Monday, 29 December 2014


This being the 49th year of independent Singapore, it just occurs more frequently than before that Singapore should revive the "kampung spirit" we fondly missed.  But what is it about the kampung spirit that we Singaporeans missed.  To the many (mainly PAP) politicians who raised this possibility, I believed they were referring to the friendliness and commonness of living space, physical or otherwise that a more antipathetic environment of now.  They too spoke about open doors, referring to the amount of trust they had n the neighbourhood.

Yes the PAP MPs has good reasons to yearn the return of such nostalgia. During Meet-The-People sessions in the 60s and even into 70s, cases handled by Members of Parliament were largely municipal in nature.  In the 60s where most lived in kampungs and villages, modern amenities were foremost in their sense of good life. They were easily happy when the government agreed to surface the dirt track with tarmac or install street lights along dimly lit streets. The 70s into the 80s were about relocating compensation where each fruit tree, even the smaller ones is accounted for.  Getting a Housing Board flat was among the highest ranking issue, and in those days a HDB flat was no better than our flatted factories.  They were that basic.  Well into the 90s, complaints against neighbours had risen to a point where trained "mediators" become a necessary part of settling neighbourhood disputes.

When did the kampung spirit left us and will it return?

HDB recently reported a survey that fewer residents are satisfied with their flats and neighbourhoods but the satisfaction rate is still over 90%.  By any standard of statistics interpretation, this is high on the extreme.  I am just wondering why make a good thing sounds so bad?

One local professor mentioned in a TV programme Talking Point that the kampung spirit cannot return nor recreated for there is no prevailing ingredients that are similar to those in the past. Sharing of common risks was mentioned as one of those and fire was one of such culprit.  But what is pertinent is, a kampung is a kampung and you cannot make an HDB estate a kampung.  

I am more inclined to agree with the professor that you cannot make a modern housing estate into a primitive kampung, and I am not joking to evade the contentious concept of the "kampung spirit".  Even as the professor believed that practical ingredients cannot be rehashed, the kampung spirit thrived on more than just practical matters.  Emotional and clannish bonds, the social conditions then that gave birth to the needs of interdependence within each kampung and village were all integral parts that made up the kampung spirit.  Taking one component out and calling it a whole just don't make sense.  The physical living conditions of those days where free parking of bicycles against any available guava tree would be an obstruction to freeway and fire hazard in today's context.

Another fact is kampungs and villages were segregated according to gang or underworld affiliation.  Gang members were so to speak inhouse securities against infiltration or invasions from rivals.  Internal disputes were dealt with through village heads and gang leaders.  Can such a system of feudal governance be resurrected?  Our Resident Committees, grassroots leaders, and for that matter Members of Parliament do not have that kind of clout, and much less in present times where online jurisdiction becomes rampant with social media.

Our life and how we look at life has changed.  If we as a whole believed that happiness and harmony are things that we should strive to create and treasure, we need to look at new ways to achieve that.  Such new ways needs to correspond and harmonize with our new thinking and living behavior.  We are at a crossroad of old good and future promise.  Calling back an old ghost is not the solution.

A stark difference from then and now is, we are moving into a 24 hours lifestyle. Noise from the neighbourhood will gradually becomes inevitable.  To this, I believe the HDB may need to incorporate noise insulation into its structures for future developments and find ways to incorporate it into existing buildings.  It is not unbelievable that gradually more people will depart from the 9 to 5 routine and shift into staggered work timings.

This is just one example of a lot of things we need to imagine and work towards.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year for the coming 2015.

Friday, 19 December 2014


Now unsuspecting animals has become the target victims of a problem created by different animals.

TRE has pointed the finger at Bt Batok MP David Ong for blaming residents for feeding stray dogs at the rats infested area next to Bt Batok MRT Station.

There was another one asking MOS Desmond Lee to take care of the rats problems first instead of pointing fingers at Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council.

Others have defended the MP by saying that these are just tactics used to flame or frame (depending on your tongue) the MP for things he did not say.

So who said those things?  The accurate version is it was a joint statement made by HDB NEA & AVA blaming the feeding of stray dogs.

Let us look at some facts.  The area where free running rodents were sighted is under the management of HDB, and noting the separating of duties among government agencies, this location does not come under the jurisdiction of the area's town council.  But it is also extremely unrealistic to expect HDB to literally manage all land under their portfolio except by appointing contractors to clean and maintain them at fixed period and frequency.  Then the question arised : How did such a problem went unnoticed till it reached an immense stage? Was there no instruction from HDB to its contractors to spot any unusual condition of the site? If the contractors did report to HDB, why was there no early actions taken? If there was no instructions at all, how does HDB manage its array of bare land?

But the town council too has its duty though not spelt out, even for that matter LTA that is responsible for the MRT station it managed.  Rats don't appear miraculously on a specific day to do a photo shoot session for that particular member of the public.  If the problem had gone unnoticed for such a long time, the working culture of our agencies is in shit. We often talked about taking ownership at management training and seminars, corporate meetings not excepted. Apparently those are mere talks that were left behind together with crumbs of pastries and unused sugar & creamer sachets long after the meetings were over.

Why were MRT station staffs who were there day in and out not reporting the matter?  Why was the problem also not reported by Bt Batok town council staffs?  Not their business to do so?  Wake up your idea.

Next coming to stray dogs.  When the media reported that Jurong Island will start its merciful programme of sterilizing stray dogs, the first question that came to mind was how did the stray dogs get into the island in the first place and in second place how did it escalate to a stage of having a community?  My understanding was that construction companies have, traditionally kept dogs to watch over their worksites and this practice has been for decades.  I raised this matter with one person of a purported animal welfare organization long ago, and he said that he had raise this with the authorities.  Stopping the problem where it begins is the only real solution, not what comes next.  But to this day, dogs were sadly abandoned and become strays after the projects were completed.  We are creating more and more stray dogs by not stopping construction companies from rearing them.

Coming back to Bt Batok.  Where are the animal welfare people?  Why was it that residents were the ones feeding these strays?  But you will tell me that the residents are volunteers of animal welfare groups, then why do they not know that leaving food behind after the feeding will end up with a rodent problem? Is there something wrong here?  By the way.....who are the people that gave the information to the authorities that residents were the one feeding the stray dogs?

Is it the Bt Batok Town Council or the MP?

Friday, 5 December 2014


Prof Stephen Hawking has just issued a warning that the development of full artificial intelligence can spell the end of humanity. 

The fear of the human race being controlled by machines can be traced back to the birth of the computer. From small talks in church that 666, the mark of the Biblical Beast refers to a huge computer, to numerous science fictions and movies depicting the ultimate machine that conquers and over rule human race.

What the Swiftkey project is developing is in essence a synthesized Stephen Hawking from a collection of historical data of how the professor processes questions, responds and answers, and uses them to predict what will be his next step.

Right here at home, Singapore announces its plan to make us the first Smart Nation in the world. The fact is Singapore has over the years; phase after phase, layer upon layer adding to physical infrastructure to make us draw even closer towards achieving this dream of a Smart Nation. What this means is the employment of artificial intelligence to help us anticipate, predict and determine what is best for Singaporeans from physical data collected and analyzed.  This would also mean an expectation of cutting edge efficiency in cross-nation communications to come.

I have always said : "Without Google I am nobody", and these days I have to add Facebook to it. As individuals, we have done away much of the tasks that requires brainwork and have them done better and faster with online helps that of curse link to big machines that grid themselves together. "Shortcut" is an iconic word that is more profound than a little graphic representation on the screen. Literally we are much dependent on shortcuts for our daily lives.

Many have also brushed aside the prominent professor's fear as an overblown scarecrow, but whether it is or not can be better mitigated philosophically than if this prediction will eventually becomes real.

Should the fear of doom stagnate our pursuit and search for better ways to manage our lives as individuals and as society or nation? If indeed this is going to be the forgone conclusion, and this is how humanity will develop and moved towards, the fear of it will not make it disappear or change. However, it is always good to have warnings now and then, then not to have any at all. Humans tend to get overwhelmed and carried away with indulgence and some infrequent warnings are certainly positive and welcomed.

I wondered about the day without Google, or online Thesaurus. Well I still have my Oxford dictionary and Thesaurus in hard copy, with a pair of glasses and a magnifying glass.  But I doubt the day will come, probably not in my lifetime.