Saturday, 24 June 2017

Racial stereotypes in media: Not just a bit of harmless fun

By Leonard Lim and Mathew Mathews, Published The Straits Times, 23 Jun 2017

Singapore, with its polyglot population living and working together peacefully for the past five decades, often strikes international visitors as an oasis of social harmony.

However, undercurrents of racism do surface from time to time. Insensitive remarks or actions based on stereotypes about a certain race may cause offence, and social media amplifies both the effect and reach of the offence and the grievances of those who feel victimised.

But these incidents also offer good opportunity for Singaporeans to have open and civil conversations on what constitutes racial discrimination, as there are sometimes no clear lines, and these shift over time as social mores evolve.



In some instances, the markers are quite clear. There was a strong backlash against "blackface", or the use of make-up by ethnic Chinese to impersonate a dark-skinned character, last year (on a Mediacorp television programme) and in 2012 (at a dinner and dance event).

Many, including Chinese Singaporeans, spoke out against what they regarded as appropriating someone else's ethnicity and treating it like entertainment. The authorities also imposed a financial penalty on Mediacorp for what was deemed racially insensitive content.

There is relatively strong consensus when it comes to employment practices, and this is probably shaped by fair-hiring legislation. About four in five respondents in last year's Channel NewsAsia - Institute of Policy Studies (CNA-IPS) survey on race relations deemed not hiring someone because of his or her race as racist (the make-up of the 2,000 surveyed reflects Singapore's racial composition).

But when it comes to poking fun at someone's race, especially through stereotypes, the picture does not seem so clear. This was displayed in the range of opinions that surfaced after a local Indian actor's recent post on Facebook. Mr Shrey Bhargava had expressed disappointment over how he was asked to adopt a thick Indian accent and "make it funny" during an Ah Boys To Men audition.

The CNA-IPS survey brought out similar sentiments. Compared to employment practices, there was relatively less consensus on whether making jokes about another race was racist.

About one in three said they would not consider this racist. In fact, 42 per cent of respondents reported that it was at least sometimes acceptable to make those jokes in the company of friends, although the proportion dropped to 23 per cent when the respondents were asked if it was acceptable to make such racist jokes in public.

Such "casual racism" may be more commonplace than we think. About 60 per cent of respondents (regardless of race) had heard racist comments.

Singapore wins Most Improved Jurisdiction award at Global Restructuring Review Awards 2017

London awards boost to Singapore's efforts to be global insolvency and restructuring hub
Republic lauded for efforts to help troubled firms
By K.C. Vijayan, Senior Law Correspondent, The Straits Times, 23 Jun 2017

Singapore's efforts to be positioned as a major restructuring and insolvency hub received a boost in London on Wednesday when it was named the Most Improved Jurisdiction, fending off the likes of Germany, India and other nominees at an international awards event.

The inaugural award by the Global Restructuring Review (GRR) recognised recent ground-breaking legislative changes made by Singapore to its debt restructuring framework, resulting in a hybrid regime that incorporates the best features of the world's leading regimes, said the Law Ministry yesterday.



Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said the recognition was significant because "we are positioning Singapore as a restructuring centre in Asia and it is the first time we have won these awards".

She added on the sidelines of the ground-breaking ceremony for Maxwell Chambers Suites: "In the past few years, we've seen many companies which have had difficulties. There's Swiber, there's Ezra, there's Hanjin Shipping. There's clearly a need in Asia for a place where such companies can be restructured, and Singapore has positioned itself to be such a place."

GRR is a daily information service providing cross-border insolvency and restructuring news, features and events.

Singapore also received the award for Most Important Overall Development, for the guidelines on cross-border insolvency matters that were drawn up and released by the Judicial Insolvency Network (JIN).

The JIN, made up of judges from 10 jurisdictions, including the Singapore Supreme Court, met in Singapore last year to discuss and draw up the guidelines.

Two Singapore High Court decisions were also nominated for Most Important Recognition Decision and Cross Border Cooperation in a Specific Insolvency or Restructuring Matter.

The inaugural GRR Awards celebrate the most important firms, cases and marketplace developments in cross-border restructuring and insolvency, said the ministry.

In awarding Singapore the Most Improved Jurisdiction prize, accepted by Justice Kannan Ramesh at the event, the organisers noted that the Republic had made changes to its Companies Act relating to restructuring and insolvency. It had also introduced refinements to its scheme of arrangement incorporating elements from abroad.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Singapore Is Not An Island: Views on Singapore Foreign Policy by Bilahari Kausikan

Singaporeans urged to critically assess news they read
Be aware of how foreign media and agencies can manipulate public opinion: Diplomat
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 22 Jun 2017

Singaporeans need to be aware that the manipulation of public opinion has long been used as a tactic by many to pressure governments to change policies, said Ambassador-at-Large and former permanent secretary of foreign affairs Bilahari Kausikan.

For this reason, it is important that they critically evaluate the news they read and develop "clear, independent and balanced judgments", he told about 200 people yesterday at the launch of his book, Singapore Is Not An Island: Views On Singapore Foreign Policy.

Citing the flood of criticism in the Western media about United States President Donald Trump, he said it would lead one to conclude that nothing the US administration has done is right.

For instance, Mr Trump's reaffirmation of the "one China" policy was depicted as weakness though it has been a stance the US held since 1972, Mr Bilahari said at the event organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

And while acts like the pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership undermine American credibility, it is "factually incorrect to suggest nothing in Mr Trump's administration is right", he said.

For example, Mr Bilahari, 63, said it was correct for President Trump to deploy carrier strike groups to and near Korean waters in response to recent North Korean missile tests. Mr Trump's predecessor, Mr Barack Obama had adopted the policy of strategic patience - "a serious mistake that gave Pyongyang eight years to develop its nuclear and missile capabilities", he said.

These criticisms by the Western media and foreign policy establishments are often driven by their inability or unwillingness to come to terms with the election of Mr Trump, he said. Their motivations may be understandable "but are none of our business", he said.

"Rushing to judgment based on unprincipled acceptance of other people's assessments... may lead to wrong policy choices," he said.

Singapore as a small country has to work with all governments, he said, regardless of whether their policies suit its preferences.

Former foreign minister S. Jayakumar, who was the guest of honour at the book launch, urged Singaporeans to take a greater interest in foreign policy.

While people are often vocal about foreign policy, they are not always well informed and may sometimes become unwitting tools of other countries, he said.

There were also some who have fallen to the temptation of using foreign policy as a tool of partisan politics, he said.

"Not only must we be aware of national interests which lie at the heart of our foreign policy, but we must also not be blind to the fact that other countries will and have mounted rather clever and cunning tactics to influence various segments," he said.

He urged people to be wary of external influences that "don't have the best interests of Singapore at heart".

Thursday, 22 June 2017

2 Singaporean auxiliary police officers arrested under ISA for terrorism-related offences

One detained for planning to fight in Syria; friend on Restriction Order for supporting him
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Jun 2017

Two Singaporean auxiliary police officers have been arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for their links to terrorism, in what is believed to be the first such case involving uniformed personnel.

Describing the arrests as "chilling", Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said: "These two were trusted to protect our society, but instead chose to endanger it."

The men were fellow AETOS officers at Woodlands Checkpoint when they were nabbed last month, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

Muhammad Khairul Mohamed, 24, has since been detained for planning to travel to Syria to fight against the Syrian government, while Mohamad Rizal Wahid, 36, has been placed on a Restriction Order for supporting his plan.

When Khairul was arrested, his job as an outrider with traffic enforcement duties did not require him to be armed, the ministry said. The Straits Times understands, however, that he has had weapons training and has performed armed duties before.

News of the arrests comes one week after MHA revealed last Monday that Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22, had become the first Singaporean woman to be detained for radicalism under the ISA. The infant care assistant planned to travel to Syria with her child to become a "martyr's widow", fighting for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Like her, Khairul became radicalised after going online to gather information about the conflict in Syria. He started to do so in 2012.

"Khairul perceived the Syrian conflict to be a 'holy war' in which he was prepared to die in battle as a 'martyr' and receive divine rewards," MHA said. In 2014, he tried to contact a foreign militant and Free Syrian Army (FSA) supporters on Facebook.

At the point of his arrest, he was still interested in engaging in armed violence in Syria. The ministry said his readiness to resort to violence in pursuit of a religious cause makes him a security threat to Singapore.



Several of Khairul's relatives and friends knew of his intention to fight in Syria, but none of them came forward, said MHA.

His colleague Rizal was working as an armed officer conducting general security duties at the checkpoint when he was arrested.

He knew about Khairul's plan to travel to Syria to fight, the ministry said, but he "not only failed to bring the matter to the attention of the authorities or the AETOS management, he even suggested to Khairul various ways to get to Syria and die there as a 'martyr' ".

As an auxiliary police officer, he should have tried to dissuade Khairul and reported him to his superiors, MHA said. Rizal was placed on a Restriction Order that curtails his movements and activities. Both men are no longer with AETOS. Their last day of service was June 1.



The ministry said: "The Government takes a serious view of anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalise such violence ideologically, or where the violence takes place. This is particularly so if the person involved is a public servant, and especially if he or she is a uniformed officer."

AETOS said it will seek to educate its staff on the risks of self-radicalisation and train its supervisors to spot the signs.

The ministry added: "We strongly urge the public not to let the cases of Khairul and Rizal detract from the good work of the wider pool of Muslim police officers, or affect their confidence in our police officers."

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

New laws against fake news to be introduced in 2018: Shanmugam

Laws to tackle fake news likely out next year
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 20 Jun 2017

New legislation to tackle fake news is in the works, and can be expected to be introduced next year.

The move, announced by Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday, follows his parliamentary statement in April that current laws for dealing with such falsehoods are limited.

Singapore officials had been to Europe, visiting Germany and Britain, to study measures these countries have taken or are planning to take to counter fake news, he said.

Consultations with stakeholders on the pending laws will be held in the second half of this year, he added.

Mr Shanmugam was speaking at the start of a two-day conference on fake news, Keep It Real: Truth And Trust In The Media, organised by The Straits Times and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.



Citing a survey of 1,617 Singapore residents conducted last month, he said that 91 per cent of them supported stronger laws to ensure fake news is removed or corrected.

Later, elaborating on the prospective legislation, he told reporters: "We know what the end point should be. It should be to de-legitimise fake news, help people identify what is and what is not fake news, and to deal with the perpetrators of fake news."

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Dear students, what you post online can wreck your life

Your posts can shape your future
Getting into colleges, jobs hinges on online reputations nowadays
By Thao Nelson, Published The Straits Times, 19 Jun 2017

Dear Student,

Harvard recently rescinded admission offers for some incoming freshmen who participated in a private Facebook group sharing offensive memes. The incident has sparked a lot of discussion: Was Harvard's decision justified? What about freedom of speech? Do young people know the dangers of social media?

I am a business school lecturer, career service counsellor and former recruiter, and I have seen how social media becomes part of a person's brand - a brand that can help you or hurt you. College admissions staff, future employers and even potential dates are more and more likely to check your profile and make decisions or judgments about you.

Here is what you should know, so you do not end up like those Harvard prospects.

SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS DISAPPEAR, RIGHT?

Let us be clear about one thing: You have been building your online reputation since your first Snapchat. Think the posts disappear? Think private pages are private? Think again.

You might feel like your life and opinions are no one's business, but you cannot always control who sees what you post. Every photo, video, tweet, like and comment could be screenshot by your friends (or frenemies). You might make a mistake with your privacy settings or post to the wrong account. And a determined online sleuth can sometimes find ways around privacy settings, viewing photos and posts you might think are well hidden.

DO EMPLOYERS AND SCHOOLS ACTUALLY LOOK AT THIS STUFF?

Your profile will very likely be scrutinised by college admissions officers and employers. According to a recent CareerBuilder recruitment survey in America, social media screening is through the roof:

• 600 per cent increase since 2006 in employers using social media to screen candidates

• 70 per cent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates

• 34 per cent of employers found online content that caused them to reprimand or fire an employee

This trend is common with admissions as well. Kaplan Test Prep's 2017 survey of over 350 US college admissions officers found that 35 per cent checked applicants' social media profiles. Many who do said social media had influenced their admission decisions.

PM Lee Hsien Loong apologises for damage to Singapore caused by family dispute over Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38 Oxley Road

He will deliver a ministerial statement in Parliament on July 3 to refute accusations
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 20 Jun 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong apologised to the nation yesterday for the harm caused by a protracted and publicly aired dispute with his siblings, which has affected Singapore's reputation and its citizens' confidence in the Government.

He will deliver a ministerial statement to refute the "baseless accusations" his siblings made against the Government, when Parliament sits on July 3.



PM Lee issued a statement and a video on the matter yesterday, on his first day back at work after a vacation. He expressed deep regret about the harm caused by the dispute with Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang over whether to demolish their late father Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38, Oxley Road.

His siblings had released a statement last Wednesday accusing him of misusing his power in a bid to preserve their father's house, among numerous other allegations.

PM Lee yesterday said these "serious allegations" went beyond private and personal matters, extending to the conduct of his office and the integrity of the Government.

"Much as I would like to move on, and end a most unhappy experience for Singaporeans, these baseless accusations against the Government cannot be left unanswered. They must be and will be dealt with openly and refuted," he said.

PM Lee said all MPs will have the opportunity to raise questions after his statement next month, adding that he has instructed that the People's Action Party whip be lifted. This will allow PAP MPs to speak according to their conscience and not be bound by the party position.

PM Lee yesterday urged all MPs, including opposition MPs, to "examine the issues thoroughly and question me and my Cabinet colleagues vigorously" about the matter.

"I hope that this full, public airing in Parliament will dispel any doubts that have been planted and strengthen confidence in our institutions and our system of government," he said.



When contacted last night, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said he needed time to study his brother's statement and would respond later.

In his statement, PM Lee acknowledged that Singaporeans have been disturbed and confused by news of the private dispute between him and his siblings.

A day after his siblings released their statement, PM Lee made known his "grave concerns" and questioned the "troubling circumstances" surrounding the preparation of the late Mr Lee's final will in a statement issued by his lawyers.

His siblings hit back with multiple Facebook posts, disputing his account about the last will and alleging that PM Lee had used his position to influence the ministerial committee into challenging the validity of a clause to demolish the Oxley Road house in the final will.

That prompted Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean to reveal the members of the committee and detail their scope of work last Saturday.

PM Lee said he had "done everything possible to avoid this state of affairs". He noted that his siblings were unhappy after their father bequeathed the Oxley Road house to him as part of his equal share of the family estate. He said he tried to deal with their unhappiness privately, first by offering to transfer 38, Oxley Road to Dr Lee for a nominal $1. When that failed, he sold the house to Mr Lee Hsien Yang at a fair market valuation, and donated all his proceeds to charity.

"I had hoped that this would satisfy them. There should be no reason for any further quarrel, since I no longer own the house and I do not take part in any government decisions on the house," he said.

Besides pledging to refute the allegations, PM Lee assured Singaporeans that the dispute would not distract him and other Cabinet ministers from governing Singapore and dealing with more important national issues, including pressing economic and security challenges.

"As public servants, my ministers and I will always protect the integrity of our institutions, and uphold the strict standards separating private affairs from our public duties," he said. "We are determined to repair the damage that has been done to Singapore. We will continue to lead our nation and serve you to the best of our ability."

Friday, 16 June 2017

Was Lee Kuan Yew rushed into signing his last will?

• PM Lee Hsien Loong releases summary of statutory declarations to ministerial committee looking into options for Oxley Road house

• PM Lee questions the role of brother Lee Hsien Yang and his wife Lee Suet Fern in making of final will

• Clause to demolish 38 Oxley Road house re-appeared in Lee Kuan Yew's final and seventh will having previously been removed from his fifth and sixth wills

• Lee Wei Ling's extra share of father's estate removed in final will

• Lee Wei Ling, Lee Hsien Yang threatened to air dispute during 2015 General Election

• PM Lee agreed to sell Oxley house to resolve dispute

• 'Nothing secret' about ministerial committee on Oxley Road home: Committee chair DPM Teo Chee Hean

• Lee Hsien Yang unhappy over delay and uncertainty in demolishing Oxley Road House: Goh Chok Tong

• Singaporeans 'sick and tired of endless' Oxley Road allegations: Shanmugam

• Lee Hsien Yang says wife's firm did not draft Lee Kuan Yew's final will

• Lawyer Kwa Kim Li says she did not prepare Lee Kuan Yew's last will, so who did?

PM Lee Hsien Loong apologises for dispute with siblings, will deliver ministerial statement in Parliament on 3 July 2017




PM Lee Hsien Loong details 'deeply troubling' way Lee Kuan Yew's will was made
He says last will prepared in haste with help of Hsien Yang's wife, conflict of interest an issue
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 16 Jun 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday raised serious questions about the way his father Lee Kuan Yew's last will was made, and whether there was a conflict of interest when his sister-in-law Lee Suet Fern helped prepare the will.

In a statement issued by his lawyers at Drew and Napier last night, PM Lee set out in detail the "deeply troubling circumstances" surrounding the seventh and final version of the will, and said he has "grave concerns" about whether the late Mr Lee was "properly and independently advised" on its contents before he signed it.

PM Lee's five-page statement, which he later uploaded on Facebook, raised a notch the long-running dispute with his younger siblings, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, over whether to demolish their father's house at 38, Oxley Road. In it, PM Lee also questioned if Mr Lee knew that a clause to demolish the house was reintroduced in the last will. He noted that this demolition clause first appeared in his father's first will dated Aug 20, 2011.

It was removed in the fifth and sixth versions of the will, but "somehow found its way back into the last will", he noted.

The dispute spilt into the public sphere on Wednesday, when PM Lee's siblings released a statement saying they had lost confidence in him and feared the use of state organs against them.

The two siblings alleged that PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching wanted the house preserved for their own political gain, and said their brother had abused his power by making extensive representations to a ministerial committee, raising questions over the last will.



Last night, PM Lee refuted his siblings' claims that he had motives for raising questions about the will in a statutory declaration to the ministerial committee. Noting that his siblings continued to make allegations, he said: "This makes it untenable for me not to respond publicly to the allegations and to explain why I have serious questions about how my father's last will was prepared."

PM Lee said the family dispute first arose when the last will was read on April 12, 2015. Mr Lee Hsien Yang had repeatedly insisted on demolishing the house immediately, and the discussion ended only when Dr Lee said she wished to continue living in the house.

PM Lee recounted that during the reading, Mrs Lee Suet Fern volunteered that Mr Lee had asked her to prepare the last will, but she got a lawyer from her law firm, Stamford Law Corporation, to do so instead as she did not want to get personally involved.

PM Lee later learnt that Mrs Lee had e-mailed Mr Lee on Dec 16, 2013, about the seventh will, which would give the three children an equal share of the estate. The sixth will had given Dr Lee an extra share.

PM Lee said Mrs Lee helped prepare the new will in haste that same evening, and sent two lawyers to 38, Oxley Road on Dec 17 for Mr Lee to sign it.

He noted the two lawyers were at the house for 15 minutes. "They plainly came only to witness Mr Lee signing the last will and not to advise him," he said.

There is no evidence Mr Lee even knew the demolition clause was re-inserted into the last will, PM Lee said. He also expressed concern about Mrs Lee's involvement in the preparation and signing of the last will, when her husband stood to gain from the removal of Dr Lee's extra share in the last will.

As to why he had not challenged the validity of the last will in court, PM Lee said he had hoped to avoid a public fight which would tarnish the name and reputation of Mr Lee and the family.

His siblings hit back at his statement via multiple Facebook posts last night. Mr Lee Hsien Yang reiterated that the will is final and binding, and said: "Hsien Loong should not use a committee of his subordinates to allege what he did not dare to allege in court."

But PM Lee said questions had to be asked about the circumstances surrounding the last will. "I believe it is necessary to go beyond the last will in order to establish what Mr Lee Kuan Yew's thinking and wishes were in relation to the house."

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Lee Kuan Yew's legacy is about to be destroyed by daughter and other son; Lee Wei Ling and Hsien Yang use Facebook to demand demolition of LKY's house

• In young nation where numerous useless buildings receive petitions for conservation, fate of iconic house where modern Singapore was founded fuels public show of sibling rivalry

• Lee Wei Ling, Lee Hsien Yang issue statement to say they have 'lost confidence' in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong


• PM Lee refuted allegations by his siblings that he had misused his power in relation to their late father's house, saying he was disappointed and sad they had chosen to air a private family matter in public

• PM Lee officially rebutts with an explosive account of events regarding changes in LKY's 7 wills

• Was Lee Kuan Yew rushed into signing his last will?




• PM Lee Hsien Loong apologises for dispute with siblings, will deliver ministerial statement in Parliament on 3 July 2017





PM Lee Hsien Loong saddened by siblings' Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang allegations
He denies charges and will consider matter further after he returns from overseas leave
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor and Tham Yuen-C, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 15 Jun 2017

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has refuted allegations by his siblings that he had misused his power in relation to their late father's house, saying he was disappointed and sad they had chosen to air a private family matter in public.

"I am deeply saddened by the unfortunate allegations that they have made. Ho Ching and I deny these allegations, especially the absurd claim that I have political ambitions for my son," PM Lee said in response to a six-page statement his two siblings issued yesterday.

Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang had said they had lost confidence in their brother, PM Lee, adding that they feared the use of state organs against them.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang said he and his wife Suet Fern felt compelled to leave Singapore "for the foreseeable future" because of this.

Titled "What has happened to Lee Kuan Yew's values?", their statement is the latest development in a long-running dispute over the demolition of their father's house at 38, Oxley Road.

The two siblings are joint executors and trustees of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's estate, and have pushed for the Government to honour his wish, as stated in his will, for the house to be pulled down.

They alleged that PM Lee and his wife wanted the house preserved for their own political gain, adding that the PM had abused his position to drive his personal agenda. They further alleged Mrs Lee had outsized influence and power that went beyond her role as the PM's wife.



PM Lee said: "While siblings may have differences, I believe that any such differences should stay in the family. Since my father's passing in March 2015, as the eldest son, I have tried my best to resolve the issues among us within the family, out of respect for our parents."

He added: "My siblings' statement has hurt our father's legacy."

After the statement was publicised on the duo's Facebook pages around 2am, it was widely shared online and picked up by media.

The news also sparked talk in the legal fraternity about possible changes at law firm Morgan Lewis Stamford, at which Mrs Lee Suet Fern is managing partner.

Last year, Dr Lee had also called PM Lee a "dishonourable son" in a Facebook post, because of their disagreement over the house.

This time, she and Mr Lee Hsien Yang said PM Lee and his wife had opposed their father's wish for the house to be pulled down, as "the preservation of the house would enhance his political capital".

In December 2015, PM Lee had said in a joint statement with his siblings that he hoped their father's wish would be honoured, adding that he would recuse himself from all government decisions on the house. The Government also said it would not make any decision on the house as long as Dr Lee resided there.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang told The Straits Times that PM Lee had not kept his promise, citing the formation of a ministerial committee on the house. To him, this was a sign of PM Lee's interference.

But Cabinet Secretary Tan Kee Yong said in a statement the committee was formed to consider options for the house and their implications.

He also said PM Lee "has not been involved in Cabinet's discussions concerning this committee. As he had previously stated, he has recused himself from all government decisions (on) the house."

The committee was also looking into how the late Mr Lee's will was prepared, and the role Mrs Lee Suet Fern and lawyers in her legal firm played in preparing it, Mr Tan said.



The two siblings also alleged PM Lee and his wife harbour political ambitions for their son Hongyi. PM Lee called it an "absurd claim".

He said: "I will do my utmost to continue to do right by my parents. At the same time, I will continue serving Singaporeans honestly and to the best of my ability. In particular, that means upholding meritocracy, which is a fundamental value of our society."

He ended his statement saying: "As my siblings know, I am presently overseas on leave with my family. I will consider this matter further after I return this weekend."

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

First Singaporean woman detained under Internal Security Act for radicalism planned to join Islamic State

• Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari, 22-year-old PCF Sparkletots infant care assistant planned to join Islamic State terrorist group in Syria with daughter in tow to defend its self-declared "caliphate" and become 'martyr's widow'

• Her sister and parents - who are both freelance Quranic teachers knew of her ideological leanings but they did not alert the authorities

• One family member even destroyed important evidence relating to her plans to join ISIS, in order to try to minimise her acts, after she was placed under investigation

• Started becoming radicalised in 2013, at the age of 18, by online propaganda related to ISIS, developed wide network of foreign online contacts which included ISIS militants and supporters

• Actively posted and shared pro-ISIS materials online since 2014, social media platforms were taken down by administrators but she created new ones

• She boasted to a contact that the Singapore authorities had not detected her

• No threat to children under radicalised woman’s care

• Anyone who knows or suspects that a person is radicalised to call the ISD Counter-Terrorism Centre hotline 1800-2626-473 (1800-2626-ISD)




Radicalised female infant care assistant from PCF Sparkletots detained under ISA for pro-ISIS activities
First woman held under ISA for pro-ISIS activities
22-year-old Singaporean was infant care assistant and wanted to be 'martyr's widow'
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 13 Jun 2017

A 22-year-old Singaporean who planned to travel to Syria with her child has become the first female here to be detained for radicalism.

Syaikhah Izzah Zahrah Al Ansari was not planning any attack here, but she had visions of becoming a "martyr's widow" for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). She was detained earlier this month under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Izzah was a contract infant care assistant with a PCF Sparkletots Preschool, which is run by the PAP Community Foundation, and worked with infants aged between two months and 18 months old.

But she was also becoming deeply radicalised - a process that started in 2013. From 2014, she started to actively post and share pro-ISIS material online.

"Several of her social media platforms were taken down by administrators because of the pro-ISIS content," said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Her parents, both freelance Quranic teachers, and her sister got to know of her radical views in 2015. They tried to dissuade her but did not alert the authorities.

Instead, when Izzah was being investigated, "important evidence was destroyed by a family member relating to her plans to join ISIS", said the MHA.

This was done to minimise the seriousness of her acts. The authorities are looking into taking action against this family member.



The MHA has pointed out in recent weeks that sharing information about an individual who is becoming radicalised could prevent a terrorist act - and help the person too.

"In Izzah's case, her family members did not bring her to the attention of the authorities when she was younger and could have potentially been turned back from the path of radicalisation," the MHA said.

As matters turned out, her radicalisation grew over time. She developed a wide network of foreign online contacts, including ISIS militants and their supporters, some of whom have since died fighting in Syria. Izzah also supported ISIS' use of violence.

Since 2015, she had been looking for an ISIS supporter to marry and settle down with in Syria with her young child. She believed that, if her husband died fighting, her status as a "martyr's widow" would help her marry another ISIS fighter easily.

"She also said that she was prepared to undergo military training and engage in armed combat to defend ISIS if called upon by the terrorist group to do so," said the MHA.

She boasted to a contact in April that the authorities here had not detected her. She was detained barely two months after that.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Never tired of sea: Singaporean captain shares tales of life at sea and his most memorable voyages

By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent In the Sea of Japan, The Sunday Times, 11 Jun 2017

It is May 29, a calm and sunny Monday morning at sea.

North Korea fires a ballistic missile over the sea between the country and Japan. The Japanese Coast Guard issues a warning to ships in the vicinity of the Sea of Japan.

One of the ships is Singapore-registered Parsifal. One of four ships that are the largest vehicle carriers in the world, it is helmed by Captain Nordin Rais, a Singaporean.

The ship's bridge receives a warning message on its computer printer at 6.04am: "There is information that flying object launched from North Korea. Vessels requested to pay attention to further information and to keep clear when recognising falling object. Vessels requested to report related information to Japan Coast Guard."

The Parsifal had left Masan, South Korea, about seven hours before the message. It is bound for Kobe, Japan.

Capt Nordin, 66, purses his lips, turns to this correspondent and says: "It's all right. We are not in danger."

The 1.69m-tall captain, who always wears a cap atop his grey hair, says: "We are near mainland Japan. The (North Korean) missile will be shot down by the Japanese and American missile defence systems if it comes this near."

The missile flew for six minutes before landing in Japanese waters, some 300km away from the nearest Japanese islands.

Just two days earlier, Capt Nordin had invited The Sunday Times to sail with him for a first-hand view of the life of a seafaring officer. The sector is finding it hard to attract Singaporeans who are put off by the long periods at sea.

The missile incident was the latest adventure for the captain, who has been sailing for more than 40 years.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore says it has tested and qualified 140 Singaporeans to helm commercial ships.

But Capt Nordin says the pool of experienced captains is dwindling. "I am in the 1968 batch of Singapore Polytechnic graduates with a marine studies certificate. I am the only one in the batch who is still sailing," he says. "Nothing can substitute experience when handling unexpected situations at sea."

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Get rid of poor service staff, let only the fittest survive

Does Singapore have an inbred poor service culture? To shake things up, make staff compete for limited positions, sack the poor performers and raise the remainder's pay.
By Tan Ooi Boon, Published The Straits Times, 10 Jun 2017

Imagine you are hosting an important business lunch at a fine-dining restaurant but end up having to raise your hand repeatedly to ask the waiters for service.

The chief executive of a well-known company here told me recently: "It's not that the restaurant did not have enough people. It's whether we have what it takes to wow first-class tourists (when they come) to Singapore. In fine-dining restaurants overseas, they will even ensure the water in your glass will never be half-filled."

His story is not unfamiliar. Many Singaporeans have encountered shoddy treatment at restaurants here, such as being ushered to a table that is next to the toilet or kitchen in a near-empty restaurant. Recently, I was given a table next to the entrance even though I had made a booking at the six-star hotel restaurant almost a week earlier. The waitress just pointed at the table nearest to her, even though the restaurant was half-empty. Of course, we also have a similar experience at many retail stores here where the common answer to a query on a different size or colour is the common, curt refrain: "If it is not there, we do not have it."



Service quality is not a trivial issue to be ignored if Singapore aspires to be a world-class destination.

In our quest to remake Orchard Road and promote Singapore overseas, we must realise that while the quality of places of attraction matter, the software - the people providing the services - is just as important, if not more.

When was the last time you heard someone raving about good service in Singapore, in the same manner that we often gush about the service we received in Japan? If poor service continues to be common occurrences here, the hard truth is that a customer-unfriendly culture has sunk its roots. Yes, it's true that there are more service staff who give decent service than those who do not. But like a splash of ink on paper, the black sheep will ruin it all for us.

Before employers start blaming the Government again for not allowing them to hire more foreign help, note that having more workers does not guarantee good service if all of them just gather in a corner to chat and ignore the customers. What they should do is motivate their existing workers and turn them into great service champions. The workers should know that every customer who is turned off will translate almost certainly into a loss of future income. Surely having a bad service reputation is not an accolade employers want to collect, even if their business is thriving.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

National Library withdraws Malay language books on religion; Not possible to vet all reading materials but Govt will learn from incident: Yaacob Ibrahim

Ministry of Communications and Information asks NLB to review vetting process for divisive material following withdrawal of books
Series that seems to legitimise use of violence taken off shelves after member of public shares photos of books
By Kok Xing Hui and Zhaki Abdullah, The Straits Times, 9 Jun 2017

The National Library Board (NLB) has been asked by the Government to review the way it checks for divisive and sensitive materials, a day after it removed a controversial series available for loan to young people.

Copies of the Malay-language series - Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi (Religion, Civilisation And Archaeology) - had been available in libraries since 2013, and placed in the junior non-fiction section.

Published in Malaysia by Penerbit Sinar Cemerlang, the series purported to give "factual" insights into several civilisations and religions, including Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Yet, it presented Jews in a negative light and seemed to legitimise the use of violence in the name of Islam.

One book in the series said a third world war would start in the Middle East between Israel and neighbouring Arab states. Another book had a picture of a Muslim boy, wearing what seemed to be a suicide vest, surrounded by masked adults.

The books came to light after a Twitter user here shared photos of them at the weekend.



The NLB had told The New Paper it would withdraw the books immediately, and "call upon the Library Consultative Panel to review the series". The independent panel is made up of 18 members and chaired by Mrs Mildred Tan, managing director at Ernst & Young Advisory.

At the same time, the NLB said it could not vet all titles thoroughly given its large collection, and "hence, we take seriously readers' feedback on titles added to our collections".

Yesterday, the Ministry of Communications and Information told The Straits Times that it has asked the NLB "to review its vetting process for potentially divisive and sensitive materials". "We thank the member of the public and The New Paper for raising this particular series to our attention," it said.

The ministry spokesman added: "As a multi-cultural and multiracial society, we do not condone materials that denigrate any racial or religious groups, or which promote intolerance or violence. The cultural and racial harmony that our people enjoy today has taken us generations to build. This must not be taken for granted."

The Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) said it was worrying that such material was easily accessible to the public, especially children. AMP chairman Abdul Hamid Abdullah said: "Such books could potentially sow seeds of discord and prejudice among readers."

Ustaz Yusri Yusoff, executive director of the Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association, urged the public to come forward if they find "materials that can affect our social fabric and inter-faith relations".

Singapore Chief Rabbi Mordechai Abergel said the books' presence in libraries was of "much concern" to the Jewish community, and was glad they had been taken off shelves.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Parent of ACS (Barker Road) student sues school for confiscating phone

By K.C. Vijayan, Senior Law Correspondent, The Straits Times, 7 Jun 2017

Should a school hang on to a confiscated phone for three months?

This issue has reached the courts after a parent felt that the penalty was too harsh. The parent is suing a secondary school principal for damages, but has not succeeded in getting the school to return the phone.

The parent's request to have the phone returned immediately was turned down by District Judge Clement Julien Tan. The judge ruled that the principal was justified in holding on to the phone, as the school rules had made it clear that any student caught using a phone during school hours will have it confiscated for at least three months.

The boy met the principal on March 21 and admitted that he had used an iPhone 7 during school hours on March 8. It was confiscated and the SIM card returned along with a receipt stating that it could be retrieved in three months' time.

Later in the evening of March 21, the parent wrote to the principal to say that the phone was his and he wanted it back.

He added that "a three-month confiscation is disproportionate to the offence", and his son had assured him that he would not break the rule on phone use again.

Failing to get a reply, he took the principal of the well-known secondary school to court.

The father, represented by lawyer Andrew Hanam, is claiming that retaining the phone amounts to the tort of conversion - which involves denying a person's rights to his property. He asked the court to get the school to return the phone while the case is being decided.

The principal's lawyer Alfonso Ang said that the claim is "frivolous and vexatious", and pointed out that the principal is responsible for overseeing student discipline based on regulations.

He also highlighted that the parent and son had both been told that the use of phones was banned.

District Judge Tan, who heard the application on April 28, said the principal was simply following the rules. He also rejected the parent's contention that he, personally, is not bound by the school rules as there is no contract between him and the principal.

"Such a position is , in my view, untenable," said the judge, in dismissing the application. The parent, he pointed out in judgment grounds obtained by The Straits Times yesterday, knew about the rules on phone use and if he had an issue with it, "could have enrolled his son in another school".