Bukit Batok By Election

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Due to ‘personal indiscretion’, David Ong, Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok Single Member Constituency resigns. By-Election (BE) seems imminent to fill the vacant parliamentary seat. Contending for the seat is Mr Murali Pillai from the ruling PAP and Dr Chee Soon Juan from SDP.

There’s been much speculation how this BE will turn out. Ape just wanna join in and give his primitive primate thoughts starting with his assessment of the two potential candidates.

Mr Pillai will without doubt be given much needed support from the grassroots activist and main stream media. It is claimed that he has been an active grassroots leader and if so, that too can work in his favour. To his benefit in the sense that he has an advantage on the ground sensing. However, as to whether the constituents of Bt Batok will give him his votes due to his grassroots work, that depends how positively visible he has been as a grassroots leader. In terms of how well known he is to Singaporeans and in particular to the constituents of Bt Batok, ape thinks he lost out to Dr Chee.

Dr Chee is definitely a more famous or infamous candidate, depending on which side you’re taking. He has been portrayed as a fool hardy, psychotic, rude politician back in the days where main stream media was the only media. With the introduction of online social media, he was able to reach out to a wider community since GE2011 and made steady progress to improve his image or should ape say, seek redress to correct what was misleading? However, Dr Chee and SDP or any other opposition parties, will always be facing an uphill battle against the incumbent PAP that has been the ruling party for more than half a decade.

As to how the votes will turn out, ape’s guess is as good as anyone. Looking back at statistics, GE2015, BBSMC candidates were relatively unknown but the incumbent PAP won with more than 70% votes? Ape hesitates to use that as a measure to predict the result of the coming BE. After all, nationwide, PAP scored very well in GE2015, much to the surprise of netizens and the incumbent and everyone else. However, in this coming BE, By-election effect and Dr Chee’s relatively well knowned standing may work in his favour. Going further back when Bt Batok was an SMC and SDP contested in GE1988 and GE1991, SDP was able to garner more than 40% of the votes. Assuming the profiles of Bt Batok constituents didn’t change much since, ape’s guess is that Dr Chee stands a good chance to enter parliament.

What if Mr Pillai gets voted in? Things will more of less be the same in Bt Batok and parliament. The exciting part will be when Dr Chee gets voted in. Singaporeans will most likely be treated to more debates and residents of Bt Batok will get to experience how their town will be run by a different entity, for better or worse.
Before all these excitement gets into the heads of anyone and everyone and especially Dr Chee and SDP, do brace for the possibility that SDP will face a slew of technical challenges especially in the running of Town Council. Getting into parliament is only a step. Holding that MP seat will take a lot of efforts on any opposition MPs. Ape thinks it will do any opposition party a favour if they could work with grassroots leaders for the better of the community instead of viewing them as redundant or worse, PAP’s lackeys. The same applies to civil servants. Do not forget, PA’s grassroots leaders and civil servants are duty bound to support the government who has been voted in by the majority of Singaporeans, regardless of their personal inclination and vote cast. When a politician make enemies of grassroots leaders and civil servants, he is loosing their votes.

Let’s see how the BE will turn out.

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Retirement Age?

The government is considering varying retirement age according to industry’s needs. The official feedback portal REACH has opened a discussion forum on this topic as can be accessed via the following link https://www.reach.gov.sg/participate/discussion-forum/2016/03/02/vary-retirement-age-beyond-h-ntuc

Ape wonders what is the purpose of setting a retirement age in the first place. Do excuse this ignorant hairy primate but ape’s impression of a retirement age was for the purpose of determining the age a worker would draw his pension. Thus, a ‘retirement age’ would allow both employers and employees to plan their finances accordingly. Since pension is no longer relevant to most Singaporeans, what purpose does a retirement age serve?
Employment is a two way relationship in that one offers his time and expertise while the other offers remuneration. When both match, wah lah! When we set a retirement age, what it means? Employer cannot sack a non performing employee because he haven’t reach retirement? Or an employee who is still able to do his job and perform the tasks assigned must ‘retire’ when he reach a defined age? What logic is that? Why even bother about varying retirement age according to industry demands? Can’t we simply remove ‘retirement age’ and let both employers and employees decide when’s a good time to retire?

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Singapore Island Country Club offers ‘poverty simulation’ programme for members – Channel NewsAsia

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/mobile/singapore/singapore-island-country/2489266.html

Singapore Island Country Club or SICC abbreviated will be conducting a poverty simulation exercise. Club members are invited to sign up as volunteers where they’ll be given a chance to role play different scenarios faced by real people with real hardships.

Ape is very skeptical how such an exercise can make someone appreciate and understand the hardships faced by those living at the poverty line. Are the wealthy club members so detached from reality that they require a simulation exercise?
To put in perspectives, members are adults and presumably gone through fairly extensive life experiences. It is quite possibly that some of the club members came from humble beginnings and worked their way to where they are now. To this group, they’ve been there, done that. Poverty simulation will be nothing more then textbook revision for them. There can also be members who are born with a silver spoon in their mouths. One might argue that perhaps such poverty simulations will do some good. Ape begs to differ. A simulation on poverty and hardships has one significant difference with what is real – the light at the end of the tunnel. No matter what is being thrown at the participant, they can be assured that at the end of the exercise, they’ll be back to their restaurants, golf and whatever lifestyle they have. To a person with real hardships and suffering from poverty, often the light at the end of the tunnel is not visible. It’s easy to tighten your belts, grit your teeth and endure when there is certainty. How many people in poverty have such certainty?
Ape agrees with Mr Joseph Ng. It might be more worthwhile that club members volunteer to help out in homes of needy people.

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When Systems Fail

Ape happened to stumble across this blog.

The author recounted the incident on Bt Panjang LRT when the train door was opened while moving. For the benefit of readers who may not be aware of the background and cjain of event, LRT is a driverless, short distance train. On that fateful day, due to certain issues, it failed to operate. Procedures call for a driver to take over and drive it manually. Although the driver ensured the doors were closed prior to moving off, he failed to check that it is locked. As a result, the door opened and the fail safe mechanism automatically applied brakes forcing the train to a stop. Following that, the driver checked a second time and ensured that the door was closed and locked before moving off. Fortunately, no one got injured as a result of this chain of events.
What caught ape’s attention is that disciplinary action was taken against the driver. Key word here is ‘disciplinary’. Ape is in the line of safety and whenever the words ‘disciplinary actions taken on operator’ pops up, like the failsafe brakes, ape automatically raises his eyebrows.

Back in the dark ages of safety management, or rather the lack of, whenever an incident or accident occurs, blame was almost always apportioned to the operator. It could be the driver, ship/plane captain, engineer etc. Since it’s the human operator to be blamed, well, disciplinary actions were taken on the operator. However, to err is human, as the cliché goes. To prevent the mistakes of an operator causing harm to productivity or human lives, machines were built and designed to have as much automation as possible, thus removing the human element and human errors. No human, no error. Perfect world, right? Things are not so simple. Machines can fail and sometimes with disastrous result. Complex ‘machines’ designed, built and managed by experts do fail as in the case of Space Shuttle Challenger, Chenobyl Nuclear Power plant or in more recent years, Fukushima nuclear power plant. Failure of Fukushima plant was attributed to natural disaster but humans were involved to recover and contain the further failure as much as possible. Furthermore, complex systems are designed and built by humans. An error introduced at the design and building stages can be dormant until that fateful day. The point ape want to make is that we can never remove the human element and with it, potential human errors. The question is whenever human error is involved, is it just or fair to impose disciplinary action on the ‘erring’ human? To err is human. If we accept that every one who has erred and ought to be punished, including possibility of job termination and criminal charges, rightfully, when such people is removed, there should not be any more of these problems, right? Accidents still continue to occur and often, involves human who ‘erred’. Take a moment to pause and think. In spite of disciplinary actions and even threats of criminal charges in some profession, who do people continue to ‘take short cuts’ or ‘take the easy way out’ or ‘forget’?
Remember, to err is human. Those in the line of psychology or human factors will tell you that the very nature of humans that make succeed and rise above animals, traits such as adaptability, are also the very reason how human can err. Yes. Humans adapt if you’ve not realised yet. Humans adapt under stress. Humans adapt when needed tools are not available. Humans adapt when they race against time. Humans adapt when there are conflicting priorities such as ‘get the train moving’ vs ‘check and double check’. Humans adapt when procedures were not clear. Humans adapt… you get the point yet?
Well, fortunately in current safety management, operator error is not the end stage of investigations but the beginning. We are never satisfied with the simple answer of operator action / inaction. We delve deeper. What could have caused the operator not checking the doors are closed and locked. Are the procedures clear? Was the driver receiving instructions that caused him to overlook? Was he trained properly? Were there other alarms or signs that could’ve warned him that the doors are not locked? Could the system be built that the train could not move in the first place until doors are closed and locked . Simply put, what caused the operator to commit the error. To be fair to SMRT who manages the LRT, at least they are looking into redesigning the system to address human errors. However, what if procedures were not clear or the driver wasn’t trained properly. Does he deserve to be ‘disciplined’? The question of culpability has to be addressed. How then should management decide when disciplinary actions be taken?
Ape will just end this post here with this last question for readers to think about.
Also, here’s an interesting chart for readers to refer. The chart is developed by a psychologist dealing with human errors and promoting just culture. It is meant to help people like ape to determine when should disciplinary actions be taken when an operator commits an error or violation (of prescribed SOPs)
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Parliament Debates

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Of late, much has been spoken on mainstream media, online or print, social media, local blogs and websites etc about the AGO’s report on AHPETC. Clarifications, feedbacks, comments, accusations and what not were all over the place. Ape shall not repeat what has been said, especially who’s right, who’s wrong, was the audit politically motivated, did AHPETC conduct their business with due diligence and all the blah blah blah…

Instead, ape wonders, how often do our parliament file a motion to debate on the conduct of a ministry, statutory board or any organs of state. When was the last time a ministry requested AGO to conduct a special audit, out of the usual scheduled, periodic ones, on any other TC, statutory board etc.

Ape remains unconvinced that the AGO findings is so critical that a motion has to be filed to support the AGO report in parliament. Is that a norm? If that is so serious, what about AGO report on other ministries and statutory boards whose function affect not just residents of Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East constituencies but the whole of Singapore. When was the last time AGO report is debated in parliament? Or is Minister Khaw setting a precedence, perhaps to warn all public service officers that corporate governance will be the highlight henceforth and any unsatisfactory findings will be flagged, highlighted in parliament and debated?

Another related issue got ape confused, that is with holding the 7 or 6 million SCC grant to AHPETC. Does the Minister has unfettered powers to withhold such grants? Or such authority has to be guided by certain principles and processes?

Ape is not an ardent follower of parliament or Singapore statutes but if any of you do know, please share.

Last but not least, ape wishes everyone a Happy Chinese New Year… And for those of you who do not celebrate CNY, enjoy the super long weekend!

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Thaipusam – Celebrations Or Noise?

P/s Ape spoke to a Hindu friend. Apparently, ape’s suggestion won’t work. According to friend, devotees normally put on their kavadi outside the temple. During this moment, the devotee may have engaged performers to play music. After which, as the kavadi bearer begins his procession in the streets, the performers will continue playing their music. Thus, if each kavadi bearer has his own performers, then the suggestion of having two groups performing at any one time would not work. However, ape still remain unanswered as to the basis for musical instruments not allowed.

Thaipusam is a festival celebrated by Hindus. Being a multi-racial, multi-religious country, Singapore is not short of Hindus celebrating this event. Unfortunately, the otherwise celebrative and vibrant Thaipusam is marred by one rule – no musical instruments or sound systems.

Ape was perplexed like many others when the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) restrictions on Thaipusam surfaced to general public a few years back. In particular was the rule forbidding the use of musical instruments and sound systems. What’s a celebration without music. How is kavadi attam (dance) performed without naiyandi melam (music ensemble)? Ape, although not an Indian nor Hindu, likes the music played by them. There’s something in the rhythm that makes ape feel like clapping its hands and hopping with joy. Also, it seemed such rule is discriminating Hindus. While it can be seen that Chinese has their gu or Malays has their kompangs, why Hindus can’t have their urumee? To the allegations of discrimination, Law Minister, Mr Shanmugam explained in his Facebook post.

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Ape sincerely appreciates the Law Minister’s explanation. His explanation seemed fair and dispelled the element of discrimination, as far as ape is concerned. However, ape is still unconvinced of the need to forbid the playing of music during the procession.

What exactly is the basis that musical instruments are not allowed? It appears to ape that the reason seemed to be that because Hindus are ‘privileged’ to hold foot procession over a long distance, therefore something else must be restricted. Surely this is not the case and shouldn’t be as simple as that.

If it’s an issue of noise, well, many have wrote that the procession occurs during the day. It’s once a year event. The route is not in residential area. Ape will also add that the sound from urumee and other drums is more pleasing and joyous than screeching MRT tracks, roar of F1 Race or some community events blasting their sound system at maximum volume.

Ape hopes the good minister can discuss this matter in depth with HEB. Ape really don’t understand the basis for forbidding musical instruments.

Here’s a proposal though. Ease the restriction on musical instruments. Perhaps allow only two groups of performers. One at the head of procession and another at the end. Or multiple groups but on rotation basis. That is, at any one time, only two groups get to perform. No amplifier system. Perhaps restrict the number of performers. (Ape imagines one group made up of a hundred urumee players :p ) Will this achieve a win win situation?

Side note: Ape happened to be in the vicinity in this year’s Thaipusam. Without the music, ape thought the road blocks were for some road repair works.

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Blood Bank In Singapore

For more details, please visit the following link
http://www.hsa.gov.sg/content/hsa/en/Blood_Services.html

Ape was away for quite sometime. The last 3 months had been so exciting. What started out as a simple photo of a school, ended up with ape reconnecting with friends of his primary school. Schoolmates of his cohort, the P6s of 3 classes. That’s considering we were in primary 6 almost 3 decades ago!
What happened over all these years is anyone’s guess but ape noted one’s primary school academic performance has no relevance to what we eventually are now. Perhaps ape will write about this bunch of fun loving, down to earth people, including a doctor whom ape affectionately call Dr Mai Coon (meaning “don’t sleep” in Hokkien)

Anyway, this post is really about Blood Bank in Singapore. Ape was told that every time someone posted a call on FB or other social media requesting for certain blood type because a friend, relative, family member, acquaintance etc is in need of blood transfusion, staff in Blood Bank scrambled to do stock take. Why? Some ‘concerned’ people will ask the staff if they’re short of blood. It can happen anytime of the day including post mid night. We, as members of public, who didn’t know better and tried our part to share and forward such posts to help in the appeal are actually disrupting Blood Bank more than we know.

Here’s some insider info to help us understand better how Blood Bank operates. So the next time, do think twice before we forward or share posts appealing for blood donation.

Stock Keeping And Distribution
Blood Bank keeps stock of all blood types. No blood type is allowed to deplete below a certain level. When it does come close to the ‘low level’, the official channel is Singapore Red Cross. SRC will call up the specific blood group donors to come forth or specific public channels such as SRC Facebook. Only when such targeted or specific channels failed to get enough donors, a nation wide appeal thru official media like radio or TV will be done. Fortunately, ape don’t recall Blood Bank had to resort to nation wide appeal other than the occasional blood donation campaign and promotion.

Since Singapore is relatively small in size, Blood Bank keep most of the stocks and a certain level is maintained in each hospital for emergency cases. Therefore, when a particular hospital falls short, the hospital will obtain from Blood Bank to top up their stock. This can happen when there’s major accidents with many casualties warded to a particular hospital. The stock in that hospital can deplete fast. This is also where confusion arises and individual appeal for blood donation cause a small panic.

Sometimes, hospital staff who don’t know the process would tell the patient that they are short of blood. What they actually meant was that particular hospital was short of that particular blood type. The staff either didn’t know or perhaps with intent of encouraging blood donation, told family members to donate. So when family members post appeal in FB, Blood Bank staff saw it, they’ll be like huh?!? They’ll scramble to stock take, check the case, identify source etc all in interest of ensuring that there’s no lapse. However, such scrambling take away their time from their work.

So We Don’t Appeal, Don’t Donate?
We can still appeal but in the least, tag a date in the message body. What happened was the post may get circulated, forwarded, shared and re-forwarded, re-shared for years. The patient might have recovered or (sadly) died but the post still circulating and that is creating a lot of confusion.

Also, do donate as and when you can. Don’t wait for last minute or urgent cases. Ape’s friend said they do have regular donors but age group getting older. Most of these regulars started several years back and continue to do so. However, new and young donors are getting less. When the current cohort gets old and no longer suitable for donation, the regular donors pool will dwindle.

Also, don’t wait for last minute for reasons of ‘saving blood for own family’. As far as blood donation is concerned, your blood may not go direct to your family members. Imagine someone you know and love needs blood transfusion urgently. You step forward to donate. Your blood will still need to be tested for suitability and processed. By then, the patient who needs blood might have died if waiting for this process to go through. What we saw in movies where the donor and recipient lay side by side for transfusion is really bull faeces. Maybe that scenario can happen when situation is so dire where everyone can’t be bothered with checking blood for virus etc.

The process of checking and testing is also quite complex and not merely checking blood type. Ape’s doctor friend described the process with jargons and ape simply… Lost in lallang. In a nutshell, if your love ones needed blood now, your last minute donation is unlikely to reach your love ones but you can do your part now before anyone you know needs blood.

Surely, Immediate Family Members Should Not Have Problems? Why The Tests?
This question was raised when we talked about this. The good doctor explained ethics and confidentiality in layman terms for us. Imagine a daughter needs blood transfusion urgently. Healthy parents who are not on any medication shouldn’t be any problem right? What if the father visited prostitute recently? If he says no, the family will be suspicious right? Worse if he lied and he had in fact contracted HIV? To save the family from further anguish, all must go through tests, not only for blood types, but check for HIV, STDs, Hep A B C and do re mi… OK OK, no do re mi. The point is all donated blood must be tested and processed. So if any anomalies found, the donor will be contacted privately. Family members won’t know whose blood is used since hospital is likely to use existing stock which is not from any of the family members.

If you’re keen to do your part, do read up the official link above and start donating now. Have a great weekend ahead

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