My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

OTGV #7 - Duxton

Broadcast Date: 06/05/02

Public housing has taken another quantum leap.

Singapore's tallest public housing estate in Duxton Plain will boast of design features to shake our perceptions of what public housing should be like.

The World's Tallest and MOST Expensive Public Housing???
Pictures from URA and from

Hi, welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang as I take a peep into the vision of the future.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan explains why Duxton Plain, the site of the first HDB flats are again chosen for a trail-blazing project.

"We have chosen Duxton Plain again for another important experiment. In the last 30 years, the planning focus for the city was on building it into a business and financial centre. In the new economy, it is people that drive the economy. The future of our city has to go beyond meeting the functional needs of the business community."

The Singapore of the future must boast of a vibrant city nerve-centre so that it can attract enough personnel to be a metropolis.

Mr Mah again.

"A bustling city needs a large live-in population base. Today, there are 30,000 households living in the city. We intend to raise this number to 120,000 in the long term. This will help to build up a critical mass to sustain the activities of the city round the clock. We also want to introduce more variety of housing, including public housing, which would be affordable to a large number of Singaporeans."

However, height and faceless facades won't be the denominator for the public housing of the future.

Chairperson of Jury Panel, Chief Planner of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Mrs Koh-Lim Wen Gin on the smorgasbord of design available from the recently concluded design competition to select the Duxton Plains flats.

"Some of the schemes have proposed that the sky rise garden could be vertically climbing from the ground all the way from each and every floor right to the 50th storey. And many schemes have also proposed a lot of sky gardens linking blocks as well. There's another group of proposal that has advocated that instead of having seven or nine blocks on site, why not have two super blocks to house the 1800 units and within these super blocks they have proposed sub-communities spaces up in the air."

And the winning number?

Co-Founder of the winning A-R-C Studio, Khoo Peng Beng.

"We took advantage of the siting which is next to Duxton Plain in the City itself and from there we work out a park. And this park, it actually starts from the ground but it doesn't stop there. It also goes on to the 26th storey and the roof. within this park, we didn't want it to be purely open or with many pockets of closed enclosed spaces. We wanted the spaces to be programmable so we allowed spaces for jazz concerts or night bazaars, but we also allow small little corners for chitchats, a gathering or a group study with friends or just sitting down for a quiet contemplation."

Mr Khoo on his favourite design feature.

"The favourite portion of this project? Then it will have to be the hills on the roof, 'cause we have designed the hills to rise above the security fencing but set away so that its safe. And if you are sitting on this hill, I can just imagine looking at the views surrounding you. You know you'll feel like you are on top of the mountain in a city and you know to me, that's really exciting."

Artist Impression of Roof-top Park, URA, ARC Studio

But what about the costs of individual flats?

Reality of today already presented Singaporeans with the infamous Toa Payoh 5-room flats that went for nearly half a million dollars in the open balloting system.

The Duxton Plains flats are far more breathtaking with roof-top gardens and jogging tracks.

Will it cost even more?

I put this question to the Deputy Secretary of the National Development Ministry, Mrs Cheong-Chua Koon Hean

"The flat sizes are still about the same as the HDB so this is still public housing, so let's study the details first. That's why I don't think we can go into the costing now. I just reiterate the point to the press that this is public housing, at the end of the day, the idea is to try and price it reasonably within the constraints of the costs but you must remember this is in the city, so this is on more prime land."

Like Minister Mah, Mrs Cheong says HDB has not lost sight of the focus that public housing must be affordable although she can't go into the eventual costs as yet.

What is affordable or reasonable?

This is the question that Singaporeans must eventually ask themselves carefully.

Although 80 percent of them lived in public housing, Singaporeans are now running the risk of not being able to retire comfortably due to their housing purchase.

But on to brighter side of things.

President of the Singapore Institute of Architects and a judge of the Duxton Plain design competition, Edward Wong.

"I think it is very exciting scenario for the whole architectural profession in Singapore. With this, I think it is a milestone so far as housing is concerned. There's not many countries in the world where you have the opportunity of such a challenge. And this is actually the fore-runner of an urban solution of high density living which many cities need as a solution. There are many cities now in Asia that are becoming mega-cities in the sense that they have populations in excess of ten million in one city. And to solve transportation problems and living conditions within such congestion, this is one solution. This is one possible solution."
URA, ARC Studio

It is exciting time for both the changing face of public housing and the deeper issues of affordability that must eventually come with it.

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Ministry of National Development
Urban Redevelopment Authority
Singapore Institute of Architects
Pictures of Duxton Plain flats from:

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OTGV #6 - Politics

Broadcast Date: 05/08/02

This year's Singapore International Foundation or S-I-F's Singapore Student Symposium dwells on the hurdles impeding the Republic's future path.

In the panel on social challenges, a professor and a writer posed questions for the students to think about the hurdles Singaporeans must face.

Hi Welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang.

Singapore's strength is a dominant One Party government that has been able to push all policies through with ruthless speed and efficiency.

Writer and self-proclaimed political commentator Catherine Lim mused on the historical origins of the Singaporean polity and how it has changed.

"And maybe this was the natural result of the historical, geo-political circumstances of Singapore. It was a tiny little nation with no natural resources, here was a government led by Mr Lee Kuan Yew who was very anxious to make everything succeed. So it was a top-down kind of government those past years. Consultations would be totally irrelevant and the views of the people would not have meant anything."

The efficiency of the dominant One Party government has resulted in the GDP reaching developed nation level in a breathtakingly short three decade period.

But there are certain tradeoffs.

National University of Singapore's political scientist, Hussin Mutalib said the Westminster model of government has seen some structural changes.

"There is some degree of civility and respect for the need of an opposition. The opposition is seen as an asset and not a liability to the system to the system. This is not in Singapore. In fact, in Singapore, the opposition is seen as a problem. It's not easy for people to engage in opposition politics. And of course given the nature of the dominant One Party system, you find the members of Parliament are playing roles which are, to put it gently, quite minimal. You can have lots of drama in the parliament but then the results are, as good as predictable. We are not attaching a value to this; we are just describing the system."

Another side-effects is the rise of a politically apathetic electorate said Associate Professor Hussin.

"The impact of such a system and political culture to the citizens, you find what has been described in the political literature as parochial political culture amongst many Singaporeans. It's a situation where the citizens cared very little about what's happened in the country. They may be talking a little bit here and there, in the coffee shops, in homes and some close friends but they do not engage the political elites in matters of substance."

But the government is aware that a politically apathetic population doesn't bode well for the future of the Singaporean civil society.

So it's trying very hard to erase the apathy in the electorate.

Dr Catherine Lim noted that from newspaper fora to public symposia, she had witnessed much greater freedom.

But she said the Singaporean public had not fully appreciated the overtures by the government.

"But what are the people saying? We are still frighten what's the use of saying anything at all, the government never listens. It's fait accompli -- what's the use of getting our views when you have already made your decisions? Now I read about that so often and I can almost sense the exasperation in the government's voice that says 'Hey we are serious, you know. We want to get feedback and why aren't you opening up?"

Dr Lim ventured a guess as to why the public has been rather cynical instead of embracing the new consultative style of governance.

"Each time the government throws forward a controversial issue for which it invites feedback; I can almost predict the stages. Stage One is here is the issue; it could be C-O-E or whatever. And then of course all the mechanism for feedback is activated and you have fora and so on. Then it reaches a certain height of animosity and then a minister or if the issue is big enough, the Prime Minister himself comes in and says, 'Enough! Let's get back to work. Please be aware of the larger purpose, the long term outcome. We are a pragmatic society; we don't want to waste time.' I think this has just happened in connection with the bus fare controversy. [loud applause]"

In the new economy, the government has already spoken of slaughtering any sacred cows within its policies to ensure Singapore survives economically.

But there's not much change politically.

Dr Hussin told the student there's an important question that all Singaporeans need to ask in light of this imbalance between economic and political development.

"Given its pragmatic ideology, what works is more important than some ideological or philosophical inclinations. You find that in the realm of politics, the change the change has been perhaps very gradual if compared with economic change. There's tremendous changes in economic platforms with tremendous liberalisation, restructuring and lots of new changes are coming. But then very little is attempted in terms of the nature of political reform. This is something to think about. The question is can you have a situation on a prolong basis, is it tenable that you encourage economic reform by not attaching political reforms?"

Is an apathetic and weak civil society tenable or sustainable indeed?

This is perhaps what both speakers wanted the students of the SIF student symposium to think about.

After all, they are the physical embodiments of Singapore's future.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Singapore International Foundation
Catherine Lim
Hussin Mutalib

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OTGV #5 - ASEAN Ties

Broadcast Date : 17/06/02

Last week, another batch of youth leaders were enrolled and graduated from a leadership enhancement course.

Content-wise, it isn't eyebrow raising.

However, the course has the potential to grow much more beyond what it purports to train.

Hi this is Chong Ching Liang and welcome to On the Grapevine.

This week we go to a graduation ceremony....

"Welcome to the graduation ceremony of the inaugural ASEAN plus Three Leadership Executive Programme."

Ostensibly, it is simply to train leadership and to acquaint youth leaders with the appropriate infocomm technology to help their work.

Minister of State for Defence, Cedric Foo on what the course aims to do.

"Our focus for the inaugural LEP this year is the making full use of the information and communications technology or ICT, using it to achieve the twin goals of youth outreach and organisation development. In this age of rapid globalisation helped along by ICT, we must recognise that youths are early adopters of technology. We must do something about this - to stay relevant and connected with our youths. You are the leaders of our youth sector. As World-Ready Youths, you have the vision to dream, and the courage to act on your dreams. My challenge to you is this: Embrace ICT creatively to meet the needs and optimise the use of your resources. We should not just stop here when we walk out these doors. "

However, strip away the veneers of knowledge transfer; it has an even more meaningful agenda.

Senior Officer from ASEAN Secretariat's Bureau of Economic and Functional Cooperation, Yong Chanthalangsy explains.

"Riding the infocomm technology wave for youth organisation development is just timely and is in line with the Yangon Declaration adopted by the Third ASEAN ministerial meeting held on November 2000 in Yangon. The ASEAN ministers declared that the future course of actions be charted in strengthening internal capacity to inculcate a sense of ASEAN awareness and identity among the ASEAN youths and equipped them with necessary skills and capability to meet the challenges of globalisation. Partnership and links between the ASEAN youths and the youths in East Asia. "

Common ASEAN identity and a civil society that stretches across countries and political boundaries.

Mr Cedric Foo again.

"My wish now is for you to ponder over some of these learning points and decide for yourselves what might be applied or adapted in your respective countries. More importantly, for you to keep these friendship and ties going and continue to help one another along as you grow with the youth you are helping to develop. Now with the friendship and cohesion forged among you, you could start working together on joint projects and help each other along. I am sure that you will agree with me that the LEP has been a meaningful platform for exchange and friendships."


An Asia-ASEAN region cross-knitted with formal and informal links between civic organisations.

Wouldn't that be breathtaking?

But it isn't far fetched.

The germination may have already begun.

"My name is Akiko Kodara, I'm currently working for Japan Association for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. As the organisation I am involved in is a membership organisation so the strategies to maintenance of membership and also the IT technology and I will like to share my experience and the knowledge with my colleagues back home. Has it build ties? Oh Yes! Definitely and I would like for this relationship and friendship to continue."

"Hi I am Subhas and I am from NTUC, and we have this very good exchange programme over this ten over days. And when we were having this team building session, more or less I have made some collaboration with delegates from other countries, like I am looking into my interests of union so I have made arrangement with Cambodia, Thailand and Philippines to work on the union side of it."

"Hi my name is Lee Chi Hyang and I work for youth unit in Korea national commission for UNESCO. Also I support Korean university student activity. This course was really useful for me to enlarge my network in ASEAN countries because Korea is quite far from Asia and even though we have many developments in ICT we didn't have any network or sharing with any ASEAN countries. It helped me a lot and I made many friends in this course. Now I exchange my programmes with some of my friends here. We promised to exchange our students next year and also we are going to make a homepage or sending e-mails to each other. "

"I am Araceli Aves and I'm from the Philippines. I'm the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of the National Youth Commission. We came here to network and learn more about the Information Communication Technology. In the Philippines, there are 12 million Filipinos who use handphones and we do a lot of SMSing which we called Texting so it’s like the way to fly for us. It influenced a lot of things like political, social as well as economic trends and preferences. We are interacting with the other countries and we are trying to put up a network, a good foundation for us to work together, more exchange programmes, more training for our young people when we go back to our countries."

Politicians continue with their fiery rhetoric but if these ties continue to grow,

Geo-political crises may not be that common.

Now, is this line of thought utopianistic?

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

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OTGV #4 - Commuters' Thoughts

Broadcast Date - 15/07/02

Two years of consecutive fare hikes for bus rides have left the Singaporean community disgruntled.

The unhappiness was exacerbated by the terrible economic climate that has seen a 100 thousand Singaporeans made jobless.

So when the murmurings got too loud and escaped the confines of kopi-tiams or neighbourhood coffee shops,

a group of Members of Parliament decided to table a motion to debate the recent fare hikes in Parliament.

When the dust of the parliamentary debate settled, the Singaporean commuters expressed mixed feelings about the whole process.

Hi, welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang.

First the good news...

the debate yielded greater transparency on the Public Transport Council's decision- making process,

and the Transport Minister's even said he isn't against greater competition in the provision of feeder services.

The hardship of the public was also acknowledged by the government.

But the bad news was the fares weren't reduced.

I tried to find out what young educated Singaporeans thought of the parliamentary debate, a day after proceedings ended...

It was kind of disappointing.

Out of thirty approached only four gave their views.

Was it fear that kept them away from the reporters' mike?

But I guaranteed their anonymity by not asking names and details.

Too cynical to give their response?


Or perhaps they hadn't even followed the debate.

However, the four commuters who did comment were consistent in their responses.

The first point was that they still distrust the Public Transport Council or PTC, despite assurances from law-makers that PTC members have protected consumers.

"Those who constitute Public Transport Council none of them take buses. The way they go about handling it as though it is another top-down decision."

The perception that the PTC wasn't caring enough stemmed from a seemingly top-down approach in the announcement of fare hikes.

"The channel of communication must be there, must be clear and not just say that there's a price hike and they just imposed on it. That's the feeling I get - not much of a communication."

Another was even more scathing in his attack.

"Yes, of course, this is a perennial problem in Singapore's political system, planning system. everything is kept in a black box. Even public comments and feedback always go into a black box and it disappears and whatever information that is let out, is only let out at the last minute. Only after pressure would they release this kind of figures. This got to change, the manner of public policies in Singapore has to change because there must be wider debate, there must be information to the public and there must be a reasonable manner of doing thing. Or a lot of people will vote with their feet out of Singapore."

A third just shrugged his shoulders and moved on, after sharing his rather fatalistic view about it all.

"Er, the debate is just a process to let people aware but I think more or less the answer is other. I mean they have seen the debate so many times so the decision is not to change. My feeling, you know, it is expected."

Not all comments were complaints.

Commuters said they understood the rationale of the need for fare hikes.

"They are changes that must be made, I mean the transport infrastructure is going through... uh ... all over the world, rail track, British Rail all going bankrupt. I know there are valid reasons why it should be done."

Ultimately, the last commuter summed it up best when he explained why it's hard to accept rational hard facts.

"Currently I myself am trying to look for a job. I mean to look for a job you need some petty cash and petty cash is always decreasing and decreasing and one of the fact this is due to increase in transportation isn't it?"

So how does he feel after the parliamentary debate's conclusion?

"Pretty disappointed. I believe they should have been more compassionate in their thinking. I mean in any company right? They want to have shareholders interests right, but this is a public, public service companies so they should have to public's interests more than the shareholder's interest. They should weigh it accordingly you see."

Last year when the first of the price hikes came, I spoke to an economics professor from the National University of Singapore.

I asked him about the paradox of how public transport can be both a privatised monopolistic entity, --

and a socially conscionable provider of transport service to the poorest segment of the society.

His reply was that no public transport market in the world can be fully competitive because the sector itself is imperfect.

The requirement to provide unprofitable routes such as the rural or less populated areas by public transport regulators ensures its imperfection.

Hence the very cogent argument by the PTC that bus fares need to increase gradually, to help public transport operators stay afloat, and have enough of a profit to renew their bus fleet.

But such logic is hard to accept for some.

For the unemployed commuter who spoke to me about how bus fares were eating into his savings, having an open and more transparent PTC is great.

But, he says the fact remains that in these times of need, it seems the needs of the bus operators were taken care of, over the needs of the many unemployed who aren't eligible for any form of aid.

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:

Public Transport Council
Ministry of Transport

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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

OTGV #3 - Rotary Peace Scholars

Broadcasted on: 12/08/02

The President of Rotary International came a-calling to Singapore last week.

He's former Thai Deputy Prime Minister Dr Bichai Rattakul, and he brought along news of a new Rotary initiative, the Rotary world Peace scholars.

Hi welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang as I find out more about Dr Bichai Rattakul's vision.

Dr Bichai Rattakul's term of presidency at the Rotary International is two years.

During his tenure, he wishes to accomplish a monumental task -- to create a world with less conflict.

"It's a dream actually, what could be done to try and resolve conflicts around the world. Rotary can do something to promote world peace and understanding indirectly. Therefore the thing that we think we could do is to try to have a centre to study peace and development. When they go back to their home, they will be able to use what they have learnt in order to resolve conflicts. Let's put it that way."

It's a sweet dream.

But tellingly, the inaugural batch of 70 World Peace scholars doesn't include a single Israeli or Palestinian.

It would seem that the Middle East region is in much need of conflict mediators right now.

But if a country does not have any rotary chapters, its people cannot apply to be a Rotary peace scholar.

I asked Dr Bichai if this represents a setback to his vision.

"This should be studied very carefully. But the problem is this: we would love to have candidates from different countries regardless of whether they have rotary or not. But the criteria have been set by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, stipulated very clearly that a club has to sponsor. This is very unfortunate indeed. But I think we would be able to do more than that. For instance China, some programmes which we called work-studies exchange. Now in this case, Rotary does not exist in China at all."

The World Peace Scholarship is laudable.

It'll see 70 scholars each year with a possible increase to 90 next year.

But if the bulk of the scholars continue to be from North America and not from the troubled regions of the Middle East or the Indian sub-continent, then the scheme may have minimal impact on world peace.

However, the Rotarian network itself is interesting and worth a scrutiny.

Founded in 1905 in Chicago, it swiftly grew from a parochial gathering of businessmen into an international network dedicated to serving local and world communities.

Surely within such a structure lies hope for conflict resolution?

Most rotarians are at the top of the business or professional apex.

Rotarians are bound to different countries through not just the Rotary network but also business and professional ties.

Dr Bichai says rotarians are already doing more.

"Rotary clubs around the world has so many projects which concerns what you have said just now. This conflict resolution or Peace Scholars is not a new concept. Before that we have so many programmes promoting peace and goodwill amongst nations like in Afghanistan. Rotary international has set up a committee to work in Pakistan to help the refugees. Afghanistan we do not have Rotary but we do have rotary in Pakistan."

Dr Bichai says it is impossible for Rotary clubs to stay out of politics if it is drawn into the conflict mediation between nations.

He says it's best to go through indirect channels such as the Rotary world Peace scholarship which can be awarded to civil servants and budding policy makers.

That way there'll be a promise of future harmony.

Dr Bichai highlights the difficulty if rotarians get involved in direct conflict management that may result in speaking against their own governments.

"One must remember that rotary is not involved in politics. I was a politician before. For Forty years. I think that's enough. [laughter] Supposed Michael Parry, he's the rotary governor, and there's a conflict between country A and country B, and he comes out, Mr governor Michael Parry, say bluh bluh bluh. Its very difficult, its very difficult therefore one has to be very careful indeed."

Rotary club members and their relations cannot apply for the World Peace scholarship.

But this doesn't mean that they won't learn about conflict management and solutions.

Rotarians will have the opportunity to better understand regional conflict management from Malaysia's former Foreign Minister Ahmad Rithauddin at the Rotary presidential conference on Peace and Development in Malaysia next month.

"The reason why I invited Tengku Rithauddin to speak is because he is one of those few people who have been negotiating with Thailand on the conflict in the Gulf of Thailand. After 20 years of negotiation, we reached a conflict resolution by saying that 'why do we have to quarrel?' The gas and the petroleum are there. Why don't we jointly set up a committee and dig something out of it. And both countries agreed with that. After twenty years of negotiations, of quarrel. I happened to served as co-chairman of this committee with him. So he's going to speak on this conflict resolution as a case study. It would be very good for the rotarians to know."

It will be a utopian world if there is no conflict.

The world that has been irrevocably changed after September 11 and all baby steps to the utopian ideal are very much welcomed.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Rotary International

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OTGV #2 - Lifelong Learning

Broadcasted on 08/07/02

Life long learning.

It's the regular political and academic mantra chanted these last few years.

Most of the rhetoric has been directed at the learners.

Singaporeans have been cajoled not to rest on their laurels, but to continue to upgrade themselves and never give up on their pursuit of knowledge.

But thus far all fingers have been pointed directly at Singaporeans and their lacking the culture of lifelong learning.

Thus it is refreshing to have the finger-pointing redirected to institutes of higher learning or IHLs instead of individuals for once.

Hi, welcome to On The Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang as I take a look at the challenge faced by IHLs in the era of lifelong learning.

What is lifelong learning?

Director of the National Institute of Education, Professor Leo Tan offers a definition.

"All learning activity undertaken throughout life with the aim of improving knowledge, skills and competence within personal, civic, social and/or employment related perspectives. And therefore lifelong learning is about acquiring and updating all kinds of abilities, interests, knowledge and qualifications from pre-school years to employment. It won't go to the grave but beyond."

Dr Tan noted that the important point is that lifelong learning isn't solely confined to the enhancement of one's career as usually construed in this country.

Lifelong learning can be also for the spiritual and cultural betterment of oneself.

The era of lifelong learning has benefited largely from an ever-shrinking world.

The internet has brought libraries and universities into the homes of millions of adult learners.

As such IHLs need to re-invent themselves.

They cannot be too rigid a brick-and-mortar structure.

Instead they should transform themselves as a fluid presence flowing into households and households via telephone ports.

But in doing so, IHLs also must also ask themselves important questions.

Dr Leo Tan again.

"Do we still have a place in a learning environment where everybody can learn anywhere. Anytime I can do home learning . I can find places in Bangalore that can teach me mathematics why do I need to come to the National University of Singapore or the Nanyang Technological University. In other words, do we need to question our paradigm of how we teach, how we learn?"

Dr Leo Tan says that modern educators must draw lessons from the parables of the past to prevent inertia from setting in.

"The great American radical orator Wendell Philips told the parable about a sage summoned by the emperor of China. The emperor asked the sage what was the most vexing problems blocking improved policies in the state. The sage replied the rat in the statue. Rat in the statue, Roared the emperor, what nonsense! Its not, said the sage. Most households keep wooden statues to honor their ancestors. Frequently gnaw nests there and pillaged the house. Should people preserve the sacred images and suffer the rats or burn the statues to destroy the vermin? In Philips times, the rat was the implicit constitutionality of slavery but in higher education, what is our allegory or analogy to the rat in the statue?"

But the gradual evolution whereby knowledge previously dispensed from classrooms comes from a computer, is just one facet of change.

Another facet is that educators mustn't assume that bound books and hard theory are irrefutable any more.

Educators who continue to do so, do so only at their own peril.

"One of the biggest fears of university... all of us needs to ask that question... How do we stay relevant? The monastic university is outmoded. We cannot go the way of 'I tell You, I have the book of knowledge'. Now it is... Can we learn together? Tertiary institutions must stay relevant with the times in order to ensure that we have a growing, dynamic and prosperous future."

Education Ministry's Parliamentary Secretary, Hawazi Daipi, says IHLs need to see themselves as partners in lifelong learning.

Mr Hawazi says they must look beyond the fulltime students that they are supposed to mold.

"The imperative of lifelong learning has also brought about a new learning paradigm for key learning providers such as the IHLs. To remain relevant, IHLs need to engage in lifelong learning interactions with the alumni beyond the three to four years of intensive interactions during the pre-employment education. To do this, IHLs will have to be attuned to the needs of the industry as well as the individuals. This would enable them to customise and structure the professional programmes and courses to meet individuals."

But the hard work of reinventing themselves won't be entirely without benefits for the IHLs.

Mr Hawazi says they can benefit.

"Engaging in continuous education also brings reciprocal benefits to the IHLs. Adult learners are more mature and bring with them fresh ideas and valuable experience from industries. They are better able to test what they are taught against the experiences in the real world. In the process of interacting with IHL staff, adult learners can also can also help to spark new ideas for the teachers."

It is a changing world.

Individuals must change, and so too must the academic institutions that are supposedly leading the charge towards implementing lifelong learning.

The true revolution will not be confined simply to the students but also to the teachers whose job it is to teach.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Ministry of Education
National Institute of Education

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OTGV #1 - Feedback Session

Broadcast Date: 08/06/02

The Finance Minister's 2002 budget speech has come and gone.

Indicative of the rough times ahead, the budget unveiled some bitter pills for Singaporeans to swallow.

Join me Chong Ching Liang on this week's On the Grapevine as we feel the pulse of the rumblings from the heartlands on the unveiled budget.

As expected, the reduction of direct taxes such as corporate taxes took centre stage in a feedback session involving English-speaking Heartlanders and Member of Parliament and Union leader Halimah Yacob.

Most participants felt with the rise of indirect tax, the Goods and Services Tax or GST, next year, the rich will be richer while the poor will get poorer.

While most of the feedback participants understood the long term rationale for such drastic fiscal changes, most said the pill may be a tad too bitter.

Unionist Karthikeyan on the immediate financial squeeze for the middle-income Singaporeans.

"Majority of the middle-income are in the area where they have to immediately pay out and they don't have enough wealth creation yet. That's where they suffer and many of them are in the HDB housing which there's a rule that you can't downgrade now, you have to keep 5 years or 10 years. Because of that they have made the wrong move of buying a bigger house. So these are people who can't manage it for the time being. And they are not poor that they can go to the government to say do some help for me. They are in the middle income and above."

But the GST is but one of several sensitive issues.

Traffic is proving to be an even bigger rabble rouser.

Here's what one participant said about the night Electronic Road Pricing for the Central Expressway.

"You see, talking about the night ERP, they keep attacking the government, saying that this is wrong planning. It's not over congested. You plan the wrong thing: exit and the entrance... too close. Then you charge the motorist asking them to pay for all these costs. I think this is not right. "

The government's decision to offer more Certificate of Entitlement so that Singaporeans can buy more new cars is bewildering to some.

"Member of Parliament Tan Soo Khoon said, 'the government will break one of your legs and after that gives you a walking stick. So this is... majority of the people feel really touched their hearts. I don't know how the government can explain to the people. The government released the 5000 COEs, how to solve our problems? Traffic jams is always a problem and then now we want to put more car on the road to create more jam. And then we would create more ERP, create more revenue, earn more money, so how to explain to our people?"

Participants at the feedback session had voiced their concerns loud and clear, that most Heartlanders perceive that the government's push for the increase in indirect taxes, like the GST, ERP, as brushing aside their concerns.

Some of them, like a veteran unionist sounds seemingly disillusioned when he looks at the feedback process.

"Whether we have, we have such a thing or not? Even the policy we don't agree, can't say anything! We can only talk only, in the end, it's still carry out. You want to do anything, you want to consult people, take into consideration. I know you can say anything. Everything the government seems to do, they think they are always right but it's not always the case. If it is wrong, something will be changed. You know, they say that this policy doesn't suit at this point of time. But I think the view of the public is important. Maybe this point they should seriously looked into it. You want, you want feedback. Study the feedback carefully. "

New Member of Parliament but veteran trade union leader Halimah Yacob said it's not true that Singaporeans' feedback are not considered.

"It is now applicable to almost 90 percent of Singaporeans compared to Singapore shares which are much more restrictive. And then the other feedback is -- in the 1994 package -- when we had the feedback that look here you know, when we had the feedback that not everybody benefited and that is where because of the feedback, the government has the three thousand six hundred dollars. If you are a household, regardless of your house size if your household income is less then 3600 dollars and you're affected then you will benefit. You can go to the CCC and get help."

Madam Halimah said she does empathize with Singaporeans who've genuine concerns and fear.

But she stressed that the relief packages offered by the government will go some way in helping Singaporeans cope with the increased GST.

Madam Halimah said one way to chase away the initial fears facing Singaporeans on the impending changes is to find ways to explain the policies better.

"I think it is a question of perception. The explanation had not really gone down in that sense. You see like every issue when something that impact on the pocket, people are bound to react emotionally. I won't minimize the hardship. I think there are genuine feelings, you know fear. Sometimes it's a lot more of the fear also lah ... what will happen you know. So what we have to do is to do lot more explanation. So grassroots organisations have to go down and explain to people. I think that's important."

Chairman of the Feedback Unit Supervisory Panel, Dr Wang Kai Yuen

"People will start to see the effect in the government policies. The feedback unit is a valuable process to ensure that the views of the people are looked into. It is basically an independent channel for the public to air their views."

It is important.

In such tough times, Singaporeans need to be reassured that their government is looking after them.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Feedback Unit

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On the Grapevine - Intro

The Newsradio 938 series “On the Grapevine” was the successor to “In Your Neighbourhood” after IYN was taken over by the Community Development Councils to chronicle grassroots activities. OTGV allowed the original focus of IYN to be continued, i.e. a platform for commentary on the Singaporean society across its entire entire social spectrum. I was the principal reporter in charge of OTGV until I left Newsradio 938 to teach at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Happy reading! Cheers, cl

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

In Your Neighbourhood #12 - Harmony

Broadcasted On: 08/02/02

Recent days, the atmosphere is a bit tense in the neighbourhood.

The arrests of the Jemaah Islamiyah operatives, the Fateha-dot-com, and now the tudung issue.

The leaders of Singapore are speaking again, warning Singaporeans to be racially sensitive and to remember the lessons from the 1964 race riots.

Hi welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me Chong Ching Liang.

A significant proportion of Singaporeans are born after 1965.

This group is the lucky ones.

They didn't live through 1964, the year of racial turbulence.

However, by missing the 1964 riots, they also missed some important truths.

Last Saturday, I expressed my concerns to Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong about the lack of education on the positive lessons from 1964.

"My concerns, I spend 4 and half years as an oral history officer. And in oral historical records, there are a lot of kawans helping each other like what Brian said. And I am constantly surprised that the 64 riots are always only mentioned for the fear and the warning that it represents but not the other side. How many times have we heard reports that someone's uncle or someone's uncle knocked on the neighbour's door and the neighbour's not Chinese or not Malay but they rescued them. If you wanted to teach about sensitivity, you also have to teach about how races help each other. "

Here's Mr Goh's response.

"Good. I think the positive side's got to be highlighted more. And if you form these IRCC's we can begin to talk about these positive examples, real examples where we knows, where neighbours help one another. So we want to draw lessons on the positive side of that unfortunate period we went through. Because there are, or there were indeed many cases where neighbours you know, told their neighbours, don't worry, I am with you; I will look after you and warn others to keep off. Its a suggestions we should take up."

What are the positive examples?

A Chinese Singaporean, Mr Ricky Goh recalls how his brother was saved.

"My eldest brother was working in a bookshop in Victoria St. On that particular evening, he was returning back. He finds that ...'how come it's so quiet. There's no traffic.' When he reaches Geylang Serai, one of the neighbours who's a Malay neighbour was so shocked, he says 'What are you doing? Don't you know there's a racial riot? There's so many killing. I will escort you back through the Malay kampung. But at the meantime, just keep quiet and just follow me.' Luckily this neighbour saved my eldest brother's life. If not for him, I think today he won't be around."

In another racially motivated riot, the Maria Hertogh riots of 1950, President of Eurasian Association, Bryan Davenport, noted that then, friendship also took precedent over race.

"I like to put the clock back, flip the clock back maybe 50 years, when as a young Singaporean growing up in Katong, my neighbour, who's looking Dutch, had come home in the evening, and he was.. well, the home was attacked by a group of a race which was worried about the Maria Hertogh riots that was going on at the time. A Dutch girl who was kept by a Muslim family. And my Malay maid walked across to the house and said ' Jangan motu sana, ini saya kawan' so there you were. A Malay defending the right of another person in Singapore. "

Sociologist Lai Ah Eng of the Institute of Policy Studies highlights an interesting incident during the '64 riots.

"Joined peace keeping between the adjacent villages of Kampung Chai Chee mainly Chinese inhabitants and Kampung Siglap, mainly Malay villagers. Each village sent three elders to talk peace and to join forces for the protection of both villages by attacks from outsiders. To quote an informant, 'they carried a white flag and they walked down the road and met halfway. "

Dr Lai mentioned three such incidents of inter-racial rescue in her book, Meanings of Multi Ethnicity.

From her research, Dr Lai says there isn't a pattern of friends attacking each other.

"It's always the outsider that attacks the target group and not those who live in the same settlement. People who live in the same settlement actually have a shared interest to protect the common space that they live in. Which leads to the second point - the protection of targets from outsiders' attack by neighbour and friends. Because they know the neighbour, they know the friend, they are going to protect these neighbour or friend from outsiders even if outsiders maybe of the same race. And the third thing is the setting up of peace pacts and mutual protection patrols in shared or adjacent settings. And this can cut across ethnic background as well."

However, while there are many cases of inter-ethnic protection cases but they aren't highlighted often enough.

There's a need to move beyond fear as a socialising agent for harmony.

Dr Lai again.

"It is using the ethnic riot as a form of socialisation but that's a very negative way of socialising people into accepting or merely tolerating each other. We need to move beyond that, to also move beyond the fear of the riot to not just establish levels of tolerance, but to be able to increase our knowledge so that our degree of acceptance and even appreciation grows by the day."

Look around in your neighbourhood.

do you see friends or do you see strangers?

Start making friends and maybe you'll stop seeing race.

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Institute of Policy Studies
Eurasian Association

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In Your Neighbourhood #11 - PAVE

Broadcasted on 17/1/02

No, you are not alone or unique in your sufferings.

Hi, welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me Chong Ching Liang.

Who are those most alone in suffering?

Victims of domestic of family violence, whether it's a wife, a child, or in rare instances, a husband.

Ang Mo Kio Family Service centre is one of the earliest FSC.

Formed 24 years ago, it has constantly encountered and witness acts of family violence.

But only about three years ago, did it start a dedicated centre to fight against family violence.

Director of Ang Mo Kio FSC, Sudha Nair, on the reason why the Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Family Violence, or PAVE was formed.

"What really got us set up was a phone call we received from a child one morning when we came into the office. And he just said. 'Auntie, my father beat my mother' and it was a child whose voice we recognised and we went immediately to the house and found these three children together with their mother. Mother was lying on the floor."

Through that incident, Sudha Nair and her colleagues began to pursue in earnest, the setting up of a one-stop station to help victims of family violence.

With governmental support and much needed changes in legislation in the Women's Charter, institutional facilities to help victims fall swiftly into place.

"So the family court worked with us to set up a video-link system in PAVE so that people could come here and apply for protection immediately. And this is a real boon because a lot of the people who are affected can come to PAVE and apply for a protection order in a quiet environment."

What happens when a victim contact the FSC?

"The person will be passed on to the senior social worker and the senior PAVE worker would then find out what's happening and make an appointment to see the person if they can come out of the house. If they can't come out of the house, the first thing we will access is the safety of the victim, to make sure the victim is safe and give them enough information to ensure their safety. Subsequently we will invite them to the centre and discuss options with them and if they need to make an application with the PPO, they can do so."

Confidentiality is STRICTLY maintained.

The onus is to help and not to punish or subject the abuser to any forms of pillory.

"In the work with violence, we make it very clear that violence is not about marriage okay, So we do not do marital work when we do violence work. We end the violence first. So in the group that we run, it is men and women separately."

Three groups, men, women and the children.

The child witness is the most vulnerable and the effects of their experience may not surface till later.

To heal them, the truth must surface but it is difficult to extract it from them.

Sudha explains the work with these children.

"The children session is a little different. The children session we don't use chairs, we sit on the floor. We normally do it by age groups and recently we just started a young adult group which is 16 to 20. And it is very interactive especially for the younger groups, for the primary school groups. We use a lot of play. Use a lot of puppets, drawings, storytelling games, which are all centred around the issues of violence. But because it's such a painful subject, the children session is usually just one topic per session and for a shorter period. So its usually for an hour and with a lot of food, a lot of games. So the children love coming and you know, its fun."

The women's group is almost always, the victim groups.

The sessions are to let the victim know they are not alone.


"And I recall some of the group members saying that they always have this views that educated people were not abuse and this woman, housewife, telling a professional you know, I always thought that it was people like me. And that's a very strong message that violence cuts across every single socio-economic type or education level and that anybody can be a victim and just as anybody can be an abuser."

Finally, the men's groups are to fix the problem.

"The first few weeks we look at what has happened. And the next few weeks its challenging the beliefs. And the last few weeks are looking for support for the men and how do they keep themselves safe. Because you know if they carryon this behaviour, they will get into more serious trouble. So we look at that and look the costs of their behaviour on themselves, on their families, on their jobs and so on and so forth."

The sessions are chaired by 2 social workers of both sexes, to show how differences can be discussed respectively.

Often, linkages are formed.

The counseled leave with new friendships formed amongst themselves and this sometimes helped them to be strong when they old demons return.

For the social worker of PAVE, the foremost task is to stop the violence.

Only when it stops then the healing begins.

Marital sessions are only conducted after successful conclusion of the Violence sessions.

"Interestingly, a lot of the men and women have actually asked for marital sessions and its very heartwarming to see both parties recognising that they want to do something about the marriage because sometime there's this misconception that if you come to see a social worker about violence in the family, then it will inevitably end in divorce."

Happy family again.

That is the best reward for the family healers of Ang Mo Kio.

If you or someone you know would like to get in touch with PAVE, please call 64546678.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports
Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre

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In Your Neighbourhood #10 - Family Violence

Broadcast Date: 10/1/02

Family violence has a spot of good news this year with Ms Pang Kee Tai winning the Social Worker of the Year award for her work combating it.

But for years, family violence is hidden, where even witnesses turned the other cheek.

Hi, Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me Chong Ching Liang.

This week we revisit the sad social problem of family violence and how it was combated over the years.

It is to the credit of non-government organisations and practitioners that the issue of family violence came to the Singaporean public's view.

Retired Social Work lecturer, Myrna Blake, on the insidious nature of family violence.

"Well, I mean, it has always been around. Family violence is not a new thing. But I think it was not taken seriously, it was always thought it was a family affair. From quite early on, people in MCDS like Janet Yee used to have forums and papers on it but somehow it didn't catch public attention."

Then Community Development ministry received a boost some 20 years after the enactment of the Women's Charter.

"Women's organisations in the 80s began to say that this is an issue and there were many public forums on the subject and so it gradually got more and more attention. A big impetus came when Kani Soin was an NCMP and she raised the question in Parliament. I think even at that time, the response was it's a family affair. Its not that frequent in Singapore."

Nominated Member of Parliament Kawanjit Soin tabled a Family Violence Bill but it was rejected.

But nonetheless the flurry of parliamentary debates did its trick to educate the masses.

Dr Blake on an important change in mindset.

"I think there was even a statement by the senior district judge that the crimes of violence do stop just at the doorstep of the home. What I think changed is the belief that whatever happens in the home was private, its not for the public to get involved in what beyond the front door of a home. The safety of victims, mostly women but not always women, children and sometimes men, that their safety within the home should also be of public concerns. So that was what the big change was."

With this change in mindset, government agencies began to sir in support of the bill that never was.

For Social Work practitioner like the Director of Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre, Sudha Nair, it ushered in an era that helped her work tremendously.

"Possibly the single biggest advancement is the networking system. The fact that various systems are aware of what needs to be done. Because they are aware, it's much easier for a social worker then to tap on the system and work out gaps in the services. For example, when a victim comes to a social service agency and needs to make a police report, the avenues on how to make a police report and what kind of information that needs to be taken is already there because the police have trained, the hospital knows what to do and so on."

Victims are also better educated and some of them knew when and who to turn to for help but more needs to be done.

"Compared to where we were 5 years ago, more people are aware of family violence but more needs to be done. We need to talk about the issues more. The good thing that has happened is that family violence is no longer a hidden issue. The very fact that the Women Charter recognises the rights of victims and recognises perpetrators also need help has lent a voice to the whole issue of family violence."

Dr Nair on the difficulty to come forward.

"Taking the first step is always very difficult and staying with the decision is also difficult because unlike other forms of violence, family violence is perpetrated against somebody you care about, a person that you loved and often making the decision to take some action against the person that you love is very very difficult. From what we know of our cases, usually it takes about 5 years before they'll make the first decision to seek some help. One of the key things that made a difference is the reassurance that there are support systems within the community that are there to help them."

There's also the fears of physical harm that must be assuaged in the victim, to ensure his or her safety.

But as Dr Blake pointed out, protection has always been there.

"Previously the victim could always get a personal protection order and the various orders and all that are in place before. The Women's Chartered extended to include all family members and also to include other than physical abuse. Also, the big big change was the capacity for the court to make an order for the abuser to go for counseling. Now that always used to be difficult before."

The social workers and families almost always aim at reconciliation, not separation.

The mission is to save marriages of affected couples and the lives of their children who had been unnecessary and coerced witnesses to the family violence.

Child witness going astray is the gravest concern of Ang Mo Kio FSC's Sudha Nair.

Family violence isn't about shot-gun marriage going awry, or people getting married younger.

It's all about a power and control imbalance and perpetrators can look towards a dedicated group of social workers working very hard to help them.

Tune in next week when In Your Neighbourhood visits the Promoting Alternatives to Violence centre in the Ang Mo Kio FSC.

This Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports
Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centre

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In Your Neighbourhood #9 - Bizclean II

Somewhere in your neighbourhood, a special group of Singaporeans is working to find their rightful place in society.

Hi, welcome to In Your Neighbourhood with me Chong Ching Liang as I look at how intellectually disabled Singaporeans find work and respect.

The intellectually disabled are the most misunderstood group of Singaporeans.

Sometimes, those who love them are over-protective thereby stifling their personal growth, while those who don't know them misunderstand them, often wrongly equating their condition as mental problems.

For this reason that it's difficult to find work for these abled persons.

Bizlink's an organisation that's constantly working very hard to match disabled Singaporeans to jobs.

It's Placement and Marketing Officer, Joseph Chan on Bizlink's role.

"Bizlink's role is actually to identify potential and willing disabled workers to join in this project. Beside this, Bizlink is also trying to make this domestic cleaning service known to household through some marketing efforts like the distributing of fliers and through the radio medium."

But it is a long hard slog given that Bizlink has to combat prejudice and ignorance.

"Actually we did approach a few major cleaning companies to partner with us in this startup. But most were not keen or were a bit apprehensive about the idea. So in the end Bizlink approach Marine Parade CDC for assistance."

Marine Parade CDC gave Bizlink's abled clients a wonderful gift - the gift of being able to earn their own living in the pilot project named Bizclean.

Were the Marine Parade residents concerned about this special group of workers?

The CDC's General Manager Teoh Zsin Woon gives this surprising reply.

"Actually those were our concerns rather than the residents'. When we started out, we were a bit afraid that some of the clients involved in this projects might not meet the standards required by the households employing them for this service or even not accepted by the household that's employing them. But actually as it turns out, we in fact have many interested phone calls from our residents and they appeared very open to engaging them for cleaning projects within their homes."

In a speech recently, Minister without Portfolio Lim Boon Heng says that disabled persons are sometimes picky about the jobs they are offered.

But there are reasons why relatives or parents of intellectually disabled Singaporeans are picky and it isn't because of occupational snobbery.

Occupational Therapist in Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore, or MINDs, Silvaraj Mahendra explains.

"Some previous incidences there have been abuses that have happened, it could be a physical abuse or sexual abuse where our kids because of their innocence and their inability sometimes to understand between right and wrong. They may tend to be abused. Secondly, most of the jobs given sometimes for people with intellectual disabilities are within the factory-like settings which of course have a greater occupational hazards than most of the in-house office jobs. So a lot of parents have become protective."

Bizclean has been in existence for almost a year, how has it performed?

Zsin Woon gives this update.

"I am please that for those who were trained earlier, they actually had on-going clients. That means the households who employ them to do a few hours per week. So it shows that they are performing very well and the households that engaged them are looking at a long-term sort of employment arrangements."

The fact that these abled persons are doing well is not surprising.

The jobs are chosen specially for them according to Silvaraj.

"In terms of skills, especially for some of the MINDS clients which tends to be quite low functioning, such jobs especially the cleaning industry were very very suitable and based on previous experiences when we have placed clients in the cleaning industry, they tended to remain in their jobs for a longer time. And that's the reason why we chose cleaning industry."

Once employers get past their prejudices and ignorance, they may actually find that the intellectually disabled are quite ideal workers.

MINDs Silvaraj again.

"This' actually a testimony from a lot of large employers. One they find them a very compliant, very obedient worker. Two, in fact this is quite interesting from some of the employers who find that these guys do not engage in any office politics which can be quite damaging. Three, they can be your dedicated long-term employees because they don't job hop. They don't move around. And fourth thing, because of the social context of going to work, and going to work is meeting people, and being in a work situation is so socially stimulating that they rarely want to take MCs, they can sometimes be even more productive than able-bodied worker."

So what about the future of this project, any optimism, Zsin Woon?

"I'm actually very optimistic about the prospects of this project. Definite it takes off and the demand is there, I will see the CDC as supporting strongly, Bizlink and MINDS to even include even more clients with intellectual disability to be involved in this training programme."

Biz-clean, it is a project where the intellectually disabled clean up their clients' household but it does more than that.

The project also clean up Singaporeans ignorance and prejudice about intellectual disability.

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.

Related Websites:
Newsradio 938



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