May 28, 2009

Short Takes From Parliament - The PAP Grows Bored

May 27, 2009
Changes to political system
By Clarissa Oon

NEW changes to Singapore's political system will lead to non-People's Action Party members taking up at least 18 seats in Parliament, or roughly one-fifth of the House.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in Parliament on Wednesday that the Constitution will be amended to allow for up to nine 9 Non-Constituency MPs, who are opposition candidates who lose but are nevertheless given seats in Parliament.

Workers' Party chairman Sylvia is currently one such MP.

At the same time, the Parliamentary Elections Act will be amended to increase the stipulated minimum number of opposition MPs, including NCMPs, to nine.

The current minimum is three. This means there will be a guaranteed nine MPs from opposition parties in Parliament, whether or not they win an election.
A good move. It probably stems from the PAP's deepening sense of boredom. But anyway it's a good move for Singapore.

Would you not be bored, if 95% of the time, you were just talking to yourself, nodding your head at yourself and agreeing with yourself? Yes, you would grow bored. You would run short of ideas, and get lost in your own stagnating mindset, and secretly wonder what was the point of all this. And eventually you might even long for some genuine discussion, engagement and feedback.

That is what has been happening in Parliament for many years. 95% of the time, the PAP is just talking to itself, nodding its head to itself and amiably agreeing with itself.

Well, at least the PAP will now have a few extra Opposition MPs to talk to.

"Wow, soon we might have real debate in Parliament ...
We could even become too busy for hiphop."

May 22, 2009

What I Teach My Kids About Sex

I have two children. My daughter is five, and my son is seven. Both of them know about sex.

In fact, my son first learned about sex, when he was only in kindergarten. Since I've previously blogged about my son's kindergarten sexuality lesson, I won't say any more about it, except to provide the link to that old post.

At home, I have also talked to both my children about sex. I think of it as my personal responsibility to do so. However I do not think of it as a special sort of parental responsibility. It is just part of my overall parental responsibility to teach my children about the real world, which comprises plenty of things other than sex.

The book that I have used to teach my children about sex is entitled "Who Am I? Where Did I Come From?". It is written by Dr Ruth Westheimer, an 81-year-old sex therapist and grandmother of three.

As you might expect of any other children's book, the book has many bright colourful pictures and is written in simple language. A reasonably literate six-year-old should be able to read most of it on his own.

The book does contain various words and phrases which would not be in the average six-year-old child's vocabulary. So I think that it is best that a parent reads the book with his or her child. The words and phrases I am referring to include penis, vagina, having sex, making love, sperm and so on.

To give you a better sense of what the book is like, I'll give a few excerpts:
1. "Sex is a word that causes some people to become shy, to hide their feelings. But you're not bothered by such a little word, are you? Why don't you say it out loud right now: sex."

2. ".... so the man puts his penis inside the woman's vagina. This is called having sex. Having sex is also called making love, because the adults love each other very much."

3. "It feels very good, and mommies and daddies only do it in private, when they are alone."

4. "A woman's vagina is very special. The vagina is made to stretch and stretch, after the mommy pushes and pushes, until it gets wide enough for the baby's head to pop out."
The book also contains a full frontal picture of a naked man (to explain what is a penis) and a full frontal picture of a naked woman (to explain what is a vagina). There is also a picture of a man and woman cuddling under a blanket, and a pop-up picture of sperm cells approaching an ovum (the pop-up also has a movable part to demonstrate a sperm cell successfully penetrating the ovum). Additionally there are pictures of a foetus developing in the woman's womb.

Based on my own experiences, I think that talking to your children about sex when they are still quite young is probably a lot easier than waiting till they reach puberty. If you wait too long, they might have picked up too many misconceptions by then and it becomes difficult to explain things. Or worse, if you wait too long, then one day you might discover that they already know much more about sex than you.

When I talked to my little children about sex, they were curious and interested. They pointed at the pictures, asked questions and made comments. But they were not any more curious and interested in the topic of sex, than they would have been if I were talking to them about dinosaurs or outer space or the life cycle of a butterfly. To them, the most remarkable thing they learned from the Ruth Westheimer book was that a woman's vagina could actually stretch wide enough for something as large as a baby to get out of it.

As the years pass and my children grow older, there will of course be more occasions when I will have to talk to them about sex. It is nothing to be dreaded, or to feel awkward about. It's all just part of life - in fact, there would be no life, if there was no sex.

May 20, 2009

Sex Education - To Tell or Not to Tell

A letter to the ST Forum:

ST May 20, 2009
Useful programme except for condom excerpt

I RECENTLY came to know that upper secondary and junior college students go through an educational programme on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids), called Breaking Down Barriers, by the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Besides providing accurate facts about STIs, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Aids, the programme also imparts useful skills to students, such as decision-making and the right places to obtain reliable information, as well as assertiveness and strategies on how not to succumb to persuasion.

I was truly heartened to learn that the students were taught that the best way to avoid STIs and Aids is to avoid casual sex, sex with multiple partners and unprotected sex, and to stay faithful to a partner within the context of marriage.

However, the students were subsequently taught how to use a condom.

While I understand HPB's good intention to curb the rising incidence of STIs among the young, I wish to express my concerns as a parent that students are being taught how to use condoms in school.

- It gives a mixed and confusing message. Is it not better to encourage students to avoid pre-marital sex altogether, since the programme also teaches that the use of condom is not 100 per cent safe?

- Students are not likely to heed or remember to practise safe sex just because they have attended a lesson on condom use.

- Even if they do use a condom, they are not likely - in the heat of the moment - to remember or follow the steps to use a condom correctly.

I truly appreciate the HPB's efforts for creating such a programme and hope that it will review and consider whether it is really necessary or useful to teach students how to use a condom.

This confuses, contradicts and compromises the good advice to avoid pre-marital sex as the only foolproof protection against STIs and Aids.

Steven Tan
Sigh .....

Steven assumes that if you tell students not to have sex, then they will all just obediently decide not to have sex. Of course this is nonsense. Yes, some students will abstain. But some other students are going to have sex, even if you give them all the advice in the world about the merits of abstinence.

So the question is - for all thise students who are going to be sexually active, should we or should we not provide them with the necessary information to save them from diseases like AIDS etc? To me, the answer is clear.

However, Steven would probably say, "If you don't tell them about condoms, then it is more likely that they will abstain. If you do tell them about condoms, then it is more likely that they WILL get curious and decide to have sex."

This kind of argument is highly unpersuasive to me. Its basic assumptions are that:

(1) young people who have sex, have sex because they have been unnecessarily exposed to the idea of having sex (eg through TV or the Internet or educational talks on condom usage); and

(2) we should therefore avoid, as far as possible, talking to young people about sex.

In my opinion, this is pretty much nonsense. Young people do not have sex just because they watch TV or attend a talk on condom usage. The real reason why young people have sex is that they have sexual desires. (Oh, by the way, the same applies to the rest of the animal kingdom).

Whether TV or the Internet or sex education programmes exist or not, young people are going to have sexual desires and therefore young people will have sex. And that's the plain and simple story of the human race. So once again, the question is - in the era of AIDS, should we educate young people about condoms or not? To me, the answer is a no-brainer.

As a side note, you can easily see why Aware's sex education programme attracted flak from certain quarters. Stephen isn't alone in his thinking - strangely enough, there are many other people who also believe that if you just don't talk to students about condoms, then they won't have sex. And the natural extension of their "logic" is that if you don't talk to people about homosexuality, then they just won't be gay.

In my opinion, that kind of reasoning is so very mistaken. I just wonder what will happen next. Hang on - Steven's letter refers to a sex education programmme organised for junior college students. Doesn't Stephen know that straight after JC, all the boys go off to the army? Then they get sent to Thailand or Taiwan for training. And on their R&R weekends, the Singapore Armed Forces will be handing out free condoms to them (right after the SAF doctor does the usual demonstration with the yellow banana).

I am glad that the SAF does that. But is Steven going to file a complaint here as well?

May 15, 2009

The Meaninglessness of Asian Values

This is Asia.

A reader requested that I write about Asian values.

I don't like "Asian values". It usually implies dishonesty. Most of the time, when someone is using that term, he's actually pushing his own secret agenda.

That someone could be an authority figure using "Asian values" to tell you why you should respect his authority.

He could be a suppressor of free speech, using "Asian values" to tell you why he should have the power to suppress your speech.

This is Asia.

Or he could simply be wanting to impose on you his views on how you should eat, dress, work or have sex. And he's using "Asian values" to argue why you should conform to his views.

In all these cases, it's just a con job. And I have to say that people who do fall for the "Asian values" argument are either very stupid, or very ignorant about Asia.

Okay, folks - here are some basic facts. Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent. Asian countries include China, India, Japan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Indonesia, Myanmar, North Korea and Singapore.

Now, tell me what values you share with the average person in all these countries.

This is Asia.

You'll quickly see that "Asian values" is a largely meaningless term. Simply because Asia is such a large, diverse continent. It has all sorts of different countries, cultures, traditions and religions.

The world's biggest democracy is an Asian country. The world's largest communist state is also an Asian country. The word's largest Muslim nation is an Asian country. The world's largest Buddhist nation is an Asian country. The world's largest Hindu population is also an Asian country.

So what can the term "Asian values" possibly mean? Approximately nothing. Asia is much too vast and varied for us to be able to speak meaningfully of its "values".

This is Asia too.

May 8, 2009

Sex, Suicide and Poetry

Sometime last year, I received an email from an editor in Hong Kong. He was compiling poems for a new publication. The book would be used as a literature textbook for high school students in Hong Kong.

The editor asked for permission to include a particular poem of mine in his book. He also said some very nice things about my poem. I felt pleased, not because of his compliments, but because I felt that this particular poem was indeed an excellent choice for his book.

Why? Because the poem addressed a topic which was very relevant to students (in fact it was based on a real-life event concerning a young student). So I could see how a teacher might use the poem to create and present a highly interesting lesson in class. And I could easily imagine the students relating very well to the poem.

So I replied to the editor - yes, please go ahead and include my poem in your textbook.

This year the editor wrote to me again. He informed me that the poem, unfortunately, would not be included in the new book. Apparently, a higher authority had objected. They did not feel that the poem was suitable for inclusion in a textbook for students.

Why? Because, in the editor's own words, the poem cuts "too close to the bone of everyday reality". The poem would not be suitable for teenagers in school, because it was "too real ...".

Anyway, here's the poem:
The Schoolgirl Kills Herself After Failing An Exam

She jumps from the tenth floor of a housing block
into the brief wild terror of freedom, dies and transforms
into twelve paragraphs of newsprint in the Straits Times,
cool and objective, black and white, verifiable facts only.

We are told that her classmates are "shocked".
And that her parents refuse to comment. We know that
she scored 41 marks for her last exam paper, a fatal result.
A teacher describes her as a "quiet, hardworking girl".

We feel obliged to pause to reflect. We wish to search
our conscience. She was only eleven, we remind ourselves.
There must be others like her. There must be another way,
we suspect, for children to grow up in this country.

But yesterday's news is quick to slide into the grey of memory.
She will become another incidental casualty. We turn the page.
We forget. Again we trip and fall head first into the future,
down into the depths of a national urge to never stop excelling.
I mention the poetry incident now, because I've just been reminded of it - strangely enough, by the Aware saga. Let me explain.

Suicide can be a disturbing topic. Nevertheless the issue is real, and worthy of discussion. Only a small proportion of students will ever become suicidal, but that takes nothing away from the significance of the topic as a social issue. To avoid the topic, on the grounds that it cuts "too close to the bone of everyday reality", is basically a kind of chickening out.

Homosexuality is also real. Only a small proportion of the general population is homosexual. Again, that takes nothing away from the significance of the topic as a social issue. For educators to deliberately avoid the topic, as if it did not exist, is somewhat like trying to pretend that in the real world, young people do not commit suicide.

The fact that a topic is controversial is a bad reason to avoid discussing it. It might even be said that the more controversial a topic, the greater the need to openly discuss it. We should bring the topic out into the light; analyse the facts; study the theories; and share our views. We should work towards gaining more clarity and understanding, instead of doing the ostrich thing and sticking our heads into the sand.

Unfortunately, it appears that some members of the Christian right have recently been insisting that schools in Singapore behave like ostriches. The specific targets? Junior colleges whose students have discussed gay issues in their General Paper classes.

Below you can see the Education Ministry's half-hearted defence against the attack of the Christian right:
ST May 7, 2009
GP teachers did not push alternative lifestyles
By Amelia Tan

IN ITS letter to The Straits Times yesterday, the Ministry of Education (MOE) revealed that it had received 'feedback' about materials on alternative lifestyles used in junior college General Paper lessons.

Among the issues raised was one contained in an e-mail which has made the rounds recently. It said that during a discussion of same-sex marriages, students at a junior college were given a worksheet with questions asking for their views of a nuclear family unit. They were also asked to discuss topics such as the legalisation of gay marriage and parents of the same sex forming families through adoption.

A documentary on the lifestyles of such families was also shown in class, the e-mail said. It questioned if it was appropriate to discuss such topics, and charged that this promoted homosexuality. It is not known who wrote the e-mail.

In its response yesterday, MOE said: 'GP lessons are meant to promote critical thinking and discussion on contemporary issues.

'These materials and lessons did not involve Aware...MOE investigations showed that the teachers had used these materials to initiate discussion on family structures, and not to promote alternative lifestyles.

'Nevertheless, MOE will remind school leaders and teachers to exercise greater professional discretion in guiding their students when such topics are discussed. They should also adhere to social norms and values of our mainstream society.'

Sigh ... I wonder what's next on the cards, for Singapore. Perhaps the Christian fundamentalists will insist that everyone subscribes to their view that the world was created in seven days. And then they will insist that the topic of Darwinian evolution be banned from discussion in our schools.

This kind of issue has already shown up in other countries. Read this article about Josie Lau's favourite "charity", Focus on the Family. When is Singapore's turn?

May 7, 2009

Mr Wang Writes A Poetry Book

One reason I blog is that I enjoy writing. Blogging, however, is not the only kind of writing I do. I am also quite interested in literature - in writing it, as well as reading it.

Over the years, my creative writing has shown up in various publications in different parts of the world. Some works have also been broadcast on radio; performed on stage; analysed in academic dissertations; and used in creative writing workshops. From time to time, schools in Singapore also use my works as teaching materials for their English Language or Literature classes.

I am pleased to announce that I will soon be publishing a poetry book. The book will be launched sometime next month. Thereafter it will go on sale in a number of bookstores around Singapore. No, I do not expect to make any significant money out of it - but it does give me a strong sense of personal satisfaction.

What kind of poetry do I write? Well, the poems cover all sorts of different topics - love, life, family, politics, travel and other urban realities. Sometimes the perspective is intensely personal; sometimes I am wry and ironic. A significant number of poems comment on social issues in Singapore.

Thought I'd share one of the poems from the upcoming book. The poem below is about Paddy Chew, the first Singaporean AIDS victim to come out to the general public and speak openly about the disease. In the last few months of his life, Paddy performed in a one-man play, to raise awareness about AIDS. Some people condemned him, others applauded him for the bravery. My own take below - hope you enjoy the poem:

Paddy Chew’s Last Show

Life is real. Art is its mirror. Or is it the
other way round? Paddy Chew has forgotten.
His life is here now, on stage, Paddy starring as himself,
the final act, before the curtain falls
and the lights go out forever.

“This is me,” he says to the audience, “take a look.”
He lifts his shirt up. A stunned silence.
Ribs cast shadows on other ribs. The flesh
has fallen away, the body a territory conquered
by the relentless virus.

This is what Paddy tells his audience:
I liked women. I liked men too.
At least that is what he remembers.
These days his body yearns for nothing, not sex,
not food or water, nothing but its own breath,
exhausted, in and out, in and out,
an almost unnatural thing.

Lies are for the living. Truth is for the brave.
Masks fall away when death comes close.
“I am so close,” Paddy says, “to dying.”
All he wants is to show the audience
what he has seen. That all of us are dying,
and none of us should die alone.

Paddy dies, but not alone. In a way, he lives on too.
Love is his message. Love endures. I did not know him,
but I know what love is. I wrote this poem
so that others like him will live,
and die, but not alone.
Oh, if you are interested to know more about my book or its launch, do feel free to drop me an email at

May 6, 2009

Mr Wang's Straight Talk on Sex Education - Part 1

Sex education seems to be topical right now. So I shall blog about it.

In all my years at school, I have only ever had to attend one session of sex education. It happened when I was either 15 or 16 years old. That was about 20 years ago. But it was quite a memorable experience, and so up to today, I still remember it quite well.

At that time, I was studying in a Catholic school. So one day this Catholic man came to visit our school, and all the boys were told to go to the school hall to listen to him talk about sex. I remember that he began the session by explaining the mechanics of sexual intercourse.

I learned nothing new there. I was already taking Biology for my O-levels. And human reproduction was part of the syllabus. I'd already been repeatedly practising drawing detailed diagrams of reproductive parts like the vas deferens, the vagina, the Fallopian tubes and so on.

But the session was probably educational for some of the other boys (who weren't taking Biology).

I also remembered that at that sex education session, the person ran a slideshow. It was an extremely gory slideshow. He warned us in advance that it would be gory. The slideshow comprised photos of what happens as a result of abortion (and of different types of abortion methods, such as suction, curettage or saline injection).

Gruesome stuff. Here's a typical picture. Here the suction method of abortion has been used. The suction device (which is extremely strong) is applied to the woman's vagina. It basically sucks the foetus out of the womb, tearing the foetus into pieces. This, I didn't learn in the Biology O-level syllabus.

The message was quite simple. If teenage boys do hanky-panky with teenage girls, then the girl could get pregnant. If the girl gets pregnant and goes for an abortion, then, well, you can see what happens to the baby. Therefore the boy is guilty of having caused, or at least of having contributed to, the occurrence of a very terrible, gruesome and sinful event. It would be much more advisable to abstain from sex altogether.

What else did the man cover, in his talk? Contraception. He spent a long time talking about what is known as the "natural birth control method". As a matter of fact, this was the only form of contraception that he spoke about.

The natural birth control method basically means that the woman keeps careful records of her own menstrual cycle. She and her partner then avoid having sex at those times when she is likely to be fertile.

For greater certainty, the woman also regularly checks her own cervical mucus. How does this work? How her mucus looks and feels at different times of the month indicates which part of the ovulation cycle the woman is at. An excerpt from the following website:
There are three ways in which you can check your cervical mucus:

1. Use your finger or toilet paper to wipe across the opening of vagina and then take a look at the mucus.

2. Wear a panty liner and examine any cervical mucus that may be left on it (this can be hard to detect, though)

3. The best way: reach in and get a sample of your cervical mucus. Examine the consistency and try to stretch the mucus between your fingers. If you can stretch it at least three inches without it breaking, then ovulation is about to occur.

If you do not want to get pregnant, then sex should be avoided from the time you begin to notice the slippery, stretchy mucus until at least two days after it is gone.
That day was the first time that I had heard of natural birth control methods. However, because I was an 'A' student in Biology, I was very unimpressed. I did not think that the strategy of avoiding sex during the times when the woman was supposedly fertile was a very reliable method of birth control.

After all, women were not necessarily very regular; stress alone could easily cause changes to their menstrual cycle, making it difficult to predict when they were really fertile or not. Furthermore, the lifespan of the man's sperm was also variable. After getting ejaculated into the vaginal environment, the sperm cells normally survive for up to 3 days, but sometimes for as long as seven.

Taking all these factors into consideration, the so-called "natural birth control method" seemed to me to be the equivalent of a rather risky gamble. And that tip about the stretchy cervical mucus between your fingers .... Aaack, gross. Well, it definitely evoked a lot of raucous laughter from the big crowd of schoolboys.

Enough for today. In Part 2, I will continue to discuss my sex education session from those long-ago days. And I will also comment on what might constitute a good, healthy sex-education session, for teenagers today.

May 5, 2009

Steeplejacking: The Internal Crisis of Christianity?

I learned a new word today - "steeplejacking". How interesting.

Someone used that word, when he commented on my previous post. He wrote: "Mr Wang, I am concerned over the steeplejacking that we've witnessed here in Singapore, especially when COOS has links to notorious steeplejacking organisations in America and Australia (eg Joel's Army, NAR)."

Maybe the word steeplejacking is well-known among Christians today, but then I am not a Christian. I didn't know the meaning of the word at all. So I looked it up on Google. The top hit was a website about a book entitled "Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right is Hijacking Mainstream Religion". And the commentary went like this:
“A how-to manual for progressive Christians who want to reclaim the church from intolerant, extremist factions. An important book.”— Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land: A Memoir

An unprecedented look inside the battle for religion in America, Steeplejacking exposes how a strident theocratic minority is attacking - or “steeplejacking”— mainstream churches in order to eliminate progressive voices and take control of America’s historic mainline denominations.

An insider account by two ministers on the front lines of mainstream religion’s longtime shadow war against the religious right, Steeplejacking reveals how conservative renewal groups, backed by a right-wing organization called the Institute on Religion and Democracy, use social wedge issues like homosexuality to infiltrate mainline churches and stir up dissent among members of the congregation, with the goal of taking over the leadership of the church, and ultimately, the denomination.

The book unmasks the covert methods that renewal groups and the IRD use to spread their propaganda, as well as showing how the pastor and other church leaders can act as either provocateurs or protectors in the face of an attack. Churches that have been “steeplejacked” are also examined to illustrate why some are able to withstand an attack, while others succumb.

Featuring a foreword by Michelle Goldberg, author of the bestselling Kingdom Coming, and an introduction by Frederick Clarkson, Steeplejacking shows how mainstream religion can fight back against the insidious tactics of the Christian right.
Since I have not even read the book, I'm sure I do not understand the issues very well. Still, I'm definitely reminded of certain very recent events in Singapore. What about you?

If you are a concerned Christian, perhaps you should buy the book, read it carefully, and see if it is in any way relevant to what's happening to your church in Singapore today.

On a separate note, here's an email I just got from another reader. I'm not sure if he wants to be identified, so I'll just refer to him as Yio:

Dear Mr Wang,

I am an avid reader of your blog, and I know, blogs are personal spaces and if I'm not happy I can just leave.

I won't say I am offended by the title of your latest post but, it did strike a raw spot within me. Would you, use 'Thank Allah the Muslims were defeated' if it was the Muslims and not the Christians who did this? Yes, it's hypothetical. I doubt the Muslims in Singapore would.

Also, before I get branded a fundamentalist, I would like you to know that; no, I'm not anti gay. Neither am I pro gay. Finally, I do not think that what Thio did was right, there were better, less hostile methods that could have been employed.

I believe, in a world such as ours, agreeing to disagree is the way forward. You can never ever bring pro choice and pro family together. Two bloody ends of the spectrum and you can argue till the cows come home and you will not have a winner.

Yes, it is a historical day for Singapore. 'Freedom!' some cry. I think it's merely the beginning of a long hard journey, not the end of it.

Again, we agree to disagree. I will continue to read your blog for the many insightful

Yio was referring to my earlier post entitled Thank God the Christians were Defeated. I make no apologies at all for that title, because (1) I think it's a good title, and (2) I had already explained, in the very first sentence of my article, the specific individuals to whom the title was referring.

I'm actually slightly pleased to see Yio's discomfiture, because that discomfiture is a good sign. I think Yio is upset at least partially because he regards himself as a Christian, but at the same time dislikes the possibility of being associated with the Christian fundies.

Well, Yio, if you feel that way, then, to me, the solution seems to be rather obvious. You should simply disassociate yourself from the fundies, and explain loudly your reasons for doing so. In other words, speak up without fear.

But maybe this message shouldn't come from me. After all, I'm not a Christian. So instead, just consider this example of a staunch Christian who did decide to speak out, in no uncertain terms. Here's an excerpt from NUS lecturer Gwee Li Sui's recent and powerful article, originally published on his own Facebook, and then reproduced on Wayang Party:

As a secular body, AWARE rightly cannot have a vision that treats women from different backgrounds through the outlook of just one religious system. Indeed, I dare say that an appropriate Christian response is to resist the actions of these Christians. Just as God gave every person free choice and the opportunity to believe, we ought to support the sanctity of this right for others to make up their own minds and live their own lives. Just as we do not force the Christian faith down someone’s throat against his or her will, we should not take over a non-religious organisation for the single purpose of making others unlike us behave as we believe. To do this would be a gross misapplication of the message of Jesus.

If you support the new ex-co’s actions, be aware that you are sending a string of possibly irreversible wrong signals to every Singaporean. Consider carefully whether you are willing to shoulder the responsibility of damages that would affect the longstanding good work of Christians in Singapore. Since the government has chosen not to be involved in the matter so far, whatever happens will be seen clearly by all as the response of particular sectors of society.

Here is my short list of obvious implications:

[1] Support the new ex-co, and you are effectively saying that you condone its quasi-corporate act of infiltration, with related strategies of secrecy, disinformation, moral coercion, and fear-mongering. You are saying that you support its less-than-Christian covert moves more than traditionally Christian ones like dialogue, open engagement, honesty, and clarity.

[2] Support the new ex-co, and we will go down a slippery road with wide-ranging repercussions for all. Don’t believe for a moment that the manoeuvring will stop here. What this invites others to see is that infiltration is the most effective way for small groups of like-minded individuals to seize power quickly — and where will this end? What is to stop any religious or ideological group from doing the same to any social institution at every level? In the long run, who do you think loses?

[3] Support the new ex-co, and you potentially make light of the freedom that is God’s gift to every human being. Against your best intentions, you may send out instead the message that we Christians think that we know better than everyone else and that we are willing to outflank, overpower, and overwhelm if we do not get our way.

[4] Support the new ex-co, and, if they stay and behave as predicted, you will be directly responsible for undoing the trust that many Christians have taken years to build with their non-Christian friends. This is a trust built on mutual respect. You will have made the Gospel of Christ more difficult to hear for years to come because people will think that they know what it is about. You will have created a new generation of Christ-haters.

This matter, in short, is not to be treated lightly. Jesus tells us all to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”. There are times to be passionate and helpful in a gungho way, but this is not the time. Christians can be wrong about many things too. So please, by all means, pray for the AWARE debacle to be resolved amicably and for Christians in AWARE, but do not, in the name of our common faith, go in blind support of other Christians because you are Christian!

Lots of food for thought there. Don't you agree?

May 3, 2009

Thank God the Christians Were Defeated

I mean the seven Christians who had invaded Aware five weeks ago and taken over the executive committee, through the use of underhanded tactics.

There were actually eight invaders, including one Peggy Leong. But perhaps sensing that God was not on her side, Peggy decided not to to show up for the EGM yesterday. The rest of her fellow conspirators were thoroughly quizzed and questioned, and then decisively thrown out by the women of Singapore.

The meeting, in all its dramatic details, is now widely reported in the news. I'll just reproduce Today's summary of it:

The Aware EGM: A blow-by-blow account
TODAY Weekend • May 3, 2009
Loh Chee Kong
Alicia Wong

12pm: Queues begin to form, with Aware's membership having swelled to more than 1,800 in recent days as extensive media reports on the leadership controversy sparked interest.The night before, organisers booked an adjacent hall to accommodate the anticipated crowd. By 1.30pm, the queues snake along two levels of the Suntec Convention Centre.

One corporate trainer in her 50s says she feels the New Guard should be given a chance to prove themselves. But undergraduate Kishan Kumar Singh thinks the old guardis more inclusive approach should be the way forward. “The issue affects more than just women ... its a larger societal issue,” says Mr Singh.

Mild argument breaks out between ushers and sections of the crowd, after the latter are told by an unidentified personnel to cut the queue and head straight to the registration booth - only to be turned away.

2.40pm: The EGM starts after a 40-minute delay. The crowd, by some estimates, has hit 3,000. Incumbent Aware president Josie Lau begins her speech but is interrupted repeatedly the audience. She calls for security to “escort” the unruly out. Photographers are also asked to leave as some are using their flashes - against
the house rules, according to the Exco.

3pm: Disgruntled members begin to make their presence felt as they take to the microphones to voice their impatience: They want Ms Lau to go straight to the fourth item on the agenda: The vote of no-confidence.

A shouting match erupts between the Exco and members, after assistant honorary treasurer Sally Ang tells the crowd to "shut up and sit down". Loud boos ring across the hall.

Succumbing to crowd pressure, Ms Lau agrees to skip the first two administrative items on the agenda and call for the meeting to vote on a no-confidence motion - but not before she asks Rajah & Tann lawyer Gregory Vijayendran to spell out that the constitution does not explicitly provide for such a motion, and that it could be
challenged in court.

The lawyer adds, nevertheless: “Whilst a vote of no confidence does not mean the new Exco has to step down, they should consider doing so."

Members are briefed on voting procedure. A new member interrupts the proceedings by criticising the new guard for trying to take credit for the spike in membership. This sets off another shouting match.

The roused crowd chants "Where were you", when immediate past president Constance Singam asks where the new Exco members were in the last 24 years.
Feminist mentor Thio Su Mien takes the microphone and rattles off her achievements to "establish credibility”. “I know you all don't like the term feminist mentor,” she says, urging them to nevertheless “show respect" to elders.

4.30pm: Ballots for the no-confidence motion are cast. Afterwards, while the votes are being counted, the Exco goes on to discuss proposed constitutional amendments. After protests from members that some of them have not even seen the proposals, the Exco proposes a 10-minute break so that members can obtain copies to read through.

Members continue to question the Exco on various matters, including the decisions to sack Ms Schutz Lee - Aware's former centre manager - and to install CCTVs at the association's Dover Crescent premises.

Attention turns to the cost of booking the venue for the EGM. Honorary treasurer Maureen Ong reveals Aware spent $23,000 - enraging several in the crowd who are vocal in their displeasure on the excessive use of funds.

One member points out that under the group's constitution, the Exco has to seek members' approval to spend more than $20,000 in a month. When she becomes agitated, she is escorted out of the hall by security officers.

Upon further questioning, Ms Ong says the Exco has spent $90,000 in the past month, mostly on organising the EGM. The crowd lets out an audible gasp. ”We had to find a venue to accommodate all members,” Ms Ong explains.

7pm: The crowd, getting restless, are told the results will be out soon. Meanwhile, the censure of the Exco continues. A new member who introduces herself as Irene Ho takes issue with being told to sit and be quiet.

She loudly declares, to some cheers from the crowd: “Today is the time to stand up and speak up, not shut up and sit down."

The members start to question the Exco's decision to sack Ms Braema Mathi as chair of Aware's subcommittee on Cedaw (short for the United Nation's Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women).

The Exco try to explain how they dissolved the subcommittee “in line with the constitution”, and note that Ms Mathi has not submitted a draft shadow report owed despite repeated requests. Ms Mathi steps in to say she had offered to meet with the Exco, and that their comments are “significantly defamatory".

Other members involved in the Cedaw project voice their displeasure that the subcommittee was dissolved without their being informed. That's tantamount to being sacked without notice, they say.

One member says agitatedly: “You took away our choices, so are we wrong for screaming and shouting at you? How can I respect you if you are treating me as a child?”

8pm: There is a tense silence as Ms Lau reads out the ballot results. This gives way to ecstatic cheers, when it is revealed that the motion has received nearly twice the votes in favour as those against it. While Ms Lau keeps a straight face and tone, many members jump out of their seats and hug one another.

One member of the old guard takes the microphone and spells it out for the Exco: “You no longer have the moral authority to run Aware.” They are asked to step down graciously, or face motion to remove them.

Almost stiffly, Ms Lau says the Exco will speak to its legal counsel and consider. The crowd starts booing; Ms Mathi has to calm them down. Addressing the Exco, the Aware veteran stresses that “the conclusion is the conclusion”, even if the Exco have been “wonderful” in comporting themselves under flak throughout the afternoon.

Others join the call for the Exco to step down. Member Rose Tan says: “I feel sorry for all of you but you just don't have the experience and networks ... Everybody wants you to go, so please, just go.”

The Exco is given five minutes – until 8.40pm – to discuss their decision.

8.40 pm: The Exco, which has exited the hall, is a no-show and uncontactable.There are whispers that they may have made a quick escape. Ms Mathi announces: “By their action and conduct, I declare the current exco has indeed resigned."

Still, she gives them another 10 minutes - and when they fail to reappear, she goes ahead with the motion to remove the Exco. Only two hands in the entire hall are raised in objection.

By a show of hands, the election of the new Exco proceeds rapidly. Names are thrown up and seconded within a blink of an eye. Positions are filled within seconds. The noise level is growing as the crowd cheers for the new Exco, who one by one fill the stage.

9.15pm: Halfway through the proceedings, Ms Lau and her team finally turn up. They interrupt the elections, saying they want to make a statement.

The boos turn to cheers, when Ms Lau announces their decision to resign and wishes the new Aware leadership well. She hopes they will hit the Cedaw-set target of 30 to 35 per cent female representation in the country's political and social spheres – what appears an indirect retort to earlier suggestions that Ms Lau and her team did not understand Cedaw's work.

“I declare the meeting closed,” Ms Lau then says. The microphones are turned off, and as the old guard try to get them turned back on so the election can continue, they applaud the ousted exco for stepping down graciously.

The new exco is finally declared, and Ms Constance Singam, who is all smiles, is brought back as its advisor.

Sounds sappy, but today I actually feel proud of being a Singaporean.

I'm proud of every Singaporean who spoke up against the dishonest tactics of Josie Lau and her gang. I'm proud of every Singaporean who was smart enough to see through the hogwash of individuals like Thio Su Mien the "feminist mentor". Most of all, I'm proud of all the women who forked out their $40, went down to Suntec and sat through a 7-hour meeting to stand up for what they knew was right. I love you all!

A great day for Singapore.

There was one moment when I felt a sense of deep pity arise in me. That was when I was watching this Youtube video of Thio Su Mien. Specifically, it was those parts where she kept saying things like "Show some respect for your elders" and the crowd just went on making derisive sounds at her.

Truly, I felt sorry for Thio. Sorry that she is such a misguided human being. After all her scheming, plotting behaviour in recent months, she still actually seems to think that she deserves respect. And just for being old.

Thio, next time, try being transparent and honest. It's an easier way to get respect.

May 1, 2009

The Risk of Disease on a Very Crowded Little Red Dot

May 1, 2009
H1N1 outbreak
Orange alert in S'pore
Measures to fight swine flu shift into higher gear; One-week quarantine for those who return from Mexico

By Bertha Henson

EXPECT to have your temperature taken when you attend big events, and to be asked for your contact details when you enter office buildings.

Such procedures at schools, workplaces and hospitals will start now, as Singapore moves into 'orange' mode in its five-colour alert system, which progresses from green through yellow, orange, red and black.

It might well move to red soon, said Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan on Thursday, as he detailed more stringent measures to combat swine flu.

..... As for those contemplating a trip to Mexico, the epicentre of the swine flu outbreak, and affected areas in the United States such as New York, California, Texas and Kansas, the plea from Mr Khaw is: Don't.

So far, Singapore has been lucky not to have been invaded by the virus, he said, 'but I think it will not be long before patients or even deaths start to occur here'.

'In South-east Asia, we are the most globalised country, so the first cluster of cases in South-east Asia may very well emerge in Singapore.'

The problem isn't merely that we are the most globalised country in Southeast Asia. The problem is also that Singapore is the second-most crowded country in the world.

And why is Singapore the 2nd most crowded country in the world? It's mostly because of the government's hare-brained plan to deliberately bump our population up to 6.5 million (by inducing a huge influx of foreigners onto our little island).

Such a plan has numerous implications. One implication is the greatly increased risk to the health of the general public. Here's an excerpt from one of my own posts, which I had written more than a year ago:

Incidentally, I've often wondered whether the government has really considered the potential health implications of its ambitious population plan. I'm referring to the government's plan to increase Singapore's resident population to 6.5 million people (mainly by importing more foreigners).

There are plenty of reasons why we should be cautious about such a plan. One reason is that we live in a time where mankind seems to be constantly threatened by the likes of SARS and bird flu.

Squeeze 6.5 million people together on a little red dot. Make it the world's most densely populated country. Every day, pack a great number of citizens like sardines into the public transport system. What do you get?

Potentially, a great recipe for a massive epidemic .....

Unfortunately we are led by buffoons. They actually seem to believe that 6.5 million is some kind of magical number, at which Singapore's population will thrive, and below which we are doomed to failure.

This, of course, is pure nonsense. Economic success is far too complex to be reducible to a single figure, and depends instead on a wide range of other variables.

It is interesting to recall that Singapore's best economic years (when we were regularly achieving double-digit annual economic growth) all happened in those times when our population was just around 2.5 million. In other words, about half of what it is today.