(Note: This is a longer version of a profile first published in May on Mekong Review. I have italicised the extra passages.)
Epigram Books owes its existence partly to Lee Kuan Yew’s secret police.
In 1981, as news broke that the Workers’ Party’s J.B. Jeyaretnam had won a by-election, thus breaking the ruling People’s Action Party’s stranglehold over Singapore’s parliament, plain-clothes officers from the Internal Security Department watched in horror as a young reporter from the Straits Times jumped up and down at the counting centre.
Continue reading “Edmund Wee of Epigram Books”
The visit to Uncle Sushil’s grave offered me a chance to think more broadly about our loved ones far away. Not being able to see them, for those of us lucky to avoid the worst, has been one of the central tragedies of the pandemic. In a world of restricted travel, how do we maintain those bonds?
When borders first closed, I immediately thought of my mum’s mum in Indore and my father’s brother in Toronto. Nani is over ninety and Uncle Sushil had experienced a number of recent health issues and scares. Pre-Covid I had always imagined that if they were nearing the end, I’d just hop on a plane to see them.
Continue reading “Visiting my godfather’s grave”
The first thing I do when I find out that I have been exposed to a Covid positive person is test my sense of smell.
Continue reading “Getting Covid”
For the first time since 2004, Team Singapore failed to win a single medal at the Olympics. Much attention understandably focussed on swimmer Joseph Schooling, who had won our first ever gold at Rio 2016, for the 100m butterfly, setting an Olympic record in the process. Following Schooling’s failure to qualify for the 100m semi-final at Tokyo 2020, finishing last in his heat, internet commentaries … Continue reading Did we support, criticise or abuse Schooling? Let’s look at the data
(Note: I researched and wrote this piece in mid 2019. It was originally published on New Naratif. Am republishing here for those who might have missed it. I have made edit notes on a couple of things that are out of date.)
The entry of Tan Cheng Bock and his newly registered Progress Singapore Party into the political fray has stirred up excitement. But is Tan, a former PAP backbencher, offering a vision of Singapore’s future, or a return to its past?
The winds that usher in Singapore’s election season are, in many ways, familiar to illiberal democracies everywhere. Flags and faces popping up; government handouts; public largesse on incumbent brand-building, camouflaged as patriotic projects; the instilling of fear through new demons within and old ones abroad; and the obsequious submission of media outfits that have grown dependent on juicy government contracts.
Continue reading “Tan Cheng Bock: A vision of Singapore’s future or past?”
Over the past week Singaporeans have been debating the definition of racism. Many within the establishment appear eager to define it narrowly: only crude, interpersonal racism qualifies.
So, if somebody professes the inherent superiority of one race over another, or uses a racial slur—“Kiling Kia”, “Cina Babi”, etc.—that’s racist. Anything less obvious, so it goes, does not deserve the racist label.
The desire not to call something racist has sparked a cottage industry of euphemisms: “racial preferences”, “cultural insensitivity”, “racially problematic” and so on. Racism is Singapore’s Voldemort.
Continue reading “How structural racism penalises minorities: is your HDB flat worth less?”
Lee Kuan Yew once said that he would rise from his grave if he ever felt that “something is going wrong”.
Few Singaporeans would have expected to see him reincarnated as Tan Boon Lee, a senior lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Engineering.
On June 6th, Tan is seen on a Facebook video publicly admonishing Dave Parkash, who is of mixed Indian-Filipino ancestry, for dating a Thai-Chinese girl (behind the camera).
“I have nothing against Indians, but I think it is racist for an Indian to marry a Chinese girl,” said Tan, in a statement so puzzling and prejudiced yet also so familiar to minorities in Singapore, in its inversion of racism. You are the racist, not me.
Continue reading “Don’t date other races: the ghost of Lee Kuan Yew appears”
(Disclosure: both my parents are medical specialists; my wife has a graduate diploma in family medicine though she no longer practices.)
Over the past week an interesting informational contest has emerged in Singapore over the publication of an open letter by twelve doctors to parents in which they cast doubt on the value of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine—and broadly any vaccine that relies on messenger RNA technology—to children.
Their letter has been meet with ridicule by the establishment, including calls by Calvin Cheng, a former nominated member of parliament and conservative commentator, for their medical licenses to be revoked (as part of his broader critique of the knowledge and expertise of family physicians).
Continue reading “Is the doctors’ letter fair opinion? Or a dangerous view that should be kept out of the public square?”
Are you considering politics? (Min 50:05)
Continue reading “A video podcast with the Ministry of Funny”
What led to your political awakening? (14:20)
Why do you write and why The Economist Group? (10:40)
These are some of the many questions I fielded during this fun two-hour conversation with Haresh and Terence from the Ministry Of Funny. You can now watch it on YouTube.
I’m sure you don’t want to spend two hours looking at my oversized jaw, but we’ve just finished doing up the show notes for this episode (see below) for easy time stamps to the different sections.
Any feedback on this format much appreciated. Am hoping to do more stuff with MOF.
It’s also available as an audio podcast, search Ministry of Funny wherever you get yours.
This is what K Shanmugam, Singapore’s home affairs and law minister, called for this week in response to some quite awful anti-Indian incidents around town.
Yes, I agree with him. The opposition should. We all should. It is a daily battle.
However, we should also recognise the efforts made by the opposition over the years to distance themselves from racist and xenophobic strands. Here are two examples.
Continue reading “Should the opposition be speaking out more against racism in Singapore?”