Sunday, 20 May 2018

Vulnerable Adults Act passed in Parliament on 18 May 2018

New law ensures protection of the vulnerable
It lets MSF officials step in to keep seniors and people with disabilities safe from abuse
By Rahimah Rashith, The Straits Times, 19 May 2018

A long-awaited law that allows the Government to step in and protect seniors and people with disabilities from abuse and neglect was passed in Parliament yesterday.

The Vulnerable Adults Act will allow officials from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to enter private premises to assess a person's well-being.

It will also grant officials powers to temporarily relocate vulnerable adults to safe places such as shelters and disability homes.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee stressed that the law will be invoked only as a last resort in high-risk cases, where family and community interventions may not be effective.

"In cases like this, the Government must take a proactive approach and intervene early, as any delays may lead to further harm, or worse," he said, adding that the law must not replace the social work supporting vulnerable adults and their caregivers.

First mooted in October 2014, the Bill was more than three years in the making.

Yesterday, Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Workers' Party (WP) Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh asked why it took so long.

Mr Lee said extensive consultations and studies were needed. "This Bill involves intrusive statutory intervention in the realm of family and personal matters, so we did not want to rush this."



The new law will accord protection to whistle-blowers and professionals, in a move to encourage people to help vulnerable adults.

Among other things, it also raises the penalties for offences committed against vulnerable adults, to deter abuse and neglect.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Debate on President's Address 2018


4G leaders will listen to people's views, launch discussion series: Heng Swee Keat
Heng Swee Keat pledges they will consider all views from various groups with open mind
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 19 May 2018

The debate on the President's Address wrapped up yesterday with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announcing that 4G ministers will launch a series of discussions with various groups in society to share their ideas and listen to Singaporeans' views on them.

Disclosing this in his speech wrapping up the week-long debate, he pledged that the younger ministers would consider all views with an open mind.

"We will partner Singaporeans each step of the way in our journey of building our future Singapore. The fourth-generation leadership will listen with humility and respect.

"We will consider all views with an open mind, and adjust our course accordingly. We will communicate the thinking behind our decisions clearly. We will bring Singaporeans together and give everyone a role to turn good ideas into concrete action."

Details on the discussion series will be given after the Government takes stock of the parliamentary debate, he added.



The need to keep their ears to the ground and foster trust between the 4G and the electorate was a theme that emerged in the debate the past five days.

About 70 MPs and ministers, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, spoke.

The House discussed issues highlighted in President Halimah Yacob's speech last week on behalf of the Government, setting out its plans for the rest of its term.

These include growing the economy, reducing inequality and leadership transition. The 4G leaders also set out their plans to deal with geopolitical shifts, technological disruptions and social schisms.

Mr Heng, the last among them to speak, sought to elaborate on how they will achieve their vision for Singapore.

Each generation of Singapore's leaders has, at critical junctures, worked to strengthen this trust, he noted as he vowed the 4G leaders are as committed to doing so.

Equally important for the Government is to bring out the best in every Singaporean, he said.

It is "the central question that should occupy each generation of leaders... 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G or 10G", he added. "Because Singaporeans are at the heart of everything this Government does."

Harnessing the strengths of people will become even more crucial as Singapore faces ever more complex challenges, Mr Heng said.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Ministerial Statement on National Service Training Deaths by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen in Parliament on 17 May 2018

Tighter discipline and safety rules following NSF deaths
Trust placed in Govt to keep enlistees safe during NS won't be taken lightly: Ministers
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 18 May 2018

The trust that Singaporeans place in the Government to keep their children safe during national service will not be taken lightly, and commanders at all levels are responsible for ensuring safety.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam made this pledge in Parliament yesterday as they revealed moves to tighten safety rules and discipline after deaths of two full-time national servicemen (NSFs).

One was a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldier who died during training, and another a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officer who drowned after taking part in a prohibited ragging ritual.



Referring to the SAF case, Dr Ng said: "We must constantly improve the rigour of our safety systems. If we don't, it will mean another precious soldier lost to a family."

He said the External Review Panel on SAF Safety - an existing group comprising senior medical consultants and academics that scrutinises the military's safety management - will have a member appointed to Committees of Inquiry (COIs) to address potential lapses.

COIs are to submit reports to the panel, which will make the findings public after it reviews them.

Separately, Mr Shanmugam said new measures will be taken against unauthorised activities such as ragging, adding that more information will be released next week.

He stressed that it is the command's responsibility to ensure that unauthorised activities are not repeated. "Parents send their children to NS, they trust us. We have to maintain their trust."



The pledges come after the deaths of two NSFs within a fortnight.

On Sunday, SCDF Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, 22, died after a ragging ritual went awry at Tuas View Fire Station. Criminal charges are "almost certain", Mr Shanmugam said. Two SCDF regulars have been arrested, with more being probed.

On April 30, Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee Han Xuan, a 19-year-old Guardsman, died in hospital, close to two weeks after he displayed heat injuries during training.

A COI has been convened to investigate his death. A coroner's inquiry may be held, pending the outcome of police investigations.

An external medical panel would also be set up to recommend how measures and policies in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on heat injuries can be improved.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Harbhajan Singh: Veteran nurse has no plans to retire

While the pioneer leaders were the original architects of Singapore, everyday heroes helped build society here. This is another story about such people in the series The Lives They Live.
By Toh Yong Chuan, Senior Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 May 2018

Mr Harbhajan Singh works in a hospital and some patients have mistaken him for a security guard.

"My father was a watchman, but I am a nurse," he said with a laugh.

The 77-year-old started working as a nurse in the Singapore General Hospital's (SGH) accident and emergency department in 1962 after three years in its nursing school.

In 1965, Mr Singh was posted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) as a tuberculosis nurse. More than 50 years later, he still works in the hospital. He has worked for 42 years in its wards and is one of the longest-serving nurses at TTSH.



In 2015, TTSH gave him the title of "Emeritus Fellow", an award normally given to doctors. He is the only nurse to have received the award from the hospital so far.

But Mr Singh almost did not become a nurse.

After passing his Senior Cambridge exams, the Gan Eng Seng School alumnus decided to apply to join the civil service, which held a recruitment drive in 1959. "We had to write down our choices. My first choice was teaching, second choice was nursing, and third choice, laboratory assistant," he recalled.

The interviewer told him he was more suited to be a nurse, he said.

"Maybe the interviewer felt that I should be a nurse because I was already living near SGH," he said in jest. At that time, he was living with his father and mother, a housewife, as well as two brothers and a sister in a village near SGH.

Mr Singh accepted the offer of a place in the nursing school. His parents were supportive of his move.

"Nurses care for people. Nursing has a good image," he said.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Why school sports matter

By Lim Say Heng, The Straits Times, 14 May 2018

Many simple yet profound lessons occur at the National School Games (NSG).

For M. Anumanthan, now a 23-year-old professional footballer with Home United and an established Singapore international, the importance of discipline was a much-needed education.

He had the talent but lacked the right character, until his St Gabriel's Secondary School coach Clement Teo intervened and changed Anumanthan's attitude and his life.

Anumanthan stopped skipping classes, dedicated himself to fulfilling his football dreams and helped his school to the South Zone B Division title in 2010.



"That was when I truly believed in what coach had been constantly telling me to do," Anumanthan said in a previous Straits Times interview. "His advice made me see the right way to go if I was to become a national footballer.

"I'm grateful to have had someone to show me the way."

Three years later, the midfielder claimed a bronze medal at the 2013 SEA Games and was voted the 2016 S-League Young Player of the Year.

Stories like Anumanthan's highlight the role school sports play in the national ecosystem.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Heng Swee Keat on career, health and that Prime Minister question

Lunch With Sumiko: Heng Swee Keat's steely resolve behind genial manner
Soft-spoken and polite, Heng Swee Keat comes with a solid CV and a wealth of experience
By Sumiko Tan, Executive Editor, The Sunday Times, 13 May 2018

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat remembers how, as a young police officer, he encountered a traffic light that was not working and had to get out of his patrol car to marshal traffic.

There he was, smack in the middle of Lower Delta Road with honking cars whizzing by. He had to impose some order quickly.

"You have to do some gut feel and say, 'OK, enough cars have passed, let me now not cause a hold-up'," he recalls.

That gut feeling also guided him when, as commander of Jurong Police Division later, he and his men had to raid construction sites to sniff out illegal immigrants.

Police operations involve split-second decision-making.

"You decide what you do there and then. Arrest, not arrest. Shoot, don't shoot."

He says all this in his trademark mild-mannered way, but his eyes are serious. It occurs to me suddenly that he's someone who would not hesitate to do what's necessary.

The man considered to be one of the front runners to be Singapore's next prime minister has a reputation for being decent and likeable.



Up close, Mr Heng, 57, is indeed amiable and polite. He is soft-spoken, speaks in clear, complete paragraphs and has an engaging way of relating anecdotes. He uses the word "nice" a lot and has a calming presence.

Behind this modest, genial front, though, is an impressive curriculum vitae.

In his career that spans 30-plus years, he has been a police officer, principal private secretary to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, senior civil servant, head of Singapore's central bank and education minister, and is now Finance Minister.

His wealth of experience - both in policymaking and hands-on operations - means he is comfortable with both police constables and G-20 ministers, students and central bankers.

And that mild manner, I discover during our 2½-hour lunch, also belies a steely resolve and a strong sense of fair play.

HE HAS chosen to meet at Our Tampines Hub in his Tampines GRC ward.

It is my first visit to the Hub, which opened last year and is billed as Singapore's first integrated community and lifestyle destination. He has arranged for me to get a tour prior to our lunch. It has left me envious and open-mouthed with awe.

A Mother's Day tribute to Mrs C.V. Devan Nair, wife of Singapore's third President from brothers Janadas and Janamitra

Mother was our world
By K. Kanagalatha, Associate Editor, Tamil Murasu, The Sunday Times, 13 May 2018

She married her childhood sweetheart and stood by him as he went from anti-colonial fighter to political prisoner to founder of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) to President of Singapore.

Ms Avadai Dhanalakshimi, wife of Singapore's third President C.V. Devan Nair, was a mother of four - three boys and a girl - who held the family together through tumultuous times.

She also had a brief political career of her own. Indeed, when Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965, she and her husband held elected seats in different countries.


She supported and encouraged him in his struggles and fearlessly faced the challenges that life threw at her.

At the same time, she was a typical Tamil woman of her time, a loving but strict mother.

It was she who drove the children to school and to their extra-curricular activities, took them swimming, and made sure they were fed and clothed properly.

That is how her children remember her.

Said eldest son Janadas Devan, 64, Chief of Government Communications: "Our home and life revolved around our mother. Our father couldn't have achieved what he did without my mother by his side.

"Indeed, he might not have thrown himself into politics, when it was terribly risky to do so - he could have lost his life - if he didn't feel my mother could take care of the children if something happened to him."

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Singapore to host Trump-Kim summit on 12 June 2018

Singapore confirmed as host of historic summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un on June 12
Trump's announcement ends weeks of speculation over possible locations for summit
By Karamjit Kaur, Senior Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 11 May 2018

It is confirmed: Singapore will host the upcoming summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12.

Mr Trump announced this in a tweet last night, ending weeks of speculation over the location for the first meeting between leaders of both countries.



"The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12. We will both try to make it a very special moment for world peace!" he wrote.

Singapore said it is pleased to host the meeting between the two leaders. "We hope this meeting will advance prospects for peace in the the Korean peninsula," Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Mr Trump's announcement confirmed weeks of rumours that the Republic had emerged as a firm location for the upcoming summit.

Singapore, touted for its neutrality, high degree of public order and track record in hosting high-level meetings, was among a list of venues floated for the summit.

Mr Will Saetren, research associate at the Institute for China-America Studies, said: "The DMZ already had a historic summit. The optics a second time round would not have been so punchy. And President Trump going there would play into North Korea's propaganda machine - that the American President is coming to us. Singapore is a logical choice."


In recent weeks, the shortlist was whittled down to Singapore and the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean peninsula. But on Wednesday, Mr Trump told reporters the summit would not be held in the DMZ. Without saying why, he said an announcement would be made in three days.



Visiting US 7th Fleet commander, Vice-Admiral Phillip Sawyer, told local media yesterday that "the region and the world is cautiously optimistic and hopeful of what will come out of this (the meeting)".

Friday, 11 May 2018

Malaysia General Election 2018: Mahathir Mohamad sworn in as country's 7th Prime Minister

New government will be business-friendly, says Mahathir after delayed ceremony
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Bureau Chief and Trinna Leong, Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 11 May 2018

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in as Malaysia's seventh Prime Minister last night, hours after former premier Najib Razak said that he accepted the will of the people that handed Barisan Nasional (BN) a shock defeat which ended the Umno-led pact's six decades in power.

Following a series of press conferences in which he asserted that his Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition clearly won Wednesday's vote and agreed to back him as Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir was granted an audience with the King, Sultan Muhammad V, at 5pm.

But it would be five hours before he was officially declared Prime Minister, as he had to wait while leaders of the four parties in his coalition were interviewed by the King. The latter then invited the 92-year-old to form the next government and add to his 22 years of experience leading the country.

PH and its ally Parti Warisan Sabah won 121 seats in the 222-seat federal Parliament in the keenly contested May 9 general election, while BN secured 79 seats, in results that were ready by the wee hours of yesterday morning.

The palace received the official results from the Election Commission at 2.45pm yesterday.

However, the lag raised questions among the public, and on social media, prompting the Comptroller of the Royal Household Wan Ahmad Dahlan Abdul Aziz to say in a statement last night: "Istana Negara strongly refutes any allegation that His Majesty... delayed the appointment of Tun Dr Mahathir as Prime Minister."

"His Majesty looks forward to working with Tun Dr Mahathir and his administration for the betterment of our nation and all its people," the statement added.

Confusion had erupted after messages went viral about a 9.30am swearing-in, which the palace had to deny. Later, it was expected that Dr Mahathir, now the world's oldest head of government, would be sworn in during his 5pm audience, which instead ended up being a test of his control of Parliament.



Speaking to reporters at a press conference after the ceremony, Dr Mahathir said the delay was "unavoidable because of certain official processes which we have to go through". "I would like to thank the people who supported us," he said.

He also gave the assurance that his administration would be business-friendly. "Malaysia has been a trading nation. You don't quarrel with your market," he said.

Having defeated the long-ruling BN, which he headed until 2003, and then left in 2016 after calling for Datuk Seri Najib's ouster over the scandal at state-owned fund 1MDB, Dr Mahathir had earlier asked to be sworn in "as soon as possible" after his PH crossed the threshold of a simple majority of 112 seats by early yesterday morning.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a congratulatory message on Facebook shortly after Dr Mahathir took his oath of office, saying he wished him and his team every success, and hoped "to catch up with him in person soon".

"Malaysia is a vital partner of Singapore, and our peoples share strong and deep bonds. I look forward to working with Tun Mahathir and the new government to enhance our cooperation. We can do much more together," he said.

Jurong Region Line, Singapore's 7th MRT line, to open from 2026

24-station line to boost accessibility as Jurong becomes home to new towns, second CBD
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 10 May 2018

The 24-station Jurong Region Line (JRL) will open from 2026, ramping up transport connectivity in Jurong, as it is transformed into a home for new towns, a second Central Business District (CBD) and an innovation district.

The 24km above-ground line will also serve residents in the Choa Chu Kang, Boon Lay and future Tengah estates, boosting accessibility to schools, industrial areas and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The medium-capacity JRL will use smaller train cars, which can carry between 150 and 200 commuters, compared with cars on other MRT lines, which have a capacity of more than 200. While JRL trains will have three cars each, a fourth car can be coupled to increase capacity.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who unveiled the JRL's alignment yesterday, said the line "marks a quantum leap" in the development of Jurong's transport infrastructure.

During a visit to the site of the North-South Line's future Canberra station, Mr Khaw said in a speech that the JRL will improve the resilience of the entire MRT network.

He said the JRL's two interchange stations at Choa Chu Kang (North-South Line) and Boon Lay (East-West Line) will offer commuters alternative travel routes, redistributing and relieving train loading between Choa Chu Kang and Jurong East stations. The JRL has a third interchange station at Jurong East, which links to the East-West and North-South lines.

A commuter going from Choa Chu Kang to NTU will have a shorter journey of 35 minutes with the JRL, saving 25 minutes.



The JRL system is designed with a headway, or train interval, of 90 seconds. The authorities plan to run the trains at intervals of between two and three minutes at the start. There will be two services - an eastern and a western route.

The JRL, Mr Khaw said, will go towards achieving the Government's vision for Jurong. It will help develop Jurong Lake District into the largest commercial hub outside the CBD and support the development of the future Jurong Innovation District. When these are fully developed, the JRL is expected to carry more than 500,000 commuters daily.

The JRL's opening also dovetails with the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail in Jurong, which is targeted to be ready by 2026.

Construction for the JRL is expected to start early next year.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Chan Chun Sing on traits next Prime Minister should have

Next PM must bring together the team, says Chan Chun Sing

Singapore recently saw a major Cabinet reshuffle, during which fourth-generation ministers stepped up to key positions. These younger leaders will also feature prominently in the new Parliament session, which opened on Monday. In the fourth of a series of interviews, The Straits Times speaks to Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing about his new portfolio, the 4G leadership and succession. The person should be able to understand their strengths and weaknesses and bring out the best in them, he says
By Royston Sim, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 9 May 2018

In Singapore, the People's Action Party politician is a curiously coy creature. Few publicly volunteer to step out to be an election candidate. Even fewer are willing to say that they want to be the country's next prime minister.

Asked why - and whether this is a necessarily healthy phenomenon, Mr Chan Chun Sing turns the question on this journalist instead: "What kind of people would you like to see leading the country? Would you like a bunch of politicians to be leading the country?"

Aren't politicians leading the country?

Hardly, says the new Minister for Trade and Industry. He goes on to make the distinction between a "political leader" and "a politician".

A political leader, he explains, is prepared to set aside his own agenda to put the country's interests first, take the necessary difficult decisions, and mobilise Singaporeans to overcome challenges together.

Whereas a politician, by conventional definition, is "probably just someone who is looking for the expedient option, perhaps for himself".

He adds firmly: "I always hope that our country will be led by political leaders and not just politicians. There is a difference."



During a recent interview with The Straits Times, Mr Chan neatly turns questions about his status as one of three front runners in the search for Singapore's next prime minister into opportunities to hold forth on the importance of teamwork.

Asked what traits he thinks the next prime minister should have, Mr Chan emphasises the collective over the individual.

This person should have the ability to bring the team together, understand their respective strengths and weaknesses, and bring out the best in them as a team, he says.

"For us, it is not just about having brilliant individuals working in isolation. For us, a core competitive advantage must always be that we can perform well as a team, that we can overlap each other's strengths and weaknesses," he says.

Asked if he has these attributes, Mr Chan demurs.

"I don't judge myself, and I think it is too early," says the 48-year-old.

Some observers reckon the recent Cabinet reshuffle has given Mr Chan an edge, as he will now gain experience handling the country's economic affairs to round out his track record in defence, the social sector and the labour movement. He oversees the Public Service Division as well, and remains deputy chairman of the People's Association.

On the chatter, Mr Chan says: "I never think about it in the ways that you described. It is not something that bothers me, it is not something that bothers many of us. I think we are much more focused on where the country is going; the challenges that we are facing now."

Does he have someone in mind to lead the fourth-generation of ministers? His response: "Times are fluid. What we need is a team with quite diverse skill sets so that you can have that certain resilience to the leadership team and also for the sake of the country."

So what are the qualities that each 4G team member brings to the table? "All of us have our strengths and weaknesses, so depending on the circumstances, depending on situations, we all play different roles," he says.

"I don't publicly comment on my peers nor my own strengths or weaknesses. I am not from that generation," he adds, laughing.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

President Halimah Yacob’s Address at the opening of the second session of the 13th Parliament on 7 May 2018


4G leaders must fire up young to build Singapore's future, says President Halimah Yacob
They have to earn the right to lead and forge bonds with the citizens, she says
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 8 May 2018

Singapore is not yet done with nation building and its fourth generation of leaders must "fire up and mobilise" young Singaporeans who are eager to take up the challenge of forging a better future, said President Halimah Yacob.

In a speech billed as the younger leaders' vision of the direction in which they want to take the country, Madam Halimah said that as a new generation of Singaporeans comes of age, the 4G leaders will have to work with them to respond to the challenges of their times.

"They dream of a bright future, and pour their energies into exploring fresh horizons and building a better world. They want to see their parents age well," she said in her inaugural address as Parliament reconvened yesterday after a five-week half-time recess.

"They hope for a fairer and more equal society. As proud Singaporeans, they want to see this small island nation stand tall among the community of nations."

She said the 4G leaders "must grow with the people they represent, be open to diverse views and ideas, and have a clear purpose and unity of action".

They have to earn the right to lead and forge bonds with citizens, she said. "That right cannot be inherited. The trust between the people and their leaders is not automatically passed on from one generation to the next."

Pointing to the challenges ahead, she continued: "Their duty is clear, but the path will not be easy. There will be times of hardship, when they must demonstrate leadership and resolve. There will be moments of truth, when they have to stand firm on principles and ideals while seeking practical resolutions.

"They will need to listen to the views and feelings of the people, and by their words and deeds, show that they have heard; yet never fear to lead and mobilise public opinion to support difficult policies in the long-term interest of Singapore."



The 30-minute speech, which in broad strokes sets out the Government's priorities for the second half of the term, was largely drafted by the younger Cabinet members - and mediocrity was not on the cards.

"We may be tempted not to go for bold changes, but instead be content to tweak things at the margins," said Madam Halimah, noting that the new leaders may feel there is more to lose now, as Singapore is at a more advanced stage of development.

"That would be the wrong approach," she said.

Looking ahead, there are five priorities, she said. They are: Securing a place in the world for Singapore, building a world-class city, developing a vibrant economy, forging a caring and inclusive society, and nurturing a distinct Singapore identity.

The President, flanked by Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, representing the different branches of government, was addressing a packed chamber in Parliament House.

1,700 Silver Generation Ambassadors trained and ready to serve

By Tan Shu Yan, The Straits Times, 8 May 2018

A batch of 1,700 Silver Generation (SG) Ambassadors are ready and raring to go after completing their training.

The SG Ambassadors, who are volunteers, have to undergo 12 hours of classroom training at a new training facility at the Silver Generation Office.

The facility, which was officially launched by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong last Friday, is located at the Ministry of National Development building in Maxwell Road.

It aims to educate volunteers about healthcare services and active ageing schemes available.

During their house visits, SG Ambassadors can help to point elderly residents to the relevant support schemes depending on their needs.

Four in 10 SG Ambassadors are themselves above the age of 60.



Younger volunteers include a married couple, Mr Royce Chan and Ms Jasmine Wong, both 29, who will commence their house visits soon.

Based on interaction with his own parents, Mr Chan feels there is a gap between the policies available and awareness among the people these seek to benefit.

"There are policies out there, but it might be quite hard for (seniors) to understand," said Mr Chan, an associate at a bank. He cited as an example the Community Health Assist Scheme card, which some seniors may not know about or know how to apply for.

Ms Wong, who works in the tourism industry, added: "I think apart from sharing the policies with them, it's also about the befriending - just being there for them if they need a listening ear."

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Facts, falsehoods, feedback - Janil Puthucheary has firm grasp of them all

Singapore recently saw a major Cabinet reshuffle, during which fourth-generation ministers stepped up to key positions. These younger leaders will also feature prominently in the new Parliament session, which opens today (7 May). In the third of a series of interviews, The Straits Times speaks to Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Transport Janil Puthucheary. Increasing complexity of engaging with the public in an era of social media is an issue that is core to his work at MCI
By Yasmine Yahya, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 7 May 2018

In the weeks after historian Thum Ping Tjin was questioned for six hours over his research into Operation Coldstore, there were some rumblings on social media that the Government had gone too far during the parliamentary committee hearing on fake news.

Concerned, Dr Janil Puthucheary went down to the ground to ask people: Did they really feel that way?

He recounts: "This is exactly what we did when we were receiving feedback on how everybody was so angry and worried about the Select Committee process and the six hours: We went to the grassroots, into the constituency, door to door - and nobody asked about it, nobody wanted to talk about it, nobody was the least bit concerned about it."


It is one example of how there is sometimes "a disconnect" between a vocal segment of society and the average Singaporean, he says in an interview with The Straits Times last week.

That does not mean he dismisses what he reads online, he stresses.

"You need both. You have to understand what are the implications of feedback coming through the different channels," he says.

The increasing complexity of engaging with the public in an era of social media is an issue that is core to Dr Janil's work at the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI). It is an area that the ministry has significantly stepped up on, in particular after the watershed 2011 General Election.

The Government has since been seen to be more responsive to feedback, and this is dependent, in turn, on getting an accurate sensing on the ground.

Dr Janil says the key is not to rely on any single channel or any single viewpoint.

"You must have more than a triangulation, a multitude of inputs and a multitude of viewpoints.

"And then go back out again and ask, 'Is this what you're really worried about? I'm told this is what you're really worried about.' "

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Active Mobility Act: Reckless PMD riders face stiff fines and jail from 1 May 2018 as new law kicks in

Law to curb reckless use of personal mobility devices kicks in
Cyclists and other PMD users who speed or ride recklessly face stiff fines and jail time
By Toh Yong Chuan, Senior Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 May 2018

Speedsters and reckless riders on bicycles, e-scooters or other personal mobility devices (PMDs) now face stiff fines and even jail time.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday that it was exercising its powers with immediate effect against those who fail to stop speeding or observe regulations set out in the Active Mobility Act that has kicked in.

Its powers regulate the use of bicycles, PMDs and power-assisted bicycles (PABs) on footpaths, shared cycling paths and roads, as well as their sales, the LTA's statement added.

The new law spells out where the devices may be used and how fast they can go.

For example, PABs are not allowed on footpaths, while e-scooters cannot go on public roads. The speed limits are 15kmh on footpaths and 25kmh on park connectors and shared paths.

First-time offenders who flout the usage rules and speed limits may be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for up to three months, or both. Repeat offenders may have their fine and jail term doubled.

The new law also sets limits on the size and speed of the devices that can be used on public paths. These cannot weigh more than 20kg each and must have their speeds capped at 25kmh. Those who use devices that flout these rules can be fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to three months, or both.

In the case of hit-and-run accidents, those who do not stop to help accident victims face a maximum fine of $3,000 or a jail term of up to one year, or both.

Those who refuse to give their particulars or lie to LTA enforcement officers face a higher maximum fine of $5,000, in addition to the maximum one-year jail term.



Besides users, the new law also targets vendors of non-compliant devices. Those caught selling them may be fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to three months, or both.

The LTA said it has been holding safe-riding clinics for users and dialogues with retailers to prepare the public and industry for the new law.

The Active Mobility Act was passed by Parliament in January last year. At the time, then Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said it was introduced to safeguard the safety of pedestrians even as active mobility was encouraged to support a car-lite Singapore.

"There is not a shadow of doubt that pedestrian safety is paramount," she had said.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

May Day Rally 2018


PM Lee Hsien Loong calls on next generation to open new Singapore chapter
Singaporeans must create new possibilities while keeping faith with trademark values: PM Lee
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 May 2018

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on the new generation of Singaporeans to renew the country in an age of disruption while holding fast to the values that have made it successful.

The Pioneer Generation built modern Singapore from scratch, he noted. And succeeding generations weathered many crises to bring it to First World status.

Now, he wants the new generation "to open a new chapter, to create new possibilities and frontiers for our country".

He made the call at the annual May Day Rally attended by 1,600 unionists, workers, employers and Cabinet ministers.

In striving for a new future, he said, Singaporeans must keep faith with the country's trademark values: the instinct to plan ahead; the drive to do better; the sense of mission; and the duty of stewardship.

"This shared responsibility, this shared sense of mission, is our strength.

"It is how we will show others - and show ourselves too - that Singapore will always have what it takes to endure and to succeed," he added, while highlighting what lies ahead for the economy and how the country is responding to technological disruption.



Last year, improved productivity helped the economy grow a better-than-expected 3.6 per cent, he said.

There is a good chance it will grow by more than 2.5 per cent this year if the momentum of economic restructuring is sustained.

Growth this year is forecast to be between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent. But hitting this target also hinges on the external environment, which is clouded by tensions, said Mr Lee.



He emphasised again a theme of speeches he had made at various international meetings in the past weeks: the importance of free trade and investments. This is being threatened by the strained trade relations between the United States and China, sparking fears of a trade war, which could escalate into a more serious row if countries are forced to take sides, he added.

After the US unilaterally imposed tariffs on US$50 billion (S$66 billion) worth of Chinese goods, "the Chinese, politely but firmly, said they do not want a fight", said PM Lee. But if there is a fight, they will take on the US "every step of the way, to the bitter end", he added, saying Singapore would surely suffer collateral damage in such a situation.

He warned unambiguously that what is at stake is not just trade, but war and peace.But as the dark clouds on the horizon will take time to reach us, Singapore's economy will be all right this year as long as efforts to strengthen it continue.

The labour movement plays a critical role in the journey of change, he said, describing how disruptive technology has brought radical changes.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Balancing social spending with financial prudence

By David Tay, The Straits Times, 30 Apr 2018

Amid growing income inequality and the erosion of job security as a result of disruptions, countries have to grapple increasingly with how to help citizens who are left behind, in an effective and financially prudent way.

For instance, Finland, a welfare state, started a two-year trial in January last year to provide 2,000 randomly chosen unemployed citizens with a basic monthly income of €560 (S$900) in an experiment to remove the disincentive to work.

For these recipients can still receive the payment even if they find work, unlike the usual case with unemployment benefits.

While Finland has not announced the results of the €20 million programme, it was reported last week that it will not extend it.

In Singapore, the issue of how to help the needy was also a focus during this year's Budget debate.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced an impending rise in social spending on healthcare and the need for an increase in goods and services tax (GST) to help finance the increased expenditure.

The Straits Times takes a closer look at social spending.

Monday, 30 April 2018

HDB to fit ramps for flats with multi-step entrances

Applications to open in second half of 2018; Government will foot up to 95% of the bill
By Felicia Choo, The Sunday Times, 29 Apr 2018

Seniors who are wheelchair users living in Housing Board flats with multi-step entrances can soon get ramps to make their homes more accessible.

The costs of the ramps - which will be portable or customised fixed ones - are still being worked out, but the Government will foot up to 95 per cent of the bill.

Previously, only flats with a single step at their main entrance were eligible for subsidies for ramps fixed at the entrance, under the Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme by the HDB.

Applications for ramps for multi-step entrances will open in the second half of this year.

Minister for National Development and Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong made this announcement yesterday. He said: "For single-step (entrances), it's easy. We already have a solution. But for the multi-step (entrances), it's more difficult... because some of these spaces, there's not a lot of access or corridor space."

He added that ramps for these spaces are not readily commercially available, so the HDB worked with engineers over two years to come up with the designs. He was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Tampines Changkat division in Tampines GRC. Mr Desmond Choo, adviser to Tampines Grassroots Organisations, hosted the visit.

A portable ramp is suitable for corner units or those with enough space at the entrance, while a customised fixed ramp can be used for corridor units with a 1.2m clear width after installation.

Commercially, a portable ramp costs up to $700, while a customised fixed ramp costs around $1,600.

For flats which lack corridor space for ramps, the HDB will be piloting the use of a lightweight and compact mechanical wheelchair lifter, also in the second half of the year. HDB will evaluate later whether it will be offered as part of the EASE programme.

There are an estimated 170,000 flats with multi-step entrances. These flats were designed to offer residents, especially those living in units in common corridors, greater privacy and security, as their windows are raised above eye level.