Saturday, December 31, 2005

End of a season

As the year draws to a close, reminiscing is a natural and useful exercise. It calls to mind the significant events of the year and how they may have affected yourself. Perhaps you have grown a little more, not only physically, but more so, mentally and spiritually.

For me, as for many in the South and Southeast Asia region, the Tsunami brought home the uncertainties that life often springs on us. One moment you are having fun in the sun - something that you may have done for the umpteenth time. But unexpectedly, just on that one occasion when nobody expected it, that trip turns into a nightmare. What impressed me throughout this event was the manner in which the world opened its wallet and heart to the victims of this tragedy. I understand that the amount of money pledged and collected is unprecedented. Which is why givers of charity must be the 'Person of the Year 2005'.

The US also demonstrated that it can not only launch a military invasion, but its very same military hardware built for war can be used for mercy missions, such as bringing much needed food and necessities to the people in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, who lived through the storm of the seaquake and tsunami. Significantly, the Acehnese 'rebels' fighting for autonomy for so long, laid down their weapons to re-build a more permanent home devastated by the tsunami. There is nothing like a disaster to bring home the truth that we are all humans and depend on each other. Fighting each other is futile.

Other disasters also happened - Katrina lashed the shores of New Orleans, making many homeless and destroying an erstwhile thriving tourist sector. The Pakistan earthquake, where many complained the world did not open its wallet enough, compared to the Asia tsunami. Some were man-made. Terrorists continue to hold the world hostage. Bombs are still going off, in Iraq, in Bali, in Thailand, in Pakistan... Hopefully, this will stop as the religion of hate cannot last.

Closer to home, Singaporeans woke up to the fact that the NKF - a charity hitherto supported widely in Singapore for Kidney patients, had mis-used and abused the implicit trust of its donors and supporters in high places. As the year draws to a close, it looks likely that its senior management will be hauled to court for various mis-demeanors. In a 'squeaky clean' Singapore, this has brought into focus the issue of corruption - something that Singaporeans are used to reading about in other lands, but never expect to happen in its own back yard. And then there was SAVH (Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped), which also suffered from questionable corporate governance practices...

Last, but certainly not least, I started blogging this year. Not that its anything new to me. I have kept journals (or diaries as its call then) since I was in Secondary school, at the instigation of my brother, who ironically, isn't a habitual reader/writer. Those diaries, with the juvenile handwriting, are still with me. I had read of blogging several years ago, but I am not a early adopter. I jump in when somebody has beaten out a clear path and when I think it makes any sense to do so. I am learning something new everyday.

So goodbye, adie, auf wiedersehen, au revoir, ciao, Sa-was-dee, zai-jian, Baai baai, Selamat sejahtera, Sizobonana, Ambera, Lòi chào xin cào biêt, Paalom na po, Valete, Annyong-hi kashipshio, Choum reap lia, Sayonara, Sugeng tindak, Daa daa, Caó mun'g chè, Nau'to twibaounme, Aloha, Shalom...

In the New Year, I hope to learn more...

Monday, December 26, 2005

The love of money

One of the most unpleasant and ugly news reported over the last one week on this tiny island nation of Singapore is the continuing investigations and final report over the shananigans of the old National Kidney Foundation (old NKF). I was away on holiday when the report first broke on Monday, 19th December 2005 and was reported in detail in the local press the next day. Of course, I didn't read any of these reports as the Malaysia press wasn't all that interested. So the first instance I came back, I read through Today's online edition ( and later got hold of the Tuesday's print edition of the Straits Times to follow up on the 'gory' details. Somehow, these stories make for great reading, although the ugly details are sad and unpleasant.

Among the many facts exposed, the most shocking must be that only 10% of all donations ever received went directly to the patients. The other 90% went to various parties such as A&P, operations and salaries that would make anyone blush. Some of that was my money. Indeed, the old NKF and the top people who ran it had lost their moral compass, as the Health Minister said. They had simply become greedy and self-indulgent, which reminds me of the words of Paul the Apostle when he wrote in 1 Timothy 6:10 -

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

How very true then. How true now. And it will remain true as this sad story of the old NKF will be repeated because greed will never be eradicated.