Singapore Armchair Critic

A blog about politics and policies in Singapore and beyond

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No Job Protection for Elderly Cardboard Collectors and Karung Gunis

On 2 September, the local Shin Min Daily News picked up the story of a Chinatown cardboard collector that first appeared online (watch video).

The 67-year-old woman, who has been collecting cardboard in Chinatown for around 18 years, lamented that more Chinese nationals have been competing with her for discarded cardboard of late, drawing up “turfs” that are off limits to her and even threatened to hit her.

These foreign cardboard collectors, according to the old lady, appeared to be less than 60 years old.

Karung gunis who buy cardboard from scavengers said that the foreign cardboard collectors hold other low paying jobs and are moonlighting for extra income. Some may not even have a work permit (“阿嫂投诉: 中国‘加龙古尼’ 抢纸皮还要打我,” Shin Min Daily News, 2 Sep 2014).

Clashes between locals and foreigners in the rag-and-bone trade are nothing new. Continue reading…

How Much Damages is Enough?

Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost
my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of
myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation,
Iago, my reputation!

As I am an honest man, I thought you had received
some bodily wound; there is more sense in that than
in reputation. Reputation is an idle and most false
imposition: oft got without merit, and lost without
deserving. You have lost no reputation at all,
unless you repute yourself such a loser.

–          Shakespeare, Othello

Under Singapore law, damage to reputation is presumed in a claim for libel.

The award of general damages is primarily to compensate the plaintiff for the consequences of the defamatory statement. It serves to “console the plaintiff for the hurt and distress that has been caused by the defamation” and “redress … the harm that has been caused to his reputation and as a vindication of his reputation” (“Damages in defamation: what is considered and what is awarded?”).

Nonetheless, the plaintiff does not have to prove that he has suffered emotional injuries or actual damages to his reputation as a result of the defamation.

Here’s a recap of how much damages the Singapore court had awarded to our PAP political leaders in defamation cases from 1979: Continue reading…

Dwindling Faith in Democracy?

A Hong Kong journalist was in Singapore recently to interview a Malaysian taking over as chief editor of Ming Pao, one of Hong Kong’s most influential Chinese language daily. The journalist, who managed to track down her interviewee at his Singapore residence, was told by her local contact that she might land herself in trouble for doing so (read report in Chinese).

How could this be? She asked, noting that in Hong Kong it is the norm for reporters to knock on the doors of interviewees to verify tip-offs. It is also inconceivable to her that fellow journalists in Singapore consider it their duty to promote government propaganda and give a wide berth to government scandals.

Why be a journalist then? She questioned her local media friends, who responded that it is hard to survive in Singapore if one goes against the government. On her return journey, she asked the Singapore cabbie if he reads the local dailies. Yes, he said, but he reads them with a pinch of salt, mainly to find out how far news reports have departed from reality.

Disturbed by the cabbie’s revelation, the Hong Kong journalist mused: Is today’s Singapore tomorrow’s Hong Kong? Continue reading…

Singapore: Looking back on 2013 (I)

The year started with much excitement as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for a by-election in Punggol East for the seat vacated by PAP Member of Parliament Michael Palmer in December 2012. Set on 26 January, the Punggol East by-election was the second by-election to take place in eight months, after the May 2012 Hougang by-election in which Workers’ Party (WP) Png Eng Huat defeated PAP’s Desmond Choo to retain the WP stronghold.

Unlike the outcome of the Hougang by-election, Lee Li Lian’s win in Punggol East took many by surprise, not so much because the WP candidate emerged victor in a multi-cornered race contested by three other political parties, but because her vote share was a good 10.5% higher than that of PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon.

Any delusion PAP might have about the 2011 General Election outcome as a “freak election result” was shattered by its shocking defeat in Punggol East. It seemed apparent that the need for the party to change and to relook its policies was finally drummed into PAP leadership after that by-election. Continue reading…

Punggol East By-Election: The Other Side of the Equation

So much has been said about the impending Punggol East Single Member Constituency (SMC) by-election. While most concede that PAP is likely to win in a multi-cornered fight, opinions are split on whether the decision of opposition parties other than the Workers’ Party (WP) to run in the election is justified (see for instance this and this).

In contrast to the multitudinous write-ups focusing on the opposition parties, few analyses center on the electorate of the Punggol East SMC. The first to do so is our dear Straits Times, which, in its eagerness to ass-kiss the PAP, has landed itself in hot soup by publishing a report with the headline “ST poll: More rooting for PAP” and breaching the Parliamentary Elections Act (see 78C).

ST editor Warren Fernandez then tried to wriggle his way out of the mess by claiming that the ST poll is neither “full-scale” nor “scientific.” Good try Warren. But hey, the methodology of the poll is beside the question. As long as the survey asks about voter preference as the ST poll clearly did, it is an “election survey” as defined in the Elections Act. Calling it a “straw poll” will not absolve ST of its blame.

After the ST blunder, The Online Citizen, Yahoo News and Today each spoke with Punggol East residents about the issues that concern them. Today reports, “Almost half of the Punggol East residents who were interviewed (48) said that municipal issues will be key in the by-election…In comparison, one in five felt that national issues – such as cost of living and the argument for alternative voices in Parliament – were more important, while one in four said it will be a mix of both.”

The overwhelming impression is that local or municipal issues top the list of the residents’ concerns. But is it really so? In the absence of a randomly-sampled election survey, what do we know about the Punggol East voter and his/her preferences? Continue reading…

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