Monthly Archives: June 2010

SMRT trains are not packed, according to it’s CEO

People can board the trains – it is whether they choose to.”

Perhaps after looking at the picture below, one wonders what SMRT’s CEO Saw Phaik Hwa was thinking when she made the above statement.

Picture taken from Richard Seah

Ms Saw was responding to questions about crowded trains, in a Sunday Times’ article, which I strangely can’t find online, but I found a screenshot of it in The Online Citizen.

She ‘doesn’t think that trains here are as packed as Hong Kong, Taipei and Shanghai”, which brings me to the question if she has ever took a train during peak hours. Maybe not, since she doesn’t have to, since she’s SMRT’s Highest paid CEO.

I’m still seriously dumfounded as to why SMRT are not running more trains and reducing the waiting time. As Nelson Poon wrote in his blogpost titled ‘An open letter to SMRT CEO’:

…I am seriously infuriated with the trains coming at intervals of 4 ~ 5 mins between 7pm ~ 730pm while a lot of people are still just getting off work. While statistically one train coming at 4 ~ 5 mins and another coming at 2 mins gives you an average interval of 3.5 minutes a train, that is not the same as trains coming at a constant interval 3.5 mins. Running some of your trains at higher load than another is creating uneven wear and tear on your trains and the tracks and it definitely hurts your bottom line.

Guess it’s time for Ms Saw to take a train ride. During peak hours.

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Filed under Singapore, SMRT

Popularity counts for nothing in politics

Kevin Rudd (left), Julia Gillard (right)

Looks like being popular counts for nothing in politics. Before completing his first term in office as Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd was overthrown by his Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and ministers who were unhappy with him.

This came as a surprise to many as Mr Rudd was thought to be a popular figure in public. But it was a different story in his own party. When he became opposition leader in 2006, Mr Rudd made it plain he would not be held to ransom by union leaders who once held so much power within the Labor Party. Now its the same people that brought him down.

The situation came to a head last night after senior factional powerbrokers from the right told Ms Gillard she had enough support to take the leadership.
The powerful Australian Workers Union, whom Mr Rudd turned his back on, and Health Services Union also quickly swung their support behind Ms Gillard as Mr Rudd’s support base collapsed. After hours of crisis meetings last night Mr Rudd emerged just after 10:00pm (Australian Eastern Time), to announce that Ms Gillard had challenged him to a ballot and that he would also stand.

And at 9:00am (AEST), Julia Gillard became Australia’s first female Prime Minister after Kevin Rudd decided not to contest in the leadership ballot.

I marveled at how, in 12 hours, Mr Rudd went from being the most popular Australian Prime Minister, to become the first Labor Prime Minister to be dumped from office before completing a first term.  This shows that nobody is ever safe in politics.

In this case, Mr Rudd’s overwhelming popularity counted for nothing as Ms Gillard and her cronies zipped into Parliament House, went in to his office and said ‘Good day, mate. Your time is over. Get out. Don’t let the doorknob hit you on the way out’

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Filed under Australia, Politics

Something big happened in Orchard Road, and no, it wasn’t the Great Singapore Sale

Orchard Road was flooded this morning. Woke up to some interesting tweets of pictures which flooded (pun intended) my Twitter timeline.

Picture taken from Kristen Han

Picture taken from Kristen Han

Picture taken from Kristen Han

Picture taken from Kristen Han

The irony of it all, was that, in 1999, it was proudly proclaimed that Orchard Road will NEVER flood. Now we wait to hear NEA’s explanation.

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Why vuvuzelas are bad

Vuvuzelas. The FIFA World Cup 2010 will be remembered for these horns. Some people love them, but others, including me, hate them. If you don’t know about them, your ears will love you. A brief background on these horns.

The instrument requires some lip and lung strength to blow and emits a loud buzzing sound. Now, imagine 80,000 people blowing them at the same time. To me, it sounds like watching a football match in an air-con vent. But apparently, different people have heard different things. Descriptions ranged from ‘a stampede of noisy elephants’ to ‘a goat on the way to slaughter’.

Football players have been complaining about it, with France captain, Patrice Evra claiming that people start playing them from 6am.

If you believe the conspiracy theorists, the vuvuzelas have claimed a ‘casualty’ in Robert Green, who dropped a clanger in England draw with USA.

BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

BUZZZZZZZZZZZZ…There is a bee in my ear…Hey, no bee..The ball!!..BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…DAMN THOSE HORNS!……BUZZZZZZZZZ….DAMN THOSE HORNS!…..BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

And no wonder Green made the mistake. The crowd uses the vuvuzelas for EVERYTHING that is happening in the match.

I would rather hear the crowd chant, sing songs, or beat their drums. Anything but the horns. Which does absolutely nothing to add to the atmosphere.

Watch this space for the vuvuzelas’ next victim.

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Filed under Football, World Cup 2010

The Straits Times: Why I don’t read it

Kristen Han
When Shawn asked me if I wanted to write about why I don’t read The Straits Times, I said yes immediately. I’d never been a big fan of the paper, but I had never had the opportunity to really sit down and think about WHY that was, until now.
The Straits Times, affectionately known by many as The Straits Jacket, has been reporting news in Singapore since before our separation from Malaysia and subsequent independence. For many Singaporeans, it has been a part of our lives whether we like it or not.
When I was in school, teachers encouraged (and when I say “encouraged” I mean more along the lines of “forced”) us to keep up with the news by reading the newspaper at least two to three times a week. We would have to do newspaper clippings to stick in journals to prove that we had done the required reading up of current affairs.
Everyone would come to school with clippings from The Straits Times – and often even the same clippings – not because we were all copying off each other, but because there was no real alternative source for us to get our news (this is before all kids lived and breathed the Internet, by the way – am I showing my age?)
And because there was no real alternative, we had no option but to swallow everything The Straits Times told us whole.
As a kid I always thought that I didn’t like The Straits Times that much because the news was boring. It wasn’t until much later, when I began to explore and read from different sources online, that I realized that the news could be pretty damned interesting if you had good journalists who were unafraid to go digging for the truth and didn’t shy away from sparking intense public debates on issues that matter.
Contrary to my initial belief, “the news” was not an exclusive thing to be bandied about by authority figures and high-brow executives a world removed from myself. “The news” was actually about real things happening in the real world that I could have an opinion about, and that I could actually voice my opinion and maybe even help bring about positive change. It was a great revelation, one that I believe has helped me grow as a person and become more involved in the society I live in.
Unfortunately, I learned none of this from The Straits Times. In fact, I learned all of this from NOT reading The Straits Times, and searching for other sources elsewhere.
On the surface, The Straits Times looks pretty damn good. Articles are (mostly) in good English, the writers are all qualified or experienced, and the paper sells well. It has also won a bucketful of awards, locally, regionally and internationally. The reports don’t read too bad as well, until you look deeper and realize just how much information you’re NOT getting, or how skewed the information can be.
Take a recent ST article as an example: the one published on the 11th of June 2010, reporting on a press conference held at the office of the Malaysian Bar Council in Kuala Lumpur.
At the press conference, M. Ravi, the lawyer of Yong Vui Kong – who is currently on death row for due to drug trafficking – urged Malaysia to intervene in the case. He expressed concern with problems in the Singaporean judicial system. He claimed that his client was being denied an opportunity to appeal to the President for clemency, as statements made by both the former Attorney-General and the Law Minister had implied that the decision to grant clemency has been taken out of the President’s hands, and that the Cabinet has already been prejudiced against Yong. (More information can be found in the article on The Online Citizen)
However, the ST article, ‘S’pore death row case: KL urged to act’, gave very little real information pertinent to the press conference. Instead of delving into reasons for M. Ravi’s actions and addressing his concerns by commenting on the remarks of the former AG and current Law Minister, the article chooses to rehash old information.
It focuses on Yong’s previous appeal for presidential clemency, although the real issue has since moved on. The words read well, but the real information is sparse. Reading the article makes you feel so detached from the issue, although it is something very real and in urgent need of public attention.
The detached, clinical way it reports the facts makes you feel like there is nothing that you can do or say about it, that the issue is out of your hands and none of your business. Just leave it to the big-wigs, you’re too small to have a part of play. But not asking important questions or discussing crucial points, the article subtly discourages involvement and participation, or any real reflection upon the issue. Instead, it further encourages the practice of blind acceptance and passivity.
And that is why I don’t read The Straits Times. When I read about what’s going on in my country, I want to feel like I am a part of it all, and not just an outsider looking in.

The writer is a Film and Media studies graduate who writes regularly for The Online Citizen. You can read her blog here.

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Filed under Guest bloggers, Media, Singapore

Why SMRT’s apology is unacceptable

By now, Singaporeans will know about the vandalism of the SMRT train, given that thousands take it everyday. Which is why SMRT apology for the incident is unacceptable.

It is truly and really amazing how easy it is for Oliver Fricker and Lloyd Dane Alexander to break in the Changi Depot and vandalise the train. The authorities must have heaved a sign of relief that  it was just graffiti, and not a bomb. Apparently, they didn’t remember the Madrid train bombings.

Right now, the authorities are trying their best to move the spotlight out of the ‘splattered egg’ on SMRT face by hunting down Alexander and announcing to everyone who is listening that they are caning Fricker. Hell, his bail was $100,000.

But the real questions remain unanswered. Why was the depot so easy to break in, in the first place? For all the talk of how safe Singapore is, this incident has thrown a spotlight on Singapore’s defence vulnerability.  Just like how easy it was for Mas Selamat to escape. Recently, Indonesian police found a map of Singapore MRT network after raiding a terrorist hideout. So, why oh why, wasn’t the security at the depot beefed up?

SMRT’s apology and reason for the security lapse was laughable:

SMRT Corp. said it has beefed up security at train depots by adding razor wire to perimeter fences, more cameras and foot patrols by guards in response to the incident, which led local media to question the city-state’s preparedness against possible terrorist attacks.
“We deeply regret that a serious security lapse occurred in our depot,” Chief Executive Saw Phaik Hwa said in a statement. “Since the breach, we have taken immediate steps to strengthen our security to prevent recurrence.
My first reaction, and I’m sure my fellow Singaporeans share the same sentiments as me, after reading this was: ‘What? You jokers are telling me that the train I take everyday is so vulnerable to a bomb attack? Why wasn’t there more cameras, barbed wire fences and foot patrols in the first place?’
SMRT should be severely punished for this security lapse. After all, they are putting Singaporeans who take the trains everyday and who pay so much for the train fares and don’t make noise when SMRT raise the train fares as and when they want, at risk.
Just like heads rolled when Mas Selamat escaped, the same must happen at SMRT. Time for them to wake up.

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