Come To PAPA

It has been a year since I received the following letter. My initial reaction was yao mo gao chor ah? Why can’t the library manage its own membership? Why must the PA get involved?

What next? Knowing Singaporeans, they would obediently change their religions if there’s only one that offers goodies. Well, it’s been a year and I’ve almost forgotten all about it. Then, the other day, while borrowing books with the NLB mobile app, I discovered that my quota for library materials had dropped from 24 to 16.

It really happened. I approached the librarian at Tampines Regional Library for assistance. I told her I do not want a PAssion card and she very helpfully “escalated” my enquiry to explore the alternatives. I was hopeful at first, but unfortunately, they made sure guys like me will have no chance at all. Through this “partnership”, they had already made sure that the library’s door to premium membership was completely shut. In other words, there is no way the library can offer you premium membership if you don’t get a PAssion card.

In another country, this would be horrifying. But in Singapore, we are used to being herded and shunted around. The authorities can close the door in one department to force you through the door of another unrelated department also under their control. Yes, everything and anything also can control. What can you do? The typical Singaporean would just suck his thumb and join PA.

I was told it’s free, but it offers no enticement to me simply because the principle is not right. Not being the typical Singaporean and being a member of the ideological minority to boot, I’m troubled thinking that if private companies try to do the same, they get accused of being anti competition. My point of contention can be summed up thus:

图书馆的事应由图书馆来管。关你人协屁事

What are my plans? Well, my younger son still doesn’t have a library account. I didn’t set it up for him because he could borrow books using my account which used to have a 24 item quota. Once his account is set up, he’ll be able to borrow 16 items and together, we’ll be able to borrow 32 items. As for my elder son, he already has an account and he too can borrow 16 items, only that he had been using my account. I figured that if we borrowed separately, we would have a collective quota of 48 items.

Let’s not celebrate so soon. They may have some other trick up their sleeves to close yet another door. Perhaps by then, we won’t be able to use out ICs or mobile apps to borrow library books. Only the PAssion card works.

© Chan Joon Yee


New Book!

red dot rants

Fitness Without Gyms & Diets

False Positives Also Not Unexpected?

Once upon a time, there was a class of medical students going on their ward rounds at a local hospital. The topic to be covered that day was “heart murmurs”. Among them was student A, who had always been vying for the top spot in class. Their mentor brought them to a patient in the ward and then asked the students to take turns to listen to the patient’s heart.

“Did you hear any abnormal heart sounds?” asked the mentor.

The students kept their stethoscopes and shook their heads. Student A being student A broke their silence and declared that he had heard some murmurs – very soft, but detectable to A students like him. He then went on to diagnose the patients’ heart condition and suggest suitable treatment regimes.

As the rest of the class was feeling embarrassed by how much student A knew and how little they knew, their mentor raised his hand to stop student A from going further.

“Actually, for a start, I just wanted you to listen to what a normal heart sounds like.”

Fast forward 35 years to the present. The Royal Caribbean cruise ship Quantum of the Seas left Singapore on 7 December 2020 for a 4-day round trip as part of a “safe cruising” scheme announced by Singapore Tourism Board in October.

The cruise company said it had turned the ship around after one guest tested positive for coronavirus after checking in with the on-board medical team. There were 1,680 guests and 1,448 crew members on board. The passengers have all been tested and cleared with Covid-19 tests before boarding. They would also need to under another test to clear them after disembarking. Additional measures include having the ships run at half their usual capacity for safe distancing purposes.

On 9 December 2020, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) said in an update that the 83-year-old who tested positive onboard had previously undergone a mandatory Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction test as part of onboard protocols and the result was negative. The ship, Quantum of the Seas, returned to Singapore at 8am also on the 9th. The remaining passengers and crew were required to remain on board, in their rooms, until contact tracing was completed.

“They will all undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing before leaving the terminal, as per the regular post-arrival protocols. In the meantime, they are being given regular updates and meals are provided directly to their rooms.”

STB and Royal Caribbean stressed that the passenger was immediately isolated and all his close contacts had tested negative. All onboard leisure activities also stopped immediately and passengers were asked to stay in their cabins. Those identified as contacts of the patient would be placed on quarantine or health surveillance.

As a precaution, all other individuals on the cruise were advised to monitor their health for two weeks from disembarkation and to undergo a swab test at the end of that period. The cost of the tests at a government swab site would be borne by MOH. When questioned by the media, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing was nonchalant and somewhat discursive.

Acting MCYS Minister Chan Chun Sing at Sri Srinivasa Permula Temple, Feb 7, 2012

“When we embarked on this pilot, I think we never thought that such things will never happen. We have always made the assumption that someday, something may happen.”

Using a double negative deemphasises the issue. Imagine if you say that you knew all along that such things will happen.

“That’s why it’s important for us to have a protocol to make sure that if something like that happens, we are able to contact trace quickly, isolate the cases necessary, and for the rest of the activities to continue.”

“Today is an example of how we have detected that case. So this is not unexpected. In fact, precisely because we were concerned that such things may happen, we have put in place the necessary protocols.”

“As we recover from the pandemic, as we resume our economic activities, we work on the basis of a risk management strategy, rather than risk elimination strategy. Because the risk elimination strategy, zero risk means not to do anything. And that would not be compatible with our overall strategy.”

Look, I don’t think we should find fault with the folks who planned this thing. They had all the precautions in place. As one netizen put it, it’s theoretically safer to be on the cruise than to visit a crowded shopping mall where nobody has been tested. So what went wrong on that cruise? Did the virus fool everyone in the pre-trip Covid tests and only reared its ugly head during the cruise? The test results didn’t agree. That is the point which our minister should have addressed – a possible (perhaps even certain) lapse in the screening process.

Those who had to be quarantined were quarantined. There were rumours that the virus might know how to avoid detection. Subsequently, more tests were conducted on the unfortunate individual. Then on 10 December 2020, the Ministry of Health (MOH) stated in a press release that a final confirmatory test conducted by the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) on the same day confirmed that man does not have Covid-19 infection.

According to MOH:

“The sample taken from the individual this morning came back negative for the virus. This follows two Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests conducted yesterday by NPHL, one on a re-test of his original sample, and the other on a fresh sample taken yesterday, which had also come back negative.”

MOH has therefore rescinded the Quarantine Orders of his close contacts, who had earlier been placed on such orders as a precautionary measure while investigations were ongoing. The Ministry also announced that it will support the laboratory on board the Quantum of the Seas in a review of its testing processes.

As expected with near certainty (instead of “not unexpected”) there had indeed been a lapse in the testing, not the pre-trip screening but the test conducted onboard the ship which resulted in a false positive. If Minister Chan had earlier apologised for the apparent lapse in the testing process (since 2 sets of results contradicted each other), it would have been easy for us to forgive and move on. So are false positives also not unexpected? I think Student A shouldn’t have been allowed to take his exams.

© Chan Joon Yee


New Book!

red dot rants

Fitness Without Gyms & Diets

Are Westerners Less Civilised?

Anthropologist Margaret Mead was once asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilisation in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about clay pots, tools for hunting, grinding-stones, or religious artifacts.

But no. Mead said that the first evidence of civilization was a 15,000 years old fractured femur found in an archaeological site. The femur is the longest bone in the body, linking hip to knee. Even in societies with the benefits of modern medicine, it takes about six weeks of rest for a fractured femur to heal and resume function. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, you cannot drink or hunt for food. Wounded in this way, you are meat for your predators. No creature survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. You are eaten first.

A broken femur that has healed is therefore evidence that 1) the victim received care and protection from his tribe and 2) the victim had the wisdom and patience not to move around and let the fracture heal so he could fight another day.

Prof Mead was absolutely right. When injured, the body must shut down for repairs and civilised humans had known that since 15,000 years ago. But how does that relate to Covid-19 when author Umair Hague mentioned Mead’s femur in his recent posting, “How the West Got Covid So Wrong”? How wrong? This wrong.

How and why did this happen? Why is even India (where rubbish literally flies everywhere when a train passes) able to contain the spread and not advanced countries in the European Union? Is it because Westerners are less civilised as Hague seemed to imply?

I don’t live in the West, but Hague’s observations on instances of what he calls “toxic individualism” are easy to verify. The bars and clubs are still full with people talking, laughing and not practising social distancing even as the pandemic is enveloping the city. Even though news and information on the pandemic are readily available, these folks believe that the virus won’t kill them and the lives of those who are more vulnerable should not stand in the way of their right to party, to enjoy their booze and burgers with like-minded friends.

Hague points out that the test of a civilised society is how it treats its vulnerable. Acknowledging that the West is not monolithic, he then judged that the West is flunking the test because there are certain groups that seem as if they just don’t care. Indeed, where is the wisdom of the healed femur? Why did these folks not have the wisdom and patience not to move around and let the pandemic pass so that they could fight another day?

Hague repeatedly mentioned “toxic indifference” and the “predatory” nature of the young working class. Not only that, the leadership in these countries disagreed with lockdowns and other drastic measures that could hurt the economy and they are now paying the price.

Crowded bar

One of our local professors then said “A test of civilisations? Not so sure. Australia and New Zealand would count as “West” also. I think it’s more a case of how cooperative the people are and how much they trust their leaders and science.”

To be fair, the European countries, with the exception of Sweden, did impose lockdowns. The small difference which led to a huge discrepancy, is that they opened fully very soon after the numbers came down. We, on the other hand, are playing it safe, even to the extent of delaying Phase 3 opening.

It was not always like that. After Wuhan went into lockdown on 23 January 2020, it was still pretty much life as usual in Singapore. Taiwan immediately shut their doors. We only closed our borders to China at the end of January 2020, giving more than enough opportunity for a couple of tourists to contribute to our caseloads. We went from DORCON yellow to DORSCON orange on 7 February 2020 and that triggered the now very memorably sia suay wave of panic buying. Remember that at that point in time, we were still told that we should only wear masks when we were sick and life should go on as usual.

In contrast, Taiwan had banned all export of surgical masks since 24 January 2020 and formed a team of manufacturers to achieve self-sufficiency and ensure adequate supply. Mask-wearing was made mandatory. This annoyed a number of Taiwanese celebrities who were gifting masks to their “fans” on the mainland, but Taiwanese netizens were quick to call them out. They closed borders to all foreign tourists by 20 March 2020.

Singapore was days behind, closing our borders only on 24 March 2020 and meanwhile, many mainlanders residing in Singapore were shipping out crates of surgical masks to their 祖国 as supplies here run dry. Also unlike Taiwan, masks were discouraged in Singapore. We were told only to use them when we were sick and schools opened as usual and life went on more or less as per normal. Then, the number of cases started climbing and hell broke loose in the workers’ dorms.

Masks became mandatory in Singapore only on 15 April 2020 after the circuit breaker was activated on 7 April 2020. It took them that long to decide that masks do make a difference and drop all the silly excuses about not having enough sheep in the country. They finally back-paddled (unlike some arrogant and pathetic academics who still insist that they were right in discouraging masks earlier on).

Interestingly, the Straits Times Covid-19 timeline begins with the “circuit breaker”. Well, what about our somewhat “West-like” measures before that? Check out the difference between WHO recommendations and Taiwan’s actions in the following table. The WHO certainly seems more Western than Asian and China seemed to have given the same advice as the WHO while doing the exact opposite.

Meanwhile, even as many of us are still anxiously waiting for Phase 3 opening, our borders have already opened to China, Brunei, New Zealand, Vietnam and Australia, including Victoria. Yao mo gao chor ah? They would rather risk importing cases than risk having undetected cases in the community to open Phase 3? Why are we so strict in certain areas and so lenient in others? If all this seems rather mind-boggling to the plebeians like us, we can only hope that those in charge know what they’re doing and the risks come with considerable gains, not just to certain people but the common people like you and me.

Straits Times 9 November 2020

Meanwhile, the Taiwanese don’t seem to be that desperate to get us back on their shores and our own nightspots are not going to be meaningfully open for a very long time.

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post about how different cultures and values affect how people cooperate with the authorities. Certain draconian rules and a bunch of “lobotomised”, obedient followers may save lives under certain situations. The totalitarian Taliban-controlled territories managed the spread of infection better than the rest of Afghanistan, but make no mistake, the pandemic does not last forever. Do you want Taliban rule just because of Covid-19? Sure, freedom leads to “toxic individualism”, but it’s precisely this form of individualism that has afflicted the likes of Magellan and Messner. Individualism can be costly, but depending on the situation, it is not always toxic.

The first recorded circumnavigation of the Earth was the Magellan-Elcano expedition, which sailed from Seville, Spain in 20 September 1519 and returned in 1522, after crossing the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. Not long after the expedition began, Portuguese expedition leader Ferdinand Magellan had to battle treacherous seas and quell a Spanish mutiny onboard. They sailed through unknown waters, desperately trying to find a way to the Pacific Ocean. When they finally made it after 3 months, 20 days, 30 men from his crew of 200 had died and one ship with its crew, had deserted. Before the cause for scurvy was known, it was a deadly disease for those who dared to go on long voyages.

On several Pacific Islands, they met hostile natives. Then on 27 April 1521 when they had arrived in the Philippines, Magellan was killed in one of the many battles they often had to fight with the nasty natives. By then, only one ship in the expedition was seaworthy. Juan Sebastián Elcano took over as captain and sailed the remaining ship (loaded with spices) back to Spain, arriving on 6 September 1522, thus completing the first circumnavigation of the earth. Throughout the 3 years, the words “turn back!” must have been buzzing if not shouting into the ears of the crew. They ignored common sense and persevered. Had they been safety-conscious, conservative and conventional (like the ship that deserted), they would have turned back and failed in taking that giant step for mankind.

When Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler reached the 8,848m high summit of Mount Everest on May 8, 1978 without the use of artificial oxygen, the climbers crossed what was considered an impossible barrier and set a milestone in the history of mountaineering. In his attempt to climb all 14 of the 8,000m peaks on earth without supplemental oxygen, Messner lost 7 toes to frostbite. He also lost his brother and on several occasions, he had a close brush with death. Most mere mortals will think Messner is crazy, but without his reckless behaviour, we may still be limited by the imaginary 8,000m barrier. Messner was not the first man to scale those peaks, but he was the first to cast all caution to the wind and climb them without Sherpa support and bottled oxygen, testing the limits of human endurance like never before.

Today, Reinhold Messner is often honoured as the greatest mountaineer ever. Ferdinand Magellan is likewise honoured as one of the greatest explorers. Both men are seen in their respective fields as the earthly equivalent of pioneers in space. Coming back to Hague’s question, are Westerners less civilised, caring and considerate?

Commentary: Singaporeans queued for toilet paper and instant noodles –  there is no shame in that - CNA

Throughout the history of life on earth, evolutionary pressure determined the kind of organisms that survived and those that went extinct. Dinosaurs were not necessarily weaker. They just couldn’t cope with prevailing conditions. While secular climatic trends continue over millions of years, pandemics are just tiny blips on the history of the earth.

Will certain types of inappropriate behaviour destroy a nation? Perhaps, but if not, I’m very sure that when all this is over, the nations that celebrate individualism will emerge stronger and more innovative, assiduously seeking groundbreaking ways to combat future pandemics without letting them affect their preferred lifestyles while the obedient folks continue to swear by lockdowns.

© Chan Joon Yee


New Book!

red dot rants

Fitness Without Gyms & Diets

Returns, Revenge & Restitution

Former domestic worker Parti Layani’s attempt to seek compensation for her wrongful conviction took a twist on 27 October 2020 when the high court judge who acquitted her suggested that the parties go for mediation instead.

Ms Parti Liyani is seeking compensation from the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) after her conviction for theft was overturned on appeal by the High Court.

The 46-year-old Indonesian’s lawyer, Mr Anil Balchandani, told the High Court she had suffered losses of about $71,000 as a result of the case. This included $41,000 for loss of income in the four years after being accused of stealing from the family of prominent businessman Liew Mun Leong.

About $29,000 was expenses for her accommodation at a shelter run by the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, a migrant workers’ support group. However, the compensation Ms Parti can receive is capped at $10,000 under the Criminal Procedure Code if the court rules that the prosecution was frivolous or vexatious. In other words that would be the extent to which the system is accountable even if your complaints/grievances are valid. Good to know.

Yao mo gao chor ah? Why are people assuming that Ms Parti, an Indonesian and a rather atypical one at that, would think like a typical Singaporean? The fact that she had gone so far to clear her name should be an indication that the amount she’s going to get for compensation is not a primary concern. We can get a further hint of her intentions from her reluctance to seek compensation from Liew Mun Leong et al.

Parti’s lawyer Mr Anil Balchandani told Justice Chan Seng Onn that “a lot has transpired” since the judge acquitted Ms Parti, primarily that Mr Liew has resigned from his posts at the Changi Airport Group and Surbana Jurong.

To Ms Parti, Liew Mun Leong has already been adequately punished. There remains another party that has not been checked.

Justice Chan noted that public funds are involved in the case against the AGC and the cost of a two or three-day hearing into the legal arguments, such as what amounts to “frivolous or vexatious”, will come up to more than $10,000.

“Is it worth it? It doesn’t seem so,” said the judge, who suggested getting former attorneys-general as mediators.

Mr Balchandani said he understood that the threshold to prove the case is high, but his client was seeking “a nominal amount to show that something went wrong“. How unSingaporean can you get!

Sure, she might have gotten the $71,000 from them, but that’s just teaching one family a lesson and from Ms Parti’s point of view, they had already been punished. The root of the problem lies with the system. If the trial judge had managed the case as Justice Chan suggested, then none of these problems would have emerged – both for Parti and the Liew family. Hence, keeping to her ideals, it’s only logical that Parti sought moral restitution from the AGC instead of the Liews. Personally, I would also support her decision because we the citizens deserve a system that is more transparent and accountable. It’s just a bit embarrassing that we need a foreigner to challenge out system to show us that what we’ve been meekly living with all these years may need some fixing.

But of courese, there will still be morons out there who can only understand things in dollars and sense and keep scratching their heads, wondering why Ms Parti didn’t take the path of higher returns. Those who defend the system may even accuse her of willfully seeking revenge on the system to gain fame and glory. Unfortunately, I know a few of them and as long as nothing untoward befalls these “permanent” residents of high society, they are unlikely to see how important human rights are.

© Chan Joon Yee


New Book!

red dot rants

Fitness Without Gyms & Diets

Wrong To Support Amos?

Yulia Tsevetkova is a young Russian social activist from the city of Komsomolskon Amur. She ran a sex education blog questioning gender stereotypes, dispelling taboos surrounding women’s bodies. She has also organised various feminist and LGBT events and produced plays for children.

yulia_720

Among her many works, were drawings of naked women with slogans like “Living women have body hair”, “Living women have fat and that’s normal”. She was arrested for “distributing pornography” and placed under house arrest. Yao mo gao chor ah? It was a disgusted anti-gay campaigner who reported her to the authorities, but Tsevetkova has her supporters. Meanwhile, Miss Tsevetkova remains defiant. She is still doodling at home. Why am I talking about this Russian lady? This is just an introduction. Hold that thought for a while. I’ll come back to Tsevetkova in a moment.

1593528519532-Yulia-illustration-2

Amos Yee again? Yes, he made it into the news not just in the US where he now lives, but also in Singapore. While Amos Yee’s most vocal supporters have gone largely silent, some of his detractors in the form of PLPs and other (moronic moralists), have been childishly gloating over their frivolous “victory”.

But let’s get one thing straight. The images of the folks holding those placards supporting Amos Yee were 1) taken long before Amos Yee was found to be a paedophile. 2) unrelated to the current charges against him. In fact, the pictures were taken before Melissa Chen’s rather emotional video and my posting on his bullshit made 2 years ago.

Not everyone offended by Amos Yee was pissed off for the same reason. I saw two groups of individuals baying for Amos Yee’s blood, both equally meek and pious towards their respective “faiths”. We have the conformists who eschew any form of confrontation or “political blasphemy” while another group condemned an insult to their faith. Curiously, many of Amos’ detractors felt sore and cynical when Amos was actually accepted for political asylum in the US.

Within the camp that supported Amos Yee, I see 3 groups. The first group are disgruntled individuals who hate the government but lack the courage to give it a piece of their minds. Through Amos Yee, they were able to obtain some form of release. It’s like a boxing fan cheering his idol on. The second group are the dreamers and idealists. They are familiar with the likes of Malaysia’s Namewee and China’s Ai Wei Wei. Mr Ai is a very accomplished artist who has created many impressive, thought-provoking pieces of art. While Namewee may not be at the same level, his achievements at his age dwarf our own Jack Neo. Both were outrageously vulgar in their criticism of the authorities. Could Amos Yee mature and mellow into Singapore’s Namewee at least, if not Ai Wei Wei?

Amos Yee did show promise. He had a passion for film and surprised those who were studying film by showing that he knew more about film than they did even those he had never studied the subject. So make no mistake, we have a very talented albeit unbridled man here. We can’t blame the idealists for being hopeful.

Ai Weiwei – Iconic Photos

Finally, we look at the third and most legitimate group. While a lame website like Fabrications About The PAP 2020 may try to muddy the waters by placing one corner of the puzzle next to another corner, let’s recap and stick to the facts on why Amos Yee was arrested and the reason that he received support and sympathy in the first place.

On March 27 2015, Amos Yee posted a video titled “Lee Kuan Yew is dead” on YouTube, and the next day published an image of two cartoon figures having sex, with photos of Lee, who died on March 23, and the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher superimposed on their heads.

I must confess that I cringed when I saw that video, but it quickly went viral with numerous shares. Some folks found it hilarious. Some folks cheered for him, but as usual, it’s the negative reactions that yielded devastating results.

Singapore prosecutors charged Amos with violating penal code article 298 (“uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious or racial feelings of any person”), punishable by three years in prison and a fine, and penal code article 292(1)(a) for transmitting obscene materials, punishable by a fine. Prosecutors filed a third charge, for violating the Prevention of Harassment Act, which outlaws “use [of] any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour,” but later withdrew the count.

Most people would agree that Amos Yee’s video was inappropriate, insensitive, and disrespectful. But many also felt that the punishment he received was wrong and unnecessarily harsh. After all, Amos Yee was only a teenager who happened to be offensively vocal with his opinions. It was a nonviolent offense and his videos probably only triggered anger but not clinical depression for those who had “unwittingly” watched it.

Despite his schooling age, Amos was nonetheless arrested and detained by the authorities, eventually sentenced to 6 weeks’ jail at Changi Prison. This could have made him the world’s youngest prisoner of conscience. It was based on this premise that Amos Yee received support from this third group. The fact that I don’t support what he said in the videos has nothing to do with my objection to the way he was being treated as a minor for an offence which cannot be extrapolated to paedophilia by any stretch of the imagination. Those who said “I told you so” are clearly doing a 马后炮.

Why were some people baying for his blood? It just shows our society’s lack of patience and compassion with misguided young people. It also shows a lack of wisdom to distinguish past from present. At any rate, folks who supported Amos Yee are not the only ones who got it “wrong”.

tembusu

Let’s see what our professors have to say. One said that the one who accepted his application should be held responsible (yao mo gao chor ah?). The other one (Prof Wong again) who has been very supportive of the authorities’ treatment of Amos Yee, argued that the one who approved his application in 2011 is blameless. But doesn’t that extend to the supporters of Amos Yee who didn’t know that he might grow up to be a paedophile?

stupidprof

I’m not saying that these scholars ought to behave like prudes. In fact, as long as they are not harming anyone, society would be more vibrant and fertile if we grant mavericks and unorthodox characters some leeway for experimentation. Punish them if they do harm, but don’t destroy them.

By claiming victory, are the gloating pundits saying that they knew Amos Yee was a paedophile all along or are they trying to say that any 16-year-old who insults a political leader and a religious group is hopeless? In 1976, a 30-year-old American man was arrested in Canada. He pleaded guilty to drink driving. He was fined $150. So our gloating pundits see a perpetually drunk tramp in him and dismiss him as hopeless? That could have been former POTUS George W Bush.

In 1978, a 25-year-old man was caught trafficking cocaine and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Would our gloating pundits dismiss him as hopeless? That could have been Tim Allen.

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What about the 20-year-old around Amos Yee’s age in the 1970s who smoked marijuana habitually and experimented with LSD? Dismiss him as junkie? That could have been the late Steve Jobs. A Black man was convicted of rape in 1992, sentenced to 6 years’ jail and had more than 40 arrests for assault and various petty crimes. Dismiss him as an incorrigible criminal? He could have been boxing legend Mike Tyson.

The problem with our self-centred, impatient and unforgiving society, is that people are too slow to admit their their own mistakes and too quick to dismiss others as hopeless.

Can Amos Yee be rehabilitated? Is there still a future for him? Maybe, maybe not. I wouldn’t bet on it, but I’m hopeful that his rights will be protected and there won’t be any political agenda this time. Hopefully, the moronic PLPs won’t try to take a shortcut to another frivolous “victory” by claiming that those who sympathised with 16-year-old Amos were supporting paedophiles.

Now getting back to Miss Yulia Tsevetkova’s case, we need to recognise that these are young people who are still being moulded by various influences in their societies (and the internet). Amos Yee is only 21 and Yulia Tsevetkova is only 27. What if Yulia Tsevetkova grew to be a paedophile or a kleptomaniac in her old age? Does it mean that those who supported her activism during her younger days when she was fighting against gender stereotypes were wrong? Sadly, there are childish and insecure folks (some in high places) who would seize every opportunity to say “I told you so.”

© Chan Joon Yee


New Book!

red dot rants

Fitness Without Gyms & Diets

Disruptive Technologies

So what’s new? We’ve heard talk about opening Phase 3 a few weeks ago, but nothing seems to have happened so far. Yesterday, everything seemed uneventful when I made my way home from my parents’ place on the Circle Line and then the NEL.

As I was getting off at Serangoon, there was an announcement that due to a power fault, there was no trains service between Queenstown and Tuas. The delay was expected to be 25 minutes. As I got on the NEL, updates from the PA system seemed to suggest that the NSL and EWL were both down. When I reached home, I learned from my Facebook newsfeed that Circle Line was also down.

The ensuing chaos was unsurprising. Safe distancing? Yao mo gao chor. While folks like me could heave a sigh of relief, my sympathy still goes out to those caught in the mayhem. Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung apologised to commuters in a Facebook post after power faults caused disruptions along three MRT train lines on Wednesday Oct 14 2020 night.

“Has been a rough and stressful evening for many commuters. We are sorry for the disruption and all the troubles caused,” he wrote. Ironically, it was a power fault which may or may not have something to do with the new power supply system. Below is an image shared by Raj Singh on Facebook.

Notice that there is no Covi-19 panic. But wouldn’t the situation last night have been much worse than groups gathering in numbers greater than 5 to sing or party? What about that group of 12 who got charged for visiting Lazarus Island? Here we are vilifying the folks who orgainsed their own karaoke sessions or sipped beer at Robertson Quay. Shouldn’t the folks responsible for a forced “gathering” of this magnitude be slapped with a punishment commensurate with the size of the crowd?

But wait a minute. We have experts who will disagree that public transport is a risk in the spread of Covid-19. I’m reminded of a little debate with an old friend of mine about 2 months ago. As usual, it’s our professor who denied (on my Facebook timeline in late August) that there is no documented case of Covid-19 being spread on public transport. He thinks that being in an enclosed space with infected persons will not spread the disease as long as you don’t talk. Yao mo gao chor ah? Seeing is believing.

And it gets even more absurd as the good professor tried to defend the indefensible, suggesting a laughably bizarre theory for people in the same apartment building being infected without contact with one another instead of the far more plausible explanation of the only shared common compartment – the lift. He had the nerve to call the latter explanation a speculation.

And really, it boils down to cost. $2.5 billion is a lot of money. The rhetorical question “do you want to pay more tax” should silence any kiasi Singaporean. Meanwhile SIA had secured a S$19 billion bail out. The good prof changed tack and made another ridiculous remark that the main spreaders were foreign workers and not folks who take the public transport.

Personally, I find it strange that people are not curious about why the fully cleared dorms suddenly get positive cases after workers return to work. Didn’t they get it from undetected (mostly untested unlike the dorms) cases in the community?

I finally gave up as he obviously fails to get my point that there are undetected community cases which has spread (in a direction reverse to the one he was referring to) to the completely cleared dorms and will spread through public transport within the community. This academic’s mindset is highly illustrative of the stubborn, assuming and dismissive attitude of bureaucrats and policy-makers in this country. It’s just one of the reasons that Singapore is just relatively good and not absolutely great.

We can trace visitors to markets, shopping malls and even movie theatres. We can’t really trace people on moving trains and buses with unmarked and unallocated seats. The conditions in these compartments are ideal for the spread of Covid-19 and the latest train disruption is so disastrous vis-a-vis Covid-19 transmission that it would be a miracle if a super spreader in the crowd didn’t infect hundreds of people.

© Chan Joon Yee


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Yellow Ribbons, Pink Hair

24-year-old Natalie Siow Yu Zhen who was involved in a fatal stabbing at Orchard Towers on 2 July last year. She and her group emerged from the Naughty Girl Club on the second floor of Orchard Towers and got into a fight with 31-year-old Satheesh Noel Gobidass. One man in Siow’s group, Tan Sen Yang was brandishing a karambit knife and he used it to attack Satheesh, slashing him a few times.

★ | Karambit

CCTV footage showed that Siow had tried to kick the victim, swinging her arm at him a few times. The victim tried to leave the scene but collapsed and died a while later.

Siow was sentenced to five months’ jail on Friday, Oct. 9 2020. She is the sole woman linked to the Orchard Towers murder in July 2019. Her initial charge of murder was downgraded. Siow pleaded guilty to one count of assault, among other offences. For assault, Siow could have been jailed for up to two years, fined up to S$5,000, or both.

There was an outcry on social media, with many people expressing surprise at the light sentence which Siow received. However, she was not directly responsible for the victim’s death. She didn’t even manage to kick him. The coroner’s report indicated that it was a stab in the neck from Tan Sen Yang which killed him. Thus, it’s not right to charge her for murder. What about 5 months’ jail? Too short?

Orchard Towers murder: Natalie Siow sentenced to 5 months' jail -  Mothership.SG - News from Singapore, Asia and around the world

With a criminal record, she may have difficulty finding a job, but no matter how you look at it, she is already a potential influencer. We may look forward to more of Natalie Siow’s selfies on social media when she’s released next year. I can’t tell whether 5 months jail is unfair, but what if she has more fans than me who has been blogging for almost 15 years? That would really be unfair.

Next, we hear from Singapore’s blogger queen Xiaxue who decided to get political (while claiming that she’s not) and accuse WP’s chairman Sylvia Lim did not respond to repeated complaints about the poor condition of her Housing Development Board (HDB) block in Aljunied GRC, in her Instagram stories. We have to assume that she actually submitted her complaints to the Town Council and not expect that everyone would see her Instagram posts.

Claiming that she deserves to raise this issue without being labeled a member of the PAP’s Internet Brigade, she added: “I’m not trying to promote PAP here and honestly there is no need to because elections are over. But ordinary citizens should be able to praise and appreciate the good job done by their town councils without being accused of being IB dogs. 

“And I also have the right to bring up the terrible condition of my estate without being accused of the same. After all I’ve tried my best to resolve the issues privately for months and just got ignored.”

When her complaints were posted online by the alternative media, she received a tirade of negative comments with practically everyone on Sylvia Lim’s side. If you only read these comments, you would be inclined to conclude that Xiaxue is some 过街老鼠. Except that she certainly isn’t. Various sources (reliable or otherwise) estimate Xiaxue’s net worth to be 1.5 million, 4 million and one website going as far as to 63 million! What’s her actual net worth? Just like Natalie Siow’s 5 months’ sentence, the actual number is immaterial. Any one of those numbers would be testimony to her success as an influencer and show that she is loved by a “silent” majority that value her recommendations.

The moral of the story? It’s cool to be a Xiaxue basher. People may feel shy admitting that they support the pink-haired lady, but don’t underestimate what they can do with their silent support. People who are polled may not feel comfortable admitting that they support someone as politically incorrect and obnoxious as Trump.

2016 US Presidential Elections

© Chan Joon Yee


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The Wisdom Of Plastic Bottles

China, one of the world’s biggest users of plastic in the world, has unveiled a major plan to reduce single-use plastics across the country. Non-degradable bags will be banned in major cities by the end of 2020 and in all cities and towns by 2022.

Makes you feel guilty? Sounds like good news for the environment? Maybe not. First, we need to take a hard look at the actual damage which plastic is causing to the environment and whether alternatives help mitigate the damage. Just like miracle supplements touted by some sexy influencer on social media, the harmful effects of plastic can also be hyped through social media and environmental influencers. Politicians jump on the trendy bandwagon and win votes. But what about the science?

Like junk food, plastic is sinful and triggers “moral panic” in responsible individuals. People are made to look even more sinful and diffident when politically correct folks go around showing off their environmental consciousness, similar to the way some people flaunt their Hermes bags? It’s hip, it’s trendy, but what about the science?

100% Biodegradable Bags!

Consider the tough fabric, reusable grocery bag which every other auntie is using, proudly calling it 环保袋. Now here’s the science that some people don’t want you to know. A 2014 study in the United States found that while reusable LDPE and polypropylene bags may contribute less to landfills than the usual plastic bags found in supermarkets, the manufacturing process is actually more harmful to the environment. The initial “investment” (environmental cost of manufacturing process) only yields “returns” for the environment if some of these bags are reused literally thousands of times. And paper bags aren’t that great either.

A 2018 Danish study, looking at the number of times a bag should be reused before being used as a bin liner and then discarded, found that:

  • polypropylene bags (rice sacks, reusable bags sold at supermarkets).) should be used 37 times
  • paper bags should be used 43 times
  • cotton bags should be used 7,100 times

To ease the conscience of environmentally conscious earthlings, restaurant suppliers have come up with disposable items made from organic sources like corn and sugarcane. The most common are polymers of polylactic acid. While they do break down, it will still take a very long time before they can be absorbed by plants and animals and in the process, they may actually create a bigger carbon footprint.

What does being biodegradable really mean? To test a material for its biodegradability, the researcher would place it in a composting vessel, heat it up to 50-60 deg C for 180 days. If at least 90% of it has decomposed, it’s considered biodegradable. Matter is neither created nor destroyed in the process of decomposition. What are the end products of decomposition? Well, carbon dioxide or methane. In other words, biodegradation is just a slower and cooler form of incineration. It seems absurd, but you said you want biodegradability. You didn’t say anything about carbon footprint.

Landfill 031

Most plastics end up in landfills and stay there. Images of mountains of discarded plastic or oceans choked with them may trigger “moral panic” in the age of Tik Tok, but it’s what we don’t see coming out of biodegradable stuff that may hurt us more. If we wish to save the environment, we should consider the responsible use of non-biodegradable plastics and not the making of more biodegradable plastics. Companies like Pepsi and Coca Cola have recently announced that their (non-biodegradable) plastic bottles are made from 100% plant-based raw materials.

To limit global warming by 1.5 deg C from pre-industrial levels, we need to sequester (absorb) hundreds of gigatons of carbon dioxide from the environment over the next 30 years. If we stop producing biodegradable plastic, plant life would have a chance to sequester about 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It’s not enough, but a good start. Perhaps it’s time we stop thinking that all trash that naturally disappear are good trash. Cow dung disappear over time but it releases methane – a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Is biodegradable cow dung environment friendly? No.

Yak shit

OK, that’s a rather long introduction. I’m not actually trying to talk about climate change or plastic pollution. I just wish to point out that for laymen like us, things are sometimes not what they seem. Sometimes, even experts may fall into the trap of embracing the obvious. Take the issue of the hotly debated topic of minimum wages for instance. Nearly 50 years ago, George Stigler implored economists to be “outspoken, and singularly agreed” that increases in the minimum wage reduce employment. This logic has convinced most economists. A survey of American Economic Association members in 1992 found that 79% of respondents agreed that a minimum wage increases unemployment among the young and low-skilled workers.

All this shouldn’t be surprising. Intuitively, it’s quite easy to see the employers’ point of view. The less they can pay their workers, the better their profit margins would be. It’s simply an issue of demand and supply. The more expensive labour is, employers would try to make do with fewer workers, leaving those who are not selected out of a job. Hence, the rather cliched adage “low wage is better than no wage”. In an ideal market situation and without minimum wage, employers would only need to pay their workers their market worth. If a minimum wage were artificially set, employers may end up paying workers more than their market worth, effectively incurring unnecessary costs. In theory, that is – something which our pathetic academics are very good at.

But competition for jobs and the competition for workers do not follow simple mathematical rules. In the real world, workers are likely to be paid less than market worth or “marginal revenue product” in economic jargon. Companies offering unattractive jobs may end up paying more. Companies in a strong negotiating position will tend to squeeze workers. But then, what makes a job attractive? Isn’t high pay one of the considerations?

Minimum wages also affect different industries in different ways. In manufacturing for instance, what is there to stop the employer from replacing a worker with a robot? If minimum wage keeps rising, companies that automate will be way ahead of those who still hire human workers. Setting a minimum wage may have little effect on the cost of manufacturing but with more and more automation, the workforce in this sector is set to shrink with or without minimum wage.

In the service industry like nursing homes, hospitality and wellness, automation may not be so relevant. By raising the minimum wage, the cost of services will go up. The thing that frightens calculative Singaporeans most in this conversation is the question “do you want to pay more?” The peanuts for you, truffles for me mentality applies here. My pay, as high as possible. Service providers’ pay, as low as possible. But are we getting value for money when we squeeze our service providers?

In 1990, David Card and Alan Krueger, economists from Princeton University, performed a study on two fast food outlets, one at New Jersey and one at neighbouring Pennsylvania. Both outlets were paying their crew $4.25 an hour. Then, they asked the outlet at New Jersey to increase their workers’ pay to $5.05 per hour. The results? There was no decrease in employment in New Jersey. Worker morale was high, more were eager to join and more outlets could be opened.

Card and Krueger came up with a book, Myth and Measurement which argues against conventional textbook wisdom vis-a-vis minimum wage. Further studies on fast food outlets have shown that for a 10% increase in floor wages across the board, gross revenue for the outlets actually went up and they only had to increase their burger price by 0.9% for the same profit margin.

As recent as 2019, a study on supermarkets in Seattle also found that increases in worker’s wages did not result in the need to push up the prices of groceries because workers were more motivated to perform and sales went up. The results from all these studies go against the theory that if wages go up, the costs will be directly passed on to the consumers. The theorists and academics may be missing out on the human factor which may bend mathematical logic. Of course, setting minimum wage cannot be done randomly or indiscriminately. We must take a calculated approach. That’s where the discussion starts and should not end or be summarily dismissed by textbook wisdom.

Cardboards Collector

Like the wisdom of plastic bottles, there are a lot of things in life which may be counterintuitive. There are good workers and there are lazy workers. There are also good workers who become unmotivated and start looking around for other opportunities when their wages are stagnant while transport and utilities costs keep going up. For these unmotivated workers, a raise could be all it takes to revitalise the business. Minimum wages may or may not be the way to solve the problem of highly visible and often ignored poverty and hardship in this First World country. At least discuss it and not simply dismiss it.

© Chan Joon Yee


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Another Silent Majority

By now, you must have been sleeping if you have not heard about the case of Parti Liyani. I’m not sure how much of it has been covered by our newsPAPers, but social media has been overflowing with vitriol. There is heavy and widespread criticism for Liew Mun Leong, forcing him to retire early, much to the consternation of “interest groups” at Changi Airport and Subana Jurong. From the very beginning, he had tried to cover his own wrongdoing by firing her and to make sure she couldn’t incriminate him, he framed her in a blatant act of 恶人先告状。

The hero in this whole saga, Mr Anil Balachandani, has also spoken about the organisation that did most of the work to help the accused, his sense of mission and above all, his client’s determination to prove her innocence.

To my mind, the most thought-provoking thing that Mr Anil mentioned, is the fact that if Parti had pleaded guilty in the first instance, she would have been sentenced to a short jail term and she could have moved on since 2 years ago instead of being held back for 4 years, to great financial and opportunity cost, fighting a case fraught with uncertainty.

Such determination seems a bit unfamiliar to me. Her sense of justice, dignity and self respect is something that most wealthier, better-educated, trouble-fearing and pragmatic Singaporeans lack.

There is always a silent majority supporting the ruling party. But when I discuss the ordeal of a wrongfully accused maid and the devious acts by her former employers to frame her with some of the folks within my social circle, there appears to be another silent majority.

Let’s not take for granted that just because there appears to be a battalion out there against the Liew family, that must be the majority view. Well, there are folks who value Mr Liew’s “contributions” so much and others who think that he ought to be given a chance to explain himself (after the high court had already passed judgement). One illustrious individual even had the cheek to say that justice has already been served (so let’s forget about what Mr Liew et al did?).

SDA’s Mr Desmond Lim had this to say:

As a working adult, I am obliged to fulfil my tasks from my paymaster and contribute to my family.

As a citizen, it is my responsibility and duty to pay taxes. As a leader of a company, it is my responsibility and duty to create more jobs and generate more profits for the company.

If one is not paid while serving the public, then one’s contributions to the society and the nation would be considered noble. However, since some of our civil servants are highly remunerated, the onus is on them to do their jobs and to do it well.

Their numbers may be small, but Mr Liew’s apologists are illustrious and conspicuous. And make no mistake, they are only the vocal ones. As for the silent ones, I can’t read their collective minds, but from those I know quite well, I believe they consider Parti as a person of no consequence. Right or wrong, they see it as a very bad “deal”; losing an important man like Mr Liew for the sake of awarding justice to a lowly individual. Social commentator Raj Singh posted the following on Facebook:

raj

One of the reasons Singapore is so peaceful and efficient is that people submit to bullying. Why? So that certain processes are not interrupted or delayed. People vote for leaders they don’t like so that their estates can benefit from the rich party and they won’t be called free riders. Pragmatism rules and truth be told, I have myself been guilty of submitting to acts of bullying just to stay out of trouble. Consider POFMA. How many Singaporeans would have the courage and conviction to do a Parti for 4 years to fight against a minister’s unjust accusations (if any).

Parti, HOME and Mr Anil had put many of us to shame. But let’s not kid ourselves. As in Parti’s case, it takes tremendous sacrifice. To achieve those 3 ideals mentioned by Raj Singh above, we must be ready to accept that certain processes will be slower, very time-consuming and perhaps be even a little messy. Like the 4 “wasted” years that Parti went through, we must be prepared to accommodate those who rock the boat and not say “don’t sabo lah” to them.

In essence, while many vocal folks vilify Liew Mun Leong on social media, there is a silent majority that could be more worried about dishonest CEOs retiring than innocent maids getting jailed. It’s all about Peanuts For You, Truffles For Me and justice, equality, democracy and human rights as useless, troublesome things that cannot be eaten.

Some people mistake this silence for bochap. The silent majority is not bochap. They are just too ashamed to admit that they would rather have the maid losing the appeal.

© Chan Joon Yee


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She Could Have Been Jailed

The unsuspecting former Indonesian FDW Ms Parti Liyani, 44, was arrested at Changi Airport on Dec 2 2016 when she returned to Singapore. Her former employer had accused her of stealing items worth more than S$50,000. The “victim” was the illustrious Professor Liew Mun Leong and three of his family members; his son and daughter-in-law, Mr Karl Liew and Ms Heather Lim Mei Ern, and his daughter, Ms Liew Cheng May.

Prof Liew was the founding Group President and CEO of CapitaLand Limited. He is currently the Chairman of Surbana Jurong Private Limited.  Prof Liew sits on the boards of Singapore Exchange, Singapore-China Foundation Ltd and the Chinese Development Assistance Council. He also chairs the Board of Temasek Foundation Nurtures CLG Ltd, the Management Advisory Board of NUS Business School and the NUS School of Continuing and Lifelong Education (SCALE) Industry Advisory Board. He is a Senior International Advisor of Temasek. Prof Liew is the Provost’s Chair Professor (Practice) (on pro bono) at NUS Business School, NUS Faculty of Engineering and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.  He is also the Rector of NUS Ridge View Residential College. He was elected the President of International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) for the term 1997 to 1998. Yes, it’s a huge chunk that is difficult to ignore.

Back to the case, the alleged theft was said to have taken place on 28 Oct 2016. Ms Parti who had served the household for 9 years, was fired immediately given two hours to pack before being sent back to Indonesia. She packed her stuff into 3 jumbo boxes but had to leave without them, asking the Liew family to ship them to her later. The family inspected the contents of the boxes. The items which Prof Liew’s family claimed that Ms Parti stole include:

  • a damaged Gerald Genta watch with a broken strap valued at S$25,000
  • two white iPhone 4s with accessories valued at S$2,056
  • 120 pieces of male clothing valued at S$150 each
  • a S$500 blanket,three S$100 bedsheets,
  • a S$150 Philips DVD player
  • S$300 worth of kitchenware and utensils
  • a S$250 black Gucci wallet
  • a S$250 black Braun Buffel wallet
  • a S$50 Helix watch
  • a S$1,000 Prada bag
  • a pair of S$500 Gucci sunglasses with red stains on them
  • a S$1,000 Pioneer DVD player
  • two S$200 Longchamp bags
  • a Vacheron Constantin watch with unknown value
  • a S$75 Swatch watch
  • S$775 worth of jewellery and fashion accessories
  • a S$250 pair of Gucci sunglasses

The case only went on trial in April 2018. Ms Parti was fortunate to be offered bail which was secured by Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics. They also found a lawyer willing to represent her pro bono but on 25 March 2016, she was found guilty and sentenced to 26 months jail.

Seems like a simple, straightforward case? Nobody took particular notice of this case, me included. But not long after her sentencing, alternative media (often discredited by PLPs and pathetic academics) had highlighted some questionable issues in the trial over which judge Olivia Low presided.

The Online Citizen noted that under the intense cross-examination by the defence lawyer, Anil N Balachandani of I.R.B Law LLP, ASP Tang revealed a couple of troubling facts of the case.

It was revealed that investigating officer ASP Tang did not verify the contents of the police report filed on 30 Oct before he filed the warrant of arrest for Ms Parti on 31 Oct 2016.

He did not make any attempt to check with the police officer who took Mr Liew’s statement and he did not drop in to the house till 3 Dec 2016.

Mr Anil said, “So you have not visited the scene, you have let the complainant make a police report, let the complainant say what he wants, and you then did not secure the box from the complainant, would that be safe to say?” ASP Tang did not give a clear answer.

After much probing, ASP Tang noted that the police did not secure the boxes and Mr Karl Liew relocated the items from 49 Chancery Lane to 39 Chancery Lane where he is staying.

ASP Tan had only taken photographs of the alleged stolen items and did not seize them as evidence of the offence. He said that he allowed Mr Liew’s family to hold on to the items as he did not want to deprive them of the items.

Ms Parti appealed against the conviction. It was not till 4 September 2020, almost 4 long years after she was first arrested that she was finally acquitted with her conviction overturned by High Court judge Chan Seng Onn. Justice Chan first examined the undisputed fact that Parti had been instructed to perform household chores at the home of Prof Liew’s son, Karl Liew. For that, she was only paid $20 per session. She had also been told to clean Karl’s office.

This formed the factual basis for Parti’s defence in relation to the
complainants’ motive behind framing her: in essence, the Liew family brought the present allegations against her in order to prevent her from returning to Singapore and lodging a complaint to MOM. A foreign domestic worker should perform only household and domestic duties at the residential address stated in the work permit or any other residential address approved in writing by the Controller.

When she was terminated at short notice, Parti was angry and expressed her intention to complain to MOM.

When I read through Justice Chan’s judgement, I found many mind-boggling points of concern. Parti had testified that the DVD player was meant to be thrown away or given to a karang guni man. It was not working. The Liews insisted that it was working and they used it to play a hard disk during the trial when it actually failed to read any DVDs.

The trial judge also preferred Mr Liew’s evidence over Parti’s. The basis for the conviction was that she did not accept that Parti was able to chance across two Longchamp bags of the same style as the bags used by Mr Liew that had been discarded by his neighbours. Justice Chan noticed that the trial judge failed to take into account, the fact that Parti was also carrying one of the bags in the presence of the family members on the day she was terminated.

As for the items of clothing, wallets etc found in one of the boxes, Karl Liew insisted that they belonged to him or were gifted to him. Karl did not even realise that they were women’s clothes and wallets until the items were presented to him in court. At one instance, he even claimed that he occasionally wore women’s shirts! The bedsheet and quilt which he claimed to be worth $500 and bought in the UK were actually labelled Ikea and bought in Singapore. The value was only $49 and Karl’s wife Heather testified that she had never seen that bedsheet before. Karl was also unable to provide details of kitchen utensils which he claimed to have brought back from the UK after he returned from his studies in 2002. Parti testified that she bought them herself and provided details which were mostly accurate. One of the items was a pink ceramic knife which could not have been bought before 2002.

Finally, the Helix Watch, the damaged Gerald Genta watch and two white iPhone 4 hand phones with accessories. Parti’s defence for these items were similar: (a) she found the Helix watch in Karl’s rubbish bin when he was moving out of the house for renovations in 2009; and (b) she found the Gerald Genta watch and the two iPhone 4 with accessories in the trash bags placed outside of the Liews’ residence. The watch was without a strap and button. The phones were not working. They were items meant to be discarded and Parti had merely picked them up. Karl insisted that he did not discard any of those items even though the common factor is that they were all not working. Believing in Karl’s testimony would suggest that Parti had a preference for such items. While the trial judge did cast doubt and removed the items from consideration, she did not discount Karl’s credibility as a witness and convicted Parti anyway.

Another person to take the stand was Ms Liew (Prof Liew’s daughter, known as “May” in court documents) who claimed that Parti had stolen her Vacheron Constantin watch and a white coloured Swatch watch with orange coloured design. May’s evidence is that she purchased the Vacheron Constantin watch in Shanghai in the early 2000s. In her defence, Parti said that she had retrieved the watches from May’s rubbish bin. Expert evidence revealed that the two watches were knock offs. The defence submitted that it was totally plausible that an affluent investment banker like May could have discarded the counterfeit watches without much consideration just as she could have discarded the jewellery. May claimed to have bought the jewellery in 2004 and successfully “identified” every item as hers at the police station in 2017. Most of the items were of low value and Parti could quote the price of some of the pieces which she bought at Lucky Plaza.

Perhaps the most important point that Justice Chan highlighted, was the fact that two of the three boxes were not sealed before Parti left for the airport. She asked for the boxes to be shipped to her in Indonesia and trusted that her ex-employers who are among the elite in Singapore society, would not resort to dirty tricks to incriminate her. Objectively, Justice Chan saw a high chance of “evidence contamination”.

Laymen like us may not be qualified to judge the trial judge, but if Parti could be found guilty in spite of all these proceedings, what about commoners like us? Are you not concerned? Do you still think that human rights are not important because they can’t be eaten? What if it’s you in Parti’s shoes, standing accused by folks as illustrious as the Liews? Parti was just a step away from being jailed for a crime she did not commit, saved by the skin of her teeth.

On the night after her acquittal, Ms Parti said: “I forgive my employer. I just wish to tell them not to do the same thing to other workers, what they have done (to me).” It was a shameful day for Singapore. Imagine what would have happened to Parti if not for Mr Anil and Justice Chan. In the meantime, our righteous netizens are calling out for further investigation. The biggest hero in this saga, is of course Mr Anil. He fought for her in the trial. Even when his client was convicted, his sense of justice prevailed and he fought on – without payment. Sadly, we have a lot more folks who pretend not to see glaring infractions in order to stay out of trouble and quietly prosper.

© Chan Joon Yee


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