30 December 2006

Neither honesty nor religious tolerance needed

What America's religious right has lately got up to, on the matter of gay couples raising children and Congressmen of a different faith. Full essay.

29 December 2006

Cinema: Borat is boring

Meant as a spoof of widespread anti-semitism and other prejudices commonly found among Americans, this film has had a vigourous build-up. But it fails to make its intended point. Full essay.

26 December 2006

Unintelligent toilets

Public rest rooms in Singapore are equipped with all sorts of sensors and gadgets, yet in some other aspects, they are poorly designed. Full essay.

24 December 2006

Abolishing death penalty: understanding the challenges

It's an uphill task educating the public about the death penalty, particularly in Singapore where judicial executions lack transparency, writes Charles Tan. Guest essay.

23 December 2006

Singapore bans tsunami charity book, part 2

The government explained that Leslie Kee's book was banned because it contained "explicit male nudity". It told the New Paper that female nudity was acceptable, but not male nudity. What does this tell us about the government's motives? Full essay.

22 December 2006

Singapore bans tsunami charity book

World famous photographer Leslie Kee's book "Superstars" has been banned. Launched in Hong Kong, the book featured 300 Asian artistes and celebrities. The MDA said it contained "full nudity", violating Singapore's "acceptable norms". Judge for yourself. Full essay .

A nonbeliever in the religion of food

We have our favourites in our food paradise, or are they just fads? Is it even a food paradise at all? Full essay.

20 December 2006

The safety limits of globalisation

More and more, we note the job insecurities and income disparities that are consequences of globalisation. Clearly, as markets and corporations become global, there are downsides that need to be addressed, but how effective are governments that are only local? Full essay.

16 December 2006

Bedside reading

Some people get worked up over sexual titillation and pornography. Porn dehumanises women, they say, but the funny thing about such communities that get all upset is how unequally genderised they tend to be in the first place. Full essay.

14 December 2006

Rio teenagers most gay-accepting

BBC's recent poll of teenagers from 10 cities found that the next generation from third-world cities is not necessarily homophobic, reports Charles Tan. Guest essay.

How to treat citizens better than foreigners

The Health Minister announced recently that healthcare subsidies for migrant workers will be eliminated. This is to "treat visitors well, but citizens better". Full essay.

07 December 2006

There's public consultation and there's public consultation

The Hong Kong government has just abandoned its proposal for 5% GST, after listening to citizens via public consultations. How does Singapore's public consultation process compare? Full essay.

06 December 2006

Blogging and the making of history

There is a difference between academic history and popular history (a.k.a. national myths), and bloggers may well be the ones writing the latter. Yet the Workers' Party seems rather poor at seizing the moment. Full essay.

03 December 2006

Attitudes towards HIV risks and education

Results of the online survey into how the more politically-aware Singaporean internet surfers see HIV risks and possible counter-measures. Do gays and straights hold different opinions? Do males and females see things differently? Full essay.

01 December 2006

Cinema: Indigenes and others

I'm among the tiny minority who go for art films. I saw two good ones, from Germany and France, just this week. One was about a rapist trying to adjust back to society and the other, about a little-known fact from the Second World War. Full essay.

29 November 2006

Stem cell research in Singapore

Stem cell research is doing well in Singapore, despite what Yawning Bread thought. Here is a guest essay that presents an insider's view that is much more positive about the work being done here by locals and foreigners alike. Guest essay.

26 November 2006

Hate speech law badly drafted

The government has proposed to broaden the scope of the law against wounding religious feelings. It intends to add "race" to it, but what about other hate targets? Full essay.

25 November 2006

What our non-crusading media avoids

After being scolded by Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng in 1999 for "crusading journalism", our mainstream media now watches itself carefully not to report certain kinds of news. No surprise then that gay news is hard to find. Full essay.

23 November 2006

Our disgraceful trinity: littering, inconsideration and bad service

We've been angsty about these for years, but nothing seems to change. Do we even try to find out the deep reasons why? Full essay.

22 November 2006

The niqab and the freedom of religion

When is the State justified in interfering with a religious practice? Is there any logical basis for the notion of "freedom of religion"? Full essay.

19 November 2006

All work, little pay

The government intends to raise the Goods and Services Tax, in order to address the problem of stagnating and falling incomes affecting many Singapore households. The problem comes out of globalisation, but our demographic problem exacerbates it. Full essay.

12 November 2006

Bad rep costs

It is argued that the Singapore government will not change its authoritarian policies unless it sees either economic gain or pain, and so far there hasn't been any. I would suggest that Singapore is already paying a price, except that we're not looking or counting. Full essay.

11 November 2006

But if you can't rape your wife, who can you rape?

The proposed amendments to Singapore's rape law are too limited, offering little real protection to women in abusive marriages. Full essay.

10 November 2006

Waylaid by rubbish

Only 55% of Singaporeans were "moderately able to analyse and discern information on the internet", said the report. What does this mean? Full essay.

08 November 2006

Pseudo repeal under cover of smoke?

The government proposes to amend various parts of the Penal Code including some sections pertaining to sexual offences. Any effect on homosexual sex? Full essay.

An echoless ravine

Raising interest in politics among young Singaporeans is an uphill task, especially when we either forget or distort our own history of student activism. Full essay.

07 November 2006

Quicksand conservatism

The Ted Haggard case once more shows how bankrupt the Christian anti-gay cause is, and not just in America. Full essay.

05 November 2006

A bit of Kenya in Singapore

We're beginning to see more Africans in Singapore these few years. I met three of them recently in, of all places, Jurong East -- not quite the backwater of Singapore, but a rather "heartland" kind of place. Full essay.

30 October 2006

Temasek Holdings' Tongnoi tangle

Our billion-dollar investment company came close to having a scoundrel as a corporate advisor. In the process, it dragged in the good name of the Thai royal family. Full essay.

28 October 2006

Kim's bomb and Pax Sinica

North Korea tested a nuclear device earlier this month. The US has very few options in responding to it, while China has more leverage. Full essay.

New Jersey court orders legislature to provide for same-sex unions

In a 4:3 split decision, the Supreme Court of the state of New Jersey ruled that it was discriminatory to deny same-sex couples the rights and benefits of marriage. Full essay.

27 October 2006

After Foley, burn the closet

For those of you following the Mark Foley case in the USA, my commentary about it can be found on Fridae.com. Mark Foley was the Congressman who had to resign after news broke that he had sent sexually inappropriate messages to teenagers. Link to article. Comments to that article should be placed on the Fridae site.

25 October 2006

Cable TV fined over lesbian sex

Singapore's cable TV operator aired an episode of reality series 'Cheater'. Even though the scenes were pixelated and the show broadcast at midnight, the government, sans judicial process, fined them S$10,000. Full essay.

From oil lamps to LEDs

At Eid, we often see coloured lights strung around windows of apartments. Dean Johari explains where this custom came from. Letter.

Two architects, two paths

A letter by architect Jyanzi Kong about the 2 proposals for the Sentosa integrated resort. The designs by Michael Graves and Frank Gehry represent two opposite ends of prevailing architectural thought. Letter.

21 October 2006

Co-opting, Singapore-style

At every general election, one or more candidates is said to have been "co-opted" by the People's Action Party. What does this practice mean for the maturity of our politics? Full essay.

Festive light-ups - Ramadan/Eid

The third of the 3 festivals falling in October is Eid, more commonly known here as Hari Raya Puasa. Geylang Serai is lit up, and huge tents erected to make a big bazaar. Photo essay.

19 October 2006

Christian Taliban demands censorship

George Lim wrote to the Straits Times damning most movies as "worthless". Calling for more censorship, he said that a good movie "should focus on .... respect for the elders and the government." Full essay.

Gay man seeks asylum in US

Christopher Yeoh claims that he faces persecution in Singapore on account of his sexual orientation. But is persecution the same as discrimination? Full essay.

17 October 2006

Festive light-ups - Deepavali

The ethnic quarter of Little India is dressed up in the month leading up to the Hindu festival of Diwali. But no one seems to care. Photo essay.

14 October 2006

What a clean and cultured place we have

... or so we think. Martin Goh wrote a letter to the Straits Times about 'behav[ing] like pigs'. Meanwhile, for the past few months, I had been taking pictures of our very own pigsty. Full essay.

13 October 2006

Gay sex is for straight men

A new survey from New York found that the majority of men who have sex with other men consider themselves straight, not gay. And that 10% of married men were having gay sex. Full essay.

Festive light-ups - Mid-autumn festival

Earlier this month, Chinatown was festooned with lights and decorations marking the traditional Mid-autumn festival. Photo Essay.

11 October 2006

Headlines matter

The Far Eastern Economic Review is banned. One more headline to add to the bad press we keep generating for ourselves. How does Singapore gain from this? Also includes a comment about Temasek Holdings' acquisition of Shin Corp. Full essay.

09 October 2006

Short Circuit - for the record

People Like Us organised a one-night film showcase featuring works by up and coming Singaporean gay and lesbian filmmakers, called 'Short Circuit', on 6 October 2006. Part 1 recounts how this event came about and why. Part 2 describes more about 5 of the 12 short films shown.

Short Circuit - a review

Guest writer Charles Tan gives us his review of 'PLU Short Circuit', the first ever showcase of queer short films in Singapore, held on 6 October 2006. Full essay.

08 October 2006

When hip hop is scary

Twelve members of parliament, in an attempt to shed the stuffy, authoritarian image of the People's Action Party and "connect" with younger voters, are going to do a little hip hop dancing next February during the Chingay Parade. It sends shudders down my spine. Full essay.

04 October 2006

The apology that wasn't

Lee Kuan Yew writes to Malaysian Prime Minister Badawi over his remarks that Malaysia and Indonesia want Singapore to be like their compliant Chinese minorities . Full essay.

28 September 2006

Volleyball team does Singapore proud

At the Gay Games in Chicago earlier this year, a volleyball team fought their to 4th place out of 26 teams from various countries. They also had a great time while there, in the spirit of the Games. Full essay.

27 September 2006

From selective wisdom to selective folly: why the future does not belong to bloggers

This is the text of the lunchtime talk delivered at Singapore Management University, on 27 Sept 2006, at the invitation of the Wee Kim Wee Centre. Full speech.

25 September 2006

What we've yet to see, hear or speak of

In Hong Kong, unequal age of consent was declared discriminatory and unconstitutional by the Court of Appeal. In India, an open letter is issued to Members of Parliament to repeal the law against "unnatural sex". Full essay.

23 September 2006

Lessons from the Thai coup d'etat

What are the risks to a viable democracy that can be discerned from Thailand's failed experiment that ended with a military take-over a few days ago? Full essay.

21 September 2006

Who owns the street?

The Substation wanted to hold a big event involving arts performances and civil society groups. It would fill the Substation building and spill out into the garden and Armenian Street. The police killed it with their paranoia. Full essay.

Minister tries to explain censorship of gay expression

Balaji Sadasivan the MICA Minister of State was reported to have said recently that a concert was banned because the organisers would not accept an R21 rating. Was it so? Full essay.

18 September 2006

Tell the people that others are singing our praises

The Straits Times tells us that many journalists and delegates to the World Bank/IMF meetings appreciate the good things in Singapore. But are we deluding ourselves about what a wonderful and efficient place this is? Full essay.

17 September 2006

Frontline: Hong Lim

Opposition politician Chee Soon Juan and his supporters, prevented from marching to Parliament House and Suntec Convention centre, camp out at Hong Lim Green. Full essay.

15 September 2006

Noisy when people throw stones at tinpots

Even the World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has broken diplomatic silence to call Singapore "authoritarian", adding that "enormous damage has been done" to our reputation. Full essay.

13 September 2006

Why I was such a bitch on Tuesday

The Straits Times contacted me for some comments about a story they're working on - gay teens and HIV. I refused to provide any input. Full essay.

12 September 2006

Silence serves us poorly

Another person I knew, albeit distantly, died of an AIDS-related illness recently. Silence about HIV and sex is counter-productive, allowing the disease to come ever closer to those who are dear to us. Full essay.

07 September 2006

Peaceful Streets

Why don't Singaporeans clamour for freedom of speech and assembly? This is the speech delivered to the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand. Full speech.

05 September 2006

CNA: Fifty-dollar men

A shallow, disjointed television documentary about male prostitution in Little India illustrates a more general problem: why our creative industries will have a hard time taking off. Full essay.

02 September 2006

The case of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi

I present here the facts of this drug-trafficking case, and I ask my readers to play the role of jury. Would you have convicted him on these facts? Full essay.

31 August 2006

Cinema: Singapore Dreaming

This film by Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen, boasting fine acting and sure-footed direction, is an exploration of the way we see a good life as one underpinned by consumerism and status. Full essay.

29 August 2006

Selling immigration

The government proposes to open the door even wider to immigration, but their lack of political skills makes this an uphill task. The Straits Times' obtuseness in running stories about "new Singaporeans" using the angle that they took doesn't help at all. Full essay.

27 August 2006

On the front bench

Background to and script of the 5-minute speech I gave in the old Parliament chamber, as part of Talking Cock in Parliament. Full essay.

26 August 2006

Nice pineapple tarts

Fifteen individuals tell their personal stories of what it means to be gay or lesbian in a new book, SQ21 - a first, not only in Singapore, but in Asia. Full essay.

25 August 2006

How NOT to succeed in the conventions business

The World Bank and IMF will be holding their summit in Singapore next month, but we have banned all outdoor NGO activities that are a customary part of such summits. The World Bank expresses its disapproval of Singapore's heavy-handed regulation, and we think we're winning good press for our conventions business? Full essay.

23 August 2006

Immigration, public opinion and seizable offences

Immigration was the main theme of PM Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech. In it, he acknowledged that many Singaporeans were uneasy about it, so he set out to convince people otherwise. Strange that on this issue, the government didn't feel bound by "conservative" public opinion. Full essay.

21 August 2006

Taxi problem is not a taxi problem

Are there too few taxis in Singapore? Overall, I don't think so. But we do have a problem springing firstly, from a reliance on central planning and secondly, from a failure of bus and train to serve commuters pressed for time or laden with stuff. Full essay.

20 August 2006

A rally for relationship equality

Guest writer Charles Tan sent this report from Sydney, Australia, where he helped out with an outdoor rally and march for same-sex marriage. Full essay.

19 August 2006

Apathetic youth, idols, buzz and a paedophile

Why youths are politically apathetic in Taiwan, why Singapore Idol is a disgrace, and other bits of news on the television tonight. Full essay.

18 August 2006

13 August 2006

PAP wins by a landslide

Even gays voted for them during Indignation. Full essay.

11 August 2006

Mahathir's mirror

It is impossible not to notice that in former Malaysian PM Mahathir's campaign against current PM Abdullah Badawi, we can see a reflection of Singapore politics. Perhaps that's why our mainstream press avoids commentary on what's happening across the causeway. Full essay.

Our trees

Once in a while, we should stop and look at our city, in this case, our trees. Tree cover is one of the most distinguishing features of Singapore compared to many cities, particularly Asian ones. Photo essay.

09 August 2006

Singapore government takes hostages from foreign press

The government has demanded that Time and Newsweek magazines, among others, deposit S$200,000 as surety for legal damages, and appoint legal representatives here to receive summonses. Full essay.

Clown show from our state censors

The permit for the play 'Smegma' was approved 4 days before its scheduled premiere, but half an hour later, in another telephone conversation, it became "still pending". However, within the same conversation, it became "approved" again and the permit issued in writing. Three days later, it became "not approved" with 3 reasons provided. Half an hour later, the reasons were changed. Full essay.

08 August 2006

The fear and lunacy that is arts censorship

A poem can be printed but not read. Art works that someone somewhere may take offence to cannot be exhibited. Anything that is "sexually suggestive" must be taken out of an art exhibition before an adults-only licence can be granted. This is how Singapore hopes to encourage creativity. Full essay.

The constipated MDA

Siew Meng Ee organised an art exhibition for IndigNation 2006, the gay and lesbian Pride Season. In this guest article, he records the dealings he had with the Media Development Authority, our state censors. Full essay.

07 August 2006

Political apoplexy and police priorities

Soon after IndigNation was announced, the police began applying pressure on the bars that were venues for the social events. A close-up look at the totally unprofessional, shameful behaviour of this department. But why did they behave so bizarrely? Full essay.

28 July 2006

Racial Harmony Day

A newspaper reported that our teenagers could not read race and religion the Singapore way. For example, 1 in 3 weren't sure of the distinction between 'Malay' and 'Malaysian'. Is this inimical to racial harmony? Full essay.

27 July 2006

Israel attacks Hezbollah in Lebanon

The recent flare-up in the Middle East highlights the problem of militias and the gulf between Arab governments and their people. The failure of statesmanship on both the Israeli and Arab sides has prolonged the Middle East conflict unecessarily. Full essay.

24 July 2006

Sauce for the goose

Columnist Andy Ho of the Straits Times warns against political videos, particularly those that mock and parody our leaders. Meanwhile, in another column, are jokes that mock and parody (not our) leaders. Full essay.

21 July 2006

Honour and the control of others

Zidane head-butts Materazzi. Taiwanese father poisons his own son. How sexist and patriarchal ideas make men look stupid. Full essay.

18 July 2006

Struggles rather than Troubles?

Guest writer Liew Kai Khiun, a post-'65 Singaporean, takes an uncommon look at the post-1945 "communist subversives" and explains why it's time to revise Singapore's dominant political narrative. Full essay.

15 July 2006

Gay marriage defeated in New York court

In the recent case of Hernandez v Robles, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the law allowing only opposite-sex couples to marry was not unconstitutional. What were the grounds for this decision? The key arguments explained. Full essay.

When the puppet speaks to the master

There was a striking headline in the Straits Times on 14 July 2006. "Where are the political cartoons today?" it asked. To whom was that question posed? And what might it be telling us about the dynamics between the government and its media? Full essay.

12 July 2006

Singapore buys Malaysia, Malaysia bombs Singapore

One may be outrageous and the other is widely seen as funny. But what if the tables are turned, and someone jokes about Singapore bombing Malaysia? How far would you qualify free speech? Full essay.

Let Mr Brown speak

Eric Tan wrote a letter to the Straits Times Forum regarding the "suspension" of the Mr Brown column. The newspaper declined to publish it. The letter.

Flags and monuments

Unfortunately, flying the Singapore flag around our National Day does not mean what it is supposed to mean. And monuments are made to mean what they may not mean. Full essay.

08 July 2006

Much ado about citizen journalism

The Straits Times ran a feature story on citizen journalism on 8 July 2006. It seemed oddly out of focus, but perhaps it was because, based on the questions they had emailed me, I expected it to go deep into issues of contestation and boundaries. Full essay.

06 July 2006

The inutility of speaking truth unto power

A well-known blogger wrote a commentary on the latest household income statistics in 'Today' newspaper. The government took him to task for "sarcasm" saying he was being partisan. Meanwhile, I saw the Korean film 'The king and the clown', which dealt with the effect of political satire too. Full essay.

Income inequality widens markedly

One in three Singapore households had less income in 2005 than in 2000, a government survey showed. In the same period, the top 10 percent of households saw their income increase by nearly 15 percent. Full essay.

03 July 2006

The troubles of Joo Chiat

Residents in this part of Singapore are upset about the bars mushrooming in the area. How bad is the problem? Yawning Bread makes a visit and discusses the the more general zoning and urban planning issues raised as a result. Full essay.

30 June 2006

Homosexuality and the problem of scale

Too many people make efforts to screen homosexual orientation -- theirs and others -- from view. Others (scientists) don't even see homosexuality even when animals are doing it right before their eyes. But as gay invisibility among humans and animals start to fall away, there needs a rethink of the place of homosexuality in nature. Full essay.

The Straits Times as an educational tool

I point out a number of errors in an edition of the Straits Times, not because we should gloat about it, but to signal to ourselves how serious the language situation has become. It's a sad day when bad English creeps into the premier newspaper. It indicates that there is so much of it around us, all the filtering by editors still leaves a noticeable residue. Full essay.

28 June 2006

Keeping Singapore safe for families

Here's where we need to think critically for a moment about the sex industry. Why is this considered antithetical to "safe"? What images do we see in our minds when we raise the battlecry "families"? How much of our motivation is dogma, as opposed to real concern for real people? Full essay.

27 June 2006

Goh Chok Tong admits that GRCs are meant to skew

So that "capable" new candidates get an easy ride into office. GRCs are not only meant to ensure minority race representation but such distortions of fair elections are good for Singapore. Here is another attempt to paint true democracy as bad for us. Full essay.

25 June 2006

How George W Bush feeds Muslim cynicism

A survey in 15 countries found wide differences in perceptions and attitudes between Muslims and Westerners. Particularly notable was that a majority in 4 Muslim countries surveyed did not believe that Arabs carried out the September 11th al-Qaeda attacks. They just won't believe anything from the West. Yet the Bush administration feeds this high degree of cynicism by some of its own actions. Full essay.

23 June 2006

Religion in defence of male privilege

A woman head of a major church faces controversy. Why are most religious establishments closed to women? Nikah Misyar in Malaysia. How organised religions often resist social change, and how the state protects them from criticism. Full essay.

22 June 2006

Lee Hsien Loong not impressed by democracy in Australia

.... because they have a two-party system. Australian PM John Howard, says Lee, "spends all his time dealing with this party politics". Between Howard and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley, they come up with "policies that are detrimental to the nation." This is how our own Prime Minister goes about winning friends. Full essay.

21 June 2006

An appalling standard of English

There is a need to recruit teachers from abroad. In Singapore, we're surrounded by bad English; many teachers do not themselves speak the language well. The problem is compounded by how we teach English in schools as if it were the children's first language, when for most, the language needs to be taught as a second language. But how many teachers from abroad know how to teach English as a second language? Full essay.

18 June 2006

Stomping its way to.... where?

The Straits Times, like traditional print media in many countries, is losing readership. To "stay relevant" to younger readers, it has just launched a web portal called Stomp. But since there is no synergy between the Straits Times and Stomp, it's baffling how the portal can help reverse the newspaper's fortunes. Full essay.

17 June 2006

Football fan-dom, part 3

Survey respondents speak about over-commercialisation of sports with mass following, nationalism and cultural regimentation. And speaking of identity and loyalty, how do Singaporeans choose which teams to support anyway? Full essay.

Football fan-dom, part 2

Survey participants explain why following the World Cup matches is so much fun, especially if one is watching them amidst company. Full essay.

16 June 2006

Football fan-dom, part 1

During this World Cup season, it has been reported that as many as 1 in 5 men are taking leave to watch the games. Even outside of Cup season, many men follow sports, especially soccer, avidly. Why? And why is the following mostly male? Yawning Bread conducted a survey during the first 2 weeks of June, and here, I present a part of the results. Full essay.

13 June 2006

Courts must pay attention to the quality of justice

At what point does entrapment become illegitimate? The law on this has evolved considerably elsewhere, but do our courts even see this as an issue? In the same vein, why don't we compensate people who have been wrongly charged for criminal offences? Full essay.

Yet another exploitative story by the New Paper

Supposedly, the story was about a young doctor caught for possessing drugs, devoting 61 words to that court case. 745 more words were about gays, drugs, sex. This was just 3 months after an earlier New Paper story about gays, drugs, sex; and only 1 month after a story about gays, HIV, sex. Full essay.

09 June 2006

Signs of Singapore

In a city such as ours, we're surrounded by signs, promoting famous brand names, telling us there's a road detour ahead or asking us to donate generously to a charity. Among these are a few signs that are relatively unique to Singapore, either in terms of their message or the way they convey their information. These signs tell us we're not in any other city, but in Singapore. They're signs of our Singaporeanness. Photo essay.

07 June 2006

Interpreting the IPS voter survey

While I have my doubts about how representative the survey was, it nonetheless gave some useful findings. Relative to other concerns, many voters did think that having opposition parties represented in Parliament was among the most important of issues. Termed 'Pluralists' by researchers, these voters were more likely to be found among the middle and upper classes. What does this mean for opposition parties' programs and campaigning styles? Full essay.

05 June 2006

The propaganda of lies, the propaganda of spin

The 17th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, the dismissal of the 'Bak Chor Mee' podcast and George W Bush's latest campaign all draw our attention to different kinds of government propaganda, and why we should be alert to them. Full essay.

03 June 2006

From the electorate to the internet and back

BL's guest essay with his thoughts on the IPS post-election forum, held on 2 June 2006. In particular, he disucsses 'The evolving electorate' and 'The role of the internet', papers on which were presented at the event. Full essay.

IPS post-election forum, part 2

In the afternoon session of this forum, Derek da Cunha and representatives of 4 political parties gave their take on 'The future of the parties'. Terence Chong and Tan Tarn How discussed 'The changing nature of politics in Singapore'. Full Essay.

IPS post-election forum, part 1

In the morning half of the forum, Gillian Koh revealed results from a post-polling day attitudinal survey. Janadas Devan, Viswa Sadasivan and Ken Kwek discussed 'The future of the political system in Singapore'. Full Essay.

02 June 2006

The Mbeki Syndrome

South Africa has the highest HIV prevalance rate of any major country. It is said that its president is immobilised by denial. To admit the problem is to concede that black Africans are an irresponsible race. Crazy, right? But this kind of attitude can be found all over the world. In Singapore too? Full essay.

30 May 2006

Merapi, bird flu and creationism

Some people believe in mountain spirits, others in a biblical account of creation. Many others -- hopefully including some readers -- put their trust in scientific rationalism. But why do we believe in it? It's nothing more than faith and familiarity. So how is it different from believing in mountain spirits and a deity that worked 7 days in a row? Full essay.

28 May 2006

300 Egyptian judges protest against government interference

It's headline news elsewhere but I haven't seen this in Singapore newspapers. 300 judges in Egypt recently held a protest against government interference in their independence. Specifically, it was about 2 judges being prosecuted after they spoke out against some of their colleagues for helping to legitimise the 2005 general election. These 2 judges, and many election observers, felt that the election was marred by irregularities. See a recent BBC report here, and another report a month ago.

27 May 2006

Opposition parties' poor bet

During the elections, I got the sense that the opposition parties continued to oppose the proposed casinos, but at no time could I grasp what well-thought-out reason they had for holding that position. In my view, they should be supporting the casino decision. Full essay.

Gay equality: from First world to Third

This month, Massachusetts marked the 2nd anniversary of gay marriage. Last month there was a debate about gay marriage at Renmin University in Beijing. Meanwhile in Singapore, our gay news is about a tabloid devoting 4 pages to calling on the government to shut down gay places. Full essay.

25 May 2006

Legislator wants to "manage" political expression on the internet

At a recent forum, new Member of Parliament Denise Phua said she was shocked to see that anti-PAP opinions heavily outnumbered pro-PAP ones on the internet. She said the PAP should "manage this channel of communication." What does her performance tell us about the "quality" candidates that the PAP boasts of? Full essay.

24 May 2006

The misuse of the state

Lee Kuan Yew says (again) that a multiparty system is not necessary for a democracy. Multiparty democracy, he said, will mean that "we will not have a stable environment," implying that economic growth will be sacrificed. I argue here that the purpose of a state is not economic, but for justice and security. By misdirecting the state, its institutions and processes to economic ends, we distort our obligation to provide justice, which includes social justice and political rights. Full essay.

Why we should be proud of Singapore 1

If you think Singapore's Straits Times and other newspapers are too fawning, you should read other countries' newspapers once in a while. This photo is from the front page of Brunei's Borneo Bulletin, 10 May 2006. The caption says,

"His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office and Deputy Inspector-General of Police, yesterday made a courtesy call on Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong."

What a mouthful. Did you have a hard time even parsing that sentence?

Why we should be proud of Singapore 2

This is a news item from Brunei's newspaper, the Borneo Bulletin, 10 May 2006. It tells the public that the phone numbers of the Housing Department, 238 2143 and 238 2146, aren't working well "due to a faulty PABX system".

The department can only receive a limited number of calls through the system. The problem surfaced in November 2005, i.e. seven months ago. However, it assured the public that action is being taken to replace the PABX. In the meantime, the public is asked to make a physical visit to the department instead of calling.

Now, Brunei is not as small as Singapore. If you're living in the town of Kuala Belait, it's a 2-hour drive to the Housing Department. All because they don't have working phones. Brunei is an oil-rich sultanate.

Indonesia: fundamentalism on the march

The trememdous success of rational thought in delivering material progress has marginalised the place of religion in the contemporary world. Rapid social change cause many to feel their lifestyles and beliefs under siege. The thought-habits of the modern world has in turn changed how religion is accessed. Together, these give rise to the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism that we see today. Full essay.

23 May 2006

Ten excruciating seconds

.... in an elevator. Two girls in love, 17 others in shock. Is this appropriate behaviour? If we say it is inappropriate, does it stop here? Does it mean we're excused from understanding why it occurs? An external essay, written for Fridae.com

21 May 2006

The last communist in the cinema

Amir Muhammad's film The Last Communist revisits the communist insurgency in Malaya, while looking at the country today. He also interviews the last of the fighters, now living in southern Thailand. But history is not over yet, and so long as we are human, will never be. Full essay.

20 May 2006

Responding with thought

There are 3 letters here. The first writer describes how he/she felt when she realised how homophobic a TV program on sexuality was. The second (straight) writer works out what homosexual orientation means, drawing from his own self-awareness. The third letter tells of how a father took in the fact that his son was gay. Full essay.

More pictures from election rallies

Contributor Sunsetbay's photographs of rallies from the recent general election are assembled here. They feature the Workers' Party's rallies at Tampines and Serangoon Stadium, as well as pictures of the People's Action Party rally at Tampines. Photo pin-up board.

Political debate should include educational policies

Moede Funct, a guest commentator, details the many ways in which Singapore's education system creates stresses for many people concerned. He asks whether policies, especially policy changes, are well thought out. Is there a bias towards serving the bright kids? Full essay.

Did CNA act unprofessionally?

A blogger noticed that when Channel News Asia showed his site on TV, some important words were invisible. CNA denied that the journalist doctored the images. So where lies the truth? Full essay.

Flat-footed and worse

"Citizen journalism" may have had an impact on the Straits Times during the recent general election. Here I document how the newspaper's reporting and photographic representation of rallies shifted. But rather than attacking the mainstream media for their inadequacies, we should focus on the regulatory regime they have to operate under, although whether they are even more timid than absolutely necessary is a moot question too. Full essay.

Lesbian brains, lesbophobia and the path to the divine

Full essay. New research shows that lesbians respond to hormone-derived smells of men and women in a unique way. Is homosexuality inborn or learned? Meanwhile 3 young men talk about a lesbian they came across, showing us how we may rise above our own selfishness.

Race and ethnicity: the Singaporean perspective

Full essay. In Singapore almost no one speaks about ethnicity. We're always referring to race. Are they the same thing? If not, which is more meaningful?

The deadly embrace of politics

Full essay. In Canada, a court has been called upon to decide whether Singapore's justice system meets Canadian constitutional standards. Why? What will be the consequences if the court feels ours do not? And why is it only now that the Straits Times is reporting about this case?

A post-election scolding from old Lee

Full essay. Lee Kuan Yew got stern with Singaporeans after the People's Action Party won the general election with 66% of the votes. "Please do not assume that you can change governments. Young people don't understand this," he said.

Chikus and me

Full essay. A fruit from my childhood brings back memory, but also prompts the question of what the passage of time and the passage of life means. When is a life complete?