Sunday, 16 June 2019

Fact-checking The Alternative View's post about K F Seetoh, Jewel and me

So The Alternative View posted this yesterday:



Since my name appears in the post, I feel I need to fact-check it line by line.

First line:
In May, after F&B entrepreneur K.F. Seetoh shared a post showing the dwindling crowds at Jewel after the initial hype ... PAP trolls and cronies were quick to bark that it was "fake news" as he had gone on a weekday morning.
For the most part, this is true... except...

It's impossible to comfirm whether it was "PAP trolls and cronies" who were "quick to bark". It could be just people wanting to get all the facts right.

Also, I want to point out that even quicker were the people who immediately derided Jewel as a "white elephant" in response to Seetoh's post.

It was only later when commenters started questioning what time Seetoh's photos were taken that he revealed that it was at 9.30am.

So while he did share a post "showing the dwindling crowds at Jewel after the initial hype", Seetoh subsequently amended his post to add that he was referring specifically to "pre-opening" hours.

He also added: "I see the usual crowds closer to opening and regular hours..."

Which contradicts the "dwindling crowds" claim in The Alternative View post.

Granted, Seetoh also added "The decline is slow and real", but this is stating the obvious because of course the crowds would decrease from opening day. At least "the decline is slow" rather than fast.

Finally, he added: "I feel for the tenants, esp the 24/7 ones."

So apparently, this was what his post was really about, not "dwindling crowds" per se. In a reply to a comment, Seetoh wrote: “If nobody at some hrs..why make them open 24/7 in these depressed manpower conditions.”

Which I guess is a fair point.

Here is Seetoh's post:



Second line:
One notorious IB even went on a weekend to "prove" him wrong.
This is accompanied by sceenshots of my column on The New Paper website with the headline: "S M Ong: Fake news? Explaining K.F. Seetoh's Jewel post".

I'm not an "IB" if it means what I think it means. As in I am not a member of the PAP Internet Brigade, paid to rebut anti-PAP views online.

I'm just a guy who every two weeks, has to come up with something to write about in 500-700 words for my column and that week, Seetoh's Jewel post was it.

In fact, I considered headlining the article: "Fake news? Defending K.F. Seetoh's Jewel post", but decided to go for something more neutral instead. If I had stuck with my orginal headline, I probably wouldn't have to write this blog post. People mostly just read headlines anyway.

You may argue that simply by writing for The New Paper, I’m an IB by default. If that is your perception, no amount of denial on my part is going to make a difference. I could point to some not so pro-establishment articles I have written, but who cares?

As for whether I'm "notorious", that's an opinion and I'm flattered that someone thinks I am.



And I didn't go to Jewel "on a weekend". As I wrote in my column, I went on a Friday afternoon, which is close to the weekend, but not technically the weekend yet.

Also, I went to Jewel not "to 'prove' him wrong".

As mentioned above, Seetoh already wrote in his post: "I see the usual crowds closer to opening and regular hours..."

So if anything, I went to Jewel to prove him right.

Third line:
But now PAP's own MSM are reporting that indeed the hype at Jewel appears to be dying down.
This is accompanied by screenshots of two Today reports:

Is Today "PAP's own MSM"? Not factual but I would call it a fair assertion. (See "Here Today, gone tomorrow: Remember the time Mr Brown's column got suspended?")

Is Today "reporting that indeed the hype at appears to be dying down"? Well, no and sorta.

The most recent article, which was published on Friday, is about how restaurants on level 5 of Jewel have little or no business after midnight. This jibes with Seetoh's point that tenants shouldn't be required to open 24/7.

But it has nothing to do with the hype dying down.

Yes, the other Today article can be loosely described as about the dying hype, but it's more specifically about how businesses in the other airport terminals are affected, not Jewel itself.

Moreover, the article was published on May 19, which was before my column (May 27) and before Seetoh's post (May 22).

So it's a bit disingenuous to claim that "now PAP's own MSM are reporting that indeed the hype at appears to be dying down". It’s not “now”. It was four weeks ago.

Also, I just want to say there's nothing scandalous about the hype dying down anyway. That's the nature of hype.

No one expects the crowds to be as big as when Jewel first opened.

But when I was there two days after Seetoh's post, it was still pretty damn crowded.

Some businesses will do better than others. Yes, opening 24 hours or till 3am is probably not a great idea.

And maybe one day, Jewel will become a ghost town which some are eagerly looking for signs for as proof of PAP's ineptitude.

But that day isn't here yet.



Elsewhere in The Alternative View post, there's this line:
One notorious but brainless IB even went on a weekend to join the queue for one of the restaurants and claim that Seetoh was putting out fake news.
I've already addressed the "Notorious" and "IB" part. As for "brainless", yeah, I wish I could be smarter and avoided this contretemps.

In my column, I didn't mention joining any queue. I just sort of said I saw a lot of people in Jewel. And I didn't "claim that Seetoh was putting out fake news". I just reported that one person commenting on Seetoh's post warned that the post may be considered fake news and I expanded on it.

I swear.

Take it from the Notorious S M Ong.




EARLIER: Fake news? Are there no more queues at Shake Shack in Jewel as K F Seetoh seems to claim?

Monday, 10 June 2019

I have reservations: Is Anti-Chope Movement a lost cause?



I have never been a guest of honour. Have you?

I imagine it must be pretty cool. People suck up to you. They want to take pictures with you. You get free food. Where’s the downside?

That was probably what Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu thought when she was the guest of honour at the Kindness Carnival on May 25.



After all, it was organised by the Singapore Kindness Movement. What could be controversial about kindness, right?

At the carnival in East Coast Park that day, new so-called Ground-Up Movements were “inducted” by the Singapore Kindness Movement.

As the guest of honour, Ms Fu took pictures with members of the Ground-Up Movements as well as many other people at the carnival.





That was last month.

Last week, people started making rather unkind comments online about Ms Fu for supposedly “endorsing” one of those Ground-Up Movements just because she took pictures with members of that movement.

That movement is the Anti-Chope Movement.



And let me tell you, people hate it, calling it “inconsiderate”, “thoughtless”, “pretentious”, “counter-productive”, “useless”, “silly”, “self-righteous”, “ridiculous” and “dumbest possible movement”.

If a movement could be cyberbullied, this would be it.

The Anti-Chope Movement was started last year by Ms Katelin Teo, the associate general secretary of partnerships at the Singapore Kindness Movement.

Sharing her origin story on Facebook, she wrote:
“What started out as a pet peeve, I have decided to take action and make a difference in hope to change social behavior, dissuading 'chope-rs' from 'chope-ing'.

“To ‘chope’ is not a life hack. In my opinion, it is an ungracious act carried out by individuals who are conforming to what everyone else is doing and taking to this advantage ‘ Singaporean-tradition’ of reserving a seat for selfish reasons. Reserving of seats are done at restaurants who take reservations - where you have to call or make one online.

“Seats at hawker centres, food courts, coffee shops, cafes and fast food restaurants are meant to be FREE-SEATING, free-for-all, it is a first-come-first get a seat (butt seated) basis.”
I think that means if you want to reserve a seat, reserve it with your butt, not anything else, although technically speaking, that’s not reserving your seat – that’s just sitting there.

To argue its case, the Anti-Chope Movement posted this scenario on its Facebook page:
“It's lunchtime, it's the peak lunch hour at the food court, hordes of hangry humans and you're carrying your tray of hot food... you see an empty seat you make your way there only to find it being "choped"... By tissue packs, lanyards, namecards, keys, water bottle, umbrella, newspaper... You thought it was a public and shared space!
😭😩😤🤯😵😡 .”



Ironically, many arguing for choping used the same scenario of someone carrying a tray of hot food – except to them, choping is the solution, not the problem.



Most of the comments on the Anti-Chope Movement Facebook page are anti-Anti-Chope Movement.

Example:
“Trying to understand the reason for labelling the behaviour ungracious. What is the basis for the assertion that tables at kopitiams are ‘first come first seated (BUTT SEATED)’ (emphasis added)? What’s so special about butts?”
Ask Sir Mix-a-Lot.



I suspect the movement is partly a consequence of the April 2017 Straits Times article, “Singapore’s food centre chope culture: Is it practical or plain rude?”, prompted by letters from readers “asking for something to be done about the ‘choping’ of seats at hawker centres”.

ST reported:
“The practice, they said, has led to quarrels and created scenarios where elderly patrons carrying trays of food are deprived of a seat.

“Others argued that tourists who have been brushed away by locals defending their reserved seats come away with a tarnished image of Singaporeans, although the Singapore Tourism Board said it has not received any feedback about this.”


The Singapore Kindness Movement general secretary himself, Dr William Wan, sort of sidestepped the issue by saying:
“While there is nothing to stop people from sitting at tables waiting for their food to come, they should, in the spirit of give-and-take and empathy, offer their seats to those with food in hand.”
Does that mean he’s pro- or anti-chope? Who knows? Perhaps he is too kind to take a stand.

The Anti-Chope Movement doesn’t help its own cause by distributing cards with the “obnoxious” message, “Doing it for years doesn’t make it right.”



Well, it doesn’t make it wrong either. If I’m a choper, that’s not going to change my mind about choping.

As one Facebook commenter put it:
“I would expect an associate secretary-general of the Singapore Kindness Movement to be less self-entitled and privileged to be printing passive-aggressive card that target the wrong issue.

“What’s more worrying is that this exercise of self-entitlement that is the Anti-Chope Movement has received endorsements by senior ministers like Grace Fu.”
And all the minister did was take a few pictures with people at the Kindness Carnival.

I hope the free food was worth it.

- Published in The New Paper, 10 June 2019



Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Getting free food with my Liverpool T-shirt



It started last month when Liverpool miraculously beat Barcelona 4-0 to overcome a 0-3 deficit in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final.



The win was such an incredible comeback that the day after, two Indian restaurant chains in Singapore, Casuarina Curry and Springleaf Prata Place, offered free prata for any customer wearing a Liverpool jersey.



I regretted not going for the free prata.

Even though I actually wore a Liverpool T-shirt that day, it didn't occur to me to get the free prata because I didn't own a Liverpool jersey. I had a T-shirt.

But then I realised later that I could have at least tried.

I mean, was the restaurant going to make a distiction between a jersey and a T-shirt? Probably any top with the word "Liverpool" would do.

I promised myeelf that if ever such an offer comes along again, I should try to get the free food, even with just the T-shirt.

So after Liverpool finally won the Champions League after 14 years two days ago, I was immediately on the look-out.

And I wasn't disappointed.



The Texas Chicken, An-Nur Shenton Way Famous and Gayatri Restaurant offers were for Sunday only. The Ah Lim Jalan Tua Kong and Casuarina Curry offers were for Monday.

An-Nur Shenton Way Famous and Gayatri Restaurant are too out of the way, so on Sunday, I just went for free two-piece combo meal at Texas Chicken in Nex.

But by the time I got there around 6.50pm, I was told the offer was for the first 100 customers only and I was too late.

I couldn't believe it. I felt so cheated. I checked the Texas Chicken offer on Facebook again.

Well, it did say "while stocks last". Just not that the "stocks" were only enough for 100 customers.



I was crushed.



Not wanting to waste my trip there, I bought the two-piece Sambal meal, which was not bad, actually.

Then as if to add insult to heartbreak, some time between 8pm and 9pm that night, Texas Chicken posted this on Facebook:



So if only I had gone to Nex two hours later than I did, I could've gotten my free meal!

I was upset enough that I commented on Texas Chicken's post:



And Texas Chicken actually replied:



So I messaged Texas Chicken the next morning:



So in a way, I got my free Texas Chicken meal after all.

Woohoo!

But my quest for free Liverpool food wasn't over yet.

Ah Lim Jalan Tua Kong and Casuarina Curry's offers were for Monday, ie yesterday.



Ah Lim Jalan Tua Kong is in Joo Chiat, which was too out of the way for me. So I headed for the Thomson Road outlet of Casuarina Curry, wearing my unwashed Liverpool T-shirt for the second day in a row.

I went around 3.30pm to avoid the lunch and dinner crowd.

It was raining.

But I got my free chicken biryani.



Woohoo!

Mission accomplished.

Ironically, I'm not even a Liverpool fan. I just bought the shirt to troll a colleague, a real hardcore Liverpool fan.



He owns an actual Liverpool jersey. Probably more than one.

And he didn't get any free food at all.

Maybe I'll give him my $10 Texas Chicken voucher since he went with me to Nex on Sunday.

Maybe I won't.


UPDATE: Got it. (Yes, I'm wearing a Man City shirt to troll my colleague as I gave him the voucher.)



Monday, 27 May 2019

Fake news? Are there no more queues at Shake Shack in Jewel as K F Seetoh seems to claim?

When I say “Jewel”, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

The waterfall? Shake Shack? A&W?

The song Foolish Games from the Batman And Robin soundtrack?



Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is long queues.

That’s why I avoided visiting the much hyped Changi Airport supermall since it opened last month.

If hell is other people, Jewel is nothing but hell.

Then last Wednesday morning, Makansutra founder and fellow TNP columnist K F Seetoh posted on Facebook photos showing a near-deserted Jewel with no queues outside Shake Shack and A&W.





He wrote:
“The line at the Shake has slacked to kosong n A&W stands for Anybody Want? The 24 hr food hall is thr to serve some overpromised kpi n i did not even know thrs a food court hidden within the food hall. I think now Joo Chiat more happening than Jewel la. A stall manager said they, like else whr get the usual lunch crowd but picks up only on weekends.

“Did someone over rara on promises at Jewel.”
Okay, if you can comprehend all that, then maybe you can explain to me the ending to Game Of Thrones too. (Like why is there still a Night Watch?)



My takeaway from Seetoh’s post was, woohoo, no more crowds! I can go to Jewel now, just maybe not during lunch and the weekend.

And perhaps I should check out Joo Chiat too.



At first, people on Facebook agreed with Seetoh.

One commented:
“Well it’s a over rated mall with common shops found in other downtown and heartland malls. Food stores like Shake Shack and A&W taste horrible. Once you tasted the original, these are just pale in comparison. Furthermore if you don’t stay in the east, who would want to waste time and the hassle to travel all the way to jewel for a mediocre mall?”
Well, at least it doesn’t have an indoor cycling track.

Another commenter was more succinct: “White Jewel elephant!!!”

Then someone asked when the photos were taken.

Seetoh replied 9.15am.

Well, that changed things.



He was asked: “Why do u take pics at early in the morn and then deduce the ‘kosong’ queues? Who on earth goes to any shopping mall at 9 or even 10am at weekdays. Be fair in your conclusions lah.”

Also, I might add, while A&W is open 24 hours, Shake Shack opens only at 10am.

Someone else pointed out: “Joo Chiat got consistently long Qs on a weekday morning ah?”

Another warned: “This post may be covered under the fake news law if it goes viral.”

Well, it went viral enough that AsiaOne reported: “K F Seetoh posts photos of empty Jewel Changi Airport, internet disagrees.”



Oh no, will the Singapore hawker food champion have to run away to South Africa to escape prosecution under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act?

Or marry his boyfriend. Whatever, man. Follow your heart.

Ironically, he would probably have to go through Changi Airport. (Unless he flees by sampan.)

Backtracking a little, Seetoh later added to his post:
“i was there same time today, pre opening hrs at 930am, same as three weeks back and the lines then were ridiculous. But its all but disappeared now. I see the usual crowds closer to opening and regular hours, which is normal and i hope it continues. The decline is slow and real. I feel for the tenants, esp the 24/7 ones.”
So his point was that even at this early hour, there were long queues when Jewel first opened but not anymore. His concern is: “If nobody at some hrs..why make them open 24/7 in these depressed manpower conditions.”

Wait, wait, wait, so does this mean there are still long lines at Jewel or not?

I decided to find out for myself last Friday afternoon by travelling all the way from my home in Choa Chu Kang to Changi while listening to Jewel’s greatest hits on my non-Huawei phone.



It was hell.

Who will save your soul indeed.

To answer Seetoh’s A&W question, yes, a lot want.

- Published in The New Paper, 27 May 2019





Wednesday, 22 May 2019

NTUC Enterprise responds to my 50-cent teh column: 'We apologise for the confusion'



So my last column was about my confusion over the 50-cent teh deal at the NTUC Foodfare coffeeshop.

In response to the article published in The New Paper on May 13, a reader named Lilian Seah e-mailed me:

Good morning,

Thanks for the article in The New Paper this morning.

The discount is not applicable in NTUC hawker in Kampung Admiralty. I was really surprised as this location is specially opened by Mr Lee Hsien Loong. Kampung Admiralty, an integrated housing estate for senior citizens, is considered a model for future public housing.

The mixed vegetables rice prices in most NTUC food court has special concessions for senior citizens, student and NTUC union members. But it's also not applicable in Kampung Admiralty. Example: Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital food court and NTUC coffeeshop in Blk 361 Sembawang crescent.

NTUC privilege is not align and it's really confusing to consumers.

Hope to hear from you soon.

So last week, NTUC Enterprise wrote a letter to TNP responding to my column and the reader's e-mail:

Dear Editor,

We refer to the article by SM Ong – Confusion over 50-cent Teh deal at Foodfare dated 13 May 2019, and to the letter from your reader Ms Lilian Seah

We thank them for sharing their experiences.

The following ten hot beverages Kopi, Kopi-O, Kopi-O Kosong, Kopi-C, Kopi-C Kosong, Teh, Teh-O, Teh-O Kosong, Teh-C, Teh-C Kosong are offered at $0.50 to NTUC Union members every day for the month of May at over 90 NTUC Foodfare and Kopitiam food courts and coffee shops islandwide.

To ensure that every NTUC Union member gets to enjoy this promotion, each member can buy 1 cup of kopi/teh upon presenting one NTUC union membership card. That is to say, the same member is entitled to buy two cups at $0.50 each by presenting two NTUC union membership cards in a single transaction – in the event he is making the purchase on behalf of another member. We wish to highlight that there is no limit to the number of cups each member can buy per day. To minimise waiting times for other customers, an NTUC union member holding a single NTUC union membership card is encouraged to re-join the queue if he wishes to purchase an additional cup at $0.50.

We apologise for the confusion Mr Ong has experienced. We shall continue to reinforce our communication with the operations team to ensure consistency in the implementation of the promotion.

We are glad that the promotion has been well received and there have been suggestions to extend this offer to the hawker centres. We shall take this into consideration for our future campaigns. Customers may refer to Foodfare’s website (www.foodfare.com.sg) or Kopitiam’s website (www.kopitiam.biz) for more information and the full listing of the participating outlets.

Meanwhile, NTUC union members continue to enjoy a host of member privileges at NTUC Foodfare food courts, coffee shops and new hawker centres.

At our Rice Garden stall, customers enjoy mixed rice meals at concessionary prices for senior citizens, students, NTUC union members and other concession card holders. Launched by NTUC Foodfare in 2009, Rice Garden is a social outreach programme to provide affordable meals to Singaporeans so as to help moderate their cost of living. To date, we have 47 Rice Garden stalls operating in coffee shops and hawker centres including Kampung Admiralty hawker centre (KAHC).

To bring greater value to the NTUC union members, we also extend the following benefits at NTUC Foodfare food courts and coffee shops,

  • Every stall offers an NTUC value meal which members may purchase at a discount of up to 15%
  • NTUC breakfast set sold at a member price of $1.80 ($2.20 for the public)
  • NTUC U Live members (aged 55 years and above) enjoy a 10% senior citizen discount every Tuesday
In addition, every stall at our coffee shops offers a budget meal priced from $2 - $3, which can be enjoyed by the public.

We have noted the feedback from Ms Seah and would like to gather more details of her experience at KAHC for follow-up action. We would appreciate if she may contact our service quality team at 6756 0266 or via email at feedback@foodfare.com.sg.

It is NTUC Foodfare’s social mission to provide value, quality cooked food at affordable prices and we intend to provide better value to our customers through initiatives such as the 50-cent kopi/ teh promotion.

It doesn't answer my question about when there's no queue, but ok.

I'm actually too paiseh to queue up twice. So I'm sacrificing 40 cents every time I buy drinks (one teh-o, one teh) for my wife and me for the rest of the month.

If only I were more thick-skinned.


EARLIER: Storm in a 50-cent tea cup? Confusion over May deal at NTUC Foodfare

Monday, 13 May 2019

Storm in a 50-cent tea cup? Confusion over May deal at NTUC Foodfare



Just half a dollar.

For the whole of this month, when you show your National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) membership card at NTUC Foodfare or Kopitiam, you can buy a cup of hot coffee or tea (or their various c, o, kosong, siew dai, ga dai, po, gau incarnation) for only 50 cents.

I believe it has something to do with May Day, celebrating workers and all that.

At least I don’t have to demean myself by wearing a Liverpool jersey to get the special price.



I was delighted to spot the “$0.50 kopi & teh” sign in my neighbourhood Foodfare coffee shop since I go there to buy a packet of teh for myself and a packet of teh-o for my wife to take home practically every morning.

It usually costs $1 for the teh and 90 cents for the teh-o, but this month, I need to pay only $1 for both. It’s like Thanos snapped half the price away.

That will save me $27.90, which I can spend on watching Avengers: Endgame in Imax 3D again with popcorn.



Or so I thought.

For the first few days of the month, I smiled like I had never smiled before at the drinks auntie as I showed her my NTUC card and paid only $1 for my daily beverages.

Then last week, things suddenly changed.

She told me she could charge me 50 cents for only one drink and I had to pay full price for the other.

Wait, what?

She explained that the rule is actually one cup per card.

So they had been doing it wrong all this time?

I asked, what if I queued up and ordered again? The auntie said, no, no, she still had to charge me full price for the second drink.

But what if I disguised myself such that she couldn’t recognise me? Josh damn it, I left my Thanos mask at home.

If I wanted to pay 50 cents for my wife’s teh-o, it seemed my only options were to go to another NTUC Foodfare or Kopitiam, or get someone else to order for me using my NTUC card (since they didn’t check who the card belonged to), or wait for the drink stall staff to change shift.

Or pay full price, which was, of course, unthinkable.

That’s like 40 cents more!

I looked around the coffee shop and considered asking a stranger to order the teh-o for me, but my skin wasn’t “gau” enough.

I was about to head home teh-o-less, but the fear of disappointing my wife made me turn around and accept the unthinkable – I would pay the full price of 90 cents for her drink.

The drinks auntie sighed when she saw me again. Half exasperated and half taking pity on me, she charged me 50 cents for the teh-o and said she wasn’t supposed to do this.

I smiled at her like I never smiled at anyone before.

Never mind the Avengers – she’s my hero.

But still confounded by the “one cup per card” rule, I looked it up online and found an April 25 Straits Times report that said:
“There is no limit to the number of cups of discounted kopi, kopi-o, kopi-c, teh, teh-o and teh-c - including sugarless varieties – customers can order in one day. They can order one discounted drink for each card presented at the counter and have to queue again to order each subsequent cup.”
Which contradicts what the drinks auntie told me.



Was my hero mistaken or should ST be prosecuted under the new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act?

But even if ST is right, it seems kind of silly to force people to queue up each time for a 50-cent beverage.

What if there’s no queue? Can I just order multiple 50-cent cups? Or must I go through the motion of ordering one at a time?

And why was it different for the first few days of the month?

It appears NTUC hasn’t quite thought this through.

Oh yah, and do I need to bring my Thanos mask?

The things I do to save 40 cents.

- Published in The New Paper, 13 May 2019


Good morning,

Thanks for the article in The New Paper this morning.

The discount is not applicable in NTUC hawker in Kampung Admiralty. I was really surprised as this location is specially opened by Mr Lee Hsien Loong. Kampung Admiralty, an integrated housing estate for senior citizens, is considered a model for future public housing.

The mixed vegetables rice prices in most NTUC food court has special concessions for senior citizens, student and NTUC union members. But it's also not applicable in Kampung Admiralty. Example: Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital food court and NTUC coffeeshop in Blk 361 Sembawang crescent.

NTUC privilege is not align and it's really confusing to consumers.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you,
Lilian


Hello S Mong

I read with amusement, your article in TNP today. I have not tried purchasing the 50 cents kopi but another deal caught my attention - free ferry ticket to batam (need to pay $20 for fees and surcharges). I am planning to make good use of it this long weekend for my family but now i am not sure if i can buy their tickets too.

Perhaps it's not about the organiser not thinking through all possibilities, but really Singaporeans are always very creative in finding loop holes or getting around the rules. You have pointed out a few in the article. Another good example is the recent HPB QR code incident. Some Singaporeans see the goodwill perks/deals as an entitlement and demanded beyond what is logical, causing happiness and ranting.

I guess if i can get discounted ferry tickets for my family, that would be great but if i can't, then at least i have some savings on my ticket.

When we show gratitude for the little things in life, we can lead happier lives.


UPDATE: NTUC Enterprise responds: 'We apologise for the confusion'

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Safety advisory sent to NUS students: Female resident was filmed in bathroom at Raffles Hall



So my daughter, a National University of Singapore student, just received another e-mail from the school:
From: Office of Campus Security
Sent: Saturday, May 11, 2019 7:13:48 PM

Dear NUS Student

Safety advisory from NUS Campus Security

This morning, the Office of Campus Security (OCS) was alerted to an incident in which a female resident was filmed in one of the bathrooms at Raffles Hall. The matter has been reported to the police and we are assisting in their investigation.

The University is providing the female student with dedicated support and assistance.

Since April, the University has been enhancing security on our campuses through the introduction of enhanced CCTV coverage, secure shower cubicles, restroom locks and increased patrols by campus security officers.

All of these measures are in the midst of being implemented at Raffles Hall, including the secure shower cubicles which will be installed in the coming weeks. One of the newly installed CCTV cameras at the hall had enabled us to capture footage of the male suspect, who has been apprehended by the police for further investigation.

Your safety is important to us. While NUS accelerates the implementation of these security enhancements, we urge all students and staff to remain vigilant, and to immediately report any suspicious activity to OCS at our 24-hour hotline: 6874 1616 and email: ocssec@nus.edu.sg.

Let's work together to keep our campuses safe for everyone.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Keith It
Director
Office of Campus Security

This is getting out of hand.


EARLIER: After Monica Baey: My daughter is in NUS, should I be worried?


Monday, 29 April 2019

After Monica Baey: My daughter is in NUS, should I be worried?




My daughter, a first-year National University of Singapore (NUS) student, once told me a joke:

What do NUS and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) students have in common?

Answer: They all applied to NUS.

I think she read it in NUSWhispers.

After last week, there is another answer: They may be secretly filmed showering on campus.

Singapore Management University doesn’t look so bad now.

Last week, besides Avengers: Endgame spoilers, all anyone could talk about was NUS student Monica Baey.

She posted an Instagram Story about catching another student filming her in the shower, which resulted in Facebook posts by two ministers and a disappointing NUS town hall meeting on Thursday.







We also learnt that 26 sexual offence cases (update: police say 25) had been brought before the NUS disciplinary board over the past three years. That works out to be approximately one sexual offence every six weeks (even if it was 25 cases over three years).

NTU: “Hold my beer.”

Also last week, two cases of an NTU student being filmed in the shower were reported within days of each other.



And all these are just incidents that have been reported. There could be more perpetrators who were not caught.

Who knew local university campuses are such popular locations for illicit amateur voyeur porn production?

I certainly didn’t read about it in the university prospectuses when my daughter and I were deciding which school to apply to after she got her A-level results last year.

There is apparently no global ranking of universities based on the number of perverts matriculating in the school.

By the way, it’s not true that matriculation causes blindness.

In any case, a bigger factor in picking a university is the school’s remoteness from civilisation, which was why NTU wasn’t our first choice.

After all, we chose NUS even though we were aware of the sexualised freshmen orientation games scandal of 2016.

That was when then Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung felt it was necessary to point out on Facebook that “pretending to ejaculate into the face of a fellow student” is a “reprehensible act that cannot be tolerated”.



I’m happy (and relieved) to report that my daughter attended an NUS freshmen orientation camp last year and did not witness anyone pretending to ejaculate into anyone’s face or she would have told me.

However, in the wake of the Monica Baey revelations, my daughter received a series of e-mails from NUS last week that were more concerning than reassuring.

The first was an April 21 e-mail from the NUS Students’ Union Exco, saying that sexual harassment “is a serious community problem” and victims should report such matters to the school. The Exco added that if victims are told not to report, they should report that too.



Later that day, the Dean of Students sent an e-mail about how NUS “does not tolerate sexual misconduct” and that a committee will be convened “to review the current student disciplinary and support frameworks”.



Then on Friday after the town hall, the Students’ Union Exco sent an e-mail to express “extreme” disappointment in how the town hall was run.



Later that day, the NUS Provost sent an e-mail regarding the town hall to “acknowledge that there was some disappointment”, which makes you wonder, if NUS couldn’t even organise a town hall competently, how is it going to do all the things it said it was going to do?

And it isn’t like the university doesn’t have enough problems. Earlier this month, it was reported that NUS and the Singapore Food Agency are investigating after two outbreaks of food poisoning on campus.



So not only does my daughter have to watch out for the perverts in NUS, she has to be careful of the food too?

Academics, schmacademics.

Just three more years to go.

Three.

Long.

Years.

I must make sure she never takes a shower in school.

- Published in The New Paper, 29 April 2019

Friday, 26 April 2019

Sent to NUS students: [NUSSU EXCO] Statement on NUS Town Hall



So my daughter, an NUS student, received another e-mail from the students' union this afternoon:



Dear Students,

NUSSU EXCO would like to thank all the students who attended and participated in the town hall organised by NUS on Thursday, 25th April 2019. While we appreciate that the University promptly responded to the students’ call for a town hall, we are extremely disappointed in the way the meeting was run.

  • We regret that the town hall was planned in a manner that did not allow for an extension. The town hall should have been the administration’s top priority in light of the various concerns raised by the students over the past week. This was also a huge letdown for students who cleared their schedules prior to finals but were unable to voice their concerns.
  • NUSSU EXCO is disheartened to observe that the panelists were unable to answer students’ questions adequately as they are not on the Review Committee and therefore could not make any commitment on their behalf.
  • Furthermore, the town hall did not meet its original intentions of sharing its investigative and disciplinary procedures and the sanctions framework for sexual misconduct.
  • Despite the aforementioned concerns, we welcome the NUS administration’s plans to establish a centralised victim support unit and improve security infrastructure in halls and residential colleges.
  • We also appreciate the University for following through on our suggestions to enforce anonymity and include counsellors on standby.
  • Moving forward, we have submitted two requests formally to the NUS President, Prof Tan Eng Chye. The first is to increase the diversity and quantity of student representation in the Review Committee. The second is to convene another town hall with members of the Review Committee on the panel as part of their report crafting methodology. This is to ensure that students can receive committal answers from individuals who have decision-making power in the committee, and that their voices are heard.
  • Last but not least, we applaud the students who mustered the courage to share with the NUS administration their experiences and feedback with the purpose of creating a safer and more empowering environment for all.
  • The notes of the town hall and the remaining unasked questions can be found at bit.ly/nustownhall2019. We have forwarded them to nuslistens@nus.edu.sg and we encourage students to submit their concerns, queries and feedback to the aforementioned email address. Students who wish to reach out to NUSSU EXCO can contact us at feedback@nussu.org.sg.

It's also posted on the NUSSU Facebook page:



Later that night, my daughter received this e-mail from the NUS Provost:

Dear Students,

Yesterday afternoon, the Office of Student Affairs and NUSSU held a town hall to discuss how we can improve campus safety and offer better support to victims of sexual misconduct. I would like to thank those who attended and contributed.

I acknowledge that there was some disappointment that the session could not be extended to allow more of you to speak. After the session, NUSSU collated the remaining questions and submitted them to nuslistens@nus.edu.sg, the e-mail address we created to hear from you directly. I assure you that your comments and questions will be carefully reviewed and considered.

The town hall is just the first step in a broad consultation with the NUS community to hear from our students, faculty and staff. We are committed to providing further opportunities for consultation and feedback in the coming weeks, including more town hall sessions.

As you may know, the NUS Board of Trustees has convened a review committee on sexual misconduct. The points raised at the town hall will be shared in full with the committee, in addition to any submissions sent to nuslistens@nus.edu.sg.

I would like to state emphatically that we take our responsibilities very seriously when it comes to protecting everyone in our community from harm. We hear your forceful voices on the need to strengthen our disciplinary framework, to improve victim care support and physical safety, and to redouble our efforts to create a culture that allows everyone to feel safe on campus.

As immediate actions, the University will:

  1. Establish a dedicated office where victims of sexual misconduct can receive specialised, professional support and care. This office will support victims from the point they make a report, and ensure privacy and sensitivity in handling their cases. It will also have counsellors to provide aftercare support and address other concerns and needs that victims may have. This office will be in place before the start of the new academic year.
  2. Accelerate the enhancement of physical security on campus, including broader CCTV coverage, more security staff and better sexual misconduct-specific training for security staff.
  3. Work with student representatives to implement heightened security and privacy tools in bathrooms in all student residences.
  4. Deliver educational seminars on respect, consent and awareness for all students, faculty and staff from the start of the new academic year.

We are committed to a transparent and consultative process, and our proposed actions will continue to be published for your feedback before they are implemented by the start of the new academic year.

Please do reach out to nuslistens@nus.edu.sg, with your suggestions and feedback.

Thank you for taking the time to voice your concerns. I assure you that we are listening.

Sincerely,
Professor Ho Teck Hua




EARLIER: Sent to NUS students: [NUSSU EXCO] Statement on Sexual Harassment in NUS


Sunday, 21 April 2019

Sent to NUS students: [NUSSU EXCO] Statement on Sexual Harassment in NUS





My daughter, an NUS student, received this e-mail this morning:

Dear Students,

NUSSU Exco expresses its condemnation of any form of sexual harassment, which is a serious community problem that everyone has a responsibility in handling. NUSSU Exco is regretful that Ms Monica Baey, and other victims of sexual harassment, have had to go through such traumatic experiences as an NUS student.

NUSSU Exco strongly encourages any victim of sexual harassment to report to NUS, and is willing to assist students in helping report such matters to NUS. Students who know of such victims are encouraged to provide social support and help them seek professional support if necessary.

Students who are told to not report such matters, or are not comfortable with approaching NUS directly, should alert and contact NUSSU Exco at feedback@nussu.org.sg. NUSSU Exco is currently in the process of clarifying who had told Ms Baey that she should not report the matter.

However, justice needs to consider both the victim and the perpetrator, and needs to be proportionate. While the discussion on the issue of sexual harassment and this particular case is important and welcome, NUSSU Exco also strongly urges fellow students to not harass Mr Nicholas Lim and his family.

NUSSU Exco notes that in this particular case, the Board had ordered the following:

  • One semesters’ suspension;
  • Ban from entering into all on-campus housing premises;
  • Mandatory counselling sessions at University Health Centre;
  • Community-based sanctions of 30 hours of supervised community service;
  • Mandatory rehabilitation and reconciliation sessions with a social worker;
  • Writing a mandatory letter of apology; and
  • Official letter of reprimand

NUSSU Exco also recognises, that as opposed to a criminal court, that rehabilitation is an extremely strong principle in how student offenders are treated in the Board of Discipline, given that NUS is an educational institution. NUSSU Exco also notes that the Board of Discipline had acted in accordance with existing precedent and due process, and respects that the decision by the Board was arrived at in good faith.

However, NUSSU Exco is in the process of considering whether for future cases, as a matter of general policy against sexual harassment, there should be heavier punishments as a matter of deterrence, and for retributive justice for victims.

Furthermore, NUSSU Exco stresses that punishment is only one aspect of how NUS should deal with sexual harassment, and that this episode highlights how NUS policy with respect to sexual harassment could be reviewed in various areas. These include:

  • Increasing awareness and education of sexual harassment on campus, as a preventive policy;
  • Improving social-psychological support for victims of sexual harassment;
  • Greater transparency and education on how sexual harassment cases are dealt with in NUS; and
  • Improving the culture of reporting sexual harassment in NUS, to create a safer environment for reporting harassment.

NUSSU Exco also stresses that all members of NUS have a role to play in creating a culture where sexual harassment is not acceptable. This is not the sole responsibility of the administration, and NUSSU Exco encourages students to play their part in ensuring that we create an empowering, safe and trusting environment for all.

NUSSU Exco recognises that NUS takes sexual harassment very seriously, and appreciates that it is continuing such a stance and policy. NUSSU Exco notes that NUS has recently conducted the following:

  • Review of the code of student conduct, with extensive revisions to the provisions on sexual misconduct; and
  • Education of campus security investigation officers and board of discipline members on how to sensitively handle sexual harassment cases.

NUSSU Exco takes issues of sexual harassment seriously, and notes that there is currently a proposal being mooted in NUSSU Council with respect to conducting a survey regarding sexual harassment in NUS.

In light of this incident, NUSSU Exco is currently conceiving an action plan to better address issues of sexual harassment. This includes the drafting of a report by NUSSU Exco on whether existing sentencing guidelines should be revised, whilst considering other processes.

NUSSU Exco will continue to work closely with NUS in making the campus a safe and secure environment for all our students. NUSSU Exco also notes that NUS President is to convene a Committee to review disciplinary and support frameworks in NUS. NUSSU Exco is confident that the Committee and the administration will continuously engage with students, to create a safer environment that everyone has confidence in.

Students who have any feedback on this matter can contact NUSSU Exco via email at feedback@nussu.org.sg. NUSSU Exco welcomes and encourages students to continue to make their views known through official channels, such that the NUS administration and NUSSU Exco can act accordingly.

It was also posted on the NUSSU Facebook page:



This follows an earlier NUS statement yesterday:



There are at least two online petitions regarding this case, We want Singapore police to reopen Monica Baey’s case! and Stiffer Punishment For Nicholas Lim Jun Kai.




EARLIER IN 2016: Minister says 'ejaculate', thanks to rapey NUS freshman orientation games

Monday, 15 April 2019

Waiting game: Buying Avengers Endgame tickets made me question the meaning of life



There comes a time for everyone when you question the point of it all.

Why are you doing this? Is this what life is about?

For me, that happened last Wednesday morning as I stared at the queue number on my computer screen, waiting to buy tickets for Avengers: Endgame on the Shaw Theatres website.



The screen said: “Your estimated wait time is: more than one hour.”

Nothing to be done.

I wanted Imax 3D tickets, which you can get only at Shaw, but like the Avengers in Infinity War, it looked like I was going to fail.

Deciding that it’s better to have non-Imax 3D tickets than no tickets at all, I tried the other cinema chains.

But I couldn’t get into the Cathay Cineplexes website because Thanos had apparently snapped its servers to oblivion too.

After a few attempts, I was relieved to be able to get good seats on the Golden Village website – until I tried to pay. My credit card payment couldn’t be processed.

GV raised my hopes only to turn them to dust like the Mad Titan. At least on the Cathay website, the death was instant. This was crueler.

It’s too much for one man.

On the other hand, what’s the good of losing heart now, that’s what I say.

As a last resort, I tried the website of We Cinemas, (a misnomer since it has just one cinema in Clementi albeit with multiple halls) and managed to book two opening-day tickets.

The seats are terrible though – three rows from the front and to the side. My neck is going to hurt after the three-hour movie.

At least whatever happens, I will be watching Avengers: Endgame on opening day, just maybe not in Imax 3D.

People ask, why must you watch the movie on the first day?

Some fans say it’s to avoid spoilers because if you see the movie before other people do, other people can’t spoil it for you and as we all know, hell is other people.

But honestly, it’s because I just can’t wait.

Like the hardy souls in the queue for A&W at Jewel Changi Airport, I would rather wait in line for hours than wait for the hype to inevitably fade when there will be no more queues.



Remember the long lines for Wendy’s in 2009 when it too returned to Singapore after a long absence like A&W?

Well, the queues for Wendy’s are gone – and so is Wendy’s. And it wasn’t even Thanos’ fault.



And even though I already got my We Cinemas tickets, ultimately, the endgame was still Imax 3D.

I could just sell my extra tickets on Carousell and maybe even make a profit.



Like the Avengers, I wasn’t giving up – yet.

But as I sat there counting down the minutes in the online queue for the Shaw website, I felt like I was watching my life tick away as well.

I wondered if it was really worth it.

Why was I doing this? Was this what life is about?

In an instant, all will vanish and we'll be alone once more in the midst of nothingness.

After three hours, the screen said: “Your estimated wait time is: less than one minute.”

Hallelujah!

More than one minute later, it said the same thing.

Fake news!

In the time it took for me to get the tickets, I could’ve watched the whole goddamned movie.

Minutes later, I was re-directed to the Avengers: Endgame ticketing page.

My patience had been rewarded! I rejoiced.

Then…

Nothing happens.

I couldn’t click on anything.

At least the Cathay website didn’t string you along for “more than an hour” before hanging. It disappointed you right away.

Shaw made sure you suffered first.

Astronomers were taking pictures of me because I was in a black hole where time had no meaning.



Like the search party for the runaway bull in Lim Chu Kang, I finally gave up.

And thus ended one of the most existentially stressful mornings of my life and I’ve flown on Scoot before.

I later bought 3D tickets from GV and this time, the payment went through. No Imax but close enough.

Anybody want two tickets to watch Avengers: Endgame at 11.05am on April 24 in Clementi?

Is $500 too much to ask?

Great seats.

- Published in The New Paper, 15 April 2019





Monday, 1 April 2019

Gojek viral video saga vol. 2: 'Don’t make your problem to be my problem!'

Last week, Gojek announced that it is improving the welfare of its Singapore drivers by introducing a benefits programme called GoalBetter, which includes fuel rebates and prolonged medical leave insurance.

Just in time too because one Gojek driver who seems to really need improved welfare is Mr Aaron Heng, the social media villain of the week.



Remember the Gojek “kidnapping” video two months ago? This is like the sequel but with new characters. So maybe it should be called a “reboot” instead?

Anyway, the premise and format is the same. The driver fears the passenger is accusing him of cheating. So to protect himself, he records a vertical video of his interaction with the passenger and it goes viral.

This could be a new TV reality anthology series called Singapore Gojek Story or The Gojek Zone. Jordan Peele could host it.



The first episode is obviously called “Is it because I’m Chinese?”

The second episode can be called “I’m not a millionaire like you”.

The stars of this episode are Mr Heng and an elderly couple he picked up.

Once again, the video starts in medias res, meaning in the middle of the story, so you’re not shown what led up to the events in the video.

It appears that when the passenger made the booking, he thought the fare was $14.10, but after getting into Mr Heng’s car, he learnt it was $21.10 on Mr Heng’s app.

So Mr Heng pulled his car over as the passenger called Gojek for clarification.

Meanwhile, Mr Heng was unhappy that he was accused of overcharging and kept interjecting while the passenger was on the phone.

The driver said: “$7 you want to make an issue? You waste my time. Eh! You’re driving Mercedes one, is it?”

The passenger replied: “That’s none of your bloody business, please.”

The word “bloody” apparently got Mr Heng even more triggered. He told the passenger: “Please talk to me with respect.”

Probably because Mr Heng picked up the couple at a country club, he said, apropos of nothing: “I’m not a millionaire like you.”

A theme emerged when he later added: “I’m driving to earn the incentive, you know that? I don’t earn $2,000 a day, you know? The incentive is only $205 for your info, you know?”

The passenger eventually agreed to pay the $21 and said he would sort it out with Gojek later. Mr Heng was not happy about that either.

He said: “You know why? Because if you sort out with Gojek, Gojek will minus out the $7 from my account. Let me put it clear to you, anything it becomes driver problem. Always driver’s problem. That is the problem.”

“Then that is something you got to sort out with Gojek,” said the passenger.

The 6-minute plus video ends after the couple manage to convince Mr Heng to continue driving.



Like the Gojek “kidnap” video, Mr Heng’s video went viral. Unlike the earlier video, which garnered much support for the driver, Mr Heng’s video did the opposite.

Someone commented on Facebook: “Evil. No good heart! After all can talk nicely n be patient to settle but not act like hooligans lah. Completely a low-class driver!”

It wouldn’t be a surprise if someone threatened to egg him.

On Saturday, Mr Heng apologised on Facebook:
Hi. I am the driver in this video. I'm drive as a Private Hire Driver to earn a honest living to provide for my family. I've tried my hands in seeking other employment opportunity but to no avail.

I want to say I've got nothing against the elderly especially the poor and the aged. In fact, I just posted a post on how an elderly offered to buy a meal for a wheelchair person and I even went up offering to pay for his meal. They were like us and one day we will be like them. That's why I believe in helping them out if I can.

Story is like this. I picked this couple from a country club to his destination. Normally I would confirm with the rider on his destination and the amount to pay and to our surprise, we found out that there was a price discrepancy. I then told the rider that it showed $21.10 on my app while he said that he has to pay $14.10 although he refused to show me his app saying $14.10 (I asked couple of times). He suddenly got irritated and asked me to alight him immediately. For his own safety, I told him it's dangerous to abruptly stop in the middle of the road like that but he went on insisting to alight him. I obliged.

I managed to find a small road to enter to stop by the side wanting to alight him and to call GoJek to ask for instructions. I openly notified the couple that I am doing a recording just in case I am accused of overcharging the couple. I cannot afford to lose this job. I've mouths to feed.

Why I behave in such a manner is because I was accused of overcharging the passenger. I did not. It is the system. And what I said in the video was to say that I am just trying to hit my incentives as the fares are already low. The pressure is immense. The terms are challenging. I'm facing a lot of stress to meet the targets.

Lastly, I want to apologise for my behaviour as shown in the video as time is precious to us as a private hirer driver. I was unnecessarily rude. I was not respectful. I did not explain myself clearly. I pray for a chance to make good.

But his apology was about as well received as a rat in a Teochew restaurant.

One person commented: “What’s the point of coming up with this sob story? You are sorry cos u got caught.”

Mr Heng’s Facebook page is no longer available.

But here’s the big twist.

On Saturday, Mr Heng also made a police report. In it, he said that he sent the video to a WhatsApp group “asking for advice” and named the people in the chat group.



He seems to be implying that someone in the group made the video public, not him. This despite him telling the passenger in the video: “I’ll make it (the video) very big. Trust me, brother.”

Gojek has since said that the company looked into the case and had resolved the matter between the driver and his passengers.

By the way, under the company’s new GoalBetter programme, drivers who use their DBS or POSB debit cards to pay for fuel will also get a $7.50 weekly rebate if they spend at least $180 a week.

That’s how you can get your $7 back right there.

- Published in The New Paper, 1 April 2019

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