reason for the disparity in productivity. Ms Tan and Ms Swee’s labelling of such corporate practices as acts of discrimination reeks of petulant resentment.

A pregnant worker surely cannot expect her employer or colleagues to regard her pregnancy with the same joy and excitement as her family or friends – as, after all, a pregnancy in the workplace is nothing but bad news.

In respect of colleagues, their workload will increase (not necessarily with any assurance of extra reward). In respect of the employer, the pregnant worker not only does not contribute to the company during her maternity leave, but she actually causes loss to the company as she continues to draw pay for zero productivity during that period.

It is therefore perfectly understandable – and human – for an employer or a colleague to exhibit signs of dissatisfaction.

Ms Tan and Ms Swee should therefore think twice before labelling the less-than-enthusiastic response to their pregnancies as ‘discriminatory’.

Yeh Siang Hui

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/ST%2BForum/Story/STIStory_267806.html

And oh, if I were you, I’d be careful on what I say about him:

NUS- Faculty of Law – Alumni Directory

Notices

The Law Society of Singapore (no longer available)

Article extracted on 18th August 2008

Yes, the Singapore team has finally emerged as runner-ups in the table tennis team women event in Beijing 2008 Olympics. Yesterday, Singapore faced World No. 1 team China in a match that saw the latter winning 3-0. Feng took an unexpected lead in the beginning but that was about as close as we could in our bid for the gold medal. Soon after, Wang trashed Feng, followed by Li Jiawei, who was also trashed by Zhang Yining. Finally, in the first doubles, Singapore lost, but not without giving a good fight. If you have missed the games last night, do check out the live blogging done yesterday. Indeed, it was one of the most exciting matches that I have ever watched as I held my breath every time a game starts.

We were also commenting on how Feng’s performance was unexpected and speculating if this would be Li Jiawei’s last game professionally. Everyone will most probably remember Feng as the life saver for a silver medal in the last singles match against South Korea and how Li Jiawei seemed to have fretted. However, I still think the women’s table tennis team have done an excellent job and that we should all be proud of them. One thing I felt strongly thought, Feng is Singapore’s gain and China’s loss.

Silver, but they’re our Golden Girls

Much to be proud of even though Singapore lost to juggernaut China

By Marc Lim, Sports Correspondent

BEIJING: The medals were silver, but the mood felt like pure gold.

Singapore’s women table tennis players finished their Beijing adventure as runners-up to the world’s most formidable team from China.

In Beijing and across Singapore, the country’s first Olympic medal in almost half a century was reason to cheer. And how they roared.

Li Jiawei, Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei were all smiles at the end of their 92-minute battle. They lost 3-0, but this proved the longest game the Chinese champions had fought in the tournament.

All around them, from team officials to Singaporeans in the stands of the Peking University Gymnasium, there were only proud faces, Singapore flags raised high, and loud cheers.

Poignantly, it was Mr Ng Ser Miang, the International Olympic Committee executive board member from Singapore, who presented the medals to the silver medallists and gave each of them a hug of congratulations.

He said afterwards: ‘At the Athens Games, Jiawei came so close to winning a medal. Winning it now makes today’s medal all the sweeter.’

Beijing-born Li said: ‘I am very excited to win the silver medal. It is my way of repaying Singapore for having confidence in me and grooming me all these years.

‘I’m really happy and feel like crying.’

She had wept after last Friday’s epic 3-2 semi-final win over South Korea. That battle lasted almost four hours and earned the Singapore trio their date with China last night.

But beating world champions China in front of 5,000 boisterous fans – including Chinese President Hu Jintao – was always going to be a tall order.

Not to mention that Singapore had not beaten China in the team event in two previous encounters, losing 0-3 and 1-3 in the Asian and World Championships.

Feng Tianwei, the heroine in the battle against South Korea, gave Singapore an unexpected lead, taking the first game 11-9 against 2000 Olympic singles champion Wang Nan.

But that was about the closest Singapore came to winning on a night when China showed why they are the undisputed champions of the game.

Cheered on by the flag-waving home crowd, Wang recovered to win 11-3, 11-8, 11-6 and take the first game.

Li, who had suffered a heartbreaking bronze-medal loss at the 2004 Athens Olympics, also took the first game against world No. 1 Zhang Yining.

But after the 9-11 loss, Zhang – a former teammate of Li’s at Beijing Shichahai Sports School in the 1990s – stormed back 11-3, 11-4, 11-7.

Two games up and with the atmosphere becoming almost carnival-like in the arena, it was left to Zhang and world No. 2 Guo Yue to seal China’s victory.

They made light work of Singapore’s Li and Wang Yuegu, winning 11-8, 11-5, 11-6.

Wang Nan confessed afterwards that nerves had affected her performance.

She said: ‘As table tennis is China’s national sport, everyone expects China to win the gold. I was very nervous, but as soon as I got involved in the match, I shook off the nerves.’

Singapore had expected Feng to face Zhang in the opener and then for Li to take on Wang Nan in the second game.

Both Feng and Li had beaten Zhang and Wang Nan respectively in matches earlier this year.

But a tweak to China’s usual line-up wrecked Singapore’s plans.

Still, Singapore coach Liu Guodong maintained that his team played to their best, and went as far as to rate them 100/100.

‘It’s impossible to beat China. We prepared for the other teams. We met opponents that we did not want to meet, like South Korea, but we managed to beat them,’ he said.

‘China are the best, but among all the other countries, we are the best.

‘Our mission was to deliver a medal and we won the silver. We can be very proud of that.’

The pocket of Singapore fans at the final yesterday agreed.

Said 29-year-old Neo Yong Aik, a Singaporean working in Beijing who was there with two friends: ‘It would have been nice if they had won, but just being here today is special.

‘To see the Singapore flag being raised at the Olympics, it is truly historic.’

Singapore National Olympic Committee president and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean called the team’s effort ‘tremendous’.

President S R Nathan, who is in Henan, sent his congratulations too, saying: ‘In the finals, our team met a formidable team with a world reputation; they did their best and therefore have no reason to be disheartened.

‘In my eyes, they remain proud.’

marclim@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Prime%2BNews/Story/STIStory_269285.html

Article extracted on 18th August 2008