Saturday, December 03, 2005

For whom the bells toll

Convicted drug smuggler, Nguyen Tuong Van, was hanged in Changi Prison yesterday. He suffered the ultimate penalty for smuggling drugs through Singapore - a country that has little, if any, tolerance for this kind of criminal activity. On the other hand, it was reported that vigils were held in cities around Australia, with bells and gongs sounding 25 times at the hour of his execution.

In the past couple of months, his fellow Australians have lobbied long and loud for clemency. This is remarkable, given that Nguyen Tuong Van was a Vietnamese who became a Australian citizen. Some parts of Australian society have been known for their racist attitudes, from the political sphere downwards. Yet in this episode, nearly half of the country spoke out for him - and it isn't as if he has done Australia great service of any sort. Australians can certainly hold their heads high. This incident has demonstrated that Australia is a society full of compassion and backs it up with action - to the discomfort and soul-searching of its Singapore counterparts. But compassion alone is not enough to administer a country well and to protect its people effectively.

It is naive to expect different countries and societies to always agree with one's point of view, or that it will change its laws overnight. While the Australians see the death penalty as barbaric, Singapore sees it as a regrettable but necessary action that is for the greater good. Calling Singapore names is the last thing that thinking, rational and humane societies should do. Exaggeration of the sort that Julian McMahon, one of his Australian lawyers, made (that Nguyen was "completely rehabilitated, completely reformed, completely focused on doing what is good...") does not give any credibility to him, nor the Australian, position at all. After all, how green can a green plant be?

It is done. No matter what our views on the matter, and how strong they may be, let drug runners beware - there is no escape in Singapore if you intend to carry illicit drugs, which only purpose is to kill and destroy families, through its soil.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Gift from above

There has been as lot of discussion in the local press about the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) that Singapore schools have been running for the last 20 years. The problem, it seems, is that GEPers have formed cliques and socialise among like minded ones to the exclusion of the rest. This has given rise to a backlash of sorts from the 'ordinary' folks who think that GEPers may have an attitude problem.

Well, some time ago, my son took a test to determine if he was 'gifted'. This test is available to all primary school students. As it turned out, my son wasn't qualified to be included in this haloed company, so that was that. Reading the comments from the papers these days about this gifted species, I am glad that he was not found to be gifted. Imagine my having to go back to school at my age, making sure that the additional school work is done, counselling them and encouraging them...gosh, I would have lost my life to make his gifts more striking. So no thanks.

Which leads me to thinking whether one needs to be gifted to be successful in life. And the answer, obviously is 'No'. Of course some of the philosophically inclined would want to engage me in a discussion on the definition of the term and what constitutes success. Well, I'm not really interested. Suffice to say that if my son grows up to be a responsible, honest and hardworking person, that's success enough. All that I ever possess comes from above. As the Bible says, to those that are given more, more will be expected, to those given less, less is expected.

Let each and everyone live a life that improves the community and glorifies his Maker.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Broad or brief?

It has been reported that many newspapers have been changing from Broadsheet formats to Tabloid formats, for example, the Asian Wall Street Journal. In Singapore, the main English language paper (the one with the highest circulation) is sticking to its broadsheet format although some have questioned whether it should not change that format. Its closest competitor, Today, published by Mediacorp, has been a tabloid from day 1, and it is making money despite it being distributed free of charge.

I must admit that after more than a year on Today's diet, I am getting rather weary with Broadsheets. I find myself getting very impatient with news reported in the Straits Times nowadays because the stories are just *too long*. It used to be that I would devour the paper from cover to cover and read the stories from beginning to end. (hmmm...don't these 2 expressions mean the same thing?) I think I am getting spoilt on tabloids.

The other reason is that my daily diet of newspapers now consists solely of Today during weekdays. I don't read the Straits Times anymore on weekdays, though I still buy the paper on weekends (if only because Today is not published on Sundays). Actually, the reason I stopped reading the Straits Times is not because of free alternatives such as Today, though that plays a part. What really made me give up the Straits Times, which I have been reading for 30 years, is the last price increase of 20 cents a copy, from 60 cents (a whopping 33%). I could not reconcile this with good and free alternatives. Now I am used to not reading the Straits Times, although I must admit that it still has good content. But I just don't have time to read more than one paper.