Saturday, September 17, 2005

Blogging responsibly

The Singapore government has hauled up 3 of its citizens for 'seditious' blogging. Their blogs encouraged racial and religious hatred, which violated Singapore's laws on sedition. Now, issues of race and religion are sensitives issues in Singapore because it is made up of various races. Religion is also practiced relatively freely. What the government is careful about is that no discord is sown among different races and that religious practices remain a personal matter. Otherwise, there will be strive that will most likely destroy the country. What is alarming is that one of these bloggers is no more than 17 years old.

Now where did their hatred for other people's race and religion come from? I lay it squarely on parental influence, or lack of it. It is arrogant to assume that all other peoples and religions are inferior and evil, while yours is pure and superior. It is this kind of thing that led to the Second World War. The Germans and Japanese chauvinistic thinking led to a generation that wasted the prime of their lives in war. It is said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. God forbid that there should be a Third World War, for human-kind may not survive it.

So, yes, prosecute these people vigourously to stamp out such arrogance. The world does not need another Hitler in the making. If this sounds harsh, its because the alternative is unthinkable.

Friday, September 16, 2005


In a separate report, one of the masterminds of the Australian embassy bombing in Indonesia in 2004 was sentenced to death. Known by his alias, Rois, he was convicted of the charge of 'planning to motivate other individuals to carry out crimes of terrorism'. This is significant news as the Indonesia court has not often returned a conviction with the death sentence. Many, I am sure, will feel vindicated that justice has been served.

However, what disturbs me is Rois felt no remorse whatsoever. Instead, as he was being led away, he defiantly stated that those against him, and I suppose his cause, will 'receive heavier punishment'. What gives him the confidence, no, the audacity to make such pronouncements in the face of death? What are his justifications? I can only surmise that the kind of indoctrination he received must have been very powerful, and very dangerously wrong. Killing innocent people can never be right, however you argue the case.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Stand up and be counted

I was happy to read that Muslim militants in Indonesia has forcibly closed more than a dozen Churches in west Java this year. I am happy not about the militants' destructive and intolerant behaviour which I believe Islam does not teach. Rather, I am happy because 1500 people of the Nadlatul Ulema (NU) gathered in central Jakarta to protest these forcible closures by Muslim hardliners. Among those gathered was the former President of Indonesia, Mr Abdurrahman Wahid.

At last, a major Muslim organisation is willing to stand up and be counted against the violence that people perpetrate in the name of religion. While such violent acts are not a new phenomena in themselve - its has been happening throughout human history. It has been amplified in the last couple of years through the terrorist acts of Muslim extremists.

Let us hope that more moderate and sensible Muslims are willing to make a clear, unambiguous statement that Islam is not about violence, that jihad is not the only word in the Koran.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Club calamity

Slightly more than 10 years ago, I received a brochure in the mail inviting me to become a founding member of the Raffles Town Club (Singapore). The brochure was a good size book which detailed in rich and lustrious colours the planned club facilities and membership benefits. At that time, I already knew quite a bit about clubs, having worked on a software for a large and prestigious golf club a few years earlier. So when this offer was extended, I was tempted.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I did not have the kind of money to pay for it, so I gave up on the idea. Today, this same club is in trouble because it lost a class action suite brought by about 4900 of its members a few weeks ago. The club is now proposing to pay off the $3000 a-piece debt to these members using vouchers rather than cash. The members would have none of this. What's more, the other 15,000 members who didn't sue could be knocking on the management's door too. What a right royal mess. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not one of the 4,900, depending on your point of view.

Today, it is reported that the value of club memberships have depreciated drastically from 10 years ago. Then, one of the much coveted 5Cs that spelled success in life (at least in Singapore) was a Club membership. Today, that one C spells Calamity.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Education in trouble

The private education business in Singapore is suffering one setback after another. The biggest name that go hit was Informatics Holdings - formerly the No. 1 private institution in Singapore where you would want to sign-up for a degree in IT / Computing - that is if you failed to get into the local University or Polytechnic or you are a foreign student. Even a prominent local millionaire investor seemed to have given up on them recently.

Then there was Nanyang Business School (not to confused with NTU's Business School), and just a few days ago, AIT closed its doors, leaving many private students, many of which are from China, stranded.

Singapore is supposed to be a reputable destination to get a good education. But it would appear these these high-profile failures are giving Singapore a bad name. In spite of these, Singapore is still the place to get an education - in its government supported institutions where the programmes and the administration have stringent quality controls in place. But for a person outside Singapore who may not know better, a rotten apple spoils the whole tray.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

911 - In memoriam

Four years ago today, the world witnessed one of the most destructive MAN-MADE disasters in peace time - the vengeful destruction of the World Trade Center in New York, an icon to America's economic and financial success. On that fateful day, thousands of innocent lives were lost and as a consequence, children were made fatherless or motherless or became orphans. Many lives were changed that day, and certainly, many governments have since re-evaluated their strategy to keep the peace in peace-time.

On that fateful day, news programmes were re-playing the scenes of the 747 planes flying into the WTC buildings like guided missiles - only innocent people were on board these 'missiles'. As was my practice then, the TV was switched on to CNN as I prepared to leave for work. These scenes and images displaying the audacity and ultimately, the evilness of the act will long remain in my memory.

Hate and arrogance has never solved anything. If at all, it has brought on the destruction of the very parties that preaches hatred and acted arrogantly. History is replete with examples, such as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan some 60 years ago. Yes, they were initially victorious, lording over their captors. Their swift success seem to validate their beliefs as the defeat of the British Empire - long a dominant power and influence in many parts of Asia - was complete.

Yet, history has shown that victories borne of hatred and arrogance are hollow and can only be transient. Similarly, I believe that the war on terror will certainly be won as right overcomes evil. Communism was defeated, not because of an atomic bomb, but because it was inherently a flawed doctrine. Today, Communist China is turning Mao on its head as the practice of capitalism has become pervasive in China.

It is therefore heartening to learn that New York is rebuilding around the destroyed area, to first commemorate the tragedy and, more so, to celebrate the fact that terrorism cannot break the spirit of peace-loving peoples.