Saturday, 24 December 2011

MP's racist remark - Singapore

 The surreal face of multiculturalism

Two Malay Members of Parliament (MPs) - Zainal Sapari and Zaqy Mohamad - have responded on Facebook to a remark made by fellow MP Seng Han Thong on a TV talkshow.

The deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport on the SMRT breakdown on the TV talkshow, saying that he had "noticed that the PR mentioned that some of the staff, because they are Malays, they are Indians, they can't converse in English well enough".

In a post on Friday morning, Zaqy that he agreed that Seng's "comments were unwarranted". He added that he "was personally disappointed that Malay and Indian SMRT staff were singled out".

Likewise, in a separate post a day earlier, Zainal said that all "regardless of race", would have taken offense at such a remark, especially when it comes from a leader.

Earlier on, the Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob, also described Seng's remark as "inappropriate and unfair".

Seng's statement - which suggested that SMRT failed to communicate effectively with their commuters during the train breakdowns because of ethnicity reasons - had created an uproar among Singaporeans. Although he has since apologised, the online community is still abuzz with discussion over what he said on national television.

His boo-boo came just about a month after a former PAP youth wing member, Jason Neo, posted an offensive picture on Facebook of a bus carrying Malay children. His caption for the image - "Bus filled with young t*******t trainees?" – sparked public outcry. Neo issued an apology and resigned from the party.

Zaqy summed it up best in his Facebook post, when he said: "We too, as politicians or public figures, need to improve our own communication skills, not just the SMRT staff, especially in sensing the ground and sensitivities with respect to beliefs and race. One item on my 2012 new year resolution."

source from's-'racist'- remark-inappropriate--unwaranted--malay-mps.html[blablabla too long]

Poverty is far from being erased in society

By Tim Mou Hui

Singapore Poverty (AFP file photo)

It is never a good time to talk about poverty.

With the economic contagion in Europe dominating headlines, it is no wonder that little attention is given to the millions across the world who fall below poverty lines.

Any global financial turmoil, however, will worsen the lot of the poor and those living precariously close to poverty, so it is worth remembering for a moment the plight of those struggling to survive in a world that is still undeniably affluent, despite its current economic woes.

Poverty is not some faceless entity; poverty is real. It is all around us, often, right in our backyards.

That is perhaps even more important for impressionable students like myself living Singapore, where poverty is not always acknowledged forthrightly by the government. Singapore's former representative to the United Nations, Kishore Mahbubani, once declared that "there are no homeless, destitute or starving people in Singapore. Poverty has been eradicated."

Yet poverty exists amidst the economic bustle of our small country. An elderly woman, back hunched over, trawls through dumpsters for cardboard to sell for a few measly dollars, barely enough to buy a simple meal or two.

A young mother who stays home to look after her children and ill husband is forced to put aside her dignity by living on the goodwill of relatives. A beggar who hides in inconspicuous corners outside malls to evade detection — begging is an offence here — depends on the charity of passing shoppers to get by each day.

Poverty may have been erased from official rhetoric, but it is far from being erased in society.

I am fortunate to have taken a course this past semester called "Development, Underdevelopment, and Poverty," offered by Assistant Professor of Political Science John A. Donaldson of the School of Social Sciences at the Singapore Management University (SMU).

Together with 35 other students, I learnt that development and poverty issues are far more complex and multi-faceted than we have been conditioned to believe. They go beyond the simple economic dimensions that policy-makers are comfortable dealing with.

That this course is offered in a university whose primary focus is on the world of business and finance provides a beautiful contrast; it reminds us of the struggles of the impoverished, even as we engage in our often individualistic pursuits of good jobs with ever-higher salaries.

But the best lesson I learnt is that global poverty is not a hopeless situation. My classmates from India, China, Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, and of course, Singapore, shared their experiences with projects in their home country and region that have lifted the lives of the poor and destitute. Many of us are involved in such projects ourselves, in some cases even leading them.

While these certainly have not and will not solve the global poverty challenge on their own, it is difficult to deny the real impact these projects have had on individual communities. Small projects can have big impact. The class was a cosmopolitan forum of ideas looking to understand a cosmopolitan issue through grassroots perspectives.

The most important outcome of this course is not in the substantive theories and content on development and poverty. It is not in the grades, something students in Singapore are all too obsessed with. It is in inspiring us to make a difference to the lives of those suffering from the anguish of poverty, a class of 36 at a time.

And we do not need to look far to help. Curing the world of poverty may be a daunting task, but improving the lives of just one individual or household in our community is a victory in itself. Let's not lose sight of the few, just because we cannot help the many. And what better time to start than during the proverbial Season of Giving -- Christmas.

It is always a good time to talk about poverty.

The writer is an undergraduate at the School of Social Sciences at Singapore Management University majoring in Political Science and Corporate Communication.

source from sg, [the rest of the address is too long]