Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We Remember - In Mr Lee's later years, the world turned to him as seer and sage

Straits Times: In Mr Lee's later years, the world turned to him as seer and sage

His insights led him to be regarded as the man who helped make history

PERHAPS this article should begin with Henry Kissinger, the guru of realpolitik who was secretary of state to United States president Richard Nixon and shared a long association with Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Perhaps with the words of another lifelong friend of Mr Lee's, former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, or Britain's Margaret Thatcher. Maybe even India's Sonia Gandhi, whose famous mother-in-law, the late Indira Gandhi, had a sometimes testy association with Singapore's founding father.

But that would be all too predictable.

So let's start with what an African American cabby in a city not known to have a particularly deep interest in the wider world had to say about Mr Lee.

It was 1998 and, visiting New York, I was in a yellow top from my hotel near Central Park to catch up with friends at a micro-brewery pub off Times Square. The driver was an emigre from Nigeria and, as in the manner of cabbies everywhere, curious to know more about his ride.

When he heard I lived in Singapore, he chuckled loudly.

"Hey, you are the guys who caned the American kid," he said. "You stood up to President Clinton and you did damn right. Who's that old man who runs your country - Lee?"

He was referring to Singapore's punishment, in 1994, of teenager Michael Fay for vandalism. After then President Bill Clinton intervened, Fay's caning sentence was reduced from six strokes to four.

Singapore's decision to go ahead with the punishment made headlines around the world. Annoyed at the island's steadfastness, Washington voted against plans to hold the inaugural meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Singapore.

Fortunately, diplomacy and good sense prevailed. The inaugural summit, held in late 1996 at Suntec City, went through smoothly, highlighting Singapore as the world's pre-eminent trade-driven economy.

In many ways, the Fay incident and how it was received abroad underscores the world's perception of Mr Lee and the foundations on which he built Singapore.

Intellect and integrity, common sense above compassion, inclusiveness in domestic and foreign policy, a practical, non-ideological approach to issues, an unwavering commitment to globalisation and free markets, and a firm determination to enforce the rule of law - these are the qualities the world came to recognise in Mr Lee, and today, Singapore.

Some years later, when I was posted to India as the South Asia bureau chief for this newspaper, I would become aware that the world viewed Mr Lee's Singapore as more than an efficiently administered state - that it also stood for a healthy, throbbing habitat.

Outside a golf course in Greater Noida, a boom town in the notoriously poorly run state of Uttar Pradesh, I would frequently pass a billboard advertising a new, tree-lined condominium complex with plenty of water bodies. The promise was "Singapore-style living".

Without question, the reputation of an irascible, combative, Western lackey preceded the hallowed image of the sage and seer Mr Lee bore in his later years.

In the post-colonial era and its emphasis on non-alignment and suspicion of Western multinationals, his hard-nosed, contrarian approach and his open welcome of foreign investment evoked much disdain. "Lee is like a banana - yellow of skin, white underneath," then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai complained at the Bandung Conference in 1955, echoing the Chinese view of the time.

A quarter-century later, the Chinese leadership would instruct rising party figures to travel to the island to study its growth and governance model.

In 2012, no less than President Xi Jinping ordered China Central Television to produce a series on Singapore.

From the mid-1970s, global companies such as Silicon Valley legend Hewlett-Packard, Seagate, DuPont and Sony would arrive in droves on an island with few resources except having a good location in South-east Asia and a clean, efficient government run by Mr Lee. The jobs they provided and the technology they brought elevated Singapore to new heights - which was precisely why Mr Lee had invited them.

In 1999, Mr Lew Platt, retiring as chairman and chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, made a farewell visit to Singapore with his successor Carly Fiorina. As always, they used the opportunity to touch base with the leadership here and exchange ideas. "He is a mensch," Mr Platt told me later of Mr Lee, using the Yiddish word for a wise man who radiates fortitude and firmness of purpose.

The fortitude, which rose from deep conviction, came with a price on occasion. Mr Lee, it was well-known, was prone to hectoring his interlocutors, especially when he believed they were under-performing in their potential, either as individuals or as leaders.

The Malaysians, particularly, did not take it well and it continues to rankle with the old guard. Several years ago, in a blog posting, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called Mr Lee a "little emperor... who likes to lecture us on how Malaysia should be run".

Mr Maurice Baker, one of Singapore's first-generation diplomats, once told me of a time he had arranged a visit to Singapore by then Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam, at a time of particularly prickly ties.

Mr Baker, then High Commissioner to Malaysia, had sent word ahead that Mr Lee must be careful to hold himself back and give Mr Musa a good hearing. "Musa came back fuming," Mr Baker recalled. "Rather than listen, LKY had given him a long lecture."

Another person he rubbed the wrong way was Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Indian prime minister who was so powerful in her time that some worshipped her as the incarnation of the demon-slaying Hindu goddess Durga.

In the early 1980s, on the sidelines of a multilateral meeting in New Delhi, Mr Lee, who had a long association with the Nehru-Gandhi family, is said to have pressed Mrs Gandhi to roll back her socialist policies. He thought India was best served by building a free-market economy that would propel the country to the heights he thought it could achieve. Mrs Gandhi is said to have responded frostily, causing a slight chill in an old friendship.

In later years, Mr Lee, watching China's rise and frustrated by the slow-footedness of the South Asian giant in catching up, was often publicly critical of India's tedious democracy, massive bureaucracy and litigious society that he thought held back the country.

Years later, a successor Congress government would set in motion policies that would open India's economy, spur growth and place it on the world stage as an emerging power. And in 2005, the Indian government would honour Mr Lee by asking him to deliver the Nehru Memorial Lecture where he announced that he had revised his view of India.

Speaking at the function, Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi turned to him and said: "Mr Lee, we in India have listened to you with great respect - even when you were critical of us."

Little surprise that when her son Rahul, seen as a potential prime minister himself, decided to enter politics, he came to Mr Lee for advice. Some say his decision to bide his time while building the Congress organisation from the grassroots up is based on advice from Mr Lee.

By the turn of the century, Mr Lee's reputation as a clear-headed visionary had encompassed the globe. From Mr Nixon to Mrs Thatcher and the two Bushes who occupied the White House, all had turned to him as a trusted resource on the great changes in Asia, particularly China. It was perhaps his measured analysis and deep insights that helped the Western world accept the rise of China without feeling undue unease or a need to block it.

At a White House meeting in October 2009, President Barack Obama hailed Mr Lee as "one of the legendary figures of Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries".

Perhaps most satisfying for Mr Lee would be that he lived to see the Western media's sniping at him, and Singapore, turn to grudging respect, even admiration.

Singapore's tough position on long hair, chewing gum and its "fine city" reputation gave plenty of grist to the mills of the global media. As recently as August 2002, New York Times columnist William Safire, criticising Bloom-berg News for settling a libel lawsuit brought by Mr Lee, sniped that Singapore was "an island I cannot visit because I like to chew gum and don't want to risk a caning for it".

But that would change, particularly as Mr Lee stepped down at the height of his power, signalling to the world his belief in planned transitions.

In December 2005, Time Magazine Asia, after interviewing him for more than five hours, put him on the cover as "the man who saw it all".

"Everybody who lives in Asia today thinks they are watching history being made," the Time editors wrote. "Lee Kuan Yew is one of those who can say, without fear of contradiction, that he helped make it."

Source: MFA , Straits Times

We Remember - The Man Who Saw It All

The Man Who Saw It All
Monday, Dec. 12, 2005
By Simon Elegant and Michael Elliott | Time

In years past, Lee Kuan Yew's office was famous among visitors for its arctic air conditioning and Spartan furnishing. A few Chinese scrolls apart, there was little decoration and sometimes barely a sheet of paper to be seen. Singapore's founding father first moved into the office on the second floor of the former British governor-general's residence in 1971, having already served six years as Prime Minister. He retired in 1990 to become Senior Minister and later Minister Mentor, but still works out of the same rooms.

The L-shaped office may have changed little over the years, but at a recent meeting there were small but telling signs that the formidable 82-year-old leader has mellowed — a little. For one thing, the temperature has crept up noticeably. And while most surfaces are still bare, the table behind Lee's computer is covered with untidy piles of books. Lee says that his current favorite isn't one of the stacked tomes on terrorism or economics but the sprawling 17th-century Spanish novel Don Quixote. "A new translation," he enthuses. "Very good." It's something of a shock that the man best known for his cold-eyed pragmatism is reveling in a book whose hero spent his time tilting at windmills and gave his name to an English adjective meaning impractical and idealistic.

Still, despite his more relaxed demeanor, when Time spoke to him for nearly five hours over two days this fall, it was clear that neither age nor heart surgery 10 years ago have changed Lee's basic personality: sharp intelligence allied with an unsentimental, almost clinical rationality and supreme confidence in his own judgment. But there is another side to Lee that has been blossoming in recent years — that of the geopolitical thinker and analyst, a role he clearly relishes. The man who once concerned himself with every aspect of Singaporeans' lives — right down to who they should marry and how many children they should have — now seems to be less obsessed with the fate of the island state, and more concerned with China's "peaceful rise" and the threat of militant Islam. Asked about Singapore's future development over the next 10 years, Lee shrugs. "My son will do what he wants to do with his team," he says, referring to Singapore's current Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong. "Let him decide," the elder Lee adds later. "It's his call."

Lee can be forgiven for lifting his eyes to the horizon. Once the subject of withering criticism from human-rights groups for his authoritarian ways and intolerance of dissent, he is now widely acknowledged as Asia's most respected senior statesman. Others may pen lengthy memoirs and seek to use their years on the world stage to tout their punditry and powers of prediction. Some can even lay claim to having guided far larger countries or served as leaders for longer than Lee. But Lee is unique. It is not just that his cold-eyed, totally nonideological analysis has set him apart from other observers of Asia. There is another factor that is just as important an explanation of Lee's influence. From his days as a clerk and a black-market broker during the brutal Japanese occupation of Singapore — which he was lucky to survive — through his years as an agitator for independence from Britain, from his time spent talking to the Americans during the Vietnam years to his role as a confidant of China's leadership, Lee has seen it all. He has been a participant observer of the most significant historical shift of our times — the steady ascent of Asia, home to 60% of the world's population, from the twin shames of Western colonialism and poverty to its coming economic and political dominance. Everyone who lives in Asia today thinks they are watching history being made; Lee Kuan Yew is one of those who can say, without fear of contradiction, that he helped make it.

Now, with his own son and a hand-picked team of technocrats in place in Singapore, Lee has time to turn his thoughts outward, to Asia — and beyond — while trying to divine the forces that will confront a new generation of leaders. It is an opportune time for such musings, a moment of balance when the critical observer can look back and forward and see the region on the cusp of profound change. Symbolic of a new order has been a string of summits and conferences in Asia. The parade of presidents, prime ministers, princes and their attendant ministers began with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit held in mid-November at South Korea's seaside city of Pusan. And it will end with the opening on Dec. 14 of the first East Asia summit in Kuala Lumpur.

The summit may not live up to its hype; few such gatherings do. But it is not unreasonable to see the meeting in Kuala Lumpur as a punctuation mark in the 60-year-long progress of Asia. The leaders of the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will meet together with those of Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand — and China. The U.S will not be present. Some of the more breathless commentary on the summit sees parallels to the meeting of European leaders in Messina in 1955, which laid the foundations for what has become the European Union. Lee, characteristically, takes a view which is more hardheaded yet fully aware of the historical significance of the meeting. "I see the first stage as an ever-enlarged series of free-trade areas, [leading to] one big free-trade area within 10 to 15 years," Lee told Time. "The next step would be a kind of low-key European economic community, 20 to 30 years down the road, because [Asia is] at very different stages of economic development." Lee recognizes that bringing India and China into the fold marks a moment of profound significance. The revival of these "two ancient civilizations," he says, is a double-edged sword. "It would mean great prosperity for the region, but could also mean a tussle for power."

After nearly 50 years in government, Lee is more than qualified to speak about power and its dangers. But it is not only years of experience and his dispassionate intelligence that have led to his eminence. Lee also embodies a uniquely Asian approach to governance that has often been at odds with the democratic principles espoused by many Western politicians. For decades, he has spoken in favor of what has come to be termed "Asian values" (he prefers "Confucian values"), a political philosophy that might be loosely summed up as respect for authority and order, while putting the good of society above that of the individual. His criticisms have focused on the excesses of unfettered democracy — particularly freedom of speech — and the impact they have on the search for economic growth.

In the past, Lee has not been shy about singling out those nations (the Philippines has been a favorite target) in which an excess of democracy's messiness — as he might put it — has tempered steady economic progress and the betterment of the life chances of ordinary folk. But the strength of his argument does not rest only on other nations' failures. Above all, it is bolstered by Singapore's success. For as any visitor can attest, the scale of what Lee and his colleagues have achieved by applying his principles — in what Singaporean academic and fiction writer Catherine Lim has described as "an authoritarian, no-nonsense manner which has little use for sentiment" — is simply astonishing.

When Singapore was ejected from Malaysia in 1965, it had no natural resources save for the enterprise of its largely Chinese population and its port's position astride one of the world's major shipping lanes. It possessed little industry or infrastructure besides a naval base and ship-repair facilities left behind by Britain's shrinking navy. Most of the population lived cheek by jowl in ramshackle two-story shophouses or traditional village houses fashioned of rattan and bamboo. It was poorer than Mexico. Today, the city is one of Asia's most modern metropolises, the business district bristling with skyscrapers and ringed by highways. Over 90% of the population own their own homes, most of them well-maintained and scrupulously clean apartments in government-built blocks. Singapore's cultural life — a phrase that was once oxymoronic — is now at least as vibrant as those of other cities in Southeast Asia, with a sparkling new performing-arts center and some of the best restaurants in the world. After decades of strong economic growth, per-capita income last year was $24,220, about the same as Italy. As they trip around Asia, popping off to Bali or Perth for the weekend while dressed in Prada and Gucci, wealthier Singaporeans could be forgiven for pitying their former European masters, whose day in the sun — they will sometimes tell you — is now all but over.

It is an almost miraculous achievement, and one in which Lee and his colleagues take justifiable pride. It is, moreover, something that has been much admired, to the point of imitation, around the region. Asian leaders like Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad, Thailand's Thaksin Shinawatra and Indonesia's Suharto may rarely have chosen to admit it, but their "economy first" strategy owes much to the intelligence of a Cambridge-educated lawyer who — he admits — was himself "distraught" when his island state found itself independent and alone. Above all, with their horror of chaos, luan, China's leaders have for three decades come to Singapore to listen, to learn, and to admire. Progress coupled with order and limited freedoms has been the maxim of those who have ruled China since Mao Zedong's death; it is a philosophy whose modern origins have their wellsprings in Singapore.

Yet for all Singapore's success, there remains a feeling that it has come at a price. Lee's methods — which despite a deliberate attempt to soften the image of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) remain at the core of his successors' approach to governing — have found plenty of critics at home and abroad. The reaction of ordinary Singaporeans when questioned about politics or Lee and his family is telling. Without them quite knowing it, there is often an instinctive lowering of the voice and a glance over the shoulder. "People are still too frightened to talk about the taboo subjects," Catherine Lim wrote in a lengthy essay published in the Straits Times in May. There is no effective political opposition to the PAP, and few voices prepared to speak out in favor of wider democratic debate. "I think [Lee] taught us fear," says theater director Ong Keng Sen. Lim argues that the stress on order and discipline, arguably essential to an earlier stage of Singapore's development, may harm it now. "A model of governance that has no place for political openness carries with it the seeds of its own decline or even demise," she wrote. "For it will have bred a politically naive, dependent, manipulable people who ... can be compared to artificially nurtured hothouse plants, unable to survive if thrown among the sturdy plants in the wild."

For his part, Lee acknowledges that there is a need to make Singaporeans less dependent on the government and to encourage more open debate. He insists that the PAP can absorb and benefit from dissenting voices. "Anybody can join the PAP and change the policy from within," he says. "If you've got a better idea, you come in, you convince us, you take over." But he is adamant that Singaporeans are not yet ready for the vociferous free market of ideas that typifies, for example, politics in the U.S. "I see the marketplace of ideas, as in the Philippines, and I see chaos," he says, while adding: "Gradually, we will loosen up."

Those who wish Asia well will hope that Singapore does so. This is not just because modern Singaporeans deserve the chance to show that they are sufficiently talented to hold their own in any clash of ideas and ideologies (which they most certainly are.) It is because Singapore's achievements, and Lee's influence, extend far beyond the shores of an island of just 700 sq km and 4 million people. Lee's little nation is a testimony to what hard work and discipline can do to improve lives. That, perhaps, is legacy enough. But what a place in history there would be for Lee if his successors prove that Singapore can marry continued economic prosperity to a more open, tolerant, creative, and, yes, messy society — and hence create a new miracle, from which other nations, bigger, more powerful and more potentially frightening than Singapore, could one day learn anew.

We Remember - Mr Lee Kuan Yew, 1923 - 2015

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, 1923 - 2015

Mr Lee left us two years ago.

There were some who gleefully remarked that his death would mark the beginning of the end of Singapore.  Is there any truth to their ominous prediction?

Two years later, Singapore is still as vibrant as ever if not more, even in today's challenging global economy and uncertainty.

In fact, Singapore is yet again in the mist of transforming itself , gearing up its people to meet the realities of a future where information and data is the lifeblood of the global economy.

And yet, many of the national institutions that Mr Lee and his generation had built up and put in place, have withstand the test of time, and remain just as relevant and important to us.

Institutions like our like our education system, our strong SAF and Home Team agencies, tirelessly seeking water independence, our healthcare system, CPF, housing - all these institutions, while evolving to the needs of Singaporeans, remain as the critical pillars of our nation that enable Singapore to go seek out new heights.

Singapore continues to thrive and grow, boldly meeting challenges and headwinds with confidence in ourselves and a determination to succeed.

This, and this alone, is the greatest memorial and tribute that we can ever have for Mr Lee and the Pioneer Generation who spent their lives laying the foundations of today's Singapore.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

[Defending the Lion City] If Singaporeans don't defend Singapore, who will?

If we don't defend Singapore, who will?
By First Warrant Officer (Retired) Ali Pawiro, 14 March 2017
Published by The New Paper

I remember they barged into my home, taking all the canned food off our shelves. On both their wrists were watches, probably stolen from the households they raided before ours.

I asked: "Who were they? How could they just come in and take our stuff?"

I was just a 10-year-old boy.

When I was older, I worked in a bank as an office boy. I heard about the opportunity to enlist in the Singapore Volunteer Corps and went to sign up eagerly. But my application was rejected as I was underage. I applied again as soon as I was eligible.

Singapore Volunteer Corps Cap Badge circa 1928 - 1942 

While I cannot say exactly why I wanted to volunteer so badly, I believe my childhood experience might have been a major factor.

After joining as a volunteer in 1952, I worked my way up to become a corporal. They soon discovered I had a knack for instructing, so in 1954, 15 of us were selected as permanent staff instructors, trained by the British army.

I was eventually appointed regimental sergeant major of the Officer Cadet School, in charge of drills and weapons training.

I served as an instructor for years and had the opportunity to watch my son Azlan, and more recently my grandson Afiq, serve the nation.

I have seen some things change over the years, but there are also some which will always remain the same.

One key difference is the role of technology in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Since my time as an infantry instructor, our weapons have become lighter and they shoot faster. This has made us more agile.

I started off with the bolt-action rifles, then the self-loading ones, and finally the M16 rifles.

Now, I hear they have upgraded to the SAR-21 rifles.

I am a little jealous because Afiq tells me that the SAR-21 is even equipped with a laser-aiming device for better accuracy.

Even the changes in the SAF uniform over the years bear testament to the important role that technology plays in upgrading the SAF's capabilities.

Different SAF uniforms over the years 
Pic: AsiaOne

The pixelated uniform that Afiq wears is far lighter and more comfortable than the Temasek Green uniform I had.

Training methods have also improved. I remember when we were training under the Israeli Defence Force advisors before my posting to SAF Training Institute, we were told to dig trenches with our hands.

We tried to tell them this was impossible because the ground was hard rock. It was only after I showed them that even my cangkul (Malay for hoe) broke from digging that they conceded that their instruction was not very logical.

We have come a long way since. Our national servicemen today are highly educated, and lessons are now very detailed and structured.

Azlan and Afiq have told me of how their instructors explained what they were doing and why they were doing it.

This has helped them to better understand the rationale behind the training session and consequently, for the soldiers to train with stronger conviction.

As a former instructor myself, I cannot help but agree that those with a strong conviction are more committed to give of their best in training.

I have had my fair share of challenges, but never once did I feel that my sacrifices and hard work were not worth it.

My commitment to serve is still as fresh as it was when I signed up to be a volunteer. Azlan and Afiq feel the same way.

In our conversations after they enlisted for national service, they came to understand what an honour and great responsibility it was to put on the SAF uniform and defend Singapore.

I am confident that our servicemen and servicewomen feel the same.

Despite the many years of peace and prosperity that Singapore has enjoyed, we must never forget that what you cannot protect is not yours.

Skulls, bones and other grisly remains being exhumed from a mass grave of Operation Sook Ching victims in Bedok on June 10, 1966. Pic: The Straits Times

For this reason, NS is vital to our nation's survival and continued way of life.

Although technology has contributed to a strong NS system, our people and their sense of purpose are what matters most.

I think there was an important lesson for us to learn that day as we were digging the trenches.

Nobody likes to dig a trench, not even with a cangkul, especially under the hot sun, but we still do it anyway.

Why? Generation after generation, if we cannot overcome hardship, how can we think of doing the bigger things like defending our families and protecting this land we call home?

And if we don't protect Singapore, who will?

The writer spent 29 years in the army and was the Singapore Armed Forces Officer Cadet School's first Regimental Sergeant Major. Today (14 March 2017) is the 50th anniversary of the NS (Amendment) Bill.

Article Source: The New Paper

Read more here:
Mindef: Standard Singapore Military Rifles of the 20th Century

NLB Infopedia - Singapore Volunteer Corps

Singapore and Malaya Volunteer Corps

Mindef: Looks do matter - new SAF combat uniform

AsiaOne: Meet Singapore's No. 1 military buff who's spent over $80,000 on his collection

Thursday, March 2, 2017

[Defending the Lion City] Budget 2017 - 3 new MINDEF/SAF initiatives

During the Budget 2017 debate, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen unveiled 3 initiatives for the SAF.
(1) Beefed up cyber defence command - Cyber Defence Group (CDG)
(2) Labs to research on Robots, AI and Data Analytics
(3) SAFTI City

Straits Times - "A new Cyber Defence Group (CDG) will also be created. It will comprise two operational units responsible for the 24/7 defence of the SAF's networks, and a Cyber Test and Evaluation Centre (CyTec). The two units - a Security Monitoring Unit and an Incident Response and Audit Unit - will perform round-the-clock monitoring of military networks, and deploy response teams to identify, contain and neutralise cyber threats. Under their watch, the security of SAF's networks will also be audited to boost their resilience."
FB post by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen

Straits Times - SAFTI City Video - A new training ground roughly the size of Bishan town will be built in western Singapore to let soldiers hone their urban fighting skills in real-life settings such as high-rise buildings, warehouses, and even an MRT station with multiple exits. This 88ha area, dubbed the Safti City, will allow soldiers to train in a dense urban environment that closely resembles Singapore's landscape when it is completed in the west of the country in 10 years

Pic: Channel NewsAsia - A closer look at the new SAFTI City, where soldiers can train in urban settings such as high-rise buildings and even an underground MRT station.

Straits Times - "Safti City, which will cost about $900 million, will be outfitted with instruments and video cameras that will instantly track the actions of units and individual soldiers. The first-of-its-kind facility here will allow troops to train in different types of operations, from counter-terrorism to coastal defence and to disaster relief."
Pic via FB post by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen

Straits Times - "As part of the revamp of the military premises in western Singapore, new grounds for infantry and armoured vehicle drills will be developed in the existing training areas of Pasir Laba, Ama Keng and the Murai Urban Training Facility. A variety of training scenarios - called Instrumented Battle Circuits - can be simulated in these areas. Like Safti City, the battle circuits will feature battlefield effects and monitoring systems."

Straits Times - "Singapore's soldiers will have robots fighting alongside them in the future, in the form of unmanned ground vehicles armed with machine guns. In the skies, micro unmanned aerial drones will provide troops with greater situational awareness. These were the scenarios for the next generation of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which were revealed by the Defence Ministry on Friday (March 3) during the Budget debate in Parliament."

My initial first impressions -

  • So many exciting future developments. It almost makes me want to do NS all over again - that is  ONLY IF I could also be 18 again too! 
  • NS training is going to be a whole lot more diverse and realistic, almost perhaps like 'Counter-Strike'. 
  • No more "unlimited' bullets ("Bang Bang Bang!" hahaha...) or buggy 'laser bullets' during training. Now if you get "hit" more than 3 times in training, will you kena sign extra duty for lousy training performance?
  • GPGT - Will soldiers be able to "replay" their attack/fire movements ala Counter-strike
  • Cyber Defence Group (CDG) sounds very interesting and will be important to S'pore. However I'm pretty sure the memes/teases about being Keyboard Warriors for those assigned to the CDG are going to just flood the internet very soon.

Is this how the new Cyber Defence Group will look like on Parade?? #justkidding

Will CDG soldiers be teased about their "Matrix" powers? #justkidding

Read more here:

Straits Times - Mindef sets up new cyber command to beef up defence against cyber attacks (3 Mar 2017)

Straits Times - New cyber vocation 'selective and demanding' comparable to commandos and naval divers: Ong Ye Kung (3 Mar 2017)

Straits Times - New $900m training ground the size of Bishan to give soldiers realistic urban combat experience (3 Mar 2017)

Straits Times - Robots armed with machine guns to fight alongside soldiers (3 Mar 2017)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

All-Singapore-Stuff (ASS) is being investigated for their Bullshit

Singapore’s fake news site, “All Singapore Stuff”, is being investigated for allegedly posting an article that claims the Police did not take any action after a report of underage sex was made. The article also claims that the Police even advised the girl to drop the case. The new report also made the claim that the girl’s school principal did not take her report seriously as well.

The investigation was initiated after a police report was “… lodged by a member of the public, whose identity is believed to have been misused as the contributor of the article.”

Is this a huge surprise? Nope.

“All Singapore Stuff” is well-known to be a fake-news site that intentionally posts exaggerated and often made up articles with sensational headlines on social media to attract attention (ie: “Clicks-to-website”) for generating web advertising revenue. Just look at their website - almost half of the page area is taken up by advertisements.

Articles are often written with a slant to stir up anti-PAP emotions with little regard to facts or the context of the situation, much like the defunct site “The Real Singapore”. Their “contributors” are almost always anonymous, and the articles are posted by an “editor” going by the name “Farhan”.

From time to time when their bull-shit is exposed, the site will simply defend themselves by claiming that any mistakes were “unintentional” and that the article/information was based on “contributions” from their readers - thus shifting their responsible for posting nonsense to all  to the "anonymous contributor". How convenient, isn't it?
In Nov 2016, “All Singapore Stuff” posted a alarmist article claiming that there was a collapse of the top floors of a HDB block in Punggol. The article went viral and caused so much public alarm that the police and SCDF were dispatched to investigate.

Which idiot you want to bluff? Building collapse and the first thing that "Bhagonwali" wants people to know is that BTO owners are unhappy about workmanship of their flats? What about those resident's safety and well-being? Was anyone hurt? Are there people still trapped? Have the authorities been notified? Aren't these points more pertinent to the news of the "collapse"?

This outrageous hoax was immediately debunked by both the HDB as well as Punggol residents on the same day. In this particular case, how hard would it be for the site editors to fact-check this "reader contribution" before posting it?

It is obvious that such an serious incident as a HDB floor collapsing would have immediately been reported to the police, SCDF, HDB etc. It would have been easy for the site to confirm the story.

But did the editor think or bother to check with the HDB, police or SCDF to verify the story? 

Nope. Clearly All Singapore Stuff's priority was to first post the story first on their social media in order to drive web traffic to their site. Fact-checking is clearly not important to them, even in a situation as potentially serious and tragic as a building collapse.

As usual, “All Singapore Stuff” merely replaced the article with an "apology" and once again used the excuse that they were also taken in by the hoax, and conveniently shifted the hoax's responsibility to their "readers' contributions".

Facts and Truth be damned. Web-clicks and making money are more important to the people hiding behind sites like "All Singapore Stuff”

Sure, they've 'apologised' the spreading the hoax. But they have already benefited financially from the deluge of worried web-clicks to their website. 

Their revenue model is essentially driven by clicks and eyeballs to their website. So the more hyped up and viral their posts are, the more web advertising revenue is created for the people behind sites like “All Singapore Stuff” and "States Time Review". 

Just look at the amount of space dedicated to just advertisements (indicated by the red boxes) on and compare that to the space their actual "apology" takes up (shown by the blue box) on their HDB hoax 'apology' page. Even when apologizing for their "mistakes", they are still making money from you!

It was really only a matter of time before “All Singapore Stuff” crossed the line in their quest to boost their site’s popularity with the most outrageous anti-PAP rhetoric articles possible, as shown in this latest incident.

Will this mark the beginning of the end for “All Singapore Stuff”?

Read more here:

Straits Times - Police looking into false claim that report involving underage sex was 'futile' (2 Mar 2017)

Mothership: All Singapore Stuff posts hoax about collapsed roof at Punggol Waterway Terraces, made SPF/SCDF go down to investigate (11 Nov 2016)

Channel NewsAsia - Report of Punggol Waterway Terraces roof collapse a 'hoax': HDB (11 Nov 2016)

Lianhe Zaobao: 水滨台组屋屋顶坍塌?原是虚惊一场 (Mandarin) (11 Nov 2016)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

[Defending the Lion City] SAF computers tio hacked...joins the THG.

Pic: The Reservist FB Page  Funny but True. 

Recently the SAF revealed that one of its Internet-connected computer systems – the ‘I-Net’ – had been hacked, and from media reports, it was not just a ‘casual’ hack but a determined and well-planned attack.

No doubt this news raises a lot of concerns.

And this incident, along with the numerous attacks that have taken place internationally, just reinforces the validity of the Govt’s extreme strategy of physically separating sensitive networks from the Internet.

Being in the IT industry, I know how much of a pain-in-the-butt it is to be juggling between two separate systems. It is even more so when you have to shuffle data to and fro between a disconnected system and the Internet.

It is such an inefficient and frustrating process which can almost make you want to pull your hair out and just burn down the servers.

BUT, it only takes one incident like the SAF hack to make you realize that such extreme measures are just simply necessary – especially if you are handling sensitive and confidential data like what the SAF has.

Pic: CNA The value of physically-disconnected systems

While the loss of sensitive personal data is serious and regrettable, thankfully the SAF hack seems to be limited only to the I-Net system at present.

If you are a NSman, you would probably be familiar with the (painfully slow) I-Net computers which are primarily used for accessing the Internet and doing really mundane administrative work – which would explain why the only information that has been stolen has been limited to the personal data.

In any case, the SAF is not ignorant of the need for a robust cyber security capability. In as early as 2013, the SAF had already announced that it was setting up a new "cyber army" whose function would be to deal with cyber threats. 

The term “Keyboard Warrior” will now have a whole new meaning as far as the SAF is concerned. Geeks rejoice.

And in addition, in 2015 Singapore established the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) to “provide dedicated and centralised oversight of national cyber security functions” and to “work with sector leads to protect Singapore’s critical services.” There was even a launch of a national cyber security strategy in Oct 2016 by PM Lee.

"Singapore aspires to be a smart nation. But to be one, we must also be a safe nation.
The potential of ICT and digital technologies depends on how much we can trust the Internet and cyberspace: we must get cyber security right, to capture the benefits of a more connected world." 
PM Lee Hsien Loong
At the inaugural Singapore International Cyber Week and the 25th GovernmentWare Conference, Oct 2016

Clearly, while much has been done to strengthen and harden Singapore’s cyber defenses, there is much work that still remains to be done. 

As Singapore transforms and positions itself for the digital age, having strong cyber defense capabilities will become as strategic and necessary as our armed forces.

Read more here: