Monday 13 December 2021

No more New Paper in print, no more column

Last Friday was the last print edition of The New Paper after 33 years.

When the staff were first told about it in July, I was surprised and devastated. I was content to do what I was doing at TNP until I die – or forced to retire.

I started working there in February 2008. That’s 13 consecutive years, which is by far, my longest stretch of working at the same place. Before that, my longest was around four years at Mediacorp. Twice.

After working in television for so long, joining TNP was like going back to my roots.

I had studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin and worked at a student newspaper there as a writer and page layout artist.

I discovered that it was important to me how my articles showed up on the page. I get very upset when the headline doesn’t accurately represent what I wrote.

What many readers don’t realise is that the headline is not usually written by the same person who writes the article.

Which is ironic since many people just read the headline without reading the article and associate the byline with the headline which the writer didn’t write.

So although I set out to be a writer, I became involved in the so-called backend of the newspaper.

And it evolved such that I started doing more backend stuff than writing.

When I first joined TNP, it was as a sub-editor/columnist, but as the years went by and I re-contracted, the “columnist” part of my job title was dropped even though I still wrote the column.

My main job was as a sub-editor. At first, I did some copy-editing which I dislike, but later, mostly just did layout, which was more my jam.

More importantly, I got to lay out my own column and write my own headline.

I didn’t get a regular column right away. My first piece for TNP as a full-timer was about the Mas Selamat escape, for which I was accused of being an apologist for the Government. That was when I learnt firsthand that readers would imagine nefarious motivations and conspiracy theories behind things they see in the paper. Since I wrote the damn thing, I know the only thing behind it was me.

Subsequently, I was given a weekly Sunday column that lasted a few years, but from December 2016, it became every other Monday at my request.

While I appreciated the privilege of having such a platform in a national paper (albeit with a shrinking circulation) and tried not to take it for granted, I came to dread the week my column is due. It was like the Sword of Democles threatening to fall on my head every 14 days. It was a pain in the ass, essentially.

It was such a relief to finish a column and not have to worry about it for at least a week.

But now with the end of TNP in print, the column is done for good and it’s the greatest relief of all.

There’s talk of me continuing the column for the online version of TNP, but I would rather not.

I’m starting work at The Straits Times today as a designer and ST couldn’t care less about me as a columnist.

Writing for TNP online would just be doing extra work that’s not going to help me during my performance appraisal with my ST bosses. I don’t need the additional stress.

I didn’t even feel my TNP bosses cared that much about my column.

So… yah, that’s it.

No more column.

It’s the end of an era and start of a column-free one at ST for me.

Thanks for reading.

Monday 6 December 2021

Do you believe the Raeesah Khan-spiracy theories? If she’s a spy, I’m the next 007

“2021. Best year ever. More drama than Mediacorp produced in its entirety.”

That was how one Reddit discussion title summed it up.

Books Actually, Night Owl Cinematics, Omicron, peacock attack and now this.

Late Friday night, the Committee of Privileges released a report that former Worker’s Party (WP) MP Raeesah Khan said in the hearing that the WP leaders had told her to keep to the lie she told in Parliament – that she accompanied a rape victim to a police station to make a police report.

This contradicted statements made by WP leader Pritam Singh at his press conference the day before, where he told reporters he had directed Ms Khan to take responsibility and admit to her lie in Parliament – but that she had disregarded this order.

Reacting to the report, a friend ranted on Facebook:
“Raeesah… what have you done? What are you doing? Were you planted into the WP by the PAP to destroy them?

“Let’s not forget, your father was along for the elected presidency ride… all planned by the PAP...

“Is your whole family working for the PAP?”
Wait, huh, what?

Ms Khan is secretly working for the People’s Action Party?

Sure, and I am leaving The New Paper to replace Daniel Craig as the next James Bond in Licence To Act Blur.

And I thought the anti-vaxx Covid-19 conspiracy theories were cray.

Yes, Ms Khan’s father Farid Khan, who is a maritime industry bigwig, did apply to run for President against Madam Halimah Yaacob in 2017 – but was rejected because he didn’t qualify.

That was planned by the PAP? I don’t get it.

I hope my friend doesn’t get Pofma-ed.

But I soon learnt he wasn’t the only one with Raeesah Khan-spiracy theories.

Elsewhere on Facebook, I found wild allegations like this:
“It is either she is a PAP mole or she has serious mental disorder. Who in the right frame of mind will make this kind of lie in the first place?”
And this:
“Raeesah Khan is a spy sent by PAP. Use bird brain to think also know. Her father is a successful millionaire businessman. Why would she want to join WP? She should be joining PAP.”
However, another person tried to debunk this mole/spy theory by pointing out:
“Her behaviour is quite consistent with her youth as an activist which landed her a role within WP for GE2020. Wokeism’s approach is not something which PAP likes.

“If PAP wants to fix WP, the AHTC case is good enough cos it even touches Low Thia Kiang…”

“If she is a mole, what makes Pritam Singh? Co-conspirator?”
But then this disbunking was debunked by someone else point by point:
“She only joined WP in 2018. Not a very long time. Spies don’t work immediately. Spies need to take some time to gain the trust etc.

“The AHTC case did not cause WP to lose Aljunied GRC and even let WP take down Sengkang. So PAP needs to come out with new saga.

“Pritam Singh is the boss who gets conned by the mole.”
Wow. If Ms Khan can do all that, she should be the new 007. I can be the next Austin Powers.

Ironically, while these Khan-spiracy theories are meant to portray WP as victim of some underhanded political subterfuge, if they actually turned out to be true, I would be more impressed by PAP for pulling off a long con this elaborate.

I mean, recruiting a woke activist to infiltrate an opposition party and help the party win a GRC in a general election despite her getting a stern warning by the police for social media posts that promoted enmity among different groups and committed contempt by scandalising the court, just so she can get into Parliament and lie about accompanying a rape victim to the police station only to confess to the lie months later – that’s next level, man.

Even Dr Evil would be jealous he never thought of it. Game recognises game.

Oh, behave.

- Published in The New Paper, 6 December 2021

Thursday 2 December 2021

Man who duped women into sex won a couples contest organised by Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports 12 years ago

You may have read about De Beers Wong, who pretended to be an agent for rich "sugar daddies" and duped at least 11 women into having sex with him.

In April, he was sentenced to 3½ years' jail and fined $20,000. He appealed.

Yesterday, because of his appeal, his jail term more than doubled from 3½ years to eight years and five months.

Weirdly, long before his unsavoury crime, he has appeared in the newspapers for more wholesomely romantic (and now rather ironic) reasons.

This was published in The Straits Times on 13 May 2009:

By his own admission, Mr De Beers Wong, 28, is short, tubby and all business – even aloof – while at work.

For the past nine months, he has been romancing Miss Megan Kong, 25.

She is willowy next to him, and also the “angel” liked by everyone in the same office for her warmth and friendliness.

The couple admit they are like chalk and cheese.

As Miss Kong said: “Our colleagues were very shocked when we first got together as we are so different, but we can really communicate.”

The insurance agents are “beautifully imperfect” – exactly the type of couple the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) is looking for in an online contest.

It is no ordinary contest, though. Behind it is the serious business of persuading Singaporeans to get married and have children.

So what does being “beautifully imperfect” have to do with anything?

Everything, said Mr Richard Tan, MCYS’ director of communications and international relations. He cited a 2007 study’s finding that most young Singaporeans did want to get married, but were not doing so, they said, because they had yet to meet their Mr or Miss Right.

But what, exactly, is “right”?

Enter “beautifully imperfect”: The drive aims to inspire marriage-minded singles to find that special person based on character and personality, instead of applying society’s checklist of beauty, wealth, education and family background.

“The person who is not perfect as defined by the world around us may turn out to be the perfect husband or wife,” he said.

To reach out to young, “wired” adults, MCYS tapped the popular social networking site Facebook – the first time it has done so to run a contest – and started a “beautifully imperfect” group last month.

Reach them it did. In just over a month, more than 14,000 people joined the group, and more than 370 couples signed up for the contest.

The hunt for “beautifully imperfect” couples – all 10 winning pairs will be unveiled on Saturday – is part of a drive which has included a commercial about a family that was anything but perfect, but bonded in love all the same.

The commercial, which just ended its run on TV, showed an Indian wife eulogising her dead Chinese husband at his funeral and talking in endearing terms about his snoring and breaking wind in bed.

To get Singaporeans to think of marriage and children, the Government has pumped in big money in recent years, handing out Baby Bonuses and promoting work-life balance, among other moves.

But challenges could still thwart the Government’s mission. The baby shortage aside, divorces are still going up by the year, with 2007 logging a record 7,226 divorces and annulments.

Ask Mr Wong, and he can give you an earful about imperfect relationships – of the ugly kind. He has been through an annulled marriage – his then wife refused to have children – and had almost given up on relationships.

For Miss Kong, the relationship was nearly a non-starter. She had to handle office gossip about her dating the boss’ son, but her heart was won over by his “sweetness and maturity”.

Mr Wong, drawn to her selflessness, said: “Recently, I wanted to buy her a $600 ring that she really liked, but she said ‘no’ as she could afford to buy it herself. My ex-girlfriends would have said, ‘Please buy it for me now, thank you’.”

Miss Kong no doubt thinks her boyfriend’s dad did right to name him after the famous diamond company.

She said: “De Beers is the biggest diamond in my life.”

A diamond in the rough, perhaps, but beautifully imperfect in her eyes.

The couple was featured again in The New Paper on 17 January 2010:

She’s slim, he’s a bit – shall we say chubby? Some of their friends call them “Beauty and the Beast”.

But Mr De Beers Wong, 28, and Ms Megan Kong, 25, feel they are perfect for each other.

And it seems that netizens agree.

Mr Wong and Ms Kong are one of the 10 dating couples voted as “Beautifully Imperfect” in a Facebook contest organised by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports last year.

Indeed, they are the first of the 10 to get engaged.

The contest was open to all couples, who had to post their pictures on the Facebook page. Some 370 couples took part. The 10 most liked couples won $400 each. Mr Wong and Ms Kong were one of these couples.

Mr Wong and Ms Kong have been colleagues in an insurance company since 2003 and have been going out for 1½ years. Mr Wong proposed to Ms Kong on 18 Nov last year.

It was an unusual proposal.

That day, Ms Kong was supposed to meet a friend at Ion Orchard. Mr Wong got 30 strangers to each give her a rose.

Meanwhile, two of his friends recorded everything with cameras.

When she later turned her back to the cameramen, Mr Wong surprised her by approaching with a 20-rose bouquet and popping the question.

She said yes. They will be getting married this year, on 29 Dec.

Ms Kong said Mr Wong was “beautifully imperfect” because of his idiosyncrasies which she found strange at first.

For instance, he hardly spoke while he was eating, regardless of whether he was in a group or just with her.

This made conversation difficult at first.Mr Wong said he did not like to talk during meals as he wanted to enjoy his food.

Ms Kong said: “It was quite strange at first. But then I got used to it. So when we’re eating, I just do all the talking and hope he listens!”

So when does he do the talking? Mr Wong exclaimed: “When she drives!”

Ms Kong is always the one behind the wheel as Mr Wong does not have a driving licence.

It is through laughing with each other, even through the bad times, that they got closer.

So what do they like about each other?

Ms Kong said: “There are definitely times when people upset you, and it’s good to know you always have a safe space to come back to.”

As for Mr Wong, he is “lucky to have found someone I love unconditionally and who loves me back the same way”.

Ms Kong said: “Our relationship is based on trust and devotion. I know there’s a tendency to just try to look for the richest or most good-looking person, but we’re not like that. We accept one another for who we are.”

Then she added: “But I think he’s very adorable. Even my grandmother thinks so.”

Mr Wong wrote in his caption for their photograph in the contest: “The most beautiful thing that has ever happened in my life is to have you (Ms Kong) in my arms and knowing that you love me as much as I love you...

“Inside, I built a wall so high I thought it (would) never fall, one touch (and) you brought it down.”
There is a lot to unpack there.