Rants and raves about stuff happening in and around my life in Singapore

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Singapore CPF Challenges

One has to wonder what the rest of the world is thinking as they look to Singapore and see it's Prime Minister (one of the most highly paid Prime Ministers in the world) sue one it's citizens for damages. 

Well known blogger Roy Ngerng went a tad too far in one of his recent postings on the woes of the CPF system here in Singapore which implied that Prime Minster was criminally misappropriating CPF funds. I can't argue with the smack on the wrist he received for the post which has subsequently removed and an appology issued for, however in addition the Prime Minister is also seeking financial damages with respect to the impact to his reputation.

Personally, I think that a Prime Minster suing a citizen for financial damages for a blog post is going to do more damage to his reputation than the post itself could ever have done. Net citizens are seemingly outraged by this what some are refering to as "bullying tactic" and while Roy Ngerng may have been misguided with respect to his implications about the Prime Minister, his post about the lack of transparancy into the investment strategy of the CPF was nevertheless an interesting read.

Meanwhile Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has pointed out that citizens are free to criticise the government but they must back up any criticisms with facts. I think the good minister needs to understand the definition of the word criticise, it is a word defined as "to find fault with or indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way". I'm not sure why you would need facts to do that since by definiton it is not an acqusation meerly an opinion. Although that said, how any member of the public is suppose to get their hands on such facts wasn't mentioned.

Tan Chuan-Jin has also reportedly blogged about the CPF although it still doesn't seem to address many of the points raised by Roy Ngerng (and others). For example, in relation to the rate of interest earned by the CPF Tan Chuan-Jin reportedly says "We then make sure this CPF account grows at a reasonable interest rate without risk", the point on transparency of how CBF money is invested and used missed it would seem.

The CPF is a good system, I don't think anyone can deny that and I don't think anyone is calling for it to be scrapped. But even as Tan Chuan-Jin reportedly posts in his own blog "CPF is your money" then the question of what the government is doing with it is still an important one to ask, just as the question on how the CPF can be improved is equally important. 

Many citizens opinion's seem to be changing with respect to what they want from their government with this latest flurry of activity around the topic of CPF not doing much to help. There seems to be a lot more mummerings of disapproval recently, understandably so it has to be said. 

I also think that much of Roy Ngerng post and subsequent video etc on this issue (as well as others) needs to be addressed. In my opinion he made many valid points that so far have gone unanswered as the focus shifts from those points to the story of the Prime Minister suing him for the implications made in his original story. 

Indeed since the original request PM Lee's lawyer has asked Roy Ngerng to remove 4 more additional articles that he had written and a video seemingly for no other reason than the articles in question (all related to CPF it would seem) would “aggravate the injury and distress to their client”.

It's a shame. I believe that PM Lee could have handled this in a much different manner but instead seems intent on alienating himself and his party just a little futher from the people it's there to serve. I don't think there is anyone I have talked to on this subject that has been impressed.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Brunei and Stoning

I have to admit to being impressed with the acts of some well known personalities, Stephen Fry and Ellen DeGeneres to name two, who have taken to boycotting the Dorchester Collection hotels, owned by the Sultan of Brunei. Sharon Osbourne has also reached out urging her fans to boycott the hotels as well. Even Richard Branson has announced that Virgin is boycotting the hotel chain.

The reason for these boycots is of course as a result of the Sultan passing a change to the penal code, calling for gays to be stoned to death. Indeed, even OutGiving, an LGBT equality-focussed conference for rich philanthropists (and I do not use the word rich lightly either) has also been pulled from the chain. Kirk Fordham, executive director of Gill Action, is reported to have told the Washington Blade: “In light of the horrific anti-gay policy approved by the Government of Brunei, Gill Action made the decision earlier today to relocate its conference from the Beverly Hills Hotel to another property. We are seeking a return of all deposits.”

The Sultan of Brunei has announced that those committing same sex relations could be stoned to death. The draconian law has brought condemnation from the UN, with the tiny Asian oil rich nation having a virtual moratorium on the death penalty since 1957.

Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemned Brunei’s new penal code earlier this week. He reportedly said: “Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offenses contravenes international law.”

It is heartening to see public figures take a stand and I only wish that major corporations and governments could learn a lesson from their actions. It is of course a wish that will never come to pass given that would mean an impact to the bottom line, and lets face it there's oil involved too, but I have to ask what price is a person's life worth.

If even one person is stoned to death under this law, then those same major companies and governments that have done nothing and continue to shake hands with Brunei across the table are as guilty as if they had thrown the stones themselves. It saddens me when I see so much potential in this world and see so many countries taking steps backwards with impunity.

Stoning is a barbaric, cruel, inhuman tortue that no civilised society should endorse. There is simply no justification for it, absolutely none.

The world is no longer a big place, and unless the people of the world raise up their voices as some have already done nothing will change for the better. And if not then we all better be prepared for the consqeuences of our own inaction.

In the meantime, here's a list of the Dorcester luxury Hotel Collection owned by the Sultan of Brunei that you might think about avoiding (not that they are in many people's price range to begin with).

Beverly Hills Hotel (Beverly Hills): Possibly the Dorchester's most famous property, the "Pink Palace" was instrumental in the establishment of Beverly Hills a century ago and continues to play an outsize role in Hollywood wheeling and dealing, especially at its restaurant, the Polo Lounge. Don't expect to see Ellen there, though.

Hotel Bel-Air (Los Angeles): Not as renown as is sister property, the Beverly Hills Hotel, Hotel Bel-Air is still one of L.A.'s most prestigious hotels. It features a presidential suite with its own pool.
The Dorcester (London): One of the world's, and certainly London's, most luxurious hotels, this property in Mayfair features 250 rooms and 49 suits. It opened in 1931.

45 Park Lane (London): Another Mayfair hotel, 45 Park Lane is known for its striking architecture and younger, hipper feel (at least compared to the hopelessly stuffy Dorcester).

Coworth Park (Berkshire, U.K.): This late 18th-century country house was turned into a Dorcester Collection hotel-spa four years ago. Actor-writer Stephen Fry just canceled a stay there over the property's connection to the sultan.

Le Meurice (Paris): This five-star hotel in Paris's 1st Arrondissement is close to the Louvre. It opened in the late 18th-century.

Hotel Plaza Athenee (Paris): Another fancy Parisian palace, this hotel is near the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Elysees and opened over a century ago. It had a cameo in the last season of Sex and the City.

Le Richemond (Geneva): This hotel, located on the banks of Lake Geneva, boats one of the most expensive suites in the world and first opened in 1875.

Hotel Principe di Savoia (Milan): A cosmopolitan gathering place since the 1920s, this property is considered a Milanese landmark by many.

Hotel Eden (Rome): The Dorchester's second Italian property is in Rome's Old City, which features 121 rooms and over-the-top food like foie gras and smoked lobster.