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    The Bukit Batok by-election to fill the seat vacated by Mr David Ong could be held as early as May, soon after Parliament completes its debate on the Budget on April 15.

    But observers doubt the People's Action Party (PAP) will be in such a rush, even as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he will call for one "in due course".

    Institute of Policy Studies deputy director for research Gillian Koh said the ruling party "may even take some time to ensure that no local issues pop up to make things more difficult for them".

    National University of Singapore political scientist Bilveer Singh said this "classic case of moral deficit" - Mr Ong resigned citing an affair - comes at a bad time "for a party that talks so much about ethics, cleanliness, uprightness, leadership".

    He expects the PAP to allow some "cooling down" time first.

    Although Mr Ong won 73 per cent of the vote in last year's general election, this by-election will likely see a closer fight, said observers.

    The single seat has not always been a safe bet for the ruling party.

    Prior to GE2015, the last time Bukit Batok was contested as a single seat, in 1991, the margin was slimmer. PAP candidate Ong Chit Chung defended his seat with 52 per cent of the vote against the SDP's Kwan Yue Keng.

    Ahead of GE1997, the seat was absorbed into Bukit Timah GRC, and later became part of Jurong GRC.

    Dr Ong died in 2008, sparking a debate on whether a by-election had to be held. As the ward was part of Jurong GRC, the conclusion was that there was no need for one.

    This time, there will be one, and the SDP intends to contest it.

    The likely result will depend on who is fielded and how many players enter the fray, said Associate Professor Eugene Tan of the Singapore Management University. Of the SDP's choice, he said: "I think it will boil down either to Dr Paul Tambyah or Dr Chee Soon Juan."

    Both were in the SDP's four-man team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC in GE2015, where the SDP had its best showing with 33 per cent.

    Political observer Derek da Cunha said on Facebook the by-election is a chance for Dr Chee to aim for Parliament, but said "it will be more of a referendum on his relative popularity instead of anything else".

    Experts noted that Bukit Batok's western location puts it outside traditional Workers' Party territory. WP did not say what its plans were.

    People's Power Party leader Goh Meng Seng said he will discuss with the SDP whether to contest. The Singapore Democratic Alliance, National Solidarity Party and Reform Party all said they had yet to decide.

    Said Dr Singh: "I don't think the PAP is in danger of losing the seat."

    Prof Tan said the upcoming by-election will be a "very different scenario" from the 2013 Punggol East by-election, which PAP lost to WP candidate Lee Li Lian amid residual anti-PAP sentiment from GE2011. Dr Koh said Ms Lee was helped by unhappiness over local issues such as incomplete renovations of a wet market and shopping mall and a lack of childcare.

    Public housing accounts for 95.7 per cent of Bukit Batok households, with four-room flats the most common. Voters will "be mindful" of the fact that their ward will no longer come under Jurong-Clementi Town Council if the PAP lose, said Prof Tan. The SDP has not run a town council since the 1990s.

    Bukit Batok's history as part of Jurong GRC could be to the PAP's advantage, said Dr Koh. "Perhaps the PAP can ride some way on the strength of political capital that Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Speaker Madam Halimah (Yacob) have built up over the years in that area," she said.

    The past two by-elections:

    The last two by-elections were both prompted by MPs stepping down due to personal indiscretions.

    Hougang

    Late January, 2012: Rumours of an extramarital affair between first-term Workers' Party MP Yaw Shin Leong and a fellow WP member begin to spread online.

    Feb 14: WP expels Mr Yaw, who had won the Hougang seat in the 2011 General Election, rendering the seat vacant.

    May 9: Writ of election issued.

    May 16: Nomination Day May 26: By-election held. WP candidate Png Eng Huat wins with 62.1 per cent of the vote against PAP's Desmond Choo.

    Punggol East

    Dec 12, 2012: People's Action Party MP Michael Palmer, who was then Speaker of Parliament, resigns after admitting to an extramarital affair with a People's Association constituency director.

    Jan 9, 2013: Writ of election issued. Jan 16: Nomination Day Jan 26: By-election held. In a four-way fight, WP candidate Lee Li Lian wins with 54.5 per cent of the vote.

    PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon garners 43.7 per cent of the vote, while Reform Party candidate Kenneth Jeyaretnam receives 1.2 per cent and Singapore Democratic Alliance candidate Desmond Lim gets 0.6 per cent.

    janiceh@sph.com.sg


    This article was first published on March 13, 2016.
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    MR ARUL RAJA, a manager at a heavy equipment manufacturing company, about his daughter. Mr Ong had written a letter to appeal to a nearby school to take his daughter in, so she could go to a school close to home.

    Bukit Batok residents yesterday said they were shocked and saddened by the news that their MP David Ong had resigned, saying it was a pity to see him leave.

    They said he had done a good job of running their estate as the chairman of the Jurong-Clementi Town Council, and was always on the ground helping residents.

    The Prime Minister's Office announced yesterday afternoon that Mr Ong had stepped down as MP and quit the People's Action Party (PAP), where he had been a longtime member before being fielded to contest the 2011 General Election.

    Shortly after his resignation was made public, Mr Ong admitted that it was over "a personal indiscretion on my part which I deeply regret".

    The dozen residents The Sunday Times spoke to yesterday were surprised at the news that he had quit.

    Taxi driver Thomas Lim said: "Who doesn't make mistakes? He shouldn't have to quit. He should just apologise and stay on."

    His sentiment was shared by several other residents, such as clerical worker Lim Soon Hiang, 59, who said: "I am not very concerned about his personal life. He is a very good MP and has helped my family a few times. I will still support him if he stays."

    Some, like retiree Leow Leong Hai, 90, were however concerned about their MP quitting just months into his term, and having to vote again so soon after the general election.

    Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that a by-election will be called "in due course".

    Others were concerned their estate would be affected.

    Asked a 45-year-old resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lim: "Are our toilet upgrading programmes and neighbourhood renewal programmes going to continue? Will there be changes?"

    The PAP said yesterday that Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee, an MP for Jurong GRC, will take over Mr Ong's Meet-the-People Sessions. Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng will take over Mr Ong's role as Jurong-Clementi Town Council chairman.

    Mr Ong, 54, has been an MP for the area since 2011, when Bukit Batok was a ward in Jurong GRC. It was made a single seat last year.

    But most residents painted a picture of a hard-working MP who was friendly and approachable.

    Madam Lim said that although her family moved to the area only seven months ago, she would often see Mr Ong around her block. "He's very hard-working. His Meet-the- People Sessions end very late, and I see him walking around again early in the morning," she said. "During Chinese New Year, he was greeting residents at the market at 6am."

    Mr Arul Raja, 39, is among the residents whom Mr Ong has helped. The manager at a heavy equipment manufacturing company said Mr Ong wrote a letter to appeal to a nearby school to take his daughter in, so she could go to a school close to home.

    "She was sent to a school in Jurong and was carsick on the school bus every day. Mr Ong helped us and she was transferred after one month," he said. "I have three other friends he has helped," he added.

    Retired cleaner Tan Nan Hiang, 71, said Mr Ong was obliging and quick to respond to residents. "He was very willing to solve our problems and listen to our suggestions. When we asked him to fix this or that, he will always do it," she said.

    Many of the residents noted that Mr Ong won over 70 per cent of the vote in a three-way fight last year.

    Said pre-school principal Catherine Wong, 43: "Let's hope we choose the right MP again."

    rachelay@sph.com.sg


    This article was first published on March 13, 2016.
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    Muslims will each have to pay $1 to $10 more in monthly contributions to the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund (MBMF) from June 1.

    This is expected to increase annual contributions to the fund by $6 million, bringing the net contribution annually to $26.2 million.

    First introduced in 1975, the MBMF funds the construction and upgrading of mosques in Singapore. It also supports educational and social programmes by self-help group Mendaki and religious education initiatives for Muslims.

    Under the revision, contributions will become more progressive, with four tiers introduced for those earning $4,000 to $10,000 monthly.

    Those earning between $4,000 and $6,000 a month will pay $19.50, a $3.50 increase each month. Those earning more than $10,000 a month will contribute an additional $10, bringing their monthly total to $26.

    Workers earning $1,000 or less a month will contribute $1 more, bringing their monthly contribution $3. Those earning $1,000 to $2,000 a month will pay $4.50 instead of $3.50 before.

    "This will go a long way to improving the socio-religious life of our community," said Minister-in- charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore's (Muis) Workplan Seminar held at the Singapore Islamic Hub in Braddell Road.

    The previous revision of contribution rates to the fund, which all Muslim working adults contribute to, was made in 2009.

    Muis chief executive Abdul Razak Maricar said that with rising construction costs, the current contribution rates will not be able to support the construction and upgrading of mosques. He cited the examples of Muhajirin Mosque in Toa Payoh, the first to be built under the Mosque Building Fund at a cost of $1.2 million when it was completed in 1976, and Al-Islah Mosque in Punggol, which was completed last year at a cost of $16.5 million.

    "Some of our earlier mosques are in a state of disrepair and need to be rebuilt and equipped with new facilities," said Mr Abdul Razak.

    There are currently 69 mosques in Singapore, 24 of which were built using the fund. Two new ones, Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands and Maarof Mosque in Jurong West, are expected to be completed by the year end. Another mosque in Tampines North is expected to start construction in 2018.

    The increased contributions to the fund will also help to enhance madrasah education here, allowing new initiatives to be introduced. These include the International Baccalaureate programme for Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, expected to be introduced in 2019.

    It also represents a boost in funding for Mendaki, which has been dipping into its reserves since 2013.

    Mr Abdul Razak said that of those who opted to give more to the fund, 75 per cent earned less than $2,000.

    While the revisions are necessary, an eye is being kept on making sure that the increases are affordable for lower-wage workers.

    "We don't want to increase the burden on our community," said Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for Communications and Information.

    Muslims interviewed at the seminar were glad that the fund would continue to support the upgrading of mosques and creation of more prayer spaces for the community.

    "Now, more Muslims can pray more easily," said Mr Mohamed Jaafar, secretary of the Singapore Tenkasi Muslim Welfare Society.

    azhaki@sph.com.sg


    This article was first published on March 13, 2016.
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    Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday described Dr Tan Cheng Bock's recent decision to announce his bid for the presidency as a "calculated political gambit" that is open to interpretation.

    Mr Goh added that by making his statement as a Constitutional Commission is reviewing the process, Dr Tan runs the risk of being seen as trying to influence the panel's work and politicising the system.

    His comments came a day after Dr Tan, a former People's Action Party MP, said he was making a second bid for the presidency.

    Dr Tan lost the 2011 presidential election to President Tony Tan Keng Yam by 7,382 votes, comprising 0.35 percentage point, in a four- way race. The next election must be held by August next year.

    Mr Goh told The Sunday Times: "His move was a calculated political gambit and, of course, it is open to many interpretations or even misinterpretations. One could interpret his move as coming from someone who is ambitious, as making a move to be president, or it could be to discourage others from coming in.

    "Last time, there were four candidates and he nearly won, (he) lost by a small margin. So if you can discourage others from coming in, it's a straight fight, then you will have a better chance."

    The 2011 presidential election was also contested by Mr Tan Jee Say and Mr Tan Kin Lian.

    Mr Goh said a second view could be that Dr Tan is "rallying the ground to support him". He added: "Once the ground supports him, it may make it more difficult, he thinks, for the Constitutional Commission to come up with criteria that may disqualify him. This is speculative, of course."

    A nine-member commission led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon is reviewing the eligibility criteria for candidates, the role of the Council of Presidential Advisers, and steps to ensure minority candidates can be elected from time to time.

    Mr Goh said what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was seeking through the review was "correct".

    "I know how the Government thinks, we plan ahead to ensure there will be a stable, fair and contestable system that will stand Singapore in good stead. And the system must enable good candidates to contest for president," he said.

    "But the commission is still reviewing the process. By coming out now and risking being misunderstood that you are trying to influence the commission's working, in a way, he has been politicising the process."

    He also said that he was not surprised by Dr Tan's announcement.

    "Indeed, he is an old friend," said Mr Goh. "I've known him for over 55 years. What he did was in keeping with his character. Once he has decided to do something, (he) will do all he can to achieve that goal."

    Asked if Mr Tan had consulted him about the move, Mr Goh said: "In the past, we would have spoken to one another. But after the last presidential election, he was and will be on his own.

    "We are still very good friends, still go out with each other, but I will not try to influence him... I will just wish him good luck."

    Mr Goh was at a film screening in Marine Terrace. Nine short films about Marine Parade and its history - produced by Temasek Polytechnic students over four months - were screened for residents.

    rachelay@sph.com.sg


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  • 03/12/16--21:16: Six months on the ground
  • SINGAPORE - The excitement of last September's General Election has died down, and the new Members of Parliament have settled into a rhythm of visiting residents in their homes, attending community events and running weekly Meet-the-People Sessions.

    They have also made their parliamentary debut at the opening of the 13th Parliament on issues close to their hearts.

    For instance, Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo, 38, suggested a more family-friendly flexible work arrangement for mothers, while Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Saktiandi Supaat, 42, highlighted the need to raise awareness of SkillsFuture initiatives in the Malay-Muslim community.

    All this was on top of their day jobs, which are no less demanding.

    But what do they make of their performance and their political journey so far?

    The Sunday Times quizzed all the new MPs on their biggest gaffes in the last six months, the loss of their political innocence and which Harry Potter House they would put themselves in.

    Is it the just and loyal house of Hufflepuff, or that of Gryffindor, reserved only for the bravest?

    As the MPs, often thought of as strait-laced political figures, reflect on the past six months, their responses to the somewhat cheeky questions provide a glimpse into their personalities.

    Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Sun Xueling, 36, once visited 160 households in her ward wearing high-heeled shoes, while Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Yee Chia Hsing, 44, wishes he was Sun Wukong, the speedy mythological monkey god who can create several clones of himself.

    Several new MPs did not respond, or declined to respond, to the questions.

    The latter include Acting Education Ministers, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Ng Chee Meng, 47, and Sembawang GRC MP Ong Ye Kung, 46, as well as Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Chee Hong Tat, 42, Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health.

    Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan, 39, who has been media-shy since the elections last year, said via her branch secretary she could not take part due to her hectic schedule.

    Her election opponent Dennis Tan, 45, one of three Workers' Party (WP) Non-Constituency MPs, declined to respond. So did his WP colleague Leon Perera, 45.

    Photo: PAP HQ

    TAN WU MENG, 40

    MP for Jurong GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    In politics you have to be innocent, yet worldly - being able to believe in and bring out the best in people while knowing some folk may have selfish or even harmful intentions. I remember an old lady with cancer. She sold her HDB flat and transferred the proceeds to her daughter for safe keeping and moved in with her. Her condition improved. But the daughter evicted her the first day of Chinese New Year. When family members do not treat each other with basic decency, it's heartbreaking.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    On the first night of Chingay, we all got drenched despite the ponchos, including my four-year old daughter. Her spare clothes were wet. I should have put them in a Ziploc bag.

    What in the last six months do you think people remember you for?

    Wearing my heart on my sleeve.

    The most surprising thing about politics I have found out is...

    How you start to live, breathe, sleep, thinking about Singapore all the time - it's a tone our leaders set. Experiences at work can provide perspectives on how to make Singapore better: looking after patients, listening to the challenges doctors and nurses face.

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    Gryffindor.

    If you could turn back the clock on the campaign last year, what would you do differently?

    I prefer to focus on shaping our "Days of Present Futures" (to paraphrase from X-Men).

    Photo: The Straits Times

    AMRIN AMIN, 37

    MP for Sembawang GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    It's more a gradual process. I started involving myself with grassroots work in 2003. I had a bit of time to learn and settle in.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    It's been good so far. People have been very kind and encouraging.

    What in the last six months do you think people remember you for?

    Being part of an awesome Sembawang GRC "boyband" team. (The five MPs are all men, aged 37 to 63.)

    The most surprising thing about politics I have found out is...

    It is full of surprises, pleasant and not so pleasant, and you have to greet both with grace. I remember these lines from Rudyard Kipling's poem If: "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those imposters just the same... If you can fill the unforgiving minute, With 60 seconds' worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth..."

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    Hufflepuff. I identify with their values of hard work, patience and dedication.

    If you could turn back the clock on the campaign last year, what would you do differently?

    I try my best at each stage and move on from there.

    Photo: Berita Harian

    YEE CHIA HSING, 44

    MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    I still believe that I have managed to hold on my political innocence.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    Thankfully, nothing big. But I started my Facebook presence with both profile and page, so now I have to maintain both accounts.

    What in the last six months do you think people remember you for?

    I hope residents remember me as a friendly and hardworking MP. In my maiden speech, I spoke about the difficult market conditions local small and medium enterprises are facing. Some residents who run small businesses thanked me for speaking up for them.

    The most surprising thing about politics I have found out is...

    Residents are very welcoming. Not only during house visits, but when we appear unexpectedly, like handing out oranges during Chinese New Year at a bus stop. A resident driving past stopped to say "hi".

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    I can't really tell which House is which. Given that it is the Year of the Monkey, I wish I was Sun Wukong, the Monkey God who can call on multiple clones of himself. On Valentine's Day, I had five Chinese New Year community events and was out all day.

    If you could turn back the clock on the campaign last year, what would you do differently?

    Nothing much. Think our campaign went smoothly.

    Photo: The Straits Times

    DANIEL GOH, 42

    Non-Constituency MP

    I lost my political innocence when...

    I witnessed egos clashing between opposition party figures and the way too many of us treated the voters like ground to be fought over rather than people we should be engaging.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    Not waving back to someone who recognised me and waved, and waving back to someone who was actually waving to someone else, thinking she recognised me.

    What do you think people remember you for after the last six months?

    The professor who would be the willing duckweed in Parliament. (Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang said in January that NCMPs have difficulty sinking political roots in a constituency and were like "duckweed on the water of a pond".)

    The most surprising thing about politics I found out was...

    We have so many political pundits concerned with the winning and losing of elections rather than thinker-doers who would listen more, reflect on ways to advance our democracy and act to do so.

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    Ravenclaw, according to my friends. I am no Potterite, but am a Trekkie, and I admire Spock, for his wisdom is derived from the tension of logical reasoning and being in touch with one's emotions, all in the service of humanity.

    If you could turn back the clock on the campaign, what would you do differently?

    Smile a lot more - I tend to retreat into deep thought with a resting wizard face.

    Photo: Berita Harian

    RAHAYU MAHZAM, 35

    MP for Jurong GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    I haven't lost my political innocence. I believe in our political process, I believe that people can come together despite differences and make a decision in the best interests of Singapore and I believe I can make a difference.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    I came late for one event once as I was engaged at an earlier event. I sat down beside an elderly lady and had a conversation with her. She was not from my constituency and came because my residents had invited her. After we spoke for quite a bit, she said: "Is the MP in the area not coming?" I told her I was the MP and learnt that I need to start conversations by properly introducing myself.

    What do you think people remember you for after the last six months?

    I hope people remember the warm conversations we have had, and that I care. I think my residents will remember me for my broken Mandarin. Still working on it. Wo chai shuer (Wo zai xue - I'm learning).

    The most surprising thing about politics I found out was...

    It makes you push yourself and stretch your physical and mental limits. You think about the interests of the country and your residents all the time. It is exhausting but also exhilarating and meaningful.

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    Gryffindor. Hermione is from that house and I want to be like her when I grow up.

    Photo: The Straits Times

    SUN XUELING, 36

    MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    I went for two block visits right after work and had not brought walking shoes. So I visited about 160 housing units in high-heels. I am not sure about losing my political innocence, but I sure lost all feeling in my feet that night.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    There was an important meeting at the Istana, but I had mixed up the dates. I was having chicken wings with my volunteers after doing a walkabout in Punggol when I received a phone call:

    Caller: Where are you?

    Me: In Punggol

    Caller: Are you coming to the Istana?

    Me: Err... for what?

    Caller: There is a meeting in the Cabinet room. We are all waiting for you.

    Me: Huh? Who are you?

    Caller: Gan Kim Yong (Health Minister).

    Photo: The Straits Times

    HENRY KWEK, 39

    MP for Nee Soon GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    Not in the last six months, but in the 2011 GE. I was helping Law Minister K. Shanmugam then and got to see how intense elections are. They're emotional affairs and you can't win by logic alone.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    Touch wood. So far so good.

    What in the last six months do you think people remember you for?

    Different people will remember different things. I have programmes relating to welfare, more infrastructure for the elderly, boosting employability, etc.

    The most surprising thing about politics I have found out is...

    How much kopi I had to drink!

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    Hufflepuff. When it comes to taking care of Kebun Baru's residents, there's no substitute for hard work and persistence.

    If you could turn back the clock on the campaign last year, what would you do differently?

    I prefer to look forward. When we look back, we can always see what we could have done better, but the important thing is whether we have learnt anything for the future.

    Photo: The Straits Times

    KOH POH KOON, 43

    MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    I danced the cha-cha on stage in the town centre and realised it made people happy.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    Subconsciously referring to a "resident" as a "patient" in a speech. (Dr Koh was a colorectal surgeon before he became Minister of State.)

    What in the last six months do you think people remember you for?

    Being responsive to their needs, but also willing to take time to explain why what they are asking for may not always be in their best interest.

    The most surprising thing about politics I have found out...

    Is that sometimes, it is the little things we do for people that makes the most impact in their lives.

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    Gryffindor, whose values are bravery, daring, nerve and chivalry. I danced on stage and sang karaoke (need I say more?)

    If you could turn back the clock on the campaign last year, what would you do differently?

    Ask my helpers to wear better running shoes to reduce blisters, when they had to run with me from house to house to cover 100 per cent of the blocks and private houses in my estate.

    Photo: The Straits Times

    JOAN PEREIRA, 48

    MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    An elderly resident came to my Meet-the-People session and told me to persuade her son to find a girlfriend and get married. I was her last hope for the family line to carry on.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    Singing a Hokkien song off-key. But my residents were most forgiving and continued to cheer me on.

    What in the last six months do you think people remember you for?

    My love and concern for the elderly. I feel most for the elderly, especially those who are isolated and stay alone in their homes.

    The most surprising thing about politics I have found out is...

    It gives you more energy than it takes out of you. Even after a full day's work in the office, I enjoy going to meet my residents.

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    For MPs, we deal with real-life situations. When issues arise, I use my experience and community resources to address and solve them.

    If you could turn back the clock on the campaign last year, what would you do differently?

    I would still take the same path. I care for my residents and will do my best to serve them.

    Photo: The Straits Times

    LOUIS NG, 37

    MP for Nee Soon GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    Still haven't lost it! As an activist for the past 15 years, I'm stubborn, naive and optimistic. Stubborn, because I never accept no as an answer, naive because I believe anything is possible, and optimistic that changes can happen within my lifetime.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    Experiencing what it was like to be a driver - I took the passenger to the wrong destination. Thankfully, she thought it was funny, and I did get her to the right destination and she wasn't late.

    What in the last six months do you think people remember you for?

    Someone who is always on the ground serving and caring with his heart. But probably more of the guy with the 1960s centre-parting always wearing the white shirt and khaki pants and with the same smile.

    The most surprising thing about politics I have found out is...

    The magnitude of the difficulty of making decisions, and finding a solution that can address everyone's concerns. Sometimes it is close to impossible. During our house visits, a resident provided feedback that as his house was on the top floor, the water from the tank was too hot and he couldn't shower. I then visited his neighbour who told me "shiok" free hot water, don't do anything about it!

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    I have never watched Harry Potter movies. But probably the house that is the more vocal one.

    Photo: The Straits Times

    CHONG KEE HIONG, 49

    MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    I came to realise an MP's ability to reach out is largely due to the volunteers who give up much time and effort to do their part to make a difference.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    Walking in the way of the many cameras in Parliament.

    What in the last six months do you think people remember you for?

    My maiden speech in Parliament, which touched on the subject of the difficulties faced by Singaporean workers.

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    Hufflepuff. I hope to continuously live up to these values.

    If you could turn back the clock on the campaign last year, what would you do differently?

    I should have done more physical training so that I could have run faster and covered even more ground.

    Photo: The Straits Times

    SAKTIANDI SUPAAT, 42

    MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    I learnt there are many ramifications when parents divorce, especially those with young children. They are innocent victims and oblivious to how much the mother has to cope with to keep them in school, and feed and clothe them. I teared during a house visit when I met a very young boy who was home alone and cooking packet noodles for lunch.

    The most surprising thing about politics I have found out is...

    Always expect the unexpected. Keep an open mind as there are often many facets to a problem. Residents can be passionate about certain issues. As a politician, one must try to understand why they are so affected.

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    I am hard-pressed to choose between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. The former is defined by love of family, care for people and practicality, while the latter is defined by curiosity and love of learning, and seeks knowledge. I would choose a hybrid of both. However, I certainly don't think we are living in a fantasy world of magic and wizards. Our economy is facing headwinds and I serve on the Committee on the Future Economy. In our ward, we are bracing ourselves to help for the medium term, with opportunities to equip residents with new skills and help them find new jobs.

    If you could turn back the clock on the campaign, what would you do differently?

    Use more anecdotes, examples and simple stories to make points about economic and policy-related issues, as some residents are not able to follow these in much detail.

    Photo: The Straits Times

    MELVIN YONG, 44

    MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    I conducted my first Meet-the-People Session on the Monday after the General Election. Although I had been helping then Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew at his sessions, the feeling of holding your own is different.

    What in the last six months do you think people remember you for?

    I devoted my entire maiden speech to tripartism. It is a key economic competitive advantage that we cannot take for granted. Union leaders tell me that they appreciate the reminder and that it is important for our future generations to understand the values of mutual trust and respect, of teamwork and collaboration.

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    Hufflepuff. The people there are dedicated, kind, patient, loyal and fair. These are the same qualities of our pioneer generation and our union leaders in the NTUC, qualities that I hold close to my heart.

    Photo: The Straits Times

    DESMOND CHOO, 38

    MP for Tampines GRC

    I lost my political innocence when...

    I lost 4kg since GE2015. While campaigning was naturally tough, consistent groundwork takes industry to new dimensions. One- hundred-hour work-weeks are the norm.

    My biggest gaffe was...

    As a sporting but mostly inept dancer during onstage community dancing events.

    What in the last six months do you think people remember you for?

    Near-obsession with house visits, and an almost radical idea of legislating 16+8 weeks of flexiwork arrangement for mothers.

    Which Harry Potter House are you in?

    Not enough of a Harry Potter fan, but working with my millennials reminds me of (teacher) John Keating in Dead Poets' Society. There is so much beauty in the community if we only take time to serve and appreciate.


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  • 03/12/16--21:29: Employers from hell
  • Last Thursday, a woman was jailed for framing her maid by planting jewellery in her luggage and calling the cops. Why do employers do this?

    It was nine months of hell for Filipino maid Juvy.

    In April 2014, she filed a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower for non-payment of salary. But her employer then filed a police report against her, accusing her of theft.

    When no evidence was found, the charge was dropped.

    But her employer did not stop there, filing another police report accusing her of child molest. Again, in October, the case was closed.

    So the employer filed another claim of theft against her. This, too, was later dropped by the police.

    Throughout this time, Juvy stayed at a shelter at Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home).

    For the nine months she was under investigation, she was barred from finding work and could only wait until investigation concluded.

    This is just one of many cases encountered by the welfare organisation for migrant workers.

    Such tactics are not new but it is rare to see such justice meted out to employers who make false accusations, say Home executive director Jolovan Wham.

    That is because unlike what happened in the case involving the preschool teacher, cases are rarely as clear-cut.

    Mr Wham says: "In that case, the employer had come clean and confessed that she lied. But in most of the cases we have seen, they didn't."

    'GIFT'

    One tactic he observed was employers giving their maids something valuable as a present. But when a dispute happened, this "gift" became stolen loot, and the maid was accused of a crime.

    Mr Wham says his organisation has been campaigning against such poor employment practices for a long time.

    "Stories like Juvy's is testament to how access to justice is elusive for many domestic workers," explains Mr Wham, adding that the maid has since returned to the Philippines.

    ABOUT THE CASE

    Upset with her maid for wanting to return to India, Desai Asti Amit decided to frame her.

    The 36-year-old pre-school teacher planted a gold pendant and a metal prayer cup in her maid's luggage last year.

    When these items were uncovered during an inspection, she accused Ms Kimei Dangmei of theft and the police were notified.

    But Desai's conscience was pricked, and she later admitted in a police statement that she had lied.

    Last Thursday, Deputy Public Prosecutor James Low said that Desai was angry with Ms Kimei and wanted to get even with her.

    Desai was jailed seven weeks after pleading guilty to one count of giving false information to a police officer. She could have been jailed up to a year and fined up to $5,000.

    Employers just want to avoid transfer fees

    Maid agencies tell The New Paper on Sunday that when a dispute happens, some employers are prone to imply that their maids are dishonest.

    The most common allegation is theft.

    Island Maids director Gabriel Ee says: "We have encountered many instances of employers accusing their maids of theft.

    "When this happens, we take the maid under our care but all expenses such as accommodation and food will have to be borne by the client."

    Maid agencies will also attempt to figure out what happened although their ability to do so is limited, says Mr Ee.

    This is because in most cases, employers are unable to provide solid evidence for their accusations.

    Mr Ee says: "We ask for details and evidence when they accuse the maid of theft. Most of the time, the response from the employer is they 'think' or 'feel' that the maid did it.

    "In the end, it would turn out to be a miscommunication or misunderstanding over the things that went missing."

    He adds that if employers have the hard evidence, such as closed-circuit television footage of the act, then the agency would advise them to go to the authorities.

    But what happens if evidence is scant and it is simply one word against another?

    A spokesman for Striker Employment Agency says maid agencies are poor arbitrators for such cases because the parties involved have plenty of reasons to distort the truth.

    The spokesman adds: "We have seen cases where employers lie about the maids for many reasons, such as jealousy at the husband's attention to the maid.

    "At the same time, there are maids who deliberately try to anger their employers in order to void their contract and return home."

    Ultimately, these accusations can cause distress to maids, especially when a police report is made against them, says Mr Ee.

    This is because their work permits will be cancelled and they are given a "special" pass instead, allowing them to stay in Singapore while investigations continue.

    In many cases, false or unclear theft allegations get thrown around because either party - the maid or the employers - want a transfer.

    RUSE

    Ms Christie Foo of Total Maid Agency suggests that such implications of dishonesty could be a ruse, rather than only being out of spite.

    She says: "Some employers may use this type of tactics because their intention might be to have a change of maids but they do not want to pay the full cost of doing so."

    For many maid agencies, employers have to pay a transfer or placement fee if they wish to have a change of maid before the contract is up.

    This can cost around $300 or more, says Ms Foo.

    "By saying that the maid's attitude is bad or that she stole something from them, employers hope that agencies would waive these fees."

    Mr Ee agrees: "We find that when some clients want a change of maids, they put that thought in us that it is due to dishonesty and embellish their story with accounts of how the maid could have taken something.

    "They may find reasons, like theft, to get the transfer costs waived."

    While his agency tries to bring peace between the two parties, such as through mediation sessions, it can be an uphill task, he says.

    "As a maid agency, we are caught in the crossfire," says Mr Ee.


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    It might have been 30 years, but he remembers it like it was yesterday. Florist Bernard Chiang, then 35, was working at his shop in Lorong Lew Lian at Upper Serangoon Road on the afternoon of March 15, 1986, when he heard on the radio: "Emergency! Hotel New World has collapsed."

    Mr Chiang said: "I dropped the flowers I was holding and called my superiors. We were trained for this and we had to help."

    At the time, Mr Chiang was the company commander for the Braddell Heights Civil Defence volunteer company, a group of residents trained to respond in emergencies.

    After getting his superiors' approval to mobilise his men, he rallied them. Within the hour, Mr Chiang and about 30 men were on their way to the collapsed hotel with their equipment and uniforms.

    He recalls seeing the site for the first time: "It really was beyond words. When buildings collapse, they usually fall to one side but Hotel New World was flattened and stacked, like a sandwich."

    There was no time to waste.

    Mr Chiang and his men got to work, helping to clear the rubble, unearth survivors and carry out the dead.

    The devastation around them was nothing they had ever imagined but Mr Chiang and his men persisted, staying at the site for a week.

    "We were a group of everyday people. I was a florist, some of them were teachers, engineers or even unemployed," he says.

    "It was tiring but we couldn't stop - not when we knew we could help."

    Mr Chiang and his company were not the only ones who volunteered that day. Mr Kelvin Tan, 51, was then serving his national service as an instructor at the school of combat engineers.

    When the six-storey hotel collapsed, Mr Tan's commander asked if anyone wanted to help. Almost on instinct, Mr Tan volunteered. Although he was told that he could only go at night and had to come back for training during the day, he accepted.

    Mr Tan says: "I did not get much sleep but the decision was obvious."

    RUBBLE

    Together with a friend, they helped to clear the rubble, transport resources to the rescuers and reassure relatives of the injured.

    Mr Tan says he was disturbed by what he saw. "Seeing all that destruction in front of my eyes was indescribable," he recalls.

    "They let me in because of my uniform but around the cordon, I could see people waiting for their relatives who could be trapped. It was really sad."

    The collapse of the Hotel New World - which trapped 50 people, killed 33 and injured 17 - is considered to be the deadliest civil disaster in Singapore's history.

    Five years after the collapse, construction work for a new seven-storey hotel started and in 1994, the Fortuna Hotel opened.


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    SINGAPORE - Over 3,500 runners took part in the Men's Health Urbanathlon (MHU) today - Singapore's original obstacle race organised by SPH Magazines. Amongst them were Singapore's leading radio personalities and local sports stars racing on alongside fellow Urbanathletes.

    One of the toughest obstacle races in Singapore, the annual Urbanathlon was the weekend's most talked about fitness event on social media with the #sharethepain campaign. The hashtag was kick-started by ONE FM 91.3 DJ Glenn Ong, who challenged a close buddy and his fellow colleagues to run the Urbanathlon.

    Joining Glenn in the race were ONE FM 91.3 personalities Cheryl Miles, Elliot Danker, Harry Corro, Andre Hoeden and Shaun Tupaz - along with Fox Sports presenter Kelly Latimer, S-League footballer Fabian Kwok and local football icon Aleksandar Duric.

    But they were not the only ones inspired to be part of the Urbanathlon - ONE FM 91.3 DJs Melody Chen and Desiree Lai were also broadcasting live at the race village.

    Fuelled by camaraderie and competitive fun, this year's MHU introduced a unique CrossFit element - never before seen in any run in Singapore. Named Metcon Madness, participants were tasked to complete five popular exercises from one of the toughest sports right now.

    Challenging both experienced Urbanathletes and newcomers alike were new obstacles like Barrier Breakers, where Urbanathletes conquered a series of straight and sloping walls; Side Walk, where participants spidey sideways across a metal structure; and the spectacular Final Obstacle, where runners zip-lined into a pool of water and ended the race high - and not dry.

    Men's Health Urbanathlon winners

    Following a morning full of grit and endurance, Jason Lawrence, who came in first, blew away spectators with an impressive timing of 58 minutes and 1 second. He walked home with $11,653 worth of prizes. Runner-up Jite also left the crowds cheering as he crossed the finish line in 58 minutes and 37 seconds, followed closely by Bijay Kumar Sunuwar, coming in in third place, who completed the Urbanathlon in 59 minutes and 7 seconds.

    Running together to #sharethepain

    The Men's Health Urbanathlon 2016 featured six of Singapore's leading radio personalities competing in the event for the very first time. While they each have their own personal goals and motivations, which are as varied and unique as the Urbanathletes themselves, the ONE FM 91.3 DJs all shared the same desire to challenge themselves at the MHU and inspire listeners to follow suit.

    For Glenn, ONE FM's #1 Breakfast Show DJ, his experience proved to be a rewarding one. "I talked to people who had taken part in previous six Urbanathlons, and all agreed this was the most challenging Urbanathlon so far. So, I'm glad to have been a part of the toughest of them all."

    Radio DJ Cheryl Miles was equally pumped up. "I think all of us made it to the finishing line because we stuck together. We weren't competing for speed or time; we wanted to do it together. If you have the right group of people, take your time; it's more about finishing the race together."

    Unsurprisingly, ONE FM producer and former commando Shaun Tupaz was amongst the fastest in the group, joking that, "It was easy!" He adds: "Come with your best friends, it's very fun, nothing to be scared about. It's a social thing yet you still challenge yourself. Forget every marathon, every other race, this is the race to be at."

    Ms Pang Lee Cheng, General Manager, SPH Magazines said: "It's great to see everyone have fun at the Urbanathlon, and meet loyal readers and participants who return year after year. We're proud that the Urbanathlon has always been an exciting place for Men's Health and its partners to engage our readers, Singapore runners and die-hard Urbanathletes. The well-designed concept and race village connects sponsors to an audience keen on health, fitness and fun activities they can experience with friends.

    The excitement did not end after runners completed their race. After collecting their finishers' T-shirts and medals, the participants were rewarded with complimentary beer and light bites, while participating in exciting booth activities.

    About The Men's Health Urbanathlon

    The Singapore Men's Health Urbanathlon is organised by SPH Magazines, presented by Tigerair and Scoot, and supported by Sport Singapore. Adidas is the official apparel and ONE FM 91.3 is the official media for Urbanathlon. Main sponsors include 100Plus, Lab Series and Goodyear. Partners include Isagenix, Mount Alvernia Hospital and Virgin Active.

    For more information, please visit http://urbanathlon.menshealth.com.sg/2016/.

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    SINGAPORE - A woman was allegedly killed in her flat in Compassvale this afternoon (March 13), The Straits Times reported.

    According to Lianhe Wanbao, the 63-year-old victim was found lying in a pool of blood in her unit in Block 296C, Compassvale Crescent at about 4.30pm.

    Her 68-year-old husband has been arrested, the Chinese evening daily said on its Facebook page, adding that police have classified the case as murder.

    A woman who lives in the block told The Straits Times that the couple, who have two daughters, were friendly people who would often wave to and greet their neighbours. She also said that they were always seen going for breakfast together.

    on Facebook

    【即时】盛港今天下午发生命案,一名63岁的妇女下午4时30分左右,被发现倒卧在第296C座组屋六楼单位的血泊中。她68岁的丈夫已被逮捕。警方已将案件列为谋杀案处理。视频中,穿蓝色上衣的老汉在暴雨中被押上警车,带到警局接受调查。 更多内容,请留意明天的《联合晚报》。

    Posted by Lianhe Wanbao 联合晚报 on Sunday, March 13, 2016

    huizhen@sph.com.sg

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    SINGAPORE - With void decks in the limelight recently, netizens were riled up by a photo of a poster saying "No playing of chess at common areas" that went viral on Facebook today (March 13).

    The photo was posted on Wake Up, Singapore's Facebook page at about 1.30pm with the caption "Marine Parade Town Council, what is wrong with you? This is NOT Majulah." and no further details of where and when the poster was found.

    The photo has since been shared over 1,200 times and attracted close to 250 comments, with many questioning the ban on the "silent" game.

    on Facebook

    Marine Parade Town Council, what is wrong with you? This is NOT Majulah.

    Posted by Wake Up, Singapore on Saturday, March 12, 2016

    Marine Parade Town Council later clarified on its Facebook page that the poster was placed only at Block 11, Haig Road.

    "We had received feedback from residents at the said block that the chess players are causing a nuisance and were playing till late night. In addition, the chess players and onlookers sometimes will block and obstruct the pathway of a covered linkway, causing inconveniences to others. As such, this poster seeks to advise and remind these chess players not to play their games there and to be considerate to others," the town council wrote.

    on Facebook

    We refer to the circulating Facebook posts about our poster, “No Playing of Chess at Common Areas”. We would like to...

    Posted by Marine Parade Town Council on Sunday, March 13, 2016

    Late last month, a report of railings set up to stop football games at the void deck of a Queenstown Housing Board block became a talking point. One reader of The Straits Times urged the town council to leave void decks void, while another called the railings an eyesore. Azhar Kasman, the editor of citizen journalism website Stomp, said in an opinion piece that he was saddened by 'slow death' of void decks.

    huizhen@sph.com.sg

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  • 03/13/16--21:55: Finding love after abuse
  • It was seen being beaten on the head, lifted off the ground by its collar and swung around in mid-air.

    In October last year, the alleged abuse of a six-month-old puppy that was caught on video sparked a furore here.

    After the video went viral, the dog, named Pumpkin, was rescued by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and put up for adoption.

    At least 20 people applied to adopt the puppy, said the SPCA.

    Today, the 10-month-old dog has a new home, a new life and a new name.

    Its new owner, Ms Gourie Pandey, 26, a part-time cycling instructor, told The New Paper that she renamed the dog Liska, which means fox in Czech.

    "I don't understand how anyone could treat a dog like that, especially a puppy," she said.

    Related story: Shocking video shows guy dangling dog by its neck on leash

    "I didn't want her to be associated with her old name and her horrible past. So I gave her a new name for her to start a new life - one that's happier."

    The New Paper visited Ms Pandey's semi-detached home in Kovan last Thursday and an excited Liska was at the gate to greet us.

    As soon as we were inside, it jumped on us, nuzzled against us and followed us everywhere during the hour-long interview.

    But Liska, a cross-breed between a Japanese spitz and a samoyed, was not as friendly when she was first adopted, said Ms Pandey.

    In the first two weeks, it was sullen and quiet, and displayed an adverse reaction to loud, metallic noises.

    "Maybe it was also that she was in a new environment," said Ms Pandey.

    But perhaps the most telling was how Liska hated wearing a collar around her neck, she added.

    In the video, Liska's former owner was seen yanking its leash, which was attached to a collar around its neck, and lifting the dog off the ground.

    Ms Pandey said: "Initially, Liska really hated wearing a collar. She would try to bite it off. It took a month for us to get her used to it."

    PSYCHOLOGICAL DAMAGE

    Animals, like humans, suffer psychological damage and take time to recover, veterinarians told TNP. (See report on right.)

    Ms Pandey said she first watched the video sometime in November last year, just as she was looking to adopt a dog.

    She jumped at the chance when she found out that the SPCA, through its Facebook page, had put Liska - or Pumpkin, as it was known then - up for adoption.

    "I was always looking to adopt a dog from a shelter because there are so many of them who need to be cared for," she said.

    "I knew there would be many people interested to adopt Liska, but I didn't rush down or anything."

    Ms Pandey said she visited SPCA, which was then at its old premises in Mount Vernon, on Nov 23 to do the adoption paperwork.

    "Perhaps it's fate because they called me the very next day and said I got her. I was overjoyed," she said.

    Today, Liska is toilet trained and understands basic instructions such as to sit and follow its owner.

    Ms Pandey, who is its main caretaker, feeds, bathes and grooms the dog. She also takes it for hour-long walks at East Coast Park or Punggol Park almost every day.

    "As an owner, you have the responsibility to care for and love your pet," she said.

    "Liska has also brought my family closer because everyone loves her to bits and chips in every now and then to care for her. She's our bundle of joy."

    Lasting effects of abuse

    Dogs, like humans, do suffer some form of post-traumatic stress disorder after they are abused, veterinarians told The New Paper.

    Dr Jason Teo, a vet and owner of Point Veterinary Surgery who has over 14 years of experience, said he has seen many cases of dogs becoming withdrawn and different after they are abused.

    He also took in a shiba inu (a spitz-style dog) that had been locked in a small toilet for many years by its former owner.

    "Today, it still gets aggressive easily, is very hesitant towards humans and has a deranged look in its eyes. There's a chance it will never be the same again," Dr Teo said.

    The rate and length of recovery depend on each dog's personality and character, he added.

    Related story: SPCA removes dog from home of man after Stomp report on him pulling leash to lift it by its neck

    "Some dogs will remember and take the abuse to heart forever. Some are more happy-go-lucky and tend to forget after a while."

    Dr Rachel Tong of Spring Veterinary Care said owners can help their pets get over their unhappy pasts through actions of positive reinforcement.

    "For example, if your dog hates wearing a leash, make it wear one while giving it a treat," she said.

    "That way, it will come to change the association to something that makes it happy."

    Dr Tong said there is no definite period of post-trauma recovery, which could take as long as a year.

    "Be patient and dedicated. Once you gain your pet's confidence and trust, then you can slowly modify its behaviour and help it," she said.

    Dr Teo agreed, saying: "The way to recovery is very simple: Just love your dog, properly care for it and make it feel comfortable in your home."

    rloh@sph.com.sg


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    This pre-schooler is a tiny terror. And his antics have repeatedly shocked neighbours, with some wondering why no adult family member is supervising him.

    One worried neighbour even went to the extent of filing a police report for the boy's safety.

    According to residents, the boy and his younger sister would hang precariously "halfway out" of their third-storey flat kitchen window and throw water on people and stray cats below.

    On one occasion, neighbours from the opposite block were so concerned that they yelled at the children, which alerted an adult in the flat who then pulled them in, said one neighbour, Mrs Amy Lee, 75, a retiree.

    On other occasions, the boy, sporting a crew cut and wearing the uniform of a childcare centre, was seen jumping up and down on the bonnets and tops of parked cars at the open-air housing estate carpark.

    He even helped himself to some tools in the back of a parked lorry after climbing into it.

    The neighbour who filed the police report, a 53-year-old housewife who declined to be named, said she tried to stop him.

    "I saw the boy playing in the carpark a few times and every time, there was no adult was with him. I'm concerned because it is a carpark and drivers may not see him," she told The New Paper.

    But when her attempts to stop him from climbing onto cars and jumping on them fell on deaf ears, she took a video of his antics on March 3.

    In the clip, the boy is seen climbing onto a black Volvo and jumping and stomping on the bonnet. He is also seen running towards and climbing into the back of a white pickup, where he helps himself to some tools.

    POLICE REPORT

    Armed with the video, the neighbour made the police report.

    She said: "This is not a place for a kid his age to run around. He might get knocked down or worse - get driven off by a stranger. It's so dangerous."

    Police confirmed that a report had been lodged and that the matter had been referred to the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

    A check with the boy's childcare centre revealed that children under its care are not released without a parent or caregiver present.

    A spokesman for the centre said: "Only nominated adults registered with the centre are permitted to pick up the children. They are also required to sign on the centre's attendance register when they do so."

    When TNP visited the boy's home on March 4 and informed his father about the neighbours' concerns, he denied there was no adult supervision when his son was playing in the carpark.

    "I was there. I had just picked him up from childcare and I was walking him home," he said.

    But when asked why he did not stop his son's carpark antics, the man only said "he was punished", before shutting the door.

    TNP understands that the boy's father recently suffered a stroke and the mother is now the sole breadwinner, leaving her three children in the care of her mother.

    Last Wednesday, TNP approached the boy's grandmother after she had picked him and his sister up from the childcare centre.

    She said the boy "is very playful and extremely active".

    "There are times he wouldn't even listen to his father," she said, adding that the police and social workers had come to the house to speak to them. "We are now keeping a closer eye on the children."

    TNP is not naming anyone in the family to protect the boy's identity.

    This is not a place for a kid his age to run around. He might get knocked down or worse - get driven off by a stranger. It's so dangerous.

    - The 53-year-old housewife who made the police report

    BOY'S CASE REFERRED TO CHILD PROTECTION CENTRE

    After receiving the report on the boy playing in an open-air carpark, the police referred the matter to the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

    In an e-mail reply, the ministry's spokesman told The New Paper that both MSF and Heart@Fei Yue, a child protection specialist centre, are reaching out to the family "to support them and their care of the child".

    When contacted, Heart@Fei Yue said the case had just been referred to them and that it would take eight weeks to make a thorough assessment.

    "The results will be presented to a multidisciplinary team, then we would decide what sort of intervention to take," the centre's spokesman said.

    Ms Koh Wah Khoon, senior director of the Singapore Children's Society Family Service Centre in Yishun, said: "Sometimes people who need help do not know where to seek help or they do not know how to ask it. They may even feel ashamed to seek help outside of their family circle.

    "The larger community, whether it is a neighbour or a passer-by, can be the bridge or catalyst to link those who need help to agencies that are best positioned to give them the needed assistance."

    She added: "I am heartened and encouraged that a member of the public takes an interest in what is happening in the community; shows care and concern for fellow citizens, especially very young children who are more vulnerable and need the protection and supervision of adults."

    Families who are experiencing difficulties are advised to seek assistance early by approaching a family service centre or a social service office.

    juditht@sph.com.sg


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    Mr Jim Meehan, one of the most respected bartenders in the United States, says the future of cocktails is big - as in big rum punch bowls that can be shared, rather than esoteric and bespoke drinks tailored to the individual.

    The 39-year-old, who founded the famed New York speakeasy PDT (Please Don't Tell), says: "We've seen cocktails on tap, bottled cocktails and different styles of mass-quantity cocktails. But for me, they take the art out of it."

    Instead of sticking a spigot in a cask of pre-mixed cocktail that can be served en masse, he says rum punch bowls can still have a handcrafted element as they can be made table-side "in a way that's quick and elegant".

    "You can assemble all the ingredients, grate the nutmeg over it, ladle out the first cups, put the bowl on the table and then the guests can serve themselves," he says.

    There are equally practical applications for the punch bowl. "Ten years ago, cocktail bars weren't that busy and they weren't as popular as they are now."

    With a punch bowl sitting at the bar, ready to be ladled out when guests come in, "it's going to buy the bartender time to have that conversation with you to find out how you'd like your Old Pal made today."

    He believes that punch is an "innovative and timely solution, and has a good chance of catching on".

    Mr Meehan, who began his bartending career while in college in Wisconsin, is in town for Singapore Cocktail Week, which runs till Saturday.

    He will be doing guest bartending shifts at The Cufflink Club (tomorrow) and Manhattan (Friday), and rum and food pairing sessions at Sugarhall (Wednesday) and Lime House (Saturday).

    The last time he was here for a guest bartending shift at The Cuff- link Club in 2014 - he was blown away by some of the "world-class bars" including Manhattan at the Regent Singapore and whisky bar The Auld Alliance at Rendezvous Hotel, which he considers "the best whisky bar in the world".

    He was here for only five days but he was struck by how "amazing" the scene was here. "There's a lot of money in Singapore. The economy here drives the cocktail world and the cocktail renaissance in a way that is vital."

    Based in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and daughter, he takes on a mentor and consultant role at his own bar, PDT, which is run by head bartender Jeff Bell.

    PDT, which opened in 2007, is an exclusive spot that is accessed via an old-fashioned phone booth at the back of a hotdog restaurant in the East Village in New York City.

    He says he did not realise how much he would miss running a bar, having stepped out of daily operations for a long time. "It makes me hungry to be involved in running a place again," he says.

    Though he has nothing on the cards in terms of bar spaces to run, the brand ambassador for Banks rum has other projects to keep him occupied, including an upcoming second book - called Meehan's Manual - that he has spent the last four years working on.

    His first book - The PDT Cocktail Book: The Complete Bartender's Guide (2011) - contained more than 300 cocktail recipes, but his new book pays tribute to people who have influenced and mentored him.

    He has interviewed 52 people all over the world, including chefs, bartenders, distillers and sommeliers. Japanese mixology guru Hidetsugu Ueno, ice sculptor Shintaro Okamoto and Audrey Saunders, one of the pioneers of New York's craft cocktail explosion, are among those he is planning to feature.

    He says he wanted his new book to be a moving picture instead of a snapshot of a time period like The PDT Cocktail Book was.

    "I want it to be about the way I bartend, who I am, why I am and the way I am. It's a book about life because bartending is my life."

    BOOK IT / SINGAPORE COCKTAIL WEEK

    WHERE: Various bars and restaurants islandwide

    WHEN: Till Saturday

    ADMISSION: A set of passes at $38 for full access to all eight days of Singapore Cocktail Week parties and pop-up bars, discounts and signature cocktails at $14++ at participating bars

    INFO:singaporecocktailweek.com.sg/a>

    anjalir@sph.com.sg


    This article was first published on March 14, 2016.
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    On this day, 51 years earlier, a young Army officer walked out of the jungle in Kota Tinggi, Johor, his 7.62mm self-loading rifle slung to his shoulder and his fatigues covered in mud.

    He had just completed a risky mission to search for Indonesian guerillas who had killed nine of his platoon mates.

    Although trained for urban settings, retired Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Daljeet Singh (above) and his men were successful.

    They killed and captured a number of the guerillas. Pictures of his men from 2SIR carrying the dead and captured guerillas have not been seen in decades.

    The stories of the men who were at the front line in North Borneo (now called Sabah) and in the swamps of Pasir Laba have not been told often enough.

    Even now, Mr Singh's voice cracks and tears well up in his eyes, as he recalls the day he had to break the news of a fellow soldier's death to the man's wife.

    He said: "She (the widow) just collapsed before I could complete (what I had to say). This was extremely touching to me because I was only 24 years old at that time."

    The soldier was one of the eight men killed in an ambush in Kota Tinggi. The remains of another soldier was found days later.

    Mr Singh was then mortar platoon commander at 2SIR, which was part of the 4th Malaysian Infantry Brigade. Mr Singh and the rest of 2SIR were deployed at Kota Tinggi.

    He said: "We were mainly trained for internal security roles. Later, we were sent for jungle training in Ulu Tiram, Johor, before being deployed at Kota Tinggi."

    Recalling the ambush, Mr Singh said: "On Feb 28, 1965, one of our platoons, which was led by the platoon sergeant, a man named Sergeant Ahmad, was deployed in the jungle to search for some Indonesian saboteurs."

    As evening fell and daylight faded, the platoon prepared to camp for the night at the foot of a hill called Bukit Lebam.

    He said: "Unknown to them, Indonesian soldiers were observing them from higher ground and they later opened fire on the platoon.

    "The platoon was caught off guard and eight members of the platoon, including Sgt Ahmad, were killed on the spot."

    CAPTURED

    Mr Singh said another platoon mate was taken prisoner by the Indonesians, but the remaining soldiers returned to the Company HQ.

    He said they were all shaken by the news.

    D Company 2SIR, under the command of Capt Mackintosh, was assigned the task of recovering the bodies of the ambushed soldiers.

    His voice cracking, Mr Singh said: "We took the bodies back to Camp Temasek in Singapore (where 2SIR was located) and administered the burial rites."

    On March 3, 2nd Lt Singh's mortar platoon was airlifted by helicopter from Seletar Airbase to Kampong Bahru, Johor. The next day, acting on information from a villager, they encountered the Indonesians infiltrators. There was a hail of bullets and one guerilla was killed.

    Four other Indonesian infiltrators were killed in another encounter on March 6 and another two were killed on March 12.

    But he wasn't done.

    "Our Commanding Officer did not want to return without finding out what had happened to the ninth soldier, the one who was taken prisoner by the Indonesians.

    "The villager said the Indonesians shot him about two days after he was captured and left his body along the jungle route where the other eight soldiers were ambushed," said Mr Singh.

    "We retraced our steps along the route and found his remains along the route."

    Mr Singh said the Indonesian infiltrators were well-trained and disciplined.

    He said: "They had been brainwashed into thinking that Malaysia was ready for an uprising and that the people were waiting for the Indonesians to liberate them from the British.

    "But the reality was actually the opposite."

    The tragedy may have taken place 51 years ago. But for soldiers who were there, the hurt remains.

    He chose SAF instead of medicine

    The medals in his Bukit Timah Road home speak volumes of a military career spanning over 30 years.

    Mr Daljeet Singh, 75, proudly showed his Independence Medal, his 30-year Long Service Medal, his 25-year Long Service Medal and the medal he received for his role as an army officer during the Konfrontasi period.

    He recalled how he became a soldier after finishing his Senior Cambridge exams (the O-level examinations-equivalent of his time) in March 1959.

    "My father wanted me to study medicine in India, which I was unwilling to do," he said.

    Several months after his exam results were released, one of Mr Singh's former teachers learnt about the formation of the Singapore Military Forces, in anticipation of eventual self-government for Singapore in 1959.

    Mr Singh said: "My former teacher advised me to consider soldiering as a career.

    "So I joined First Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (1SIR) in July 1959 as a recruit. I was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in July 1962.

    "When Singapore joined Malaysia, 1SIR and 2SIR became part of the Malaysian armed forces."

    Before retiring from the SAF, Mr Singh held several appointments, including Brigade Group Commander, HQ 21SIB from 1981 to 1991.

    After his retirement, the grandfather of three spent 10 years working for the Singapore Technologies group.

    His experience during Konfrontasi affirmed his belief in National Service.

    He said: "We have a unique history and Singapore had a unique birth. What we have is worth defending."

    aruljohn@sph.com.sg


    This article was first published on March 14, 2016.
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    SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong turned down blogger Roy Ngerng's request that he be let off by paying $36,000 of the $150,000 he owes in damages. 

    PM Lee responded to the request by saying Mr Ngerng had to pay his debt in full.

    However, he said that the blogger could pay the $150,000 in damages by instalments if the $30,000 in hearing costs are paid immediately.

    According to a statement by the Prime Minister's Office, Mr Ngerng agreed to the terms and will be paying the hearing costs by Mar 16 and $150,000 in instalments.

    In a report by The Straits Times, Mr Ngerng's lawyer, Eugene Thuraisingam said in a statement that he will pay $100 a month from Apil 1 for the next five years, following which monthly payments will be increased to $1,000 a month until the full sum is paid off by 2033.

    No interest will be included if the payment is made on time. Otherwise, an interest rate of 5.33 per cent per annum will apply.

    Mr Ngerng was taken to court for comparing PM Lee to legally embattled City Harvest leaders in a blog post on May 15, 2014.

    At the time, the church leaders were being tried in court for misappropriating church funds.

    In the post, he alleged that there were ties between the Central Provident Fund (CPF), PM Lee and sovereign wealth fund GIC.

    Justice Lee Seiu Kin found the blogger guilty of being "malicious" and that he "cynically defamed" PM Lee, while adding that "the allegations that the plaintiff had criminally misappropriated monies paid by citizens to a state-administered pension fund was one of the gravest that could be made against any individual, let alone a head of government".

    "It struck at the heart of one's personal integrity and severely undermined the credibility of the target, and was a grave defamation that a fair-minded person would react with indignation," he added.

    prabukm@sph.com.sg

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    Update: Workers' Party (WP) chairman Sylvia Lim said that the party will not contest the upcoming by-election for Bukit Batok.

    "The Workers' party would like to announce that we will not be taking part in the upcoming by-election for Bukit Batok" Ms Lim said while speaking to reporters at a Meet-the-People session on Monday (March 14) evening.

    She added that there were two reasons for the party's decision: "The party has been inactive in Bukit Batok" and that the Singapore Democratic Party has traditionally contested the area and announced its intention to fight for the constituency's single-member seat in the by-election.


    SINGAPORE - Election fever is back, and this time, all eyes are watching the impending battle for single-ward Bukit Batok.

    The fight for the SMC is beginning to hot up as some supporters of the WP have been quick to urge the party to contest the upcoming by-election there after People's Action Party (PAP) MP David Ong Kim Huat resigned last Saturday.

    If the party decides to enter the fray, there is a possibility of a three-cornered fight - like how it was fought only six months ago in the General Election. Or will it be a crowded ring, judging from the interest expressed by more politicians?

    Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan gave his strongest indication at a walkabout yesterday (March 13) that there is a "possibility" that he will be their candidate, while the National Solidarity Party (NSP) said on Facebook on Saturday (March 12) that it would announce its decision whether to contest soon.

    The PAP, which has been ruling the ward since it was created in 1972, has yet to name its candidate after Mr Ong resigned abruptly over an alleged extramarital affair with another party member, 41-year-old Wendy Lim.

    Some WP supporters said the party, which is the only opposition party with elected and non-constituency representatives in Parliament, should join in the battle for Bukit Batok.

    "Now WP can go hammer Bukit Batok," urged one supporter in the party's Facebook page.

    Said another: "Stand in Bukit Batok by-election! WP will win there."

    Another enthusiastic supporter hopes the party will field a female candidate, like what it did in the Punggol East by-election in 2013, which saw its candidate Lee Li Lian winning the single-seat.





    Will it be a multi-cornered fight?

    Suspicions that WP might see Bukit Batok as a tempting prospect have got some SDP fans barking at its door.

    An SDP supporter bluntly told the party on WP's Facebook page to "stay away".

    "I am sick..tired of seeing plenty of crowd for your rallies but lesser of them voting for you guys...let Dr Chee come in," he said.

    Said another SDP supporter: "Many of us hope that the arrogance of the WP will not rear its ugly head again, as seen in the last GE. Hope that WP will stay out of this by-election."

    SDP supporters also urged the NSP to stay out of the fray on its Facebook page.

    Mr Goh Meng Seng, leader of People's Power Party, said on his Facebook page yesterday that he would give way to SDP's Chee or Paul Thambyah should any of the two decides to contest. Mr Goh added that he is aware that two independent candidates are interested to contest, and that one of them might do so under the banner of a party.

    Mr Goh also said that Mr Benjamin Pwee, leader of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), had stated he will join the contest. The latter told Channel News Asia that he will represent DPP in vying for the seat.

    Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is also the Secretary-General of PAP, had said that he plans to hold a by-election in "due course" when accepting Mr Ong's resignation on Saturday.



    Bukit Batok under PAP's rule since 1972

    Bukit Batok began as a single ward when it was formed in 1972.

    PAP's Chai Chong Yii was the first MP of Bukit Batok, where he won three elections between 1972 and 1984. There was a walkover in 1980. Its next MP was Dr Ong Chit Chung who won the seat in 1988 and 1991, beating SDP's Kwan Yue Keng in close fights.

    Dr Ong also looked after the area when the ward became part of two group representative constituencies (GRCs) when electoral boundaries were redrawn - first, Bukit Timah GRC in 1997 after a walkover, and then, Jurong GRC when the PAP team won in the 2001 election.

    When Dr Ong died suddenly of a heart attack in July 2008, his seat was then part of a five-seat Jurong GRC. Veteran opposition leader and former Workers' Party chief J. B. Jeyaretnam, who had just formed Reform Party, pressed the government to call a by-election but he too died two months later in September.

    The Bukit Batok seat was left vacant until the 2011 General Election when Mr David Ong and his team-mates won Jurong GRC in the General Election.

    Bukit Batok was carved out of the GRC and returned to being a single ward in the 2015 General Election. Mr Ong triumphed in the three-cornered fight, against SDP candidate Sadasivam Veriyah and an independent candidate, securing 73 per cent of the votes. The independent candidate, Mr Samir Salim Neji, said it was "very likely" he will try his luck again in the by-election.

    If Dr Chee decides to stand in Bukit Batok SMC, it will mean his voice will be heard loudly there again. Dr Chee made his presence there last September when he spoke at a rally during the hustings.

    He tried to rouse support by dedicating his whole speech to Mr Jeyaretnam, who was needling the government to hold a by-election there in 2008 although the ward was looked after by the other Jurong GRC MPs after the death of Dr Ong.

    Following Mr Ong's resignation last weekend, the ward is now placed under the care of Jurong GRC MP Desmond Lee, who is also Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development untill the by-election, which is expected to be held within a few months.

    Related:

    Ong had to step down as PAP has standards to uphold

    A chance for SDP?

    Chee Soon Juan, SDP's 'possible' candidate

    chenj@sph.com.sg

    GE2015 results for Bukit Batok SMC

    Bukit Batok SMC
    Number of voters: 27,077

    Number of votes: 18,204

    Candidate: David Ong

    Number of votes: 6,585

    Candidate: Sadasivam Veriyah

    Number of votes: 150

    Candidate: Samir Salim Neji

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    Five people were left injured after a collision between a taxi and a lorry along Jurong East Street 21 yesterday (March 13).

    Among the injured were three young girls.

    Stomp contributor Ryan, who had been at the scene, and who sent in photos of the accident said: "I was waiting with my friend for his bus near the bus stop when I heard the accident, so I went to see what was going on."

    "Three young girls were badly injured. Two of them were lying on the floor and one of them was trapped in the taxi.

    He added that there had been "a lot of blood" and that "the accident also caused a traffic jam as it took place at an intersection".

    In response to queries by Stomp, a spokesperson for the police said that they had received a call on 13 March 2016 at about 8.46pm, informing them of an accident at the junction of Boon Lay Way and Jurong Town Hall Road.

    "Upon arrival, it was established that an accident involving a taxi and a lorry had occurred at said location," the spokesperson said.

    The spokesperson also added that five conscious people aged from 14 to 48 were conveyed conscious to the National University Hospital.

    A 29-year-old man was also arrested in relation to the case.

    Police investigations are ongoing.


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    SINGAPORE - Shops will no longer be allowed to display cigarettes and tobacco products from next year.

    Customers will have to request for a text-only price list from tobacco sellers instead.

    This ban was implemented after amendments made to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Bill were passed in Parliament today (March 14). 

    Retailers will be given a year before the display changes take effect, said Senior Minister of State for Health Dr Amy Khor who added that the move is intended to "de-normalise" tobacco use - particularly among youths.

    More stringent regulation surrounding advertisements of tobacco products, which range from cigarettes and cigars, was also implemented. 

    The reduced promotion of these products includes the banning of advertisements that are made in Singapore - even if they are not targeted at Singaporeans.

    prabukm@sph.com.sg

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    PEKAN NENAS, Johor - A Singaporean fugitive was sentenced to 12 months' jail for illegally walking across the Causeway into Malaysia without a passport.

    Sessions Court Judge Salawati Djambari sentenced Tan Hock Chye, 47, to the jail-term soon after he pleaded guilty.

    The accused, who had the charge read out to him in Chinese, also admitted that he was on the wanted list in Singapore and also had previous convictions for armed robbery and drug-related offences.

    Salawati, when passing sentence, said that this was not just a case of someone illegally entering Malaysia, but of someone hiding from their own country's laws.

    Soon after passing sentence, Salawati ordered the accused's mobile phone to be confiscated after it started ringing in court.

    According to the facts of the case, the accused was arrested at the Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex at 9.15am on Feb 28.

    He was charged under Section 6(1)(a) of the Immigration Act.

    Immigration Department prosecutor A. Vickneswaran prosecuted the case.

    Meanwhile, at the same court, Salawati sentenced a total 86 foreigners from seven countries between two weeks and 15 months imprisonment for various immigration offences.

    The foreigners, 30 women and 56 men, were from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, India and Nepal.

    The offences were mainly for illegally entry into Malaysia without a passport, overstaying, misuse of social passes and using fake entry passes.

    The foreigners were mainly working in food outlets, factories, farms and construction sites.

    The cases were prosecuted by Immigration prosecutors Lee Siew Ching and Hanapiah Rosli.

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    SINGAPORE - Learning opportunities and benefits at work rank highly among students as important attributes for their first jobs.

    In a survey conducted by online job  portal STJobs, respondents listed what they expected in a first job in order of importance: learning opportunities: learning opportunities, potential salary package, benefits at work, promotions, traveling opportunities and stability at work.

    The survey was conducted on 300 students from polytechnics and universities.

    Learning opportunities ranked highly because students recognise the importance of picking up new skills, STJobs said in a statement.

    Meanwhile, 50 per cent of university undergraduates and 36 per cent of polytechnic undergraduates expressed an interest to work in multi-national corporations because of a higher starting salary. Additionally, only four per cent of university undergraduates and 10 per cent of polytechnic undergrduates were willing to work in start-ups.

    STJobs also added that almost half of the polytechnic undergraduates expected a starting salary between $2,000 and $2,500, while university undergraduates expected their starting salary to be between $3,000 and $3,500.

    Tangible rewards such as work benefits and opportunities for travel also ranked highly among undergraduates' expectations, while stability at work was least important, reflecting their desire to "try different opportunities". 

    prabukm@sph.com.sg

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