Monday, February 20, 2017

Comparisons between Singapore and Sweden

A Swedish man 'Angmolia' who moved to Singapore, made a series of YouTube videos comparing Sweden and Singapore.

The videos are worth watching to get a perspective of what the daily reality is in like in Sweden and Singapore.

I think the second video raises a most poignant situation - where an Swedish ambulance refuses to go into a neighbour without a police escort. And the result is that a life is lost. That is a unimaginable, and most people would find it unacceptable as well, situation in Singapore. We would be demanding the Govt's collective heads if such a situation were allowed to have set in here.

In any case, it is always good for us to gain a broader perspective of what daily life is like in other countries. This gives us a better appreciation for the things which Singapore is doing right by her people.

But it would be very naive and simplistic to say that Singapore is the perfect country. We are not.

For example, littering is still a chronic problem that has to be tackled. It is only because of the hard work by our army of cleaner that our streets and sidewalks are clean and pristine.

And we still have people who think nothing of tossing rubbish out of their windows on the Nth floor of their flat, not realising that that their trash could hurt or even potentially kill someone on the ground, nevermind the fact that they are dirtying our living environment.

There are many things that Singapore can, and should be doing better. But deciding how we go about improving Singapore has to be done with a broader perspective of what life is like abroad - both the benefits and tradeoffs of their choices , and an appreciation of what Singapore has that is good and what our constraints are.

Sweden and Singapore are often used as examples in the political debate, but no one has made a comparison of daily life there before. Since I have lived and worked in both countries I can give examples from real life.  
In this part I focus on the market and its place in daily life. I cover housing, food, domestic chores, and other topics.
links and references:
Published on Aug 26, 2016 

Singapore and Sweden compared part 1: the market

One of the starkest contrasts between Sweden and Singapore is how much more clean, orderly, and safe Singapore is. This difference wasn't there just a few decades ago, but it continues to grow with the accelerating disintegration of Swedish society. 
In this episode I take you on a tour around the cities and show you examples of what I mean. 
Please be civil in the comment section. It's fine to disagree with both me and each other, but I remove all comments with derogatory words, regardless of other merits.
Published on Feb 12, 2017 

Model Cities part 2: Public Order

What does it mean to be a Singaporean?

What does it mean to be a Singaporean?

Who defines a Singaporean?

How do you define who is a Singaporean?

What makes a Singaporean, a Singaporean?


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Video source: National Integration Council (via YouTube)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

[Defending the Lion City] Operation Sook Ching - The Bloody Purge begins

After Singapore came under Japanese control,  the Japanese, apart from stripping Singapore of its name and calling her "Syonan-to", began brutal actions to cower the local populace so as to solidify their grip on Singapore.

People were made to bow to the Japanese soldiers. Those who did not, or refuse to do so, would be severely beaten, some even killed.

But that was not the end of their cruelty.

The Japanese started the "Sook Ching" (a Chinese term meaning "purge through cleansing") operation which was intended, not only to purge the Chinese populace in Singapore of any anti-Japanese opposition, but seemly targeting mainly the chinese in revenge for their support to China in the war against Japan.

"... On 17th February, our new masters issued their first public order in Singapore,  now called Syonanto: all male Chinese adults were to report the very next day at designated camps – under threat of “severe punishment”, a phrase quickly to become familiar. Most of us presumed then it was only for some kind of registration of people. 
But those concentrations of the Chinese were actually for a sinister purpose. 
The conquering Japanese troops had  arrived with horrendous baggage: memories of bloody encounters with the mainland Chinese in the still ongoing Sino-Japanese war. 
And they were sorely aware that the  Chinese in Singapore had been anti-Japanese, staging demonstrations, organising boycotts of Japanese goods and raising money (the China War Relief Fund) to help the Chinese on the mainland in their fight  against invasion. And there were the Singapore  Chinese who took up arms against the Japanese: volunteers with the British forces as well as those MCP (Malayan Communist  Party) diehards, who struggled against them in the jungles of the Malay Peninsula. 
Led by the ruthless Kempeitai (Japanese Military Police), the victorious soldiers went all out to screen the Chinese, however hasty and slapdash the operation, to seek and destroy anyone suspected of being  hostile, no matter how flimsy the evidence,  no matter how many were fingered. ..."
Goh Sin Tub
Goh Sin Tub 
(Read more here: The Sook Ching)

Pic: Stomp

Many families, even till today, still grieve over the fate of their loved ones who went through the screening, and never came back. And many families had to assume that their loved ones were lost to the war.

Skulls, bones and other grisly remains being exhumed from a mass grave of Operation Sook Ching victims in Bedok on June 10, 1966. Photo: The Straits Times (via AsiaOne)
Skulls, bones and other grisly remains being exhumed from a mass grave of Operation Sook Ching victims in Bedok on June 10, 1966.
Photo: The Straits Times
- See more at:
Skulls, bones and other grisly remains being exhumed from a mass grave of Operation Sook Ching victims in Bedok on June 10, 1966.
Photo: The Straits Times
- See more at:

"... Thousands of other men were not so fortunate. Suspected of being anti-Japanese elements, these men were loaded into lorries and transported to remote areas such as Changi, Punggol and Bedok for execution.  
At these sites, the suspects were machine-gunned to death and often their bodies were thrown into the sea. In some instances, British prisoners of war (POWs) were tasked to bury the bodies. 
Known massacre sites include beaches at Punggol, Changi, Katong, Tanah Merah and Blakang Mati (now Sentosa island). Massacres were said to have also occurred at Hougang, Thomson Road, Changi Road, Siglap, Bedok and East Coast. 
Due to a lack of written records, the exact number of people killed in the operation is unknown. The official figure given by the Japanese is 5,000 although the actual number is believed to be much higher. 
Lieutenant Colonel Hishakari Takafumi, a newspaper correspondent at the time, claimed that the plan was to kill 50,000 Chinese and that half that number had been reached when the order was received to stop the operation. ..."
Singapore Infopedia

After the war ended, seven , seven Japanese officers were charged during a war crimes trial in Singapore for their participation in Operation Sook Ching in 1947.

All seven officers were found guilty. Two officers, Lieutenant General Saburo Kawamura and Lieutenant Colonel Masayuki Oishi, were sentenced to death while the remaining five were given life sentences.

In 1962, more mass graves were found in the Siglap area - dubbed as the 'Valley of Tears' by the press. The remains of the victims from various sites were exhumed and gathered for reburial in a dedicated memorial site, which would later be the Civilian War Memorial.

The Civilian War Memorial

Completed in 1967, the Civilian War Memorial stands prominently along Beach road in Singapore's civic district, and is dedicated to the memory of not only the victims of the Sook Ching operation, but for all civilians who had died as a result of the Japanese Occupation.

"... Comprising four tapering columns at a height of 67 metres, the Civilian War Memorial is affectionately known as the ‘Four Chopsticks’ by locals. Each column represents one of the four main ethnic groups in Singapore who perished during the Japanese Occupation: Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Eurasians. ..." 
"... Painted white, the prominent structure can be seen from afar, both in the day and at night. It sits on a raised platform enclosing a vault that holds the victims’ remains in 606 urns. Within the four columns, an empty urn placed on a pedestal, together with inscriptions commemorating the deaths of countless civilians, brings visitors’ attention to the burial chamber underneath. ..."

"...  a black urn (sits) atop a high white pedestal with lion heads in relief. The words "In deep and lasting sorrow this memorial is dedicated in memory of those of our civilians who were killed between February 15, 1942 and August 18, 1945 when the Japanese Armed Forces occupied Singapore" are inscribed on the pedestal. There are translations in Malay and Tamil on the right and left respectively. ..."

"... Then finally the Monument was unveiled by Prime Minister Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, on 15 February 1967, the 25th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore. 
In his speech, Mr. Lee said, "We meet not to rekindle old fires of hatred, nor to seek settlements for blood debts. We meet to remember the men and women who were the hapless victims of one of the fires of history. This monument will remind those of us who were here 25 years ago, of what can happen to people caught completely unaware and unprepared for what was in store for them. It will help our children understand and remember, what we have told them of this lesson we paid so bitterly to learn". 
Before the Prime Minister unveiled a plaque, and laid the first wreath on behalf of the Government and the people of Singapore, prayers were said by leaders of the Inter-Religious Council representing Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh and Zoroastrian faiths. A 3-minute silence followed the laying of the wreaths. Many families of the dead were there, especially their weeping mothers. ..."
Singapore Infopedia

In the years that would follow, there would be various ceremonies and services that would take place on 15 Feb to mark the anniversary of the 'Fall of Singapore' when Singapore was surrendered to the Japanese by the British.

#NeverAgain #DefendingtheLionCity #SAF #NationalService #NS50 #WhyMustWeServe #LestWeForget #TotalDefence

Read more here:

Singapore Infopedia - Operation Sook Ching

Biblioasia - The Sook Ching by Goh Sin Tub

AsiaOne - 75 years since Singapore fell: Operation Sook Ching during the Japanese occupation 

Mothership - The Sook Ching (YouTube)

Singapore Infopedia - The Civilian War Memorial

Roots.SG - Civilian War Memorial

Picture.SG - Civilian War Memorial urn

[Defending the Lion City] They Died for All Free Men

Kranji War Cemetery
'They Died for All Free Men'

Bell of remembrance rung at Kranji War Cemetery to mark 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore
Straits Times, 15 Feb 2017

SINGAPORE - The casualties of World War II were honoured at Kranji War Cemetery on Wednesday (Feb 15), the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore.

In a solemn ceremony attended by dignitaries, diplomats, and military officials and veterans, a bell of remembrance was rung five times - once for every year that the war raged in the Pacific.

Under an overcast sky from which a slight drizzle fell at times, Japanese Ambassador to Singapore Kenji Shinoda was one of the first VIPs to lay a wreath of poppies - which traditionally symbolise blood shed on the battlefield.

This is the first time Japan is working with former Allied countries, including Singapore, to organise a World War II commemoration ceremony here.

Three World War II survivors were the last to lay their wreaths near the Singapore Memorial, inscribed with the name of more than 24,000 soldiers and airmen who died during the war in Malaya and Indonesia and have no known grave.

See the full article and videos here: Straits Times

"I express my feelings of profound grief and heartfelt condolences. I believe that such feelings are shared by the overwhelming majority of Japanese." 
Kenji Shinoda
Japanese Ambassador to Singapore

"... While many have never experienced the horrors of war, they must never forget the lessons learned and the commitment and sacrifices of their forefathers in protecting the country and its way of life. 
This commitment to remember the horrors of war and to defend Singapore is at the core of Total Defence. 
It is when every Singaporean is resolved to play their part, and contribute to keeping Singapore strong on all fronts, that we can be confident of safeguarding our nation and our home against different threats and challenges that come our way. ..." 
Vikram Nair
Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs

Video: By Tedd Jong, 22-year-old student who was there as part of the NUS History Society.

#NeverAgain #DefendingtheLionCity #SAF #NationalService #NS50 #WhyMustWeServe #LestWeForget #TotalDefence

[Defending the Lion City] Syonan-to - So begins the Japanese Occupation of Singapore

Not long after the British Surrender on 15 Feb 1942, the Japanese moved quickly to consolidate their control of Singapore.

One of the first things they did was to re-name Singapore as 'Syonan-to' ( 昭南島 Shōnan-tō), which means "Light of the South".

But they didn't just stop there.

The Tanjong Pagar Railway station was renamed as "Syonan Station".

Japanese Troops posed triumphantly in front of Tanjong Pagar Railway Station. “昭南驛” translates into “Syonan Station”. Pic: SG Film Hunter

The Japanese took over 'The Straits Times' offices and the paper was renamed as  "The Shonan Times". The paper would see two more name changes - "The Syonan Times" and then later as "Syonan Sinbun".

The local time in Singapore was moved forward by 1½ hours so as to be in sync with Tokyo time.

Schools were made to teach the Japanese language and textbooks were printed in Japanese. School children had to stand facing the direction of Japan and to sing the national Japanese anthem.

This was the wartime currency that was issued by the Japanese Government for the occupied territories of Malaya and Singapore during the Japanese Occupation.

The British currency was replaced with Japanese currency which was known as “Banana money” due to the picture of a Banana tree on the note. The currency would ultimately became worthless due massive amounts printed.

These changes would be the least of the problems that Singapore would face during the Japanese Occupation

The next three and a half years under the brutal Japanese rule would prove to be the darkest period in Singapore's history.

Voices From Syonan-To

History Of Singapore During The Japanese Occupation

Fall of Singapore during World War Two - Kartar Singh, eyewitness to atrocities

Japanese Occupation in Singapore

#NeverAgain #DefendingtheLionCity #SAF #NationalService #NS50 #WhyMustWeServe #LestWeForget #TotalDefence

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

[Defending the Lion City] Keeping Us Safe Everyday - Singapore's Home Team

Frontliners is a web series about National Servicemen in the SPF and SCDF produced to commemorate 50 years of National Service this year. Catch a glimpse of the extraordinary experiences the National Servicemen faced in this prologue.

Very often, our Brothers serving in the S'pore Police Force (SPF), S'pore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and other Home Team agencies, are often overlooked when the topic of National Service comes up. The spotlight is always on the SAF - not because of any other reason, except that the armed forces makes up the largest intake of NS servicemen -therefore the most visible.

There may be endless friendly debates or jibs about whose service is more "siong" (hardship) but that doesn't mean that Home Team servicemen serve Singapore in any lesser capacity or importance.

The reality is that Home Team servicemen are often exposed to real-life situations which can be dangerous and horrifying on a daily basis. Here's an extract of what one SDCF serviceman (‘longtailbutterfly’) had to say.

At lunch the next day my friend (SAF LTA) tells me how stressful being an instructor at SAFTI has been recently. I remember as my cylinder got trapped on the fallen wire, and how I thought of my family in those few struggling seconds. I nod my head and grunt. " SAF has it tough with JCC and everything huh?" I joke. He agrees enthusiastically.
All in a day’s work for the NSFs in SPF/SCDF. If we fail, someone dies from our direct actions. Welcome to NS. No second chances or semula. Just death. I wish the public knew the risks that some NSFs take each day. We might not be as fit as NDU or as garang as commandos, but we put our lives on the line literally every day.
As an NSF I can say I have contributed to Singapore. No play acting or training for a war that will never happen (though I understand the incredible need for an armed military). I love my job, I love NS and wouldn't trade it for anything else (maybe an EMT vocation).
I am still amazed that many members of public still associate NS with army. I wish more people would know. There's no greater feeling in this world than knowing some uncle I helped rescue on my first duty at 0200 will live to eat his favourite mee pok or talk cock with his kakis because of my direct actions. Take a look at every fire or major rescue / ambulance incident in the news. Chances are 70% of the people that responded to that incident are NSFs. Whenever I get my haircut at QB the auntie always asks me "boy you army ah?" and I've run out of effort to correct her. Pride and care right?  ..."
SDCF serviceman ‘longtailbutterfly’ (See the full Reddit Post here)

No matter what your NS service branch, vocation or role, we should all recognize that all of us are small but extremely vital cogs in a larger whole called Singapore.

Keep safe and Thank you all for your service to our country.

#DefendingtheLionCity #NationalService #NS50 #OurHomeOurTeam 

[Defending the Lion City] Sounding the Sirens

On 15 Feb at 6.20pm, Singapore's network of Public Warning System (PWS) sirens will sound the "Important Message" signal to mark Total Defence Day.

6.20pm of 15 Feb also marks the time when the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942.

"The PWS sounding serves to give due significance and remembrance to this historical moment. It also underscores the importance of emergency preparedness and for Singaporeans to defend our homeland."

Upon hearing the signal, the public can tune in immediately to any local radio station for a brief message on the PWS, or visit the SCDF website to learn more about PWS signals.

"... The PWS also has a long genesis. It was commissioned more than two decades ago in 1991 and builds on plans laid in the mid-1980s that recommended several measures to harden Singapore against air raids. 
To keep the network running 24/7, engineers are rostered to service around seven PWS sirens every day. Crisis planners have also built in several fail-safes to ensure that the sirens will blare when they have to. Each siren is powered by electricity from the national grid and has a back-up battery. The system to sound the siren comprises landlines and radio back-up. 
This long-term approach to national emergency preparedness planning could be better appreciated by the average Singaporean as we live in a country better prepared than most for crisis situations. 
It is a wake-up call one hopes Singaporeans will not be forced to heed. 
When that wake-up call arrives, NEST will be ready. What about you? ..."
David Boey (Senang Diri)

Ex-Wallaby 2010, Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, Singapore Guards, heading to their holding area to prepare for a troop lift by Super Puma helicopters.

#NeverAgain #DefendingtheLionCity #SAF #NationalService #NS50 #WhyMustWeServe #LestWeForget #TotalDefence
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