Friday, October 21, 2005

Warwick: Freedom of what, from what, for what?

Later, perhaps, Warwick?Singapore has been trying to woo reputable foreign Universities to set up shop on the island. It sees the education sector as a big money spinner, besides tourism and gambling. It also wants to ride atop its deserved reputation as the place to get a good education and earn genuine qualifications.

But alas, Britain's Univ of Warwick has decided not to set up shop here after more than a year's deliberations, the reason being the perceived lack of academic freedoms due to the country's laws. Readers will understand my sentiments regarding this in my earlier blog entries here. The other reason cited is that they are not certain if they can make money out of the venture. This is actually easily resolved by spreading the risk through a joint-venture arrangement. Singapore's A*star agency, I am sure, is prepared to co-share risks. The Univ. of New South Wales, on the other hand, has taken the plunge and will set up its foreign campus in Singapore come 2007. Doesn't it have similar concerns? Yes, but I think their response is more enlightened and certainly more enterpreneurial.

I think that it is more challenging to contribute to the development of education, culture and thought than to shy away from such an opportunity. Waiting for the ideal (political) atmosphere to appear before engaging seems to me to be taking the easy way out. By then, all the excitement and potential for enquiry would have died down? Is the Univ. here to agitate for greater freedoms or is it here to teach and learn? Is the support and recognition of gay practices fundamental to the education process? Being one of the top research universities in Britain, I think it has got its brains screwed on (sorry, no pun intended) in the wrong places.

Oops, there goes my scholarship to that haloed institution - or would they practice what they preach and not penalise a person for having different views?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Last rant of a despot?

Saddam Hussein Al Majid, the last dictator/ruler of Iraq, begins the defence of his conduct and deeds in a duly constituted court of law under the new Iraq. As expected, he remains belligerent, defiant, as only a former strongman would behave. I do not find any of these incredible or remarkable at all. The US has almost always given people their day in court. While most of Saddam's top lieutenants have either been killed or have committed suicide, Saddam Hussein still remains to be dealt with. I do not know which is worse, but I do hope that the court does not buckle under the wily S. Hussein and his defence team, as sometimes happens.

Saddam has nothing to lose and everything to gain if he can extricate himself from this process, so he can proceed to use every available means to do so. Some predict that this trial will be a farce - a process wholly unnecessary. What more proof do you need when you have already driven him from power and in the process, stripped him of everything that he has? His top lieutenants are already dead. Well, such is the contradictions of justice and fair play in the western tradition that this due process must follow through.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Another tragedy another day

Careful readers of this blog would be wondering why I have kept silent the Pakistan-India earthquake tragedy last week where the death toll has risen to over 40,000. In comparison, Katrina's numbers are insignificant, but I wrote a blog on it. Before anyone goes off saying that I am a racist, and worst, an anti-Muslim, let me just clarify that I am neither, as the record of my blog here clearly shows.

Its just that these tragedies are occuring with such frequency that I am now quite tired of it all. As the year comes to a close, I pray that no more tragedies will take place. The world's charities have been working overtime this year organising relief operations to tragedy-strickened regions and countries around the world that, quite clearly, 2005 must be the year of the charities. Therefore, when Time magazine pronounces it annual Person of the Year award, it should, without doubt, go to the Charities of the World.

Ironically, in Singapore, charities in 2005 have not always been in the positive limelight. 2 charities, NKF and SAVH, have had their carpets pulled under them because of questionable corporate governance issues. We could also have done less with disasters caused by humans, such as the Bali bombings of 2005.

Excepting these, it has been a busy year for Singapore charities, which all started with the Indian Ocean tsunami. Though it did not start in 2005, much of the relief work spilled over into this year.

May God stay the occurrence of any more natural disasters, at least until 2006.