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)".