Forget the Hawker Centre. If you want to observe what some might call Singaporean integration—others inequality—visit Mustafa. Go at six on a Monday morning to see Mrs Nose Up-in-the-air, striding confidently to the daun kusum aka laksa leaves for her famous home-made laksa for her lunchtime group of tai tais who these days are called investors. If she returned at three on a Sunday afternoon, … Continue reading Ode to Mustafa
Photo by Rob O’Brien/Flickr
Dear reader, if you follow me on Facebook you might find the below repetitive. This is mostly for the benefit of those who don’t.
It’s been a busy month, as many of us have felt the need to speak up about the horrible COVID-19 crisis at Singapore’s migrant worker dormitories—what I have called “independent Singapore’s biggest ever humanitarian crisis”, a phrase that has been picked up. Good.
There has also been a lot associated racism and xenophobia.
Writing has been especially taxing because assorted censors have sprung up all around society, seeking to shut us up. My posts below, some satire, touch on these aspects.
Thankfully there has also been a lot of support from readers. Much appreciated!
On April 9th I published a commentary in New Naratif about the migrant worker crisis. First few paragraphs here:
Singapore has rightly won plaudits for its pandemic response thus far. Yet the recent emergence of clusters of infections at four foreign-worker dormitories shows that complacency is creeping in. What can we learn from this episode?
In a perfect world with complete trust in Government, every Singaporean would download the TraceTogether App to assist in national COVID-19 contact tracing efforts. Thus it is unfortunate that some of us do not yet have the requisite level of trust. Unfortunate firstly because it seems like our brilliant techies engineered an app that has sufficient safeguards for those concerned about government surveillance. The location … Continue reading Why I have yet to install TraceTogether, Singapore’s COVID-19 contact tracing app
Two years ago, when Li Ling, the kids and I moved out of my parents house in Bukit Timah to our own flat in Pasir Ris, it was hardest on Gorby.
Ling and I had the benefit of time, foreknowledge, active hands in the process. Blooby, Gorby’s sister, had by then retreated to a familiar sedentary life of eat, sleep, and the occasional lizard, dragged in leaving a trail of blood, body parts strewn across the terrazzo floor.
But Gorby was still Mr Bukit Timah. We would spot him prancing around the actual Bukit Timah Road, near the Tessarina Apartments and Tan Chong Motors, a full two-hundred metres from our house. Unlike us, Gorby had two channels of entry/exit: regular sidewalk when pesky humans weren’t around, or the wide drain when we were.
Once Gorby went missing for a full eighteen hours. It was his first full night out. We grew anxious. When he returned the next morning, smelling of stale beer and garbage, I saw my younger self in him, remembering my own adolescent nights of too many Graveyards at Zouk, slobbering up the driveway after stumbling out of the cab.
Everybody I know who knows Chan Chun Sing likes him.
Smart, folksy, straight-talker, authentic, humble beginnings, frugal, hard worker who tirelessly works the ground, all well known attributes. I like his accent and liberal use of colloquialisms.
I have enjoyed stories about how he likes driving his security detail around (rather than being driven) and how, in conversations with elite civil servants, he has championed the need to cultivate closer ties with our immediate neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia, an issue close to my heart.
All that gives me reason for pause when critiquing CCS. In the ivory tower that writers sometimes appear to occupy, one invariably wonders about the image of a person that the media projects. CCS is not the bumbling buffoon caricatured by his kee chiu antics, something I’ve heard many times.
Yet, as with most things, Continue reading “Chan Chun Sing, our beng?”
Ruling party politician sanitises public housing lifts Every day Singapore’s leaders make great sacrifices for the people. The Honourable MP Low Yen Ling (middle) is seen spending a Saturday guiding a seven-person team through the intricate task of cleaning an elevator. To the Honourable MP’s right are three South Asian workers. They are wearing imported sneakers that their cousins working in Qatar cannot afford. They … Continue reading Singapore leads the world in coronavirus fight
Image credit: Twitter/@ikansumbat – Why the fascination with comparing ourselves to other countries and one-upping them? I’ve seen numerous HK vs Singapore comparisons, from Singaporeans, Bloomberg et al, that fail to acknowledge basic differences. A tad ignorant and lazy. Do look at a map. And conduct a thought experiment. Imagine if the virus emerged not in Wuhan, but in peninsular Malaysia. And that there was … Continue reading Corona notes from the Singaporean backline
With Joshua Wong, secretary-general of pro-democracy party Demosistō. We were both speaking at The Economist’s Open Future Festival in Hong Kong on Oct 5th 2019.
Dear friends, I just published a piece on Rice Media where I compare Hong Kong and Singapore, the “socio-economic twins but political opposites”. Click to read it there. Or, for a preview, first few paragraphs below.
Just don’t wear black. In early October that was the pre-arrival instruction I received from friends enmeshed in that modern urban war zone, Hong Kong.
“Don’t worry, you can wear black, nobody will think you are a protestor,” rebutted Tang, the jovial cabby in his fifties who picked me up from the airport, gesturing at my brown skin. But for Cantonese locals like him, wardrobe options have indeed become limited.
Dear friends, click below to watch my ten-minute talk on identity and multiculturalism in Asia at The Economist’s Open Future Festival in Hong Kong on October 5th. I cite the different approaches to ethnic/cultural identity that we find in China, India and Singapore, and give my reasons why we all need to think a bit harder about our identity choices, given current larger forces at … Continue reading The Economist’s Open Future Festival: Video of my talk on identity
Last Monday was a dark day for Singapore’s parliament. Ong Ye Kung, our education minister, presided over a shameful, horrid witch-hunt, using language that might have impressed the Puritans of 17th century colonial Massachusetts.
The primary target was Alfian Sa’at, a local playwright. Continue reading “The day Singapore’s education minister lost some credibility”