My Newsradio Scripts

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

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

OTGV #48 - Elder Abuse

Date of Broadcast: 16/02/04

Family violence.

Most of the times, the victims don't have a voice.

If they do, they don't to use it because they don't wish to see bad things happening to their loved ones.

So the suffering goes on in silence.

Hi Welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang as I explore the dark social realm of elder abuse.

Most abused elderly Singaporeans are over eighty years of age.

Eight out of ten cases involved an abuser who's related to the victim.

And the average annual count is a hundred cases.

Will the statistics get worse for a graying Singapore?

Community Development and Sports Ministry, Director of Elderly Development, Tong Min Way muses the answer.

"There's probably a lot more out there in the community that we don't know about. Or, people don't want to report it. It's very difficult to say right now whether it's going to increase or decrease. But if you do an international survey, I suppose that as the number of elderly does grow, care-giving needs are going to increase as well. As you know families are getting smaller in Singapore, you have children looking after your elderly parents. You might get a tendency for more families to be at risk."

Minister of State for MCDS, Chan Soo Sen suspects the current annual average figures mask a bigger problem.

But this under-reporting of cases of elder abuse isn't unique to Singapore.

Keynote Speaker to the national conference on family violence, Paula Mixson says even in the US, the actual number of abuse cases is hard to collate.

"There was a study a few years ago, it was 1998 I think, and it estimates that five times more what is out there than what is known. And that may be an under-estimate."

Elders want to keep their family's dirty linen from fluttering in public.

Neighbours and witnesses also tend look the other way, thinking it’s not their right to interfere.

This is something that MCDS' Director of Social Welfare Ang Bee Lian wants to change.

"We want the service providers who are in touch with the ground to also spread the message to alert people to refer. We like to believe that people don't refer because they don't know who to refer to, where to refer to. So we have to educate people, give them the benefit of doubt that they want to do something. It's not so much that people willfully want to turn a deaf ear on these things."

Is it possible to enact a law to penalise bystanders for non-action when they see an elderly person being abuse and say nothing?

Geriatric Consulting and training expert Paula Mixson says it won't work.

"In Texas, we have a law that can prosecute someone for failure to report. But to my knowledge, no one has ever been prosecuted. Just having a law in the book doesn't mean you can help them. I think it is more important that people realised the elder protection team is there to help, not to label someone as an abuser. It's very important how people see you because we don't get anywhere by blaming. When things are bad enough to be prosecuted, they will be prosecuted."

But Ms Ang cautions that a hard-nose approach won't be successful.

"When you approach an elderly person to say 'I help you report', you can know the answer. Right?, I don't have to tell you. You will know what the answer is: 'Nothing is wrong, don't da da da...'. Enter gently, engage the elderly person, you will get the information to help the older person to accept help. And I think that's some of the soft skills that people need at the ground. Very often we like to do the harsh approach. Report! Report! And the poor person is so scared, you know?"

Ms Yee-Chow Choy Yin is the Director of TRANS Centre, an inter-disciplinary outfit set up to deal with issues of familial violence.

She says the family must not be excluded if a sustainable solution is to be reached.

"What we found helpful was not to just label the family. And we need to look more holistically into what is happening in these families. What are the concerns? Concerns about elderly not being fed, are there concerns of financial constraints? Our work is very much to work with the family as a whole to improve things, to improve relationships unless it is really life-and death [situation]. In our Singapore culture, most elderly still want to live with their children. Empowering the family in the care of the elderly, coming in with the appropriate community resources, will actually help to alleviate some of these stress, make care-giving a little bit easier."

Care giving.

It isn't easy in a country where different branches of geriatric or eldercare services for those who don't qualify for welfare has yet to catch up with the demographic curve.

In most major public hospitals, geriatric care or medicine for the elderly are either fledgling or inadequately staffed.

Information on home care assistance programme to help family members care for their sick elderly at home is available in the MCDS website.

But those who aren't internet savvy may not know how to get the information.

However, this lack of help should not translate to frustration leading to the abuse of an elderly.

MCDS hopes that Singaporeans will, when they think their back is to the wall in handling their elderly loved ones, turn to them or affiliated organisations such as TRANS centre for help.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


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OTGV #47 - Happy Workers?

Date of Broadcast: 02/02/04

Are we a nation of happy workers?

Or, are we a nation of workers clinging on to jobs simply because we are too afraid to lose employment?

Two surveys, six months apart, seemingly different findings, yet strangely congruent.

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

The Sunday Times survey two weeks ago provocatively asked if we are a nation of happy workers.

Regional Practice Leader of the Gallup Organisation Ashok Gopal says such broad strokes hide the underlying details.

"The proportion of people who loved their job is only 59%. I mean that is little more than one in every two people. Now, can you look at every one in two people getting happy and say that this is a nation of happy people? I really hesitate to use that particular term."

Mr Gopal's own organisation had conducted a survey to examine the health of the Singapore workforce sometime back.

"The focus of our survey was really unearthing a set of issues that relate to how engaged employees are which is a predictor of how productive and non-productive they are going to be. I continue to believe there are issues within Singapore that are issues of concerns."

Workers being happy won't reveal how productive they actually are, and that's why the Gallup polls stayed away from questions on worker happiness, says Mr Gopal.

"The Gallup Survey was not to measure are people happy or not. Happiness can often be a bit of a negative. People say they are happy because they have a job and two because they have no accountability what-so-ever. So they can have a great time for their job and continue to get a salary for it. So happiness by itself doesn't count for too much as far as productivity is concerned."

Of course, workers are more likely to leave if they are unhappy, and more so if they felt their managers haven't being entirely on the square with them.

George has been with his private sector company for over 5 years.

He is contemplating moving on as he felt the management hasn't been holding up its end of the bargain when it comes to promises made.

"The management themselves did not give satisfactory sort of answers in a way and also due to the fact of work satisfaction."

Managers are the cogs between layers of a company.

Good ones will result in productive workers with a more smoothly functioning company and bad ones will result in workers who are detached from what they are doing.

Mr Ashok Gopal with a statement he claims Gallup Polls pioneered.

"People join companies and leave managers. The focus of our survey and that's about 6 months old now was to look at issues that managers can influence as far as manager performance in Singapore were concerned. Managers did not seem to do a good job when it comes to setting expectations, when it came to giving feedback, when it came to making people feel cared for. I think Singapore as a nation, the World, has a long long way to go when it comes to making people better managers."

The Gallup polls painted a darker, gloomier picture of employee-manager relations, while the Sunday Time survey seems more a ray of sunshine.

However, despite the seeming difference in polarity, Mr Gopal says there is some similarity.

"When I read some of the sub-pieces within the article, some of those things tie up exactly with the things that we find. It speaks about some people hating what they do but still actually showing up for work. Now that is a dangerous situation because they spending most of their time trying to undo what others are doing well. And obviously what you want to do is to reduce the proportion of such dis-engaged employees in the work place."

But it isn't always easy to get rid of dis-engaged workers.

Sometimes, the workers who leave the organisation aren't always the ones who have become disengaged.

Karen used to work for a statutory board.

She tells us why she left a seemingly secure job to re-enter the job market in such tough times.

"Well I left the job for the simple reasons that I found that I wasn't happy not just with the hours but with, I guess, management. And it wasn't due to the work environment so to speak, as in like with the colleagues because they are a great bunch of people. It's just that I decided that in terms of the management style and the kind of work they were giving out to us. I felt that I wouldn't be able to enjoy it and wouldn't be able to work on a long term kind of basis."

In private or public sectors, a significant portion of workers leave their work because they are frustrated they aren't allowed to carry on with their work.

This group of workers probably has quite a number of contributions left to make when they leave the company.

Loud vocal professing of loyalty by those who remain may not help employers identify who will be of the most ultimate value to the companies as well.

Mr Gopal explains.

"A statement of loyalty is not necessary a positive statement. It reflect, number one, a poor market environment for jobs. It could reflect some kind of handcuffs. We did a survey with a group of IT companies a few years ago and they told us something very fascinating. A group of people said, 'we hate what we are doing' but 90% of them say they see themselves continuing with the company 2 years from now. Now that sounds like an absolute paradox. But when you go into it further, they say that is because 'we have our stock options tied in and we will be leaving behind literally millions of dollars."

It really doesn't matter if the Sunday Times survey or the Gallup polls are right or wrong.

The important thing is that these polls are the proverbial mirrors, held up for us, useful only if we use it to correct our imperfections,

rather than for us to appraise our own beauty.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.

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OTGV #46 - Birdlife Singapore

Date of Broadcast: 05/01/04

Can you imagine any place where birds no longer sing?

Can't can you?

But reality is fast catching up with that somewhat dis-quieting scenario.

Hi welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang as I take a look at the issues behind the vanishing birds of Asia.

The Executive Officer of the Nature Society of Singapore Lim Kim Seng is part of a wholly remarkable book, Saving Asia's Threatened Birds.

Kim Seng on the book's objective.

"This book identifies the birds which are becoming extinct as well as the ecological regions which are important for the conservation of these birds. It also identifies every country in Asia as well as the species of threatened birds which occur therein. This book identifies what government and civil society need to do to prevent birds from going extinct. Already we have some 12 percent of Asia's birds at risk of extinction. There is another 300 plus species, in total about 30 percent of Asia's birds which will become threatened with extinction if we don't do anything."

The book is published by a multinational NGO, Birdlife International, with inputs from over 160 national data compilers and over a thousand volunteers.

Kim Seng gives a situation report here.

Singapore has eight internationally threatened species. One of which is resident, the Straw-headed Bulbul. In conserving the Straw-headed Bulbul, Singapore will be making an effort at global conservation of birds."

Fellow bird-lover and avid bird-watcher Alfred Chia supports this observation.

"If you are taking the local context for a start, the local habitat and the places to bird-watch are dwindling by the day. We know that because we have been bird-watching for a while and I co-incidentally have been planning trips for the Nature Society. Year-over-year, I find more difficult to plan trips. Many years back we are able to see them in quite a many places. Nowadays maybe you just get to see them in one or two localised areas."

The one or two localised areas are probably the protected areas and Singapore doesn't have a lot of nature reserves gazetted says Kim Seng.

"We have lost in the last 10 years, places like Senoko, Serangoon and Punggol. These were actually very key sites for the migratory birds. Over the last ten years, we have noticed there has been an overall decline of about 40% in terms of overall number of birds in Singapore."

Have the local birds decide to upgrade their tiny little habitat to bigger rainforests in say Malaysia or Indonesia?

The sad truth is that we're not looking at some avian brain-drain but that those missing are now probably dead and gone forever.

The main culprits are poaching and loss of habitat says Birdlife International.

Kim Seng on a specific example, the Straw-Headed Bulbul of Singapore.

"We don't think poaching is the main threat. Habitat lost is a more serious threat to this bird. If you look at the straw-headed bulbul in
Singapore. 50% are in the island of Pulau Ubin. The rest are scattered through out the main island. But if you look at the protected area system in Singapore, Pulau Ubin is actually just a nature area in Singapore. It is not a nature reserve. So if we can Pulau Ubin a nature reserve, that will help protect the straw-headed bulbul in the long term so that it will be able to persist in the sustainable future."

For migratory birds, Singapore is the last feeding ground before the big flight to Australia.

Kim Seng explains the significance of Singapore that few outside of the Nature Society know.

"For migratory birds, they have specific points where they breed and spend the winter. But in between they need places to stop, to rest, as well as to re-fuel. So if those places disappear and there is a long distance between the stopovers. Chances are a lot of birds will die because they don't have the energy to reach the next breeding stop. Singapore is important because based on our surveys, most of the migratory birds spend some time with us before they fly on. So if these sites are destroyed, they will not find an alternative site to re-fuel. And a lot will die. One of the reasons is that these birds stop-over based on instinct, based on a map in the mind. So even if there are alternative sites where they could feed, they may not fly there because they are pre-programmed."

And a lot of birds will die.

Kim Seng says some 3 to 5 million birds fly from Siberia to Australia through Asia.

Some wise sage once said, it's only the things that are gone that one cherished.

Don't wait till the birds stop singing before stronger actions are taken says Kim Seng and his like-minded ilk.

Birds are tied to us in more ways than simply just the environment.

"Birds are part and parcel of our culture whether it is Japanese or African or Southeast Asian. It's always been part of our culture. To lose the birds would be akin to losing part of our cultural heritage. Another is that birds are excellent indicators of our natural environment. If we don't see or hear the birds in our neighbourhood, then something must be seriously wrong. This was actually the case in the 1960s. The discovery was made by the famous environmentalist, Rachel Carson, and her excellent book, Silent Space."

The book is an act of love.

It hopes to convince you, the average Joe, and more importantly, the policy makers who can take the necessary actions.

If you want to find out about the dire straits of our avian buddies, buy the book.

You can get more information by calling Nature Society at 6741-2036.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


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