Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Season 1 of Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd on Netflix is not actually Season 1 — it's Season 3

So Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd is now on Netflix.

Netflix lists the first episode called Cast The First Scone as Season 1 Episode 1, but it's actually Season 3 Episode 1.

I should know. I wrote it.

Of the 26 episodes available on Netflix, I wrote (or co-wrote) 16 of them. And they're all from seaon 3 when I first took over the show as executive producer. I came on as a writer the previous season.

It's strange that Netflix didn't start with the first season. It's especially jarring since the first Netflix episode opens with a recap of the cliffhanger from the end of Season 2.

Below is the two-part season 2 finale if you care.

The cliffhanger scene was tacked on at the end of part 2 after then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong dedicated part of his 1999 National Day Rally speech to the show. That speech cemented PCK as a national icon.

PM Goh said:

If we want to be an education hub, attracting good students from the region, then we must provide a good English-speaking environment, i.e. one where people speak standard English, not Singlish. Our schools must teach standard English, and our children must learn and speak standard English.

Most of our pupils still come from non-English speaking homes. For them, English is really a second language, to be learnt almost like a foreign language, and not their mother tongue. For them to master just one version of English is already quite a challenge. If they get into the habit of speaking Singlish, then later they will either have to unlearn these habits, or learn proper English on top of Singlish. Many pupils will find this too difficult. They may end up unable to speak any language properly, which would be a tragedy.

Gurmit Singh can speak many languages. But Phua Chu Kang speaks only Singlish. If our children learn Singlish from Phua Chu Kang, they will not become as talented as Gurmit Singh.

We learn English in order to communicate with the world. The fact that we use English gives us a big advantage over our competitors. Parents send children to English language schools rather than Chinese, Malay, or Tamil schools, because they hope the children will get jobs and opportunities when they grow up. But to become an engineer, a technician, an accountant or a nurse, you must have standard English, not Singlish.

And then:

One of the problems MOE has getting students to speak standard English is that the students often hear Singlish being spoken around them, including on TV. So they learn wrong ways of speaking.

Teachers complain that their students are picking up catchphrases like: "Don't pray, pray." and using them even in the classroom. The students may think that it is acceptable and even fashionable to speak like Phua Chu Kang. He is on national TV and a likeable, ordinary person. The only character who tries to speak proper English is Phua Chu Kang's sister-in-law Margaret, and she is a snob. Nobody wants to be a snob. So in trying to imitate life, Phua Chu Kang has made the teaching of proper English more difficult.

I asked TCS why Phua Chu Kang's English is so poor. They told me that Phua Chu Kang started off speaking quite good English, but as time passed he forgot what he learnt in school, and his English went from bad to worse.

I therefore asked TCS to try persuading Phua Chu Kang to attend NTUC's BEST classes, to improve his English. TCS replied that they have spoken to Phua Chu Kang, and he has agreed to enrol himself for the next BEST programme, starting in a month's time. If Phua Chu Kang can improve himself, surely so can the rest of us.

Maybe that's why Netflix chose Cast The First Scone as its first episode since it's the episode where Phua Chu Kang talks about completing the BEST programme as the prime minister instructed. So it's quite a landmark episode.

I mean, can you think of another sitcom where the storyline was dictated by the guy running the country?

PCK also got another mention in next year's National Day Rally speech.

PM Goh said in 2000:

We must therefore bring about a culture of lifelong learning. You are never too old to learn. Even if you speak Singlish, you can learn to improve your English. Look at Phua Chu Kang. He attended BEST classes. He is speaking better English already, although still not as good as Gurmit Singh. Whether Phua Chu Kang wishes to improve his English further is up to him. But if he is wise, he should keep on learning, for example, how to use the computer and e-commerce to expand his business.
About two-third way into the production of the third season, I left the show and Mediacorp in 2000 to join the ill-fated TVWorks in the ill-fated SPH Mediaworks start-up.

I would return to Mediacorp a few years later and somehow ended up as executive producer again of the eighth and final season of PCK Pte Ltd because no one else wanted the job.

Actually, if you want to watch all the Phua Chu Kang episodes in the original telecast order, they're available for streaming on Mediacorp's MeWatch streaming platform. Having the show on Netflix is kind of redundant, but I guess more people watch Netflix than MeWatch.

Why you no watch MeWatch?

EARLIER: Educating Phua Chu Kang - and failing

Monday, 27 July 2020

Cancel culture is coming to our shores, warns Xiaxue, but is it already here? For years

What is cancel culture?

Hands up those who think it refers to stuff getting cancelled because of Covid-19.

Like the disease, the term “cancel culture” first emerged last year but in the last few months, started spreading like, well, the coronavirus.

And there’s no vaccine to protect you from it either.

I’m actually afraid to explain what cancel culture is because I will probably get cancelled for getting it wrong.

So I shall cowardly point you to Macquarie Dictionary, which defines the term as “the attitudes within a community which call for or bring about the withdrawal of support from a public figure, such as cancellation of an acting role, a ban on playing an artist’s music, removal from social media, etc., usually in response to an accusation of a socially unacceptable action or comment”.

Recent targets of the woke cancel culture warriors include Mediacorp for its Channel 8 drama My Guardian Angels, which depicted a gay character as a paedophile, and Marshall Cavendish Education, puublisher of "an astoundingly racist local book" titled Who Wins?

Both have apologised and the textbook is being recalled. My Guardian Angels ended its run two months ago, so it’s too late for the show to be cancelled, but its stars Kym Ng and Brandon Wong have been receiving “abusive messages”.

This kind of online behaviour has of course been around for years since the rise of social media. Just ask Amy Cheong and Anton Casey.

It’s just that now there’s a fashionable name for it. Also known as “call-out culture” or “outrage culture”, “cancel culture” was Macquarie Dictionary’s 2019 word of the year.

No, I’ve never heard of Macquarie Dictionary either. It’s a dictionary of Australian English. This is where I might’ve made a gnarly joke about Australian English, but I don’t want to get cancelled from Down Under.

Closer to home, local influencer Xiaxue posted a 19-minute video on Instagram last week warning Singaporeans about the encroaching scourge:
“Cancel culture is coming to our shores and right now, it may not affect you, but trust me, it eventually will.”
Yeah, just ask Mediacorp and Marshall Cavendish Education.

In the video, the enfant terrible also known as Wendy Cheng began: “Recently, people have been trying to cancel me. What’s new? But this time around, it’s definitely a little bit more serious.”

By “a little bit more serious”, she meant a “small group of people making police reports against me, resulting in the police coming to my house”.

This was over tweets that her accusers dug out from years ago and claimed were racist.

This was after Xiaxue threw some online shade at Workers’ Party then-candidate Raeesah Khan after police reports were made against the now MP-elect.

This was over tweets that Ms Khan’s accusers dug out from years ago and claimed were racist.

This was after Mr Ivan Lim withdrew as a People’s Action Party candidate, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attributed to “a culture of trial by Internet”. He could have just said “cancel culture” for short.

Hey, at least no one accused Mr Lim of being racist. Just “arrogant and elitist”.

In a way, he started the sequence of events that led to Xiaxue’s video.

In response to it, playwright Alfian Sa’at posted on Facebook:
“Ugh. Stop it already with ‘cancel culture’. It’s just a backlash and a boycott. Don’t make it sound bigger than it is.”
The playwright made news last month when PAP attempted to cancel WP chief Pritam Singh by questioning his support of Alfian. I don’t think it worked. By the way, Xiaxue is a PAP supporter.

He concluded:
“But hey, you’ve decided to build a career out of pissing on the marginalised and engaging in flame wars with other personalities. You’ve made your bed out of pee and gasoline. Now, why complain about having to lie in it?”

Could this finally be the end of Xiaxue’s controversial 17-year career many have long wished for?

Not only are advertisers shunning her, YouTube channel Clicknetwork also announced on Facebook that it had dropped her as host of an upcoming show. In the same post, the company said that it is “against racism, bigotry, and hate”, which sort of implied that Xiaxue isn’t.

Clicknetwork has been producing videos with Xiaxue since 2007 and pretty much built its channel around her. It’s like the company suddenly realised who Xiaxue is after 13 years. Way to throw her under the cancel bus.

Her blog and Twitter account have since been set to private – but her Instagram and Facebook page remain accessible.

I still remember her going to war with K-pop fans in 2017 after she likened Monsta X to a “group of trannies” and tweeted that BTS sucked.

If she can survive the fearsome BTS Army, she can survive anything.

Cancel culture... cancelled?

- Published in The New Paper, 27 July 2020

Monday, 20 July 2020

I have been invited to SDP thank you dinner: Confessions of a polling agent vol 2

Last night, I received an unexpected message on WhatsApp.

It was from SDP. Yes, the Singapore Democratic Party.

Why is SDP inviting me to a thank you dinner?

Well, if you read my column last week, you know that I was a polling agent on Polling Day. But I didn't say for which party.

Here are some details I left out.

It all started one day when I was walking home and noticed a QR code on the SDP poster hanging on a lamp post.

Out of curiosity, I scanned the dotted square with my phone. I was disappointed that the QR code just led me to the SDP Facebook page.

But the first thing I saw on the page was a call for polling agents. That was when I first had the idea of becoming one.

One thing that concerned me slightly was that being a polling agent meant that I was representing the political party that appointed me. I wasn’t sure I was comfortable to appear to be supporting any particular party.

Since the People’s Action Party (PAP) was also contesting in my constituency (duh), I went to the PAP Facebook page to see if PAP was also recruiting polling agents. It wasn’t.

To ensure a fair election, all parties should have their polling agents at all the polling stations. I rationalised that if SDP needed people, I could volunteer to help SDP even though I’m not necessarily an SDP supporter.

I would be doing it for democracy.

So a couple of days later, I went to the SDP office in Link@AMK to register to be a polling agent.

I expected to get some training but was just given a list of instructions and told to watch a YouTube video.

Then I signed an Oath of Secrecy, which sounded very scary, but it just meant I couldn’t “communicate” to “any person” certain voter information.

Sadly, I did not get to meet Dr Chee Soon Juan or Prof Paul Tambyah. I did see plenty of SDP merch though, including Dr Chee’s books. I was tempted but didn’t buy any.

I read somewhere online that parties might give volunteers a party shirt, but I didn’t get one.

One of the instructions on the SDP list was: “If possible, wear red polo and khaki pant/skirt, which is our party colours, BUT DO NOT wear any shirts with party logo or campaign materials. That is not allowed.”

I thought this was a bit contradictory. You couldn’t wear party symbols, yet you could wear the colours that represent your party? Wouldn’t the end result be the same? Even without the party logo, you were telling people what party you’re representing with the colours you were wearing.

Then I read this on Reddit:
“You are there as a party representative to show the public that the polling station is a neutral zone, with equal representatives from both sides.

“frequently (especially in the past), polling stations will be dominated by PAP representatives wearing the party colour - white. while the opposition party contesting in that ward will not have enough volunteers and therefore be unrepresented.

“and voters walking in might see the whole place decked out with volunteers in white get the impression that ‘this is a PAP place’ and it might cloud their minds. you are there to ‘show’ people that the electoral process is fair and equal.”
So the party colours do serve a purpose and that was why every party should be equally represented at the polling station.

I wondered if I could wear a red singlet and khaki shorts with slippers.

Unfortunately, the Elections Department (ELD) has its own dress code for polling agents: “Polling agents should be properly attired. Polling agents dressed in singlets, shorts, slippers or other inappropriate attire may not be allowed into the polling station.”

So on Polling Day, I wore a dark pink polo and olive green cargo pants with brown slip-on shoes. Close enough, I thought.

When I got to the polling station (which was in a primary school just beside my block) at 1.30pm to start my shift, there was no other SDP polling agent working the morning shift for me to take over.

It appeared that if I hadn’t volunteered, SDP would have no polling agent at all at that polling station.

Two PAP polling agents were there, all dressed in white. I wouldn’t have been able to be a PAP polling agent because I don’t have white pants.

I asked one of them if they were given lunch. He said he had a curry puff.

Before 2pm, two white-clad women arrived to replace the two men.

One woman sat with me – while maintaining social distancing, of course.

She was friendly and we chatted a bit at first, more as the hours wore on. She even talked about getting her wisdom tooth taken out.

I learnt that the PAP polling agents were residents’ committees volunteers living in the neighbourhood. She said that I might be the oppostion, but we were all the same.

She insisted that they were not PAP members, yet was surprised when I told her I was not an SDP member too.

She asked if I had noticed that people coming into the polling station were all looking at me because they wanted to see what an opponent member looked like. I hadn’t.

My constituency had always been under PAP, so I guess an openly opposition-supporting resident was not something they saw every day. I mean, if I saw someone in a red top watching people vote at the polling station, I would be checking him or her out too.

So my initial concerns came true. Everyone thought I was an SDP supporter. (Thank god I was wearing a mask to hide my face!)

The PAP polling agent couldn't believe that all I was doing for SDP was be a polling agent for that day and nothing else.

I was amused that I gave people such wrong impressions.

The voters came in waves. Sometimes there was a queue. Sometimes there was no one at all.

Some time after 5pm, my phone rang. It was an unknown number.

I hesitated to answer it because the ELD guide for polling agents said we were not allowed to use mobile phones within the polling station. But my PAP counterpart told me to answer it.

The caller was someone from SDP who wanted to know where I was. What a weird question. Where did she think I was? I was where I was supposed to be. I wondered if someone complained that I was a no-show. I replied at the polling station.

The woman on the phone asked whether I was following the ballot boxes to the counting centre. I said I hoped to, but I didn’t have the required Indemnity Form to do so. She said that someone was bringing “the letter” to me and told me to wait for it.

Around 6.30pm, the assistant returning officer (ARO) came to tell us polling agents that at 7pm, we should leave the polling station as that was when the people on stay-home notice (SHN) would be coming in to vote. It was for our own safety. The presiding officers were already putting on their protective gear.

But weren’t we (the polling agents) supposed to observe the sealing of the ballot boxes after the polls closed, I asked. The ARO said we could come back at five minutes before 8pm to do that because he was going to seal the 8pm regardless of our presence.

And then the ARO received a call and found out that voting had been extended to 10pm.

I was confused by this.

Were these two extra hours for people on SHN or non-SHN people? Did it mean that the SHN people could still vote from 7pm or two hours later? Were non-SHN people allowed to vote after 7pm or only after 8pm?

Meanwhile, I was still waiting for my Indemnity Form. I was worried that I was going to miss the person coming to the polling station with my “letter”.

To my relief, just before 7pm, I saw a guy in a red polo and khaki pants rushing into the polling station.

He spotted me in my dark pink polo and green cargos, and knew right away I was the person he was looking for.

He gave me a fist bump and the Indemnity Form to sign. He was one of the SDP candidates running in my GRC.

I don't remember anyone else ever giving me a fist bump.

When he learnt that I had been told to leave the polling station for the special voting hour, he went to tell the ARO that at the other polling stations, the polling agents were allowed to stay “around” the polling station during the period.

The ARO said he was unaware of such an arrangement, but the SDP guy insisted that the ballot boxes should not be out of sight of the polling agent at all times.

The ARO made a couple of phone calls and eventually agreed to let me stay in the school but moved my seat just outside the cordon tape where I could still keep an eye on the ballot boxes but not technically in the polling station?

Satisfied, the SDP guy departed, leaving me with a styrofoam box of chicken rice and a bottle of water for dinner, which I didn’t consume because ELD forbade polling agents from consuming food and beverage at the polling station.

Although I might have been technically outside the polling station then, I didn’t want to take the chance.

Both the PAP polling agents had left at 7pm. Unlike SDP, PAP apparently didn’t feel the need to have its polling agent keep an eye on the ballot boxes at all times.

I was the only one there not wearing protective gear, but I wasn’t worried about getting infected.

You know why?


No one on SHN came to vote. No one not on SHN came to vote. No one. The last person to come to vote was maybe around 6.45pm.

So the ARO and presiding officers put on their protective gear for nothing.

One of the PAP polling agents came back at 8pm, not knowing about the 10pm extension. She was shocked I hadn’t left the polling station all this time.

We chatted a bit as we waited for another two hours. It was kind of surreal. Like someone threw an election and nobody came.

As 10pm approached, the presiding officers started packing up. I watched as the collapsible voting booths were folded up and put away.

After the ARO declared the polls closed, I stood by to observe the sealing of the ballot boxes. This was the moment I had waited more than eight hours for.

Even more exciting, I got to sign one of the boxes while the PAP polling agent signed the other.

We then boarded the bus with the boxes accompanied by police officers who had also been at the polling station all day.

No one asked for my Indemnity Form.

The bus picked up ballot boxes from two other polling stations nearby before heading to the counting centre in a secondary school.

There, I met the SDP guy again. He gave me another fist bump and thanked me for my help.

By the time I left the counting centre, it was 10.45pm.

I ate the chicken rice after I got home and showered.

It was one of the longest days of my life.

In the end, PAP won my constituency again.

The guy who gave me the chicken rice and fist bumps lost. I feel a little bad for him. He seemed like a nice guy. And not just because he brought me chicken rice.

If I go to the SDP thank you dinner, I may see him again.

Even though I am notoriously unable to resist free food, I don't think I will be attending because I’m afraid I could be breaking some social distancing rule.

And if I go, people will really believe I support SDP.

EARLIER: Not everyone working at polling station was a polling agent (but I was)

Monday, 13 July 2020

General Election 2020: Not everyone working at polling station was a polling agent (but I was)

For the first time in my life, I volunteered to be a polling agent.

Not that I knew what a polling agent was or did.

But since Polling Day would be a public holiday, I thought, hey, maybe it was time for me to contribute to the democratic process.

All I needed was to be a Singapore citizen, not under detention, not a discharged bankrupt and neither a primary nor secondary school student.

Wait, since there’s no age requirement, does that mean that bankrupt kindergarten pupils who have not been discharged can be polling agents?

But even if they can, I don’t think they would wanna.

Being a polling agent meant six gruelling hours of sitting down and watching people vote.

But because I’m a rebel, I would stand on occasion as I was getting sleepy and my butt was getting numb.

Yet, I was so committed to my role that I avoided drinking anything that day so that I didn’t have to leave my post for a pee break. (Confession: I went once. Cannot tahan.)

There were two shifts, one starting at 8am and the other at 2pm. I didn’t take the morning shift because I didn’t want to wake up at 8am on a public holiday for this.

Also, my allotted time-band for voting was noon to 2pm, so that worked out nicely.

Yes, I struggled with the disposable gloves like many did. After putting them on, not only was I ready to vote, I was also ready for some Korean fried chicken.

And yes, I voted at the same polling station where I was a polling agent.

My shift was supposed to end at 8pm, but just before 7pm, word came down that voting was extended to 10pm.

And so my six hours of fighting off sleep and butt numbness turned into eight hours of fighting off sleep and butt numbness.

If only I had taken the morning shift!

Someone gave me an Old Chang Kee sardine puff for sustenance. I didn’t eat it because I couldn’t wash it down with anything since I wasn’t drinking that day.

At least I got to “escort” the ballot boxes on the bus to the counting centre after the polls closed, which made me feel like a guardian of our future government, even if it was just for about half an hour.

At the end of a long day (made longer by two hours), I was happy to have done my small part for democracy.

And then I read that someone posted on Facebook about her elderly mother who was “coerced” by a “polling agent” to vote a certain way. I was shook.

The post said:
“As she is 80 years old, my sister brought her to a polling station and was told by an Indian polling agent at the entrance that she will assist her from there on.”

Wait, that doesn’t sound right. Polling agents are not supposed to talk to voters. It’s more likely that the mother was assisted by a presiding officer.

To the public, probably everyone working at the polling station was a “polling agent”.

All of a sudden, I was very defensive about my profession, if you can call it that.

The post continued:
“I was appalled by what my mum shared with me about what happened inside. The Indian polling agent who assisted her insisted her to vote for PAP, that is, showing her where to stamp.”
That is, of course, wrong.

And it was what polling agents like me representing the parties contesting in that constituency were at the polling station to prevent from happening.

The post went viral enough that the Elections Department (ELD) responded:
“These are serious allegations.

“All polling agents are confined to a specific area in the polling station to observe the polling process and they are not allowed to assist voters.

“However, for voters who need assistance, our election officials may explain the method of voting to a voter who requests for an explanation.”
So there’s a chance it could be a misunderstanding?

The Facebook user later posted on the social media platform that she had contacted the ELD, who said “they will look into it”.

The allegations were shocking to me because from what I saw, everyone working at my polling station took their job seriously.

If a presiding officer had to explain to a voter how to use the self-inking pen, he would make it a point to step away from the voting booth to let the voter vote in private.

Presiding officers worked longer hours than I did. They were there when I started my shift and some remained after I left.

Being a polling agent made me appreciate the work done by thousands of men and women on the ground and behind the scenes all over Singapore to make the election possible under less than ideal circumstances (side-eye coronavirus).

Their dedication warms the “see hum” of my heart.

The numb butt was almost worth it.

- Published in The New Paper, 13 July 2020

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Misleading headline: Did Nikkei Asian Review report that URA plans to build underground infrastructure for 10 million population? No

Amid the 10 million population imbroglio, you may have seen this screenshot going around:

At first glance, you may think, wow, an independent foreign media outlet such as Nikkei Asian Review said that Singapore is planning for a 10 million population? So maybe it's true?

No, it's not.

Only half the headline is true. Yes, the Government has plans to build an underground infrastructure to maximise space, as reported by Nikkei Asian Review.

But the Nikkei Asian Review report did not mention anything about a 10 million population at all.

The screenshot is of an article by The Online Citizen published on April 4 last year:
On Wednesday (3 Apr), the Nikkei Asian Review reported that Singapore has plans to build underground infrastructure below its existing land and buildings in order to maximise space. Singapore was compelled to do so, it noted, because of large population growth. Also, land reclamation is deemed to be impractical after Cambodia banned sand exports.

Taking reference from a master development plan released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on March 27, the Nikkei Asia Review noted that the new master plan now includes additional mention of underground infrastructure. Underground infrastructure was never mentioned in an earlier 2014 master plan.

“The plan comes as an expanding population shrugs off the country’s geographic constraints and with land reclamation becoming impractical,” Nikkei said.

“So with lateral and vertical options all but exhausted, the country’s new master development plan calls for tunneling below.”

According to URA, the government intends “to free up land for people-centric uses by relocating utilities, transport, storage and industrial facilities underground”.

The URA said that this would be done by tapping “on 3D technology to facilitate upfront planning for underground space”.

Currently, three districts have been identified and the underground planning will be expanded to more areas in the future. “We are [also] studying the feasibility of using caverns for utility, storage and industrial uses at areas like Tanjong Kling” it added.

The URA also said that they are “developing a planning tool to identify areas with potential for cavern development based on compatibility with above ground uses and suitable geology.”

PM-designate Heng Swee Keat welcomes more “foreign talents”

Just last week, Finance Minister and Prime Minister designate said at a forum in NTU that Singaporeans need to be open and understanding of foreigners.

He quoted former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who felt that Singapore’s population density is not excessive and that Singapore should plan for 10 million people in order to remain sustainable in the long term.

It has been observed that “foreign talents” and migrant workers continue to stream into Singapore. As at Jun 2018, the population stood at 5.64 million while the government wants to increase the population to 6.9 million by 2030 according to a Population White Paper written by the National Population and Talent Division in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Meanwhile, more Singaporean PMETs who were retrenched and couldn’t find suitable work are resorting to driving taxi and grab.

NUS Prof: Living underground has its risks and technical challenges

In any case, there are challenges living underground.

According to Civil Engineering Professor Yong Kwet Yew from NUS, the technical challenges include the “uncertainty of the geology and ground conditions” and “potential damage to above ground buildings”. In addition, there is also the difficulty of evacuating “people in the event of an underground fire”.

Of course, moving underground may be one way to accommodate Minister Heng’s vision of 10 million population on our little island. But would Singaporeans want such living conditions for their future generations?

What TOC did was combine two reports: the Nikkei Asian Review one and a bit from the now-infamous Straits Times report about what DPM Heng Swee Keat said at a forum.

There's nothing wrong with combining multiple stories per se, but in this case, there are three major problems.

First, the Heng Swee Keat part is not attributed to The Straits Times, which leaves the impression that it's part of the Nikkei Asian Review report.

Second, the conclusion that Minister Heng has a "vision of 10 million population on our little island" from the ST excerpt is a leap of logic that has since been discredited (I hope).

Last and most misleading of all, the headline "URA releases plan to build underground infrastructure ready for 10 million population" doesn't reflect the Nikkei Asian Review report but TOC's own fallacious conclusion.

A Pofma notice has since been issued to a few sharing the screenshot, including the Sin Rak Sin Party.

Another 10 million population thing going around is this meme involving HDB CEO Cheong Koon Hean:

SDP posted this regarding Dr Cheong:

The Government has since responded:

But despite all this, it seems many still can't let go of the notion that the Government wants a 10 million population.

EARLIER: How the projected 6.9 million population became 10 million: It's not a target

Thursday, 2 July 2020

How the projected 6.9 million population became 10 million: It's not a target

It started with this bombshell report about the Population White Paper released by the Government in January 2013:

Singapore's population could hit 6.9m by 2030

Which kicked off a chain of negative reactions:

To the point where the Government had to say the 6.9 million population is not a target:

Then along came Dr Liu Thai Ker to drop his 10 million bombshell:

The Sunday Times reported on April 28, 2013:
Singapore should look beyond 2030 and plan for a more distant future – perhaps even one with 10 million people, former chief planner Liu Thai Ker said at a public forum yesterday.

“The world doesn’t end in 2030, and population growth doesn’t end at 6.9 million,” he said, referring to the planning parameter in the Government’s White Paper on Population.

Singapore could do well to look ahead, perhaps to 2100 when it might have a population of 10 million, he suggested.

Mr Liu was one of five speakers at a forum organised by the Singapore Institute of Planners (SIP) and co-hosted by the National University of Singapore’s Department of Architecture, on the topic of planning for 2030.

Mr Liu, who used to head the Housing Board, argued that population growth is necessary for economic growth.

And since Singapore’s land area is essentially fixed, higher density is thus inevitable.

But he was optimistic that “high density and a better living environment are mutually compatible”.

Liveability can be preserved with adequate amenities, buffers of greenery, and alternating denser and less dense areas.
Since Dr Liu is part of the establishment, some took what he said as the view of the Government even though it wasn't.

He reiterated his 10 million population stand on The Business Times front page the next year:

And again in The New Paper in 2017.

With headlines like these, no wonder many mistakenly believe the Government is pushing for a 10 million population even though Dr Liu doesn’t speak for the Government.

Then The Straits Times reported this about DPM Heng Swee Keat at a ministerial dialogue at NTU last year:
On the projected population of 6.9 million by 2030, set out in the Government's 2013 Population White Paper, Mr Heng said the number goes beyond how densely populated Singapore would be. The social space is as important.

Singapore's population density is not excessive, he said, noting that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space.

He cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term.

Many, including SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, jumped on the "cited" part of the report as Mr Heng's confirmation of the Government's endorsement of Dr Liu's 10 million population fixation, although it was hardly a smoking gun.

Dr Chee campaigned on this issue with his "NO TO 10 MILLION Population" tagline:

And brought it up in last night's debate: "Mr Heng See Keat comes up and states in an interview, toyed with the idea of bringing our population up to 10 million. Singaporeans are deadly worried about this proposal."

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan called it a "falsehood".

Dr Chee said it was "Mr Heng Swee Keat that came up with the idea of the 10 million population" and added "I'm citing the interview."

The "interview" Dr Chee was referring to was the one at the ministerial forum reported by ST last year.

After the debate, he shared the ST article on Facebook:

Which doesn't really prove that Mr Heng said what Dr Chee said Mr Heng said, although I understand how it could be misinterpreted that way.

UPDATE: Here’s a transcript of what Mr Heng actually said at the forum:
But seriously on the population issue, 6.9 million number that was put out earlier on. In fact, I met Mr Liu Thai Ker, our former chief planner, I think he had publicly said, it has been reported in the papers that we should go for even higher number and that how this little red dot can accommodate many more people. Now whether this little red dot can accommodate many more people actually is not strictly just a physical constraint. We cannot be thinking of 50 million people on this little red dot because it will just be so dense and unpleasant. But the population number is not just about physical space, it is also about the social space, it is about the sense of togetherness.

So he didn’t mention the 10 million figure at all.

Mr Heng himself finally responded this morning with his own Facebook post:
As the Straits Times clarified this morning, I did not say that Singapore should plan to increase its population to 10 million people, nor did I mention the figure.

I was asked at the NTU Student Union Ministerial Forum in 2019 about the Population White Paper. In my response, I mentioned that former chief planner Liu Thai Ker had publicly said that we should go for an even higher number. Far from endorsing this, I had explained that our population size was not just about physical space, but also about social space and how we can preserve a sense of togetherness.

Let me be clear: The Government has never proposed or targeted for Singapore to increase its population to 10 million. And if we look at today’s situation, our population is likely to be significantly below 6.9 million by 2030.

That is as definitive as it gets.

Even SDP has accepted it and claimed credit for it:

But does it mean this whole "Government wants Singapore to have 10 million population" thing is finally dead?

I doubt it.

PAP should be really annoyed with Dr Liu right now.

UPDATE: Did Nikkei Asian Review really report that URA plans to build underground infrastructure for 10 million population?

UPODATE UPDATE: Post-election, Dr Liu finally spoke on the controversy he created:

Monday, 29 June 2020

That’s a fowl: I finally got free Texas Chicken meal by pretending to be a Liverpool fan

Dear Texas Chicken Singapore,

I have a confession to make – I’m not a football fan.

But I’m a fan of free food.

Because I’m a fan of free food, I have pretended to be a football fan – specifically, a Liverpool fan.

It started last June after Liverpool won the Uefa Champions League after 14 years.

For some reason, even though Liverpool is not part of Singapore or vice versa, to celebrate the English football club’s European victory, several eateries in Singapore offered one menu item for free for one day to customers wearing a Liverpool jersey.

Even when our national team won big matches in the past, I don’t recall any restaurant offering free food.

Although that could just be because the last time Singapore won a big match was so long ago that I can’t remember.

What was more baffling was that one of the places offering free food to celebrate Liverpool’s win was Texas Chicken Singapore as Liverpool is nowhere near Texas or Singapore. We’re on three separate continents.

If you had offered a free meal when the Houston Astros won the World Series, sure, that would make sense since Houston is part of Texas, even though no one in Singapore cares about baseball.

But free food is free food and who was I to look at free fried chicken in the beak?

All I needed was a Liverpool jersey. The closest thing I got was a Liverpool T-shirt.

I had bought it together with a Manchester City shirt for $50 for both at Takashimaya for the sole purpose of trolling a colleague, who is a die-hard Reds fan.

Last year, Liverpool and City were in a close race for the English Premier League (EPL) title.

If Liverpool had won, I would wear the Liverpool shirt to annoy him because he knows I’m not really a Reds fan.

If Man City had won, I would wear the City shirt to rub it in.

It was win-win either way for me. The latter came true. Rub, rub.

But Reds fans could console themselves with the Champions League trophy – along with your free two-piece combo offer.

However, by the time my colleague and I reached the Texas Chicken outlet at Nex in our Liverpool apparel (him in an actual jersey), we were told the free combo had sold out.

How was that possible?

Apparently, there was a cap of 100 free combos per outlet, which wasn’t mentioned in the offer. Just “while stocks last”. I felt cheated.

I felt even more cheated a couple of hours later when you announced on Facebook that the 100 combo limit was lifted for the rest of the day.

So I was both too late and too early.

I was so upset that I complained on your Facebook page: “I went all the way to Nex at 6.50pm and was told only the first 100 customers get the free combo. And now you lift the cap. You cheat my feelings twice in one day.”

To my surprise, you actually replied to my comment and asked me to message you back.

A week later, I received a Texas Chicken $10 gift voucher in the mail. Woohoo! I haven’t thanked you for that.

Complaining on Facebook works. Former PAP candidate Ivan Lim knows what I’m talking about.

Then in a moment of weakness, I decided to give the $10 voucher to my colleague because he’s the true Liverpool fan. Also, I wanted to make up for trolling him.

So in the end, I didn’t get my free Texas Chicken meal.

That is, until last Friday.

Liverpool finally won the EPL title after 30 years.

You posted on Facebook: “Don your #LiverpoolFC jersey to any Texas Chicken outlet today – and receive a free 2-piece Chicken Combo meals (U.P. $8.80). Available for dine-in only from 11am till 9pm today or while stocks last.”

This time, I didn’t take any chances and showed up at your Star Vista outlet at 12.10pm in my mask and Liverpool T-shirt.

A guy in a Reds jersey was already in front of me ordering the free combo. Nice to know I wouldn’t be dining alone.

When it was my turn, the cashier saw my shirt and guessed what I wanted. All he asked was “Original or spicy?” and “Drink?”

Best of all, he charged me nothing.

I finally got my free Texas Chicken meal!

About six other guys in Liverpool tops were in the restaurant with me. I'm not sure if they were all wearing jerseys.

I was happy at first, but now I feel guilty after realising I got the free food under false pretences.

I’m a fraud.

The offer was meant for Liverpool fans and I’m not one. I just got the T-shirt (not even a jersey) – and for a rather nefarious reason.

I apologise to you and all true Reds fans.

There goes my chances of becoming a PAP candidate.

To clear my conscience and help me sleep at night, I would like to belatedly pay you $8.80 for the free spicy two-piece combo I didn’t deserve.

Please let me know how.

You have PayLah?

- Published in The New Paper, 29 June 2020

EARLIER: Getting free food with my Liverpool T-shirt

From readers:
Dear SM Ong,

I read your article in the New Paper dated 29June 2020. You are so honest and funny! The photo is also funny... You look guilty hahaha. I read it laughing so much. Thank you for your honestly and humor... And making my day brighter. Pls write more...

Best regards,

Hi the new paper and smong journalist

I enjoy reading the new paper but not from today onwards

What is the purpose of The New Paper and any ethics being a journalist ?

As I was reading today article, I was fill with rage 😤, what values are you communicating to your reader? Are you asking us the readers to follow your journalist to wear a PAP t shirt and vote for opposition?! We have enough of fake news and spam in this information era! With deception news like yours, the kids and adults will think is ok to pretend and get a free meal

I am diehard Liverpool fan, the YNWA has encouraged me to complete my cancer treatment. I only have a red t shirt, I understand the meaning t shirt is not a jersey (I haven’t own one because is $100 over dollars which I cannot afford) so I didn’t go for the free combo meal. Your act is annoying to me, worst thing is your Facebook complain, I praying there will be lesser singaporean like you to exist on earth! You paid your price of unable to sleep and guilt, for all you know, the God above may cause a drought of 30yrs for Manchester City, not sure will you live to see it, is really sad to read such an article on a Monday morning!!!

I am saddened an adult matured and responsible can do such an act to create a news to bring values to the next generations that is ok to cheat and have what you want! A Little act will not cause harm and going to jail...

I sincerely hope your editor and CEO of SPH can look into this! If not, I will do like the journalist share in social media to get attention! With power comes responsibility. Those who are in power has responsibilities and make singapore a better place

You all owe an apology especially to Texas Chicken who want to celebrate a happy moment with all the truthful fans but abused by some, who did without consciousness. Very Sad 😔

Thank you