Daily Archives: 2019-12-02

Civil servants to get 0.1 month year end bonus and one-off lump sum payment of $250 to $1,500

The Public Service Division (PSD) has announced that all civil servants below superscale grade will receive a year-end annual variable component (AVC) of 0.1 month and an additional one-off lump sum payment of $250 to $1,500.

This announcement was made on Monday to the media.

PSD explains the lower year-end bonus as being the Government’s exercise of restraint in consideration of the prevailing economic uncertainties.

Civil servants in the lower pay grades will receive a higher amount while senior civil servants in superscale grades will receive a one-off payment of $400 in place of a year-end annual AVC.

The year-end civil service AVC is the lowest since 2009, during the global financial crisis. Amid negative growth that year, civil servants received a one-off year-end payment of 0.25 month, capped at $750.

This year’s year-end payment for civil servant is also the first time in ten years or more that is being announced in December. The PSD had announced the figures in the last week of November for all the past ten years.

Including the mid-year AVC of 0.45 month that was paid out in July this year, civil servants will receive a total of 0.55-month bonus (this is excluding the 13-month bonus).

In comparison, civil servants were given a total of 1.5-month bonus for last year which consists of 0.5 month mid-year AVC and year-end AVC of 1 month.

In a statement to the media that is not made public on its website, the PSD said: “Taking into account the prevailing economic uncertainties, the Public Service Division, in consultation with and with the support of the public sector unions, will exercise restraint for the year-end bonus payment.”

According to official data released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on 21 Nov, Singapore narrowed its annual forecast for economic growth to between 0.5% to 1%. This is because the economy for the third quarter is slowly improving. It was previously marked to be between 0% to 1%.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong was quoted by Straits Times, to state that the outlook remains uncertain.

The public sector unions, comprising the Amalgamated Union of Public Daily Rated Workers and the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees (AUPE), thus agreed on a calibrated approach and to give more to lower-grade officers, she said.

The NTUC and public sector unions will work closely with the public sector to train workers and improve their employability, as well as ensure that they stay up to date on how the public sector is transforming itself, she added.

Hong Kong deports Indonesian worker who reported on protests

Hong Kong on Monday deported an Indonesian domestic worker who had reported on the city’s ongoing protests, her supporters said, accusing authorities of a politically motivated expulsion.

Award-winning writer Yuli Riswati was held for 28 days after failing to extend her visa and was put on a flight to Surabaya on Monday afternoon, a friend told AFP.

A statement from a support group for Riswati accused Hong Kong’s Immigration Department of “suppressing her freedom of speech and her right to help Indonesian workers in Hong Kong”.

“The immigration officials arrested Yuli after her coverage of the protests was reported by local media,” group member Ah Fei told journalists.

“This is political suppression,” she added.

The Immigration Department said it could not comment on individual cases, but that anyone violating the terms of their stay in Hong Kong could face arrest, detention, prosecution or removal.

Riswati’s lawyer Chau Hang-tung said her client had forgotten to renew her visa after getting a new passport. She attempted to apply for a renewal while in custody, and her employers offered to vouch for her.

Supporters and independent legal experts said it was rare for a domestic worker to be detained and deported for an expired visa.

“I have never seen a case that Immigration will go to the homes and arrest workers based on this,” said Phobsuk Gasing, chairperson of the Hong Kong Federation of Domestic Workers Unions.

“As long as there is still a contract, the employer confirms the hiring of the worker and explains in a letter to the Immigration why they forgot to extend the visa, Immigration always allows the workers to get their visa renewed without any hassle,” she added.

Michael Vidler, a Hong Kong lawyer whose firm has handled immigration cases, said Riswati’s detention appeared “out of proportion”.

“The only reasonable explanation can be that this action was taken because she has publicly spoken out about Hong Kong affairs,” he told AFP.

Riswati had been writing about the protests on both her Facebook page and for independent Indonesian news site “Migran Pros”.

Last year she won a Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants in recognition of her writing.

– AFP

China slaps sanctions on US over Hong Kong unrest

China suspended US warship visits and sanctioned American NGOs on Monday in retaliation for the passage of a bill backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

The financial hub has been rocked by nearly six months of increasingly violent unrest demanding greater autonomy, which Beijing has frequently blamed on foreign influence.

Last week US President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires the president to annually review the city’s favourable trade status and threatens to revoke it if the semi-autonomous territory’s freedoms are quashed.

The move came as the world’s two biggest economies have been striving to finalise a “phase one” deal in their protracted trade war.

“In response to the unreasonable behaviour of the US side, the Chinese government has decided to suspend reviewing the applications for US warships to go to Hong Kong for (rest and) recuperation as of today,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.

China had already denied requests for two US Navy ships to dock in Hong Kong in August, without specifying a reason why.

“Operationally, from a military point of view, it doesn’t really make a difference for the US, as they can use many naval bases in the region,” Michael Raska, a security researcher at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, told AFP.

However, it “sends a signal that US-China tensions will continue to deepen,” Raska said.

The last US navy ship to visit Hong Kong was the USS Blue Ridge in April.

J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow with the Global Taiwan Institute, said the move was “mostly symbolic” but yet another sign of the “tit-for-tat escalation which is poisoning the bilateral relationship.”

Behaving ‘badly’

Hua said they would also apply sanctions to a number of US-based NGOs, although failed to give any specifics over the form the measures would take.

Sanctions will apply to NGOs that had acted “badly” over the recent unrest in Hong Kong, she said, including the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House.

There was “already a large amount of facts and evidence that make it clear that these non-governmental organisations support anti-China” forces and “incite separatist activities for Hong Kong independence”, Hua said.

She accused them of having “great responsibility for the chaotic situation in Hong Kong”.

Protesters in Hong Kong are pushing for greater democratic freedoms and police accountability, but the city’s pro-Beijing leadership has refused any major political concessions.

The increasingly violent rallies have hammered the retail and tourism sectors, with mainland Chinese visitors abandoning the city in droves.

The city’s finance chief warned Monday that Hong Kong is set to record its first budget deficit in 15 years.

– AFP

In the wake of POFMA being used, Dr PJ Thum reiterates the lack of evidence that Operation Coldstore about a communist conspirary

Historian Pingtjin Thum once again reiterated his assertion about Operation Coldstore that there was no evidence to show that those detained were involved in any communist conspiracy.

In short Facebook post on 1 December, Dr Thum pointed out that since the government is now using the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), he wanted to make his position on the matter clear.

He wrote: “Now that Singapore’s PAP government is actively using POFMA to go after “fake news”, let me say this one last time so that there can be no uncertainty: There is no evidence that the detainees of Operation Coldstore were involved in any communist conspiracy to subvert the government of Singapore.”

In November, the government has already invoked POFMA twice in one week. The first was a correction order issued by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat for a Facebook post written by political activist Brad Bowyer. The second, also a correction order, was issued by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugan for a Facebook post by States Times Review. There was also another direction issued directly to Facebook to correct the post made by States Times Review as the editor of the site, Alex Tan, refused to comply with the first order.

Dr Thum, the government and Operation Coldstore

The conversation about Operation Coldstore came to light again this year when Dr Thum appeared before a select committee in March and was questioned extensively by Law and Home Affairs ministers about his interpretation of documents from the Special Branch, the precursor to the Internal Security Department.

The minister kept asserting that Dr Thum’s interpretation was flawed, arguing that the detainees were in fact planning to mount an armed struggle against the government in the 50s and early 60s.

Later, both Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee and Senior Minister of State for Transport and Communication and Information Janil Puthucheary – who were members of the select committee – said that Dr Thum had agreed that some of his writings were misleading. In an article published by Straits Times (10 April 2018) written by them, they also said Dr Thum admitted he had no read and sometimes not heard of writings by certain ex-leaders and cadres of the Communist Party of Malaya who were considering an armed struggle as a legitimate option.

However, Dr Thum challenged the committee’s conclusion in a submission in May, clarifying that the main point of his original submission was not addressed in the earlier six-hour discussion. He added that the committee focused on an article he cited on Operation Coldstore instead.

Dr Thum clarified that extracts from certain books presented in the hearings did not have primary sources cited and were not independently verifiable.

He added that “the best evidence” on communism in Singapore would be from the Singapore Special Branch documents, none of which were presenting during the hearing.

He also said, “at no point did I accept that any part of my article was inaccurate or misleading.”

What Dr Thum did concede was that a statement in his paper concerning a telegram from British Commissioner to Singapore Lord Selkirk during Operation Coldstore could have been worded better. The historian acknowledged that while Barisan Sosialis members called for continued peaceful constitutional action in order to achieve power in Singapore in late 1962, they did not explicitly rule out an armed struggle.

Later in his follow-up submission in May, Dr Thum said the argument that Barisan Sosialis unanimously agreed to continue following peaceful constitutional action is accurate based on notes and other documents he cited in his paper. A point he had reiterated during the hearing, said Dr Thum.

In his May submission, Dr Thum also highlighted an error in the transcript of the March hearing which showed that Mr Shanmugam kept referring to a telegram from Lord Selkirk dated 14 December 1962. In fact, Dr Thum noted that Mr Shanmugan had corrected himself and referred to a telegram, numbered 573, dated 11 December 1962 instead.

Dr Thum said, “It is important to clarify exactly which document is being referenced, because (the Dec 11, 1962 telegram) in fact shows that Lord Selkirk was more concerned with the political position of the British vis-à-vis merger and the creation of Malaysia, than with the security issue.

“In other words, his Telegram 573 supports my argument that Operation Coldstore was fundamentally motivated by political, not security, reasons.”

Mr Shanmugan had also said during the hearing that though there were no instructions for violent actions from leaders of the Communist Party of Malaya, that didn’t discount that there was no communist conspiracy at a lower of the organisation. For example, Dr Shanmugam pointed to the Hock Lee bus riots, saying that there may have been certain members of the party who instigated the incident without instructions from above.

To this, Dr Thum again referred to the Special Branch documents, noting how it states that the Hock Lee bus riots were caused by “PAP political manipulation”.

He said, “It emphasised that the PAP was using workers for political gain.”

It remains to be seen if the government will use POFMA on Dr Thum for making” flawed” and “misleading” statements about Operation Coldstore.

PVP chief slams Govt decision to change S’pore’s National Anthem in absence of national referendum

The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP)’s decision to introduce a new rendition of Majulah Singapura, Singapore’s National Anthem, is “another sign of the PAP’s total disdain and disregard for the common Singaporean”, charged lawyer and People’s Voice Party chief Lim Tean.

“There was no advance notice, no consultation whatsoever by this government … on a matter that is as important as our National Anthem, which is the embodiment of our national identity as a nation and as a people,” Lim said, as seen in a Facebook video posted on Mon (2 Dec).

“Countries very rarely ever change their flag and national anthem. New Zealand did it quite recently, but that was after a national referendum.

“And yes, you can have a change of national anthem after a major political upheaval, like what happened in South Africa after the end of apartheid,” he added.

Lim stressed, however, that it is not right for the Government to “impose” its own version of “a revered anthem” without consulting the people of Singapore beforehand.

He added that People’s Voice Party will neither change Singapore’s National Anthem nor “impose a Reserved Presidency like what the PAP did without a national referendum”.

The new rendition of Majulah Singapura, which means Onward Singapore, will be a part of celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Republic’s national symbols — namely the National Anthem, the state crest and flag.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu told reporters on the sidelines of the One Community Fiesta carnival at Jurong Lake Gardens on Sun (1 Dec) that the new version by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra will be revealed on Tue (3 Dec) as part of the ceremony to commemorate the aforementioned state symbols.

A spokesperson for the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth told The Straits Times that the new rendition will be based upon the 2001 musical arrangement by composer and Cultural Medallion winner Phoon Yew Tien.

Composed by the late Zubir Said in 1958, Majulah Singapura was adapted slightly in 1959 after Singapore had attained self-governance, before it was introduced as Singapore’s National Anthem on 3 Dec 1959.

Stating that the introduction of Singapore’s national symbols was a significant moment for the Republic as a young nation, Ms Fu said: “I think 60 years on, Singaporeans are wearing the flag proudly. They are singing the Anthem proudly.”

“Right now, our Team Singapore athletes are wearing the flag on their sleeves, proudly representing Singapore, and if they win, they will be on the podium and the National Anthem will be played,” she added, referring to the SEA Games in Manila.

“Listening to the Anthem, whether you’re in Singapore or when you’re overseas, brings along the emotions of being one with one another and with the country,” said Ms Fu.

Local commissions lead starting line-up alongside award-winning Canadian production for SIFA 2020

The Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) continues to break through with exciting debuts and triumphant conclusions in its 43rd year of festival-making. The first wave of productions for Singapore’s pinnacle performing arts event features new works from local theatre companies Nine Years Theatre, The Finger Players, and The Necessary Stage created in collaboration with international artists.

Toy Factory Productions will also reach a new milestone with the grand finale to their SIFA-commissioned trilogy, A Dream Under the Southern Bough.

“I have always sought to make SIFA an artist-led festival, providing a platform for artists to realise their dream projects. As part of the first wave of shows being launched for SIFA 2020, I am proud to announce four Singapore commissions that are all fruits of this vision.These include work by some of the best artistic talent in Singapore – Haresh Sharma and Alvin Tan (The Necessary Stage), Chong Tze Chien (The Finger Players), Goh Boon Teck (Toy Factory Productions), and Nelson and Mia Chia (Nine Years Theatre). With SIFA’s support, these artists have spent two to three years developing and incubating work that is now ready to be shown to the world,” says Gaurav Kripalani, Festival Director.

Festival Director Gaurav Kripalani with Directors of SIFA 2020 Commissions (from Left: Goh Boon Teck from Toy Factory Productions, Nelson Chia from Nine Years Theatre, Gaurav Kripalani, Alvin Tan from The Necessary Stage,Chong Tze Chien from The Finger Players)

From farther afield, Canadian contemporary dance company Kidd Pivot will be making their Singaporean debut with their internationally acclaimed production, Revisor. Combining the visions of Kidd Pivot’s artistic director Crystal Pite and playwright-in-residence Jonathon Young, Kidd Pivot’s remarkable international cast of dancers are poised to deliver an astounding multidisciplinary performance in Revisor‘s Asian premiere.

“This is a wonderful coup for SIFA, and for Singapore. It is a sensational work not be missed,” comments Gaurav Kripalani, Festival Director.

Low Eng Teong, Assistant CEO (Sector Development), National Arts Council, adds: “SIFA, a key fixture in Singapore’s performing arts calendar, is a significant platform for our leading home-grown groups and practitioners to present their latest works. SIFA 2020 promises to be an exciting season featuring a unique line-up of Singaporean commissions that will challenge our artists and bring them to greater heights, as well as renowned international companies. We are confident artists and festival-goers will continue to embrace SIFA as a ground-breaking
and leading performing arts festival.”

Revered Stories Reinvented in Striking Visual Narratives

With innovation etched deeply within SIFA’s ethos, this year’s productions have not pulled any punches when it comes to taking on artistic risks. Inspired by history and myths from cultures abroad, fantastical narratives will be incarnated through an arresting visual language played out on the stage.

Highly dynamic and bursting at the seams with raw physicality, Revisor is anticipated to exhilarate audiences at SIFA 2020. Based off Nikolai Gogol’s farcical play, The Government Inspector, choreographer Crystal Pite translates the themes of corruption and conflict into a kinetic masterpiece of tragicomedy.

The constant flux of this performance – featuring a dizzying number of costumes, set changes, and dance genres – is synthesised into a coherent narrative with a colourful cast of characters. Writer Jonathon Young’s sharp and quirky dialogue is animated through Pite’s highly visual form of storytelling as the dancers’ movements reflect the characters they play, embodying their traits with deliberately exaggerated movements and expressions.

SIFA 2020 presents the Asian premiere of Revisor by Kidd Pivot, choreographed by Crystal Pite (Image courtesy of Michael Slobodian)

Oiwa – The Ghost of Yotsuya by The Finger Players also sees classic and contemporary sensibilities come together in an intricate mise-en-scene that ruptures the connections between actor, agent, and autonomy.

In this retelling of the famous Japanese ghostly legend of Oiwa, actors imitate the movements of puppets in an adaptation of the ningyo buri technique of Kabuki while the traditionally disembodied voice of the “puppeteer” takes on an uncanny physical presence on the stage.

Inspired by director and playwright Chong Tze Chien’s personal encounter with Oiwa’s shrine and fable, The Finger Players traverses between history and myth in an uncompromising visual choreography that promises to be a sight to behold.

SIFA 2020 presents OIWA The Ghost of Yotsuya (Image courtesy of Arts House Limited)

In a multilingual production jointly created together with New York-based SITI Company, Nine Years Theatre takes on Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s seminal play Three Sisters in an adaptation that is driven strongly by the visceral connections formed on the stage.

This work will be presented in an idiosyncratic style of movement informed by the Suzuki Method of Actor Training – a rigorous practice and acting exercise that demands acute awareness and control of even the most subtle, “invisible” movements of the body.

Bridging the gap between the diverse languages and actors, this timeless naturalist narrative of humans confronting an incoherent and unforgiving world is juxtaposed against a performance where the body becomes a common language.

SIFA 2020 presents Three Sisters (Image courtesy of Arts House Limited)

The world’s first modern theatrical adaptation of Tang Xianzu’s famous Kun opera A Dream Under the Southern Bough reaches its momentous conclusion in SIFA 2020.

A production in three parts, Toy Factory Productions’ Chief Artistic Director Goh Boon Teck has crafted immersive and fantastical dreamscapes unique to each instalment, with every aspect of the set and sound production meticulously designed to captivate audiences without straying from the essence of the original tale.

From the refined, minimalist black box production in 2018 to the larger and more elaborate theatre stage of 2019, the upcoming SIFA will see Toy Factory Productions continue this evolution as they build upon past visions towards a culmination of the dream.

In this last act subtitled Existence, the motif of reflection is incorporated as a crucial feature in the set design to mirror reality setting in – that as SIFA bids farewell to A Dream Under the Southern Bough, this final performance also augurs the inevitable awakening.

SIFA 2020 presents A Dream Under the Southern Bough (Image courtesy of Toy Factory)

Unprecedented Local and International Collaborations

SIFA’s efforts to connect artists all over the world has manifested in exciting collaborations between Singaporean artists and their international counterparts.

In what is the most necessarily collaborative production, The Necessary Stage brings the issue of climate change to the stage through an alliance of actors from Singapore and all over the region. The Year of No Return presents the environmental crisis from the perspective of different individuals and discourses, as conversations with researchers and scientists are translated into a dramatic constellation of light, sound, and multimedia elements on the stage.

Known for their incisive social commentary and commitment to the representation of marginalised voices, The Necessary Stage’s The Year of No Return dialogues with an increasingly conscious, critical, and outspoken public, providing an Asian perspective to a global emergency on SIFA’s international stage. Peeling back science and statistics, this intensely relevant new offering underscores the role of the arts as a site for a collaborative reckoning with critical social issues.

The Year of No Return by The Necessary Stage, one of four commissions in SIFA 2020 (Image courtesy of Tuckys Photography)

“Looking ahead, the diversity in our arts landscape will continue to shape our unique identities and shared experiences. SIFA embodies this spirit and has over the years, grown to be a beacon that illuminates Singapore as an international arts and culture destination. The month of May is an opportune time to celebrate Singapore’s position as a leading arts destination where visionaries take to the stage.” adds Sarah Martin, CEO of Arts House Limited.

Patient decries non-transparency in medical fees after being charged 40% more for same service at public hospital

A Facebook user, Michael Daryanani wrote in the Facebook group ‘Soul of Singapore’ some medical charges at government hospitals have increased by 40% in the last six months.

Mr Daryanani wrote: “Have any of you realised that some medical charges at government hospitals have gone up by 40% within the last 6 months without the citizens knowing? Giving 25% subsidy to the Merdeka generation but increasing certain charges by 40% is not being transparent. Hope my MP will bring this up at the next Parliament sitting!!”

When asked if he has any evidence to support his claims, he then shared a photo of two tax invoices from the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital side by side, one dated 11 June 2019 and the other dated 20 November 2019.

The bill dated June showed a charge for consultation of S$74, and specialised investigations of an ultrasound residual urine scan and uroflow studies of S$32 and S$20.20 each. The total before government subsidy comes up to S$126.20. After subsidy, the bill is S$63.10.

However, five months later in November, the bill for exactly the same services came up to S$148.57. The consultation fee stayed the same at S$74 but the charges for the other two procedures increase to S$45.71 and S$28.86. The total after deducting the standard government subsidy is S$74.28, higher than in June.

The November bill also showed an addition 25% subsidy deduction for the Merdeka generation, making the final total S$55.71.

While the total amount payable is lower for those in the Merdeka generation, the cost of services has clearly increased by 42.8% for both the ultrasound and uroflow studies.

When asked if there was any difference in the services received, Mr Daryanani said he cannot remember anything different, explaining that “the invoice states it all”.

Another member of the group asked if he could have been attended by a senior consultant in the latter session, but Mr Daryanani pointed out that the consultation fees remained the same. It is the service fees that increased.

He went on to clarify,  “Have been attended by senior consultant all the time. Wanted to know how much lesser I would be paying with the additional 25% subsidy after Nov 2019. I still paid $7.40 less but it should have been S$15.70 less. Consultation fees no change but tests gone up by 40%. Not sure others had the same experiences of they don’t check the bills. Test fees up by 40% within 6 months and why no information given prior to the patients.”

Mr Daryanani said he wants people to be aware and to keep their bills for comparison. He also said he will approach his Member of Parliament about the issue.

TOC has reached out to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for comments on Monday.

Singaporean theatremaker Zam joins hands with Gilbert Goh to offer financial aid to students with unpaid school fees

On Monday (2 December), local theatre-maker Muhammad Muazzam Amanah or better known as Zam took to his Facebook to pen his support towards activist Gilbert Goh for his effort to urge the Ministry of Education (MOE) to waive off unpaid school fees and return students’ result slips.

This matter came to light in a separate Facebook post on Monday (25 November) where Mr Goh highlighted the plight of a student whose original Primary School Leaving Examination (PLSE) result slip was withheld by MOE, as her parents had incurred S$156 in unpaid school fees.

Eventually, a Good Samaritan paid the school fees for the student so that she can get her original PSLE result slip.

In response to this, MOE told Yahoo! News Singapore the next day (26 November) that the real aim withholding the original results slip due to unpaid fees “stems from the underlying principle that notwithstanding the fact that the cost of education is almost entirely publicly funded, we should still play our part in paying a small fee, and it is not right to ignore that obligation, however small it is”.

“Further, students from lower-income families can apply for financial assistance that covers their miscellaneous fees, uniforms, textbooks, transport and school meals. If it is about money then the easier solution would be to reduce subsidies and financial assistance,” it added.

In Mr Zam’s post, he stated that while growing up, it was important for him to score decently well in his exams so he don’t get “whacked” by his mother. But when he got really good marks in his exam, then the theatremaker said that he could ask something from his mother, who’s a single-parent, as a reward.

“Back then, it could be the latest gadgets or a book I really want. This was also the only time I truly felt my mother, a single-mom, was giving her fullest attention to me. One can only imagine the eagerness and suspense I experienced when getting back my results – good or bad. I was taught to warn my keep,” he wrote.

However, little did he know that in January 2012, he was not allowed to collect his O-levels results due to unpaid school fees which amounted to S$600 plus.

“Naturally (and brattily), I was terribly upset at my mother for allowing the fees to cumulate to such exorbitant amount. I think I just dropped her a text and quickly went to a nearby ATM to withdraw money. Luckily, I had savings from the part-time retail job I did the previous holiday period,” he noted.

He added, “I remember feeling embarrassed, angry, and sad. I was the only one in my cohort who wasn’t allowed to even look at my result slip until the fees were cleared at the general office. Alhamdullillah because all that immediately went away as I saw my results… That moment was overwhelming… I did really well!”

As such, Mr Zam said that he was glad that the person he “greatly admire and respect”, Mr Goh, brought up this issue a week ago. He also noted that he shared his own experience with Mr Goh this morning with regards to this issue.

If that’s not all, the renowned stage actor also said that he is “grateful to have the opportunity to mingle and understand people from extreme ends”, and he calls himself an advocate rather than an activist.

“I am not an activist. What I am is an advocate… An advocate on issues that matters. An advocate on issues that are relevant. An advocate for a better world in which all of us can learn to co-exist together through the understanding of each other’s differences. I am proud of this record and I will continue to speak truth to power. I am informed by my personal journey and the story of others that came before me,” Mr Zam asserted.

However, he noted that he admire activists as “they are persistent in their cause and they take direct action”.

“I can only share in the happiness as I saw the community action that was rallied over the past few days led by Gilbert Goh. They have come together to create a pool of funds to be used to help those who need to settle their overdue or unpaid school fees,” he said.

He continued, “A school-going child or anyone who wants to study should not be penalised for their financial situation. We cannot enable such systemic injustices in the society we are living in. I had first-hand experience as a student struggling to get by my schooling years because based on the archaic per-capita income, I am considered as a “middle-class” individual.”

As such, Mr Zam noted that he has now joined hands with Mr Goh to reach out to anyone who needs help with their school fees.

“Regardless of your income status, if you cannot afford it, need partial help, let us know. You can connect to me directly by responding to this post, or PM-ing me, or contact Gilbert Goh directly, he said.

“I fully acknowledge that this is just a temporary solution to a much larger issue. That is why we must do all that we can… It’s a start!”

Creative Nation to bring together more than 50 young social impact creators to champion a profitable future for businesses that brings positive societal impact

Creative Nation, a new social impact organisation, will officially be launched this coming Saturday (7 Dec) with the support of the National Youth Council of Singapore (NYC). This event will be Singapore’s first-ever youth-driven social impact convention.

The Creative Nation launch, which will be held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Cassia Ballroom, Level 3, from 11am to 7pm, aims to bring together more than 50 young social impact creators to champion a future for businesses that generate profitability and positive societal impact.

This start-up is the brainchild of its founder and managing director Hyder Albar, who has been making waves in the space of youth engagement and development. Apart from developing their own products and services for social impact, Creative Nation’s goal is to develop a ground-up shared network of opportunities, access, and resources for the social impact community.

“The way of the future for businesses is profit driven by purpose. Young people are less willing to accept the social ills created by the blind pursuit of profit. A new generation of social impact creators are being born from a demand for solutions that directly meet societal needs,” says Hyder.

“We need champions who demonstrate Singapore’s potential as a hub for businesses that generate both profit and positive societal impact – the two are not mutually exclusive, and we should not only pay lip service to doing good. As a community, we can only achieve both of these goals if we work together as a unit,” he adds.

Guest-of-Honour Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, will be part of the opening keynote address at Creative Nation’s launch event. The launch will provide a first look at Creative Nation’s services and community-building efforts.

They have thoughtfully curated three segments in this event to give participants different perspectives, including:

  • Facilitating discussions on topics such as diversity, gender equality, identity, and inequity.
  • Designing experiential engagements that help build bridges of understanding across class and racial lines.
  • Showcasing fellow creators who are developing products, services and organizations for social good.

Image from Creative Nation

(1) Dialogues: Tackling Tough Topics

Participants will be able to engage with advocates through discussing various social issues that hit close to home. From discussions on gender equality and female empowerment, to building a sense of shared identity as Singaporeans through food, and dissecting what we as individuals can do to build a sustainable future, the day promises a diverse range of conversations that are guaranteed to leave participants in a state of contemplation.

Speakers include Jesher Loi, third-generation business owner of Ya Kun International, Noor Mastura, Straits Times Singaporean of the Year 2018, and Cheryl Chen, Director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability S&P.

(2) Showcase: Creators of Good

For this showcase, Creative Nation has pulled together some of the most influential youth social impact organizations in Singapore that work in their various sectors on a myriad of social issues.

In the space of fashion design, ‘Will & Well’ aims to boost inclusivity by designing clothes for persons with disabilities. Meanwhile, online platform ‘The Woke Salaryman’ leverages on creativity to produce engaging financial literacy content that resonates with the masses.

These start-ups are amongst other creators of good who are pioneering a new wave of thinking about how we develop products and services that generate both profit and positive societal impact.

(3) Experiences: Beyond Conversations

The ‘Biases In the Dark’ survey is an experiential live survey, which aims to bring racial biases that may exist in Singapore to light. Conducted in a dark room to ensure anonymity, participants will raise or lower light sticks to indicate their responses to questions or statements that are designed to uncover biases at economic, cultural and institutional levels.

Some examples are:

  • My workplace will benefit from being more racially diverse.
  • In my social circles, cultural events like Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, and Christmas, are still relevant in bringing people from other races together.
  • Will you face resistance from your family, should you choose to marry a person from a different race?

Realizing that our personal biases do not exist in a vacuum is a necessary part of grappling with the changing racial dynamics in our society. This experience therefore provides a space for examining one’s lived experiences, perspectives and assumptions, which have been shaped by deeply ingrained societal structures.

Gojek celebrates first year in Singapore with 30 million completed trips, announces partnership with Trans-Cab

Last Friday (29 Nov), Gojek celebrated its first year in Singapore with a new milestone of 30 million completed trips. The number represents a threefold increase in completed trips in just six months as the company hit the 10-million mark back in June.

Since its launch on 29 November 2018, Gojek Singapore has seen exponential growth. Singapore is now Gojek’s second-largest transport market after Indonesia in terms of transaction value, a testament to customer trust and value in Gojek’s offering. It also boasts the highest market penetration rate across Gojek’s markets in Southeast Asia.

Andre Soelistyo, Gojek’s Co-CEO said: “Looking back over the past year, I am amazed at what Gojek has achieved. We have grown from an Indonesian movement into a Southeast Asian one, with Singapore forming an important spoke in our international growth.”

“We have completed 30 million trips here since we launched exactly one year ago – a significant milestone that would not have been possible without the support of our driver-partners, customers, and everyone in the Gojek Singapore team. I believe that next year will be even bigger for us as we focus on enhancing our offering in our second year in Singapore,” he added.

Image from Gojek

Gojek Announces Partnership With Trans-Cab

To commemorate its first year, Gojek is also expanding its transport offering through a new partnership with Trans-Cab Services, Singapore’s second-largest taxi company, as it looks to enhance its offering and service quality in 2020.

Under the arrangement, more than 3,000 Trans-Cab taxi drivers will gain access to bookings made via the Gojek platform, and will be able to fulfill private-hire trips on a flat-fare basis from December 2019.

The partnership will improve ride availability and wait times for Gojek customers, and allow Trans-Cab taxi drivers to enjoy additional earning opportunities in the form of on-demand bookings through the Gojek platform. Trans-Cab taxi drivers will also stand to enjoy the same driver benefits that Gojek driver-partners do.

“This collaboration with Gojek is fantastic. It will enable our drivers to access on-demand bookings via the Gojek app, while they continue to be able to take on street-hail jobs. Our drivers will greatly benefit from this flexibility and increased earning opportunity,” said Teo Kiang Ang, CEO of Trans-Cab.

“As part of the agreement, we are also exploring new joint benefits for Gojek driver-partners and Trans-Cab drivers, including preferential home electricity rates by Union Energy, the holding company of Trans-Cab and an energy provider in Singapore,” he added.

Lien Choong Luen, General Manager of Gojek Singapore, commented: “We are highly excited about our Trans-Cab partnership. Not only will our customers enjoy better ride availability with an enlarged fleet, our driver-partners can look forward to exclusive savings with Union Energy (as part of our deeper Trans-Cab partnership), yet another benefit under GoalBetter, our comprehensive driver benefits programme.”

Trans-Cab Driver Loses Job After Being Filmed In Viral Videos For Road Rage And Criminal Intimidation

Interestingly, on the same day (29 Nov) as Gojek’s 1st birthday in Singapore along with the announcement of its partnership with Trans-Cab Services, two videos featuring a Trans-Cab driver behaving aggressively – violently harassing a motorist in one and berating a couple in another – took the Internet by storm.

In the first one-and-a-half-minute video, the cab driver, dressed in a white checkered shirt and black pants, wearing a beanie and surgical mask along with a sling bag, was seen engaging in an aggressive behaviour towards a motorist – who remained in his car the whole time, filming the incident.

While in the second video that only lasted thirty seconds, the driver was caught hurling vulgarities at a couple who was with their child.

As reported by The Straits Times (ST) on 30 November, Trans-Cab has terminated the contract of the aforementioned driver. The 42-year-old cab driver began his employment for the company earlier in July.

Meanwhile, the police stated that they have established the identity of the taxi driver, and further investigations are ongoing.

They noted that the driver was involved in a case of road rage along Paterson Hill on 22 November, as well as a case of criminal intimidation and voluntarily causing hurt at 14 Scotts Road on 24 November.