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Democracy Doesn’t Mean The Minority Must Shut Up

I read a post on Facebook which I will not attribute to the author because he put it as private. The gist of his comment was that he thought that people should stop blaming the majority for voting for the PAP, and that:

“Once the votes have been cast, we should all unite again as Singaporeans to work together for the good of the country. That is after all what democracy is all about right?”

My fellow citizen, you are so fucking WRONG. Democracy means we all retain the right to continue complaining and protesting. No matter who I voted for, I will keep speaking up for the things I believe in, just as you did with yours.

That is how we work together for the good of EVERYONE in this country. So, please, stop gloating and thinking that that’s the end of the debate on S377A and every other minority right.

This country was built by Champion Grumblers, and we will all continue to do so.



Bridgestone And The Sound Of My Nose Whistling

Earlier this year, I met the lovely people at Bridgestone and they asked me about the car I drive and whether I needed a set of new tyres. It was timely because I did need a new set of tyres, the current ones being a bit worn after two years.

My friends would know me as an automobile non-enthusiast, and when I turned 40, I bought a station wagon instead of a sports car. My mid-life crisis came with lots of cargo space. Bridgestone’s Tyre Concierge took this into consideration and immediately suggested a range of tyres to suit my style.

I am skeptical and usually ‘discount 50%’ any crafted sales and marketing pitch, and Bridgestone’s spiel about their Turanza GR-100 sounded no different to any other enthusiastic presentation about the technological marvels of say, an electric razor or a rechargeable stylus.

But the session with the Tyre Concierge and the Tyre Doctor Ken Lim at one of their B-Select retail lounges lounges was thankfully short and I was happy to drive off with my swag of free, brand new tyres, ready to run my errands for the rest of the work day.

Half an hour on the road later (the dealership was quite far out), I realised something. I hadn’t had the radio on, and I had had half an hour of driving without any road noise. It was all quiet apart from the engine and the little whistling from my congested nose (sensitive to car workshop dust lah).

So, everything the Bridgestone Concierge and the Tyre Doctor was telling me about Bla Bla Bla Superior Quietness Bla Bla Silent AC Block Bla Bla Optimising Road Contact Bla Bla was trying to make its way back into my consciousness. It didn’t quite make it. I stopped my car, went online and tried to read the product specifications properly.

I got to 3D Helmholtz Noise Reducing Resonators and I felt my eyes glaze over and the whistling from my nose started to make me doze off. Then I remembered the last words the Tyre Concierge said to me, which were, “I guarantee you will feel and hear or rather, not hear the difference”.

The take away is that proper tyre selection makes a big difference, and people (like me) baulk at spending a few hundred dollars on new tyres without seriously considering the difference this auto part makes in safety and comfort.

But of course the test was whether Naomi would know the difference. I didn’t tell her the tyres were changed – she simply felt I had to go and clear the congestion in my nose cos the whistling was driving her crazy.

If your car’s tyres are a bit worn, contact Bridgestone’s Tyre Concierge here: – The service is free of charge.



Support Lim Swee Say In Spite Of What He Says

TL;DR version: Support Lim Swee Say, but let other voices help in steering the labour movement.

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) was forged in days of a different political landscape. It had its genesis in the founding of what later became the dominant political party. It served its purpose then, galvanising the rank and file behind the push to take over Singapore on independence.

That was 54 years ago and I am having trouble with the term ‘Labour Movement’ in this day and age, and in this country. If the governing party is for us, with us and for the country, then why is there a need for a Labour Movement, and why is there a third wheel just so we can call something ‘tripartism’? Surely MOM would be working for the workers, and we would be represented by our votes cast?

Plus, a government minister has always been appointed to the post of NTUC’s Secretary General – so I dunno man, it’s like a redundancy department of redundancy. You would think that the cabinet minister / secretary general would have the unions’ and government’s views aligned most times, and if workers had grievances against the government, you wouldn’t trust him to take your side.

But we’ve had the late President Ong Teng Cheong proving otherwise when he was NTUC Chief, authorising a strike in 1986 (yes, they are legal) without the approval of cabinet, earning the ire of his peers.

A couple of appointments later, we had Lim Swee Say, now Minister of Manpower. Now this man is easily ridiculed for his wacky turns of phrases (cheaperer and betterer, circa 2013), off-colour jokes (kiasu, kiasi, kia-SARS, circa 2004) and non-sequitur anecdotes (toothpicks 2014). But take a look at his tenure at NTUC – he pushed for all manner of schemes to be financed – oversaw the formation of two institutions aimed at making our citizens more skilled and competitive – WDA and e2i, and pulled at the Government’s purse strings to build a sizeable war chest in the millions of dollars to throw at the unions’ charters of making workers’ lives better.

There’s a story I like telling my friends and clients about how e2i funding helped an old and small noodle making factory retain their loyal but ageing staff by forking out almost 90% of the costs of machinery and a freaking brand new and larger truck because it would make the workers’ lives easier – the staff don’t have to carry loads of flour because machines the e2i bought do it for them, and the driver makes fewer trips because the new truck is larger.

Despite this and other happy stories, the main problem with e2i funding is, incredibly, that not enough businesses know how to access it.

From what I’ve seen at NTUC, I venture to say that there is no other country in the world with this kind of labour movement. And you have to give credit to Zorro Lim Swee Say for some of the things currently in place, just don’t let him sing his Upturn the Downturn song.

For all the admiration I have of the former Secretary General Minister, there is a caveat. The third prong of tripartism is still too tied to the PAP for my liking, and if it remains this way, will be the main obstacle to it being a truly independent, worker-centric player in our labour troika.

I attended the May Day Rally in 2014 and this year, and both times I was disturbed by the rally cry of ‘Majulah PAP’ at the end of the event. I finally brought this up at a online media session last month featuring the new Secretary General Chan Chun Sing, who dismissed it as mere ‘form’, and that he was ‘more concerned with substance’.

I suggested that since it was mere form, then get rid of it. He parried and changed the subject somewhat, so I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. I believe what the NTUC and Lim Swee Say has done – like our version of minimum wage – is working, and we’re nimble enough to tweak stuff as we go along. But I really want the NTUC to cut its umbilical cord from Mother PAP – it’s time to let other minds join the work on getting the right mix.