That Lying Beggar Auntie

So there is finally a newspaper report about her scams. Wanbao followed up on a lead through STOMP and discovered that this auntie makes over a thousand dollars a night begging, lying and scamming. She has asked me for $500 before, but then I uncovered her scam over 45 minutes once I bought her tea.

She cries, lies, and makes more money on one weekend than you do in a month. Photo linked from STOMP http://goo.gl/6RIqLZ

I first met her in front of Red Dot Building in Tanjong Pagar on a weekday afternoon, maybe in 2012. She was sobbing and crying to a bunch of young office workers as I walked past on an errand. On the way back I saw she was still there sobbing by the pavement and stopped to try and help. She said she was hungry and I offered to take her to Maxwell Market to buy food. She declined. I offered to buy her tar pao food from Maxwell. She then claimed that her leg hurt and she wanted to rest there, and that I should just give her $5 instead so that she could go buy food later when she felt better.

She claimed to live in Ghim Moh and was only here in Chinatown (Tanjong Pagar actually, but I shan’t quibble) to meet someone who owed her money but who refused to return it. She said her children had abandoned her and that she had lived a “good life” but had been “taken advantage of”. She said that she worked at some big local company (I forget which) as a secretary but that she had been cheated of all her savings. She even invoked the name of some church she had attended and that was how she knew the person who owed her money, she said. She gave the impression that this was a temporary situation.

I was heading back to the office so just gave her the $5 and wished her well.

In 2013, I saw her again in Holland V (where I live), which didn’t raise alarm bells for me because she said she lived in Ghim Moh. She was sobbing along the pavement again and I came up to her to ask what had happened about that loan, and why was she begging still. When she realised that I had given her money before, her eyes lit up. I thought it was because of familiarity, but now I realise she saw me as easy prey.

This explained what she said next.

Her momentary flash of recognition quickly faded into sobbing again as she poured out a tale of how she had been a guarantor for a church friend’s son, but that both son and friend had defaulted and that she was left in the lurch. (In retrospect, I now realise how foolish a notion this is – that a penniless old woman could act as guarantor for a loan). The bank was after her. SHE ASKED ME FOR A $500 “LOAN”.

I don’t know why, but I still had a soft spot for her and I knew that I would never see the money again, but I wanted to do my due diligence and help her sort out a better solution to the “grave injustice” that had been done to her. I offered to buy her tea at the HV market and tried to uncover her story and talk to the players to reach a better outcome. Oh, how it unravelled from there.

She would make fake calls on her phone without actually dialling numbers, and furnished me with names and contacts that didn’t exist. She declined to say which bank the alleged loan was from. Nothing existed. I declined to give her $500.

She then proceeded to chide me for leaving her to suffer and die. I told her to go away, and she eventually did.

A friend of mine who worked at a market food stall (we were having tea at the market) then came up to me and told me about this woman. She knows about this old woman with the crocodile tears and the bag full of lies. She, and other stall operators, have seen her frequently begging and scamming in HV. She is not poor at all, my friend explained. She could be seen walking into the 7-11 or other shops nearby to change her small notes into 50s, and would change $400 or $500 at a time (the retail assistants would tell her, as they bought drinks from my friend’s stall). She made over $1,000 at each outing. Maybe more. The news reports say that she deposits the cash into a bank account, which I suspect contains more cash than some people’s CPF accounts.

The next time I saw her in HV, I asked her loudly who else she was planning to lie to today. She gave me a dirty, irritated look, seeing how I was blowing her cover and revealing the scam that she was running. If I see her doing this nonsense again, I think I will call the police and get them involved. It’s all on record now.

I’m glad the press has blown the cover on this woman’s disgusting antics. We have genuinely poor people working hard to make ends meet, and here is some greedy, rich scammer beggar sucking up money that should be going to properly-governed charities, like the now-renewed NKF, or to the folks at the rental flats nearby.

And for the rest of us – don’t be taken for a ride like I was.

 

What makes non-graduates valuable?

I’m really trying NOT to take the mickey out of PM’s NDR, but his section on ITE and Poly grads being successful really threw me off.

First, of course were the promises that the public sector will “place more emphasis on skills and ability” according to the ST report on Page 2. Some talk about merging some non-graduate and graduate tracks and changing the way people get promoted. Sounds like a plan (and perhaps merely a plan), as I have often complained on the hypocrisy of “meritocracy” in the civil service, particularly the different officer schemes in the SAF, and in disciplines where no specialised “degree level” qualification is needed.

A friend of mine, Jin Yao, has already pointed out on his blog how this whole “sell” just comes off as a bunch of hogwash. At this point in our meritocratic decline, I’ll only believe it when I see it. Until then, I take it as simply a political promise. I’m skeptical in this area.

Then he mentioned two things: “hard work” and “upgrading”… and that got me confused. Yes, hard work and continuous self-improvement are critical (and I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt by interpreting it as “self-improvement” rather than “upgrade to a degree”), but the real root of excellence for people in Poly and ITE is 1) respect for their craft and 2) passion for their craft. That then results in people spending hours honing their skills and, to quote an aspiring Pokémon Master, “be the very best. Like no one ever was.”

The new role model for ITE and Poly.

Of course, there’s also the typical lack of any sort of admission of poor governance. PM happily skips to “the solution” without addressing the causes of the problem – his own Government’s long-held policies and values.

How come all three of PM’s examples of non-graduates being given opportunities are from Keppel? Okay, they come from two different Keppel subsidiaries, but this really points to the fact that Keppel is doing well in this area or that the shipbuilding industry really values ability rather than paper qualifications. Seems like you have to join Keppel and do shipbuilding if you want to get anywhere without a degree.

Labour MP Patrick Tay (Nee Soon GRC) recently shared with a small group of influencers that he too was not comfortable with ITEs and Polys constantly boasting about what proportion of their students eventually went on to Poly/Uni, as evidenced by the many posters and advertising campaigns boasting “X% of our students made it to Poly” or “Y out of Z made it to the local university”.

This nonsense has to stop, and the public service is clearly a large part of the problem. Promises are easy to make, but if the public service hasn’t already solved this travesty by now, I don’t fancy their odds in the next couple of years.

Prosecute and extradite NS defaulters? Maybe.

by Daniel Yap

The noose is tightening for NS defaulters, and I fully approve. As one of the major sources of unhappiness in Singapore as far as fair treatment of citizens goes, NS defaulters should be made to pay the piper. It is the law, after all, and a commitment is a commitment – the benefits and responsibilities of permanent residency and citizenship go hand in hand. It is a matter of HONOUR.

According to this CNA report:

Dr Ng said that according to records, no such persons have been granted re-instatement of PR or citizenship. He added that the policy has been progressively tightened such that no NS-liable PR who renounced his PR status in the last decade has been granted approval for work or study.

For former PRs who fail to serve NS, any immediate or future applications for renewal of their parents’ and immediate family members’ Re-Entry Permits may be adversely affected, including curtailment of the Re-Entry Permit.

 

I heartily approve. A full one third of liable PRs shirk their duty – a disturbing trend. Add to that the fact that most non-Singaporeans don’t think that NS is part of the Singaporean identity… and we have a problem.

Even though I’ve long said that PRs, by definition, should not be doing NS, as long as the law exists, it must be applied. I’m not exactly sure about making family members pay for the foolish choices of one man – sometimes the parents are to blame, but sometimes not. It is hard to tell.

I’d love for the ministry to take this two steps further – prosecute and attempt to extradite NS defaulters who have fled to other countries. It seems rather pathetic that we should wait until the perpetrator returns to our shores to start proceedings against him, and most of these people simply choose never to show their faces here again. If we want to send a strong signal that NS is to be taken VERY seriously, especially at the time when the family members receive permanent residency, then we should ultimately go as far as extradition.

In this way we can honour the honourable PRs and citizens who have done their duty to our country.

We import foreign athletes? Hells yeah.

by Daniel Yap

Citizens are citizens, although Australia’s William Henzell may not be too happy about Singapore’s largely ex-Chinese team sweeping most of the table tennis medals at the Commonwealth games.

I’m okay with getting foreign-born athletes to commit to the nation and become a part of our country, if the scheme doesn’t significantly deprive Singaporeans of the chance to excel and raises opportunities for our people to do better.

Of course, there’s also the conundrum of how they are ACTUALLY Singaporeans as well.

The worst case would definitely be when a foreign-born athlete fails to integrate into our society, then packs up and leaves when his or her sporting days are over. If you want to buy in to Singapore, you have to buy in to the whole package. But alas, this is a humane society, and such fair-weather friends are free to go (and good riddance).

But we do have Australia to thank for one of Singapore’s most amazing foreign-born athletes – Aleksandar Duric. This guy’s story should be made into a movie. Don’t believe me? Go read it here on Wikipedia.

Duric came to us from Australia, on his own steam (not specifically for his excellent sporting prowess), and became a major piece of our nation’s football history.

So yeah, thanks for letting us have him, Australia. It was totally worth it.

The new IPPT turned me from has-been to hero

I’m a pretty fit guy. I’ve always gotten gold for my IPPT and I’ve always been physically active, playing sports several times a week.

That is until my first child was born. After 12 straight years of IPPT gold, I added some 50 seconds to my 2.4km run timing the year after I became a dad. The following year, I added another 30 seconds. Then another 30. These days I’m hanging at just under 12 minutes, but who knows how long that will last?

I’m happy to walk away with a silver, and $200. Not too shabby, as I still consistently score full points for my other four stations, but I think of myself as well past my physical prime (although my wife would beg to differ). The other 70% of my cohort don’t fare as well as I do, unfortunately.

But the new IPPT scoring system actually puts me among the fittest of the fit – I could potentially get a gold even under the commando/diver/guards standard… because even though my 2.4km run is pretty meh, I would totally kill at situps and do quite well at pushups. If the SAF wants to give me $400, I’m not going to complain about it,

Some people have said that the new regime is “going soft” and represents a drop in standards. There are even some semi-serious Facebook groups on the topic. But let’s consider the full ramifications of this change.

1) Resetting the mean. If the passing rate is skewed to only 30% (in my cohort) it becomes more difficult to measure the ends of the spectrum. How fail are failures? Many folks who know they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell (because of a critical weakness in ONE station) will show up for the IPPT, then proceed to fail every station (even those you can pass) because, well, WHAT’S THE POINT? Sign up for RT and be done with it.

The new system actually gives most guys a fighting chance. And that means more fight.

2) A recognised standard. The US military and Korea already use pushups as part of fitness tests. It’s not like we’re going off into new territory.

3) Better incentives for incremental improvements. I never bothered to try and put those 2 lost minutes back on my 2.4km run. The effort needed to hit 10:30 reliably was just WAY more than I could afford, but now, every 10 seconds earns me a point, and I can bust ass at situps, instead of stopping at 43 and resting the last 15 seconds. I can aim for 55 now without wasting energy.

4) The financial cost? What about that FCC equipment? A full set of test equipment for one of our FCCs costs millions of dollars. Sure, we could still use two out of five stations, but there would be quite a bit of waste. Also, more people passing and getting incentives means more money paid out, but on the flipside, more people passing means fewer resources being wasted training unmotivated soldiers in RT, and paying them their rank allowance to go through the motions.

5) Bragging rights. I get to start every mention of IPPT with the words “back in my day”. I can make up stories about how impossible everything was and how much we suffered, like how all good soldiers do about crap that doesn’t involve actual warfare.

I’ll miss the old stations, but I’m eager to give this new system a whirl, especially when there’s an extra couple of hundred bucks in it (and a chance to put that old badge on my uniform again)!

P1 registration fix is long overdue

My wife and I just registered our son in Henry Park Primary School, which is within 2km of our home. It was a school that I was an ex-student of and, fortuitously, it was also near where we lived (I’ve lived in this area since I was a child). Even at this early stage of registration, the news reports had confirmed that a ballot was required.

The P1 Registration is broken – it flies in the face of meritocracy and is a tear in the fabric of our society. ST’s Sandra Davie has summarised the possible solutions in her piece last week, more comprehensively than I have hoped:

1) Eradicate Phases 2A1, 2A2 and 2B. No more fair-weather alumni and “volunteers” looking for favours.

2) The problem of the clustered “good schools” in wealthy neighbourhoods can be solved by uprooting them and placing them in HDB towns. It is time to tear apart these bastions of misperceived achievement. Alternatively, those who live nearby can be given priority over alumni (though I think this will not work).

Primary Schools are part of our meritocratic education system. They do not need to build a deep individual “culture”. Our society only stands to lose if certain primary schools come out tops in the “reputation” and “school culture” race. Primary education should be the level playing field every meritocratic society needs. Yet now it is a minefield of entitlement.

MOE has yet to make good on its boast that “every school is a good school”. The G’s failure to properly address the elitism still rampant in primary schools makes Heng Swee Keat look like a liar. The institutional way of trying to fix problems with “tweaks” falters in the face of a deep-rooted problem such as this – one reinforced by the basest kinds of kiasuism and one-upmanship. The tuition addiction continues to blight our children’s progress.

It seems that nobody in the ministry has the guts or fortitude to deal decisively with the problem at hand.

My wife (who is not Singaporean) marvelled at some of the literature that nearby primary schools were handing out – how even schools with nearly no accolades to boast about made desperate attempts to list their achievements, as if clutching to a fig leaf in shame, ironically entrenching their positions. How well-regarded schools likewise put their achievements on display, goading “lesser” schools and the ignorant public to play, and lose, the ranking game with them.

Our son’s pre-school teacher gave the most damning advice of all – when we asked her why they were teaching Primary One syllabus at preschool, she matter-of-factly replied that “teachers in primary school don’t have time to help your child keep up. If he falls behind, that will be the end.”

If that is truly the case, then it is the end for all of us.

Forestalling a war of Pink and White

Lawrence Khong has taken another step into the face of the LGBTQ community to ask churches to ally with muslims and wear white in opposition to something called the “gay lifestyle”, a nebulous term for the support and normalisation of LGBTQ rights in our society. I’m not sure if, had this been several hundred years ago, Pastor Khong would have picked homosexual allies to go sack the Muslim-held cities of the holy lands. It seems a queer choice of bedfellows (pardon my pun).

As a conservative Christian, I hold to the belief that God has clearly revealed that homosexuality is not His design and, along with the sins that I and the rest of mankind commit, attracts the penalty of death. We are all condemned.

But this earthly home, Singapore, consists of more than the Church. We are a diverse society, put here, together, now, by God for His glory. Should anyone insist that God approves of homosexuality, they will be commenting within the Christian context and sphere, and on that basis I will refute the argument as robustly as I am able.

Outside of this Christian circle, however, is the larger society, which has its many worldviews, rules, factions, and values. As much as I will not appreciate someone else dictating to me what I should believe, I have no right to prescribe my worldview for others – I can only persuade within the law and the bounds of society.

While Pink Dot’s organisers and sponsors have kept the event’s tone very measured, many of its participants border on the belligerent and throw barbs at the religious beliefs of others, claiming universal oppression and hatemongering. Pastor Lawrence Khong’s own tirade against his so-called homosexual conspiracy often comes out as discrimination against rights that the state has given universally – regardless of our individual proclivities and sins. In the light of these tendencies, it would be wise for both groups to withdraw from public displays (although they may legally have the right to do so) and continue persuading others in the private sphere.

The last thing we want to see happening is for there to be a real legal situation that is actively used to force any one segment of society to conform to the values of another, at detriment to the freedoms we all share and hold dear.

MUIS’ wisdom should apply to all. Don’t be confrontational about this issue. The lines, as far as civil society goes, are quite clear. Polarising the issue and a confrontational approach will only delay a peaceful solution and new equilibrium for Singaporean society, and push both religious and homosexual agendas to the fringe. We’ll make more progress talking than screaming.