Friday, 27 February 2009

Exclusive Interview With Mas Selamat Bin Kastari

One year on and we catch up with the (in)famous 'Limping Terrorist', Mas Selamat Bin Kastari. In a secret interview held at an undisclosed location, the star of such hits as Toilet Break shared his thoughts on THE escape, his plans and his upcoming projects...
G (Interviewer): So it's been a whole year and the authorities in Singapore are still searching the boots of budget cars and the storage compartments of motorcycles, hoping to find you. What do you think?

MSK (Mas Selamat): Eh, betul ke [Note: is that correct]? Bike box also they search ah? I am not THAT good lah - how to hide inside such a small space.

If I do, I just call my brudders activate 3 Bangla [Note: Bangladesh Nationals who are illegal immigrants], hide in 3 different cars of sama-sama [Note: same] brand and then tip off ICA. When they get the first Bangla, they will search high and low for the specific brand and let other types go without checking much.

So I will hide in another type of car driven by one pakcik and makcik [Note: Uncle and Aunty] with groceries - simple. Maybe if I boring-boring, wear disguise also can jalan [Note: go] through lah!

G: Interesting tactic. So was that how you left Singapore?

MSK: Oi! Nice try.... Who say I already left? Singapore government ah? Not so safe if narrow down further right. That minister [Note: Wong Kan Seng] already tembah [Note: shoot] he narrow down to 2 possibilities, you still want me to reveal further? Cannot lah, must jagah [Note: protect] a bit. But can confirm that the minister was spot on with his predictions sial!

G: Ok, ok, just trying our luck there to help the Singapore authorities, sorry. Well, since they have narrowed it down to 2 possibilities - one of which is where you actually are - within a short span of just one year, how safe do you feel about your status?

MSK: Correct also lah. They quite fast bring down to just 2 possibilities - a bit scary. I think one more year, become one possibility already - confirm. Then must lebeh jagah diri [Note: extra protect] myself to not get caught. Hopefully they narrow down to the wrong one, then a bit safe. Otherwise Selamat must Jalan [Note: run] again, hahahaha.

G: You seem quite upbeat and confident that even if they narrow down to the one correct possibility of the 2, you can still evade arrest. Why is this so?

MSK: Ya lah, no problem. They already kalang-kabut [Note: confused] the other time, use all their manpower, dogs, army - still cannot find me. I think my tactics can tahan [Note: withstand] lah. I use toilet paper and extra clothing already can bypass everyone.

G: So what are your plans moving forward?

MSK: Good question man. My Toilet Break episode is still an icon and macam I am the most 'published' man in Singapore sial - heard my posters are still pasted at many locations. More like 'In Memory' lah - they want everyone to remember about my success ah? Sure as hell doesn't look like it is meant to alert anyone....

One thing I learn from Singapore is to market knowledge and experience to other countries so I am now conducting workshops on 101 Ways To Escape With A Limp. Quite popular and a lot of people join in - criminal biasah [Note: normal], terrorists and even civil servant also. Maybe the civil servant want to jagah their rice bowl so want to learn where are the lubangs [Note: loopholes].

My rates are reasonable for everyone but of course got a special discount if member of Terrorist Organisation lah - cannot forget my brudders and the past.

G: I see. Sounds like the whole episode has been a blessing in disguise for your 'career'.

MSK: Yah, definitely! Now, no need to worry about money matters already - set for life. Really, it is so good that I decided not to hantam [Note: hit] Singapore already lah. Don't think they will learn anything anyway - old people kena 'export', poor people asked to go [censored]-spider, you think they really care if people die? Like that, seriously no point attacking lah.

Who knows, if business picks up, maybe I anonymously pledge some money for my own capture lah, hahahaha. That one will be kelakar [Note: funny] seh! Maybe I do for second year anniversary, so can keep my semangat [Note: spirit] going - good for business also.

G: Interesting ideas you have. But nevertheless, you are still on many a Wanted List around the region and maybe even Interpol will be looking for you. In any case, you can never go mainstream with your business development. Any thoughts on that?

MSK: True also. Too bad I cannot anyhow say 'sorry' like that minister... what's his name.... Wan Kosong? [Note: Wong Kan Seng] ... and continue with my own thing macam [Note: like] no problem. But I really like the PM style - diam-diam [Note: quiet] for dunno how long then come out and tembah [Note: shoot] one 'what to do'. Class lah, that one.

As for my business, no problem lah. I am in niche market and with celebrity status, I just need to wait for people to come. Aiyah, even that minister [Note: Wong Kan Seng] don't have photo on his wiki page ok!

Also, Osama is impressed with my strategies so maybe got one lubang [Note: opportunity] from his side as consultant coming up. Like that, can go Saudi or Afghanistan macam [Note: like] Foreign Talent seh. Not bad for a 'Mat' fella right?

By the way, ask Jack Neo if he want to do movie on my escape lah - he can call it Toilet Sure Break or something. But must pay royalty one...

G: Hahaha, yet another enterprising idea. Too bad you can't join politics in Singapore. With your popularity, poster-reach and iconic reputation, you can be a great Minister of Home Affairs! What better person to take charge than the man who exposed all the frailties of the arrogant system?

MSK: Thanks for the compliment man! You like macam angkat [Note: curry favour] me because I agree to this interview sial... Anyway, politics maybe not for me. If got problem and I go into the toilet, dunno if anyone will trust me to return.

G: That's a good point Mas Selamat. Well, we're coming to the end of this chat and would like to pose you a final question. What do you think will happen if you do get arrested and brought back to Singapore?

MSK: Sure habis [Note: finish] one. They will lock me up and throw away the key sial. Not to mention throw one big, fat wayang to trumpet their success to the world - even if I were to be overseas and be caught by some other country's authorities and sent back.

I expect they will put their best-of-the-best officers to 'look after' me and have dedicated officers to watch me round-the-clock. But one thing's for sure - they have to give me a Toilet Break...

G: Ahhh, I see. A man who can escape from a toilet, will always have an opportunity! Happy Anniversary, you 'Limping Terrorist'.

MSK: Thanks lah, nice to be remembered. Let my fans in Singapore know every time I go toilet and hear the tap running always remember that wonderful day lah. Brings a tear to my eye and a twitch to my limp...
Mas Selamat remains a fugitive and anyone who does not doubt the authenticity of this interview really needs to check themselves into IMH - good news, they now have a bigger budget!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Does ST Selectively Overlook Some News?

My web browser's 'Home Page' is Google News and everytime I open my browser, I get to glance at a few headlines. Well, today the title HIV rates soar among gay men in Asia caught my eye and I wondered what bad things the world had to say about it - and how Singapore could benefit from this bad press to lambast the gay community.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was actually a report that highlighted the predicament of gay men in seeking treatment for HIV/AIDS and how it is a vicious cycle of the mainstream condemning the particular community which consequently keeps its members from coming forward - which in turn results in the speread of the virus going unchecked among them.

Indeed, it was a good report with regard to a HIV/AIDS seminar that was held in Hong Kong a few days ago and espoused the need for public education and proper support for the gay community instead of forcing it into hiding.
The seminar heard how Australia managed to keep its HIV epidemic contained within its gay and bisexual male communities through public education and knocking down discriminatory laws.
And just as I was wondering how the press in Singapore could sugar-coat this to fit into the appropriate suggestive article condemning the 'problem' of being gay, I read this gem as well.
Some countries in Asia, such as Singapore, Malaysia and those in South Asia still have in place anti-sodomy laws, which are formidable barriers to people getting treatment and help, and they frustrate efforts at disease prevention, experts said.
"If (sodomy) is criminalised, it is a problem for doctors. What does the doctor do when someone comes in with an anal problem? He can get into trouble with the law because he is treating someone breaking the law."
I laughed to myself and now look forward to how our Mainstream Media will spin this. Quite obviously, out of over 100 reports on Google News with regard to this piece of news, not one is by a Singapore-based news agency. Even Bernama of Malaysia has a report out on this - albeit diluted to exclude reference to the limiting laws on sodomy.

I searched the ST and CNA websites directly and wasn't able to locate any report on this as well. I wonder if they will conveniently 'overlook' this news but anticipate a report that quotes just the figures (there HAS been a rise in HIV/AIDS cases among the men of the gay community) and then goes on to bash the community, and expect Andy Ho to be the best man for this job.

Now let's see what happens...

I discovered that representatives from Singapore were in fact present at the conference, which makes it all the more puzzling/amazing that our dear Mainstream Media did not cover it (source: World Health Organization and Hong Kong's Department of Health).

ST Going Out Of It's Way To Bullshit The Masses?

I just love the way the system squeezes tighter when faced with adversity. With almost every inhabitant on this island convinced that there will be an election in the near future, our dear ST continues to waste its space (Note: arguable what waste is, of course - some saying the whole paper) with elaborate and obvious reports to suggest (tell) otherwise.

Even as CNA was spotted updating its Elections Website with 'Elections 2009', ST pushed through with a painfully (IMHO) crafted report (if you could call it that) on Friday, 20th Feb 2009, to let us know...well, actually nothing.

It starts with a definitive statement...
VETERAN MPs from the ruling party said yesterday that the absence of a key indicator - the deployment of new faces to constituencies - suggests that a general election is not imminent.
...and then goes on to include a disclaimer and contradict itself in the second paragraph:
Although the People's Action Party (PAP) said previously that it has identified and selected a number of potential candidates, the MPs contacted have not seen any, or many, sent out to get grassroots experience and a feel of the ground.
So, the candidates have been selected already, yes? And if they have been selected, they would already have been sent on the ground right - meaning to say that they've got the grassroots experience?

Also, how can there be 'not any' and 'not many' in the same sentence? That's like saying, for example, "I don't have ANY (=none) sweets or MANY (=some) sweets" - which does not make any sense. You either have some OR none, NEVER both.

Next, a sound bite from the now (in)famous you-are-lesser-mortals Charles Chong is thrown in...
'Usually at each election, the Prime Minister retires a third of each cohort. So you would expect to see a lot of new faces at grassroots activities,' said four-term MP Charles Chong.
...and of course the fact that, under the circumstances, staff renewal would hardly be a factor is not pointed out. This stating-the-obvious sound bite is then followed by another seemingly-casual yet cryptic one by a seasoned politician/lawyer Inderjit Singh:
Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Inderjit Singh agreed about the importance of giving potential candidates time on the ground so they can be assessed.
'I wish if they were ready, they would send in the new faces, because I've not seen any so far,' he said, with a laugh.
He himself was sent to work with grassroots groups in 1994 prior to being introduced at the 1997 election.
'It is rare for people to be parachuted in to stand without being put through the paces at the grassroots level,' he said.
So, with his own example, we can clearly infer that potential candidates would be put on the ground years in advance. And naturally, with him being a seasoned pro, any potential candidate would not be a 'new face' as far as he is concerned, now would it.

Basically, this sound bite tells us the general observations that candidates must have enough time on the ground and that it is rare for anyone to be pushed in without undergoing this process and taking into account these points, this sound bite has, in fact, zero informational value in the context of whether an election is around the corner.

Next, the report points out that no one at PAP has been instructed to get ready (according to the handful of MPs queried).
Another factor is the readiness of party branches, and the establishment or re-activation of election committees, led by MPs and staffed by PAP branch activists. These ensure that organisational, logistical and other needs are at the ready should an election be called. Joo Chiat MP Chan Soo Sen, Nee Soon Central MP Ong Ah Heng and Mr Singh all said their committees had yet to be re-established.
Well, it could be a typo error or error-of-flow by the reporter but this paragraph quite plainly does not actually tell us if the PAP election committees were re-activated, just that they have not been (read: do not need to be?) re-established. Of course, no mention was made of the grape-vine fact that various civil servants have been asked to go for ballot-counting briefing/training in recent months.

Contrastingly, the next few paragraphs talk about how ALL the opposition parties contacted (except the Workers' Party, who did not respond) are gearing up for an election, with one opposition politician suggesting specifically that it could be "as early as June".

And the creme-de-le-creme of this ST report was the last few paragraphs where someone higher up the food chain was approached for a sound bite - Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean:
"In any case, for the PAP, we're always working on the ground. Whether there'a an election or no election, we're always there and serving the people."
Asked if he thought there would be an election, Mr Teo, who is PAP's second assistant secretary general, said: "That's purely speculative. I don't think I want to contribute to the speculation."
Well, if one intends to squash speculation, he would say a definitive 'No' or 'Yes'. The minister here has obviously declined to 'contribute to the speculation' - which is effectively a 'maybe' answer. I would think my ruling government would want to tell me if there is or isn't an election instead of refusing to inform.

Well, if anything at all, this report serves to inform that an election is just as likely to happen as it is unlikely to within the near future - which is where we were at before this report appeared, isn't it?

For a more reasonable/sensible/honest analysis and discourse on whether an election in Singapore is probable in the next few weeks, we will have to turn to our neighbours to read The Malysian Insider - how disappointing to have to go foreign to read local.

Using Sarcasm To Teach English - Survey Findings

As promised, I present the findings of the survey here. Thank you to one and all who contributed to the preparation of this report.
This paper explores the feasibility of incorporating sarcasm into teaching through a limited research into teacher-perceptions. Firstly, by using the findings of research in neuroscience and language studies in relation to sarcasm, inferences are drawn to support the use of sarcasm-based lessons. Consequently, utilising the quantitative opinion of 46 education practitioners of English Language out of 62 respondents who participated in an anonymous online survey, this paper arrives at the conclusion that there is indeed strong support and good potential for such an approach. This paper recommends further research into this issue and advocates the use of sarcasm-based lessons (an example of which is annexed) in teaching.
And here is the excerpt of the analysis and discussion portions of the report.
Response Analysis
63% of the respondents rated themselves ‘3’ or above on a scale of 5 when asked how sarcastic they considered themselves to be and when queried on the frequency with which they encountered sarcasm in the classroom, only 39.1% gave a rating of ‘3’ and above. However, a higher percentage (55.6%) of the 18 Secondary School teachers gave this rating, which suggests that this may be the level where student sarcasm is the most outward in a classroom setting. Similarly, more from this group (72.2%) rated themselves as relatively sarcastic in nature with the Junior College cohort registering the strongest at 83.3%.
Among all the respondents, 5 offered qualitative responses for the open-ended question and these were largely related to the classroom management rather than language acquisition – which was to be expected. However, one respondent did explain that he or she had previously used advertisements employing sarcasm in a classroom lesson.
Unsurprisingly, 91.3% of the respondents reported that they had never conducted a lesson incorporating sarcasm with only 4 individuals indicating that they had. Overall, 69.6% were open to using a sarcasm-based lesson plan themselves whilst 78.3% felt that it could be effective (rating of ‘3’ and above). The response from the Secondary School teachers was the most encouraging, with 94.4% rating the potential success of a sarcasm-based lesson as ‘3’ and above and 83.3% of them registering their support to incorporate such a lesson plan into their own teaching.
Interestingly, there was a 16.6% inverse correlation between age and self-assessment of sarcasm, a 24.2% inverse correlation between age and perception of student sarcasm, and a 14% inverse correlation between age and estimation of success of a sarcasm lesson. This translates into the indication that the older the teacher is, the lower they rate their own level of sarcasm, the less sarcasm they experience (or choose to experience) from their students, and, naturally, a higher level of scepticism towards the use of a sarcasm-based lesson.
The survey response was encouraging and the majority of the respondents felt that they would consider using a sarcasm-based lesson plan. Although the majority had not employed using such a lesson plan, they were nonetheless confident that such a lesson could achieve its objective. From the breakdown of the responses, it can further be noted that, at the very least, the Secondary level may be the most receptive to such an approach.
The data suggests that Junior College teachers, although rating themselves more sarcastic than their peers at other levels, feel that a sarcasm-based approach may not be suitable (or necessary) for their students and were generally less supportive. This unexpected finding could be due to the fact that Junior College students are typically less brash and more timid than their counterparts in Secondary School.
This paper however, concedes that due to the low number of respondents from the ITE, Polytechnic and tertiary institutions involved in the survey, no concrete inferences can be drawn for these teaching levels.
As this study was specifically aimed at a general investigation across all levels, the preliminary findings suggest that a closer look at the teacher responses of each level may be warranted. A larger study comprising increased sample sizes of each teaching level would certainly shed more light on the receptiveness of using a sarcasm-based lesson and establish if the Secondary School level is indeed the most suitable for this purpose as the survey results seem to suggest.
Nevertheless, this report is satisfied that its objectives have been met – namely, an awareness of such an approach was made known to at least hundreds of practitioners, the applicability of sarcasm as a language acquisition tool was demonstrated using existing research literature, and finally, a sample of the willingness of teachers to adopt such an approach was obtained.
It is hoped that the research that was undertaken in this paper can be further developed to make inroads into this area of limited research and be thence consolidated with other parallel research in the fields of neuroscience and psychology such that an instructive direction can be given to education practitioners on the use of sarcasm-based teaching (an example is attached as Annexe C).
The full report is also available for those interested which contains a sample lesson plan on using sarcasm to teach Context. Also, should anyone be interested to cite this report, the (APA) citation should be as below.
Gangasudhan, 2009. Using Sarcasm As A Tool For Language Acquisition. Research Report (Specialist Diploma), Singapore Polytechnic.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Isn't It about Time We Took Our Business Elsewhere?

I've noticed something recently. Many people have forwarded me various email messages talking about the unhappiness with the way things are being run on Singapore Inc. And what's more interesting is that these people are not from the same pool of 'disgruntled' friends but are, in fact, unique individuals who have nothing else in common other than knowing me. Even casual acquaintances who are not even on the mailing list of my blog entries have passed on these criticisms to me.

It seems that people all over are discontented with the disconnected government whose lack of actual concern for its people has never been more obvious than in these trying times. Today, the only legitimate leverage it had - an over-performing economy - has metaphorically gone up in smoke and it has nothing else but 'trust' and acronyms to offer. Is it any surprise that a government that ran this country like a well-oiled corporation is now helter-skelter when the gears are falling off the machinery?
I was always told that the Singapore economy was 'super strong' and was the envy of the world.
Good, good.
And I needed to pay for it with my civil liberties?
Err.. ok...
But now? There is no more of the 'undeniable financial security' that our government bragged about. There is no more of the "Look here, we've done well, take this dividend *insert whatever subsidies here* and STFU about our takings (salaries), ok!".

Well, the beautiful Singapore Inc is now falling apart faster than you can say 'Ponzi' and the saddest part is that we don't really have a country to fall back on. Where other countries let the businesses do the business and the government takes care of the people, our government has been (mostly) running the businesses and left the caring of the people to 'market forces' such as filial piety, passionate volunteers and philanthropists.

I am scared, no doubt. But it's not the financial crisis that worries me but the fact that without the stellar performance of our economy, we have almost nothing else. Everything has been about money - not about welfare, patriotism, sentiment or (spiritual) ownership - and when you take that sole element away, then there's nothing much left, is there.

That takes us to my point. When you go to an establishment and get incompetent or unsatisfactory service, what do you do? Don't you take your business elsewhere? Even if that alternative may seem slightly inferior or untested? Well, I was fine with an exorbitantly-remunerated government because they delivered but that is no longer the case. I'm afraid that the 'social contract' has been broken - the government has not held up its end of powerful economic performance year-in-year-out.
What's that?

How about the decades of flawless performance, I hear you say?
Well, I've been taught (by this very government's philosophy) that past-performances and sentiment don't count for anything here. I've been taught that you only get to call the shots if you have money-related performance to brag about. So, right now, it's hard to take the 'management board' of Singapore Inc seriously. Without that "we've done well" halo hanging over their heads, I am not able to accept my government's display of (sudden) moral authority.

I (still) hope and desperately want Singapore to be a country - where there is humanity and inevitable flaws, instead of just Singapore Inc - a heartless but perfect machine. Maybe there is no better time than the present for that change to happen with all of us living with incompetency anyway?

As each day passes, I find myself thinking more and more about how Ms Sylvia Lim could lead Singapore as a country with Mr Siew Kum Hong running MOH, Mr James Gomez guiding MTI, Mr Low Thia Khiang heading MOM or Mr Chiam See Tong taking care of Foreign Affairs - perhaps then Singapore will become a country of citizens instead of an island of workers?