Holding onto my hat

Holding onto my hat

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bilahari Kausikan – Loose and at Large

The day was 31 October 2015 and I was in the famous university town of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. 

I was there to attend a conference with the enticing title "The Legacy of Lee Kuan Yew and the Future of Singapore".  The Conference featured an impressive line-up of speakers comprising distinguished Singaporean and non-Singaporeans with in-depth knowledge of Singaporean history and politics.   

Oxford historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin and Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large Mr Bilahari Kausikan were among the Singaporean speakers I was eager to hear.

Dr Thum Ping Tjin

Dr Thum’s topic was "Lee Kuan Yew’s political legacy".  In his presentation, Dr Thum reviewed the historical context of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's rise to prominence and the political ascendance of the People's Action Party (PAP) in the pioneer years of Singapore. 

In the course of his comprehensive historical analysis, Dr Thum made the point that the era which saw the independence of Singapore was marked by robust political competition. Democracy, debate and dissent characterised the early phase of Singapore's political history.  However, the subsequent period was marked by intolerance for dissent, which has become the one enduring legacy of Mr Lee. 

It was interesting to hear Dr Thum because his perspective of Mr Lee's role in Singapore's history dissented from the narrative circulated by official sources in Singapore. 

Mr Bilahari Kausikan

Mr Bilahari's topic was "Lee Kuan Yew's cast of mind and its lasting influence".  As I leaned forward to listen, I had not bargained to be in for some unpleasant surprises.

To my amazement, Mr Bilahari departed from his prepared transcript at least twice to take two digs at Dr Thum - to make it clear to the audience that he was not in agreement with Dr Thum’s point of view. 

On Dr Thum’s view that the PAP government was intolerant of dissent, Mr Bilahari argued that since Dr Thum was able to express his dissenting views about Mr Lee’s political role, then Dr Thum can’t be right to complain that the PAP government was intolerant of dissent. 

I was taken aback. I failed to see the logic of Mr Bilahari's reasoning.  Dr Thum had expressed his dissenting views to an international audience at an overseas conference, not in Singapore.  Has Dr Thum been free to express his dissenting views in Singapore without adverse repercussions?

Mr Bilahari's second swipe at Dr Thum was more caustic. He called Dr Thum "a young academic trying to make a name for himself" - implying that Dr Thum was propagating an alternative version of Singapore’s history so as to draw attention to himself.

Some in the audience booed Dr Bilahari on hearing his ungracious words against Dr Thum.  

I was shocked - and ashamed - that a high ranking diplomat would deem fit to speak against a fellow Singaporean speaker at an overseas conference in front of an international audience.

By trying to attack Dr Thum's credibility, Mr Bilahari only succeeded in proving Dr Thum right about the PAP Government's intolerance for dissenting views.

But there was one more unhappy surprise in store for me.

"Some" opposition politicians

As Mr Bilahari drew his speech to a close, he said the key challenge ahead for Singapore was whether young Singaporeans would take the achievements of Mr Lee and his comrades for granted and be persuaded that Singapore was no longer vulnerable.

Having articulated what challenge laid ahead, I expected Mr Bilahari to conclude his speech by mentioning how the Singapore Government would handle the mindset of the next generation of Singaporeans. 

Instead, Mr Bilahari opted to bring out the proverbial bogeyman, namely, PAP dissenters.

The exact words of Mr Bilahari's concluding remarks were as follows:

"The key challenge is internal: that a new generation of Singaporeans will take the achievements of Mr Lee and his comrades for granted and be persuaded that Singapore was no longer vulnerable.  Some opposition politicians and their fellow travellers among the intelligensia have tried to do just that. They either do not understand their own country and region or place their ambition above the national interest. Fortunately, as the results of our recent General Election have demonstrated, the majority of my compatriots do not believe them."[1]

Thus, Mr Bilahari thinks that "some" opposition politicians (and their sympatheziers) are busy working against the interests of Singapore and Singaporeans; but fortunately, most Singaporeans are wise to the ruse, as results of the recent General Election show.

Mr Bilahari's remarks are disturbing.  Inherent in his choice of words is the insidious attitude that “some” opposition politicians are a pain in the neck, self-seeking and distracting our good government from protecting our nation and serving Singaporeans. 

Mr Bilahari is entitled to his own personal views.

But Mr Bilahari was not speaking at the Cambridge conference in his personal capacity.  He was invited to speak at the conference on the basis of his credentials as Ambassador-at-Large and Policy Advisor in the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr Bilahari was speaking at the overseas venue in an official capacity, as a diplomat and civil servant.

The Singapore civil service and the salaries of civil servants are funded by taxpayers’ money. Singaporeans are entitled to be served by a non-partisan civil service in which civil servants do not comment on politics or on politicians or take sides with any political party. 

I do not think that a country with a functioning democracy would have a civil servant, much less a senior diplomat, speak against opposition politicians at a public forum.

Mr Bilahari is a civil servant and has no business to comment against opposition politicians in public platforms.  By so doing, Mr Bilahari has provided observers with clear evidence that our civil service is partisan and partial to the ruling party. 

Moreover, Mr Bilahari is a diplomat. I am at a loss as to how Mr Bilahari can be said to be serving his country and his countrymen by highlighting the electoral victory of the ruling party.

Singaporeans will be best served if our civil servants spend their time thinking of ways to improve their efficiency instead of using opposition politicians as lame excuses for their inadequacies. 

Mr Bilahari and his fellow diplomats should focus on dealing with our foreign foes and on how to fix them[2], instead of thinking about how to defeat opposition politicians.

PAP dissenters are not “the enemy”.  On the contrary, political dissenters and opposition politicians serve the nation by holding the PAP Government accountable to Singaporeans.  Their continued presence in the political arena is indispensable to the operation of democracy in Singapore. 

That day in Cambridge, I was saddened to see Mr Bilahari throwing punches against his own countrymen in front of an international audience in his capacity as Singapore's official representative. I do not understand how our Ministry of Foreign Affairs could allow its diplomats to express sardonic remarks against our own Singaporeans at an overseas venue.

A “sardonic diplomat" is a contradiction, an oxymoron.  Till now, I am still pondering the enigma of the oxymoron which is Mr Bilahari.

UPDATE on 20 Dec 2015:
In response to this Blog, Mr Bilahari Kausikan commented on my Facebook page on 17 Dec 2015. As a rejoinder to Mr Bilahari's comments, I posted a Note on my Facebook page on 19 Dec 2015 captioned "My Rejoinder to Mr Bilahari's Comments on my Blog".

[1] Extracted from the transcript of Mr Bilahari’s speech posted at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/bilahari-kausikan-on-the/2235302.html

[2] "Instead of spending my time thinking of what is the right policy for Singapore, I have to spend all my time thinking what is the right way to fix them, what's the right way to buy my own supporters over," Mr Lee Hsien Loong, General Elections 2006 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1WhJKsYb50

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why I think Kho Jabing should not suffer the death sentence

No intention to kill

Jabing was convicted under Section 300(c) of the Penal Code. Section 300(c) is notorious for providing a controversial definition of murder. To convict an offender for a Section 300(c) murder, it is not necessary for the offender to have an intention to kill the victim. It suffices to prove that the offender intended the bodily harm which caused the victim's death.  All of Jabing's judges agreed that Jabing's motive was to rob the victim and, though he intended to physically harm the victim, he never intended the victim's death. But since the Court found that Jabing intended the injuries which caused the victim's death, the court convicted him of section 300(c) murder. 

"An eye for an eye" is a form of justice. On that basis, it may be justifiable or acceptable that someone who intentionally commits murder should himself have intentional murder committed on him. But Jabing never intended to kill, yet he has now been sentenced to suffer the penalty of being killed. His punishment is harsher than his own culpability and being so, it does not seem justifiable or acceptable.  

Disadvantaged at sentencing

The Court of Appeal conceded that that the sequence of events which took place during the time of the offence, was garbled and not entirely clear. The gaps in the factual matrix were not crucial for the purposes of proving the charge under Section 300(c). So it was not necessary to belabour the trial proceedings to elicit a blow-by-blow account of how the crime was committed, unless such facts were relevant either to prove his guilt or for his defence. Jabing was convicted of the murder charge notwithstanding certain gaps and inconsistencies in the factual matrix.     

More importantly, at the time of Jabing's trial, the death penalty was the only sentence - it was mandatory once the offender was found guilty of the murder charge.  There was then no other sentencing option.

in 2012, after Jabing's conviction, the Penal Code was amended to give the Court a discretion to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment. The factors relevant to the Court in deciding whether to commute the death penalty to life imprisonment was not known at the time of Jabing's trial. Had such factors been known to Jabing's lawyers at the time of his trial, I believe that Jabing's lawyers would have made it a point to bring up for the record, certain facts of the case equivocal to his defence, but helpful for his sentencing if found guilty.  

Hence, I find that Jabing was at a disadvantage when he came before the sentencing court. Certain gaps in the factual matrix which, had they been explored, canvassed or clarified during his trial, might have helped him to escape the gallows. (Alternatively, such clarification might have served the legal process by enabling the judges to have no doubt he should be hanged, in which case, a unanimous decsion would have ensured.)  

Indeed, the dissenting judges were of the view that it would be unsafe to sentence him to death, given the uncertainties caused by the gaps in the factual matrix, and that the offender should be given the benefit of doubt. Unfortunately, the majority of the Court of Appeal were prepared to sentence him to death despite the gaps in the factual matrix.

No unanimity within the Court of Appeal

Under the law, the death sentence may be carried out so long as a majority of the judges of the Court so decides. The death penalty is the ultimate punishment from which there is no turning back. The decision to execute must be very certain. But in Jabing's case, the five judges did not agree amongst themselves. The decision was split 3 - 2.  Notwithstanding the law, it is difficult to accept that Jabing should hang when two of the five sentencing judges did not think so. 

Current Status: 

On 19 October 2015, Jabing's clemency petition was rejected by the President, on the advice of the Cabinet. On 5 November 2015, Jabing was granted a temporary stay of execution to allow for the consideration of last-minute legal challenges. The hearing of the criminal motion is fixed for 23 November 2015. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mountbatten Campaign Accounts - Closure

Last Friday, 16 October 2015, I handed my Post-Election Donation Report and Return of Election Expenses to the Elections Department.  That was the last requirement for me to fulfill as a candidate for GE 2015.

The finalised Accounts (Revenue & Expenses) are as shown in the attached image files.

After the GE, a reporter asked me in relation to the Campaign: "Was there anything you would have done differently?" I paused to think, then responded decisively: "Not at all. The Campaign ran in exactly the way we wanted and I am very proud of it."    

I have no regrets about J4M Campaign. It left me with a bursting bag of great moments and cherished memories which I have the joy of keeping for years to come. And I also have satisfaction of proving the adage: "Together, ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary."  Indeed, the Campaign was a feat which a band of ordinary Singaporeans pulled off despite the unlikely circumstances.

It was a privilege for me to have taken part in GE 2015 as a candidate for Mountbatten SMC. I have much to be grateful for and many, many people to personally thank. 

I wish to take this opportunity give my heartfelt and personal thanks to:

  • the members of J4M Campaign Team who stood and ran with me;
  • supporters and encouragers who followed my Campaign trail and wished me well;
  • all those who had so kindly donated to the J4M Campaign fund;
  • all those who gave their time, ideas, talents, skills and dedication to the Campaign efforts;
  • each of the 6,004 Mountbatten citizens who gave their vote to me.

A Chapter is closed. The next Chapter awaits to be written. 

Total Expenses
Total Revenue - Page 1

Total Revenue- Page 2

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Dear Friends and Supporters

As of today, I am facing a shortfall of about $23,858.35 in respect of expenses incurred for the Mountbatten Campaign:

Total Campaign Expenses: $52,410.35
LESS Donations Received: $23,781.00
LESS Revenue from Merchandise sales: $4,771.00

Shortfall: $23,858.35

[See attached images of Campaign Accounts and Donations List.]

May I humbly appeal to your kind generosity to help me mitigate the shortfall with a contribution to the J4M campaign fund?

The 2015 General Election is over, but the cause for political diversity remains and I fully intend to do my part towards this challenge. 

But for now, the priority is to meet all the Campaign expenses. I hope you can help as I need to settle this so that I can move on to continue my efforts for a better Singapore. 

Contributions of any amount will be much appreciated. Here are the ways to give:    

** By Bank Transfer **

Name of Bank: DBS Bank Ltd
DBS Account No: 027-030949-6
Bank Code: 7171
Branch Code: 027

After making the transfer, please email jeannette4mountbatten@gmail.com to provide your name and the amount transferred.

** By Cheque **

Please issue to: “JEANNETTE CHONG-ARULDOSS” and mail to: 4 Battery Road 22nd Storey Bank of China Building Spore 049908. Please provide your name and mailing address so I can send you the receipt.

NOTE: I can only receive your donation if you are -   
(i)        a Singapore citizen above 21 years old; or
(ii)       a Singapore-incorporated company carrying out business mainly in Singapore and is controlled by Singapore citizens.

CLOSING DATE FOR APPEAL: 30 September 2015

Campaign Accounts

Donations List

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Thank you J4M Supporters and Mountbatten Residents

Dear Mountbatten residents and J4M supporters,

Thank you for inviting me into your homes and giving me the opportunity to represent you. Although defeated at the polls in 2015, our spirits have not been broken. I know with your support, I will be able to improve my showing at the next GE..

Moving ahead, I am seeking your continued support to help defray the J4M campaign cost with a sale of the remaining J4M t-shirts and badges. I am selling both the J4M Tee Shirt & Badge at $28.00 (price is inclusive of delivery to a Singapore address by normal postage).

The T-shirts are available in Small, Medium, Large, X-Large and XX-Large (please indicate your preferred size when ordering). The J4M Badge is sized at 68mm x 23mm. Please see pictures below.

Once again, I would like to thank you for keeping the cause alive and well. I shall see you around soon.

For inquiries, email to jeannette4mountbatten@gmail.com


1. By Bank Transfer

Name of Bank: DBS Bank Ltd
DBS Account No: 027-030949-6
Bank Code: 7171
Branch Code: 027

After making the transfer, purchaser requested to email jeannette4mountbatten@gmail.com to provide name, telephone number, mailing address and amount transferred and quantity of shirts and size required.

2. By Cheque

Please issue to: “JEANNETTE CHONG-ARULDOSS” and mail to: 4 Battery Road 22nd Storey Bank of China Building Spore 049908.

Provide name, telephone number, mailing address, quantity of shirts and size required. For inquiries, email to jeannette4mountbatten@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Why Vote for Me

By Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss, SPP Candidate for Mountbatten SMC

And so this lap of my journey for Mountbatten’s nearly complete. Today is the last day of campaigning, and tomorrow is cooling off day. It has been physically and mentally draining but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Mountbatten and I go way back. I grew up in Jalan Sedap and I have happy memories of my childhood spent there. When I got married, our first matrimonial home was at Meyer Road where I bore three out of my four children. As a child, I played at Katong Park. When I had my kids, I brought them there to play too.

Over the course of the campaign, I’ve reconnected with family friends and neighbours from my childhood and early marriage days. Just last week, one of my mum’s friends came up to me while I was giving out pamphlets at Dakota MRT and cheered me on. I’ve lost count of the friendships from GE2011 which I’ve re-kindled and the new ones I’ve made.

From my previous experience in 2011, I knew running a campaign in an SMC against an entrenched incumbent was never going to be easy. So, I’m proud to say I’ve run my campaign to the fullest of my ability with the help of a dedicated core of volunteers and the backing of the Singapore People’s Party (“SPP”).

This is a summary for why I would like you to give me a chance to serve you in Parliament.


My Mountbatten Manifesto

The centrepiece of my campaign is “My Mountbatten Manifesto”, a detailed document which I sent to residents in Mountbatten, and have made available online. The Straits Times described it as a “masterplan for the area”.

“My Mountbatten Manifesto” is crafted with a ear to the ground: it specifically addresses issues of Town Council management and handover (I promise to work with the incumbent to ensure this is done smoothly) as well as assuring residents that I will continue to fight for their community care assistance.

“My Mountbatten Manifesto” highlights practical improvements that need to be made around the constituency such as a lift at the overhead bridge outside Kampong Arang, and the importance of securing greater transport connectivity by internal shuttle services in Mountbatten.

However, more than that, “My Mountbatten Manifesto” is an invitation to the residents of Mountbatten to build a home for the heart with me. And, I don’t mean that as just a slogan.

“My Mountbatten Manifesto” details realistic and specific plans I have for the partial conservation of Dakota Crescent, and recommends turning it into a mixed commercial-heritage development which will house a community museum and integrated design, creative and heritage space where small business can co-exist with community projects. It also details plans for keeping prices of hawker food at Mountbatten’s hawker centres affordable.

“My Mountbatten Manifesto” also sets out the course I will chart in Parliament, and my plans to hold the Government accountable, if elected. This is the primary function of an MP: to speak up for residents in Parliament and to put the constituency on the national stage.

To me, “My Mountbatten Manifesto” is an opportunity for Mountbatten residents to reimagine the community, and a call-to-action to achieve these ideals together. Many of the proposals are small ones, but grounded ones. They have the potential to better the lives of Mountbatten residents with regard to local and national challenges ahead.

Executing My Plans

I am confident of my ability to to make “My Mountbatten Manifesto” happen.

As a corporate lawyer for 26 years who has built her own legal practice, I have the necessary attention to detail and an eye for compliance to execute my plans.

In estate matters, I have served several terms on the management committee of condominium in Siglap with aroud 1,000 units, and was Chairperson for two terms. I have dealt extensively with issues relating to third party contractors, vendors and suppliers, common property maintenance and management and sinking funds.

I promise to be a responsive MP: I will constantly interact with you to find out how I can improve to serve you better.

If elected, I will work twice as hard to ensure that your trust in me is not squandered. I will take pains to ensure that all Town Council matters are properly handed over within 30 days. My current campaign team, which will also form the nucleus of my transition team, includes a lawyer and an accountant.

Over the last four years, I have sought to retain my presence in Mountbatten within the constraints of my personal resources and time. I hope you will assess me based on the merits of my plans for Mountbatten and my personal attributes and credentials. If you give me a chance to serve you, you will not be disappointed.

Regardless of the outcome on polling day, thank you for the unforgettable experience of being able to run for office for Mountbatten.

As tomorrow is cooling off day, I will not be able to update my internet platforms. To assist you in finding out more about me, please see the following material to get to know me better:


My YouTube Channel

My Nomination Day Video

My Campaign Video:

My Rally Highlights Video:

My Rally Speech:

My hubby’s rally speech:

My Supporters’ Rally speeches:

My blog

My Facebook page


From The Straits Times:

From Today:

From Yahoonews.sg

From The Online Citizen

From The Mothership.sg

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mountbatten SMC SPP Rally on 6 Sep 2015 (Highlight Reel)

Highlight reel of the evening's proceedings at the Open Field at Stadium Boulevard. Featuring Mr Bryan Long, Mr Abdillah Zamzuri, Dr Ting Choon Meng, Mr James Aruldoss, Mrs Lina Chiam, Mr Choo Zheng Xi, and Ms Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss. Special guests for the evening were Mr Chiam See Tong and Mr Tan Cheng Bock.

Mountbatten SMC SPP Rally - Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss' Speech

The video of my speech from the Mountbatten SPP rally.

Mountbatten SMC SPP Rally - James Aruldoss' Speech in Teochew and Malay

My husband, my rock, and my personal translator who speaks multiple languages.

Mountbatten SMC SPP Rally - Benjamin Pwee's Speech

Benjamin Pwee, SPP candidate for Bishan Toa-Payoh, speaking at the Mountbatten SMC rally on Sunday night.

Mountbatten SMC SPP Rally - Choo Zheng Xi's Speech

One of my campaign volunteers, 30 year old lawyer Choo Zheng Xi, explaining why he joined my campaign team.

Mountbatten SMC SPP Rally - Dr Ting Choon Meng's Speech

A resident of Mountbatten and a friend of mine, Dr Ting Choon Meng explains why he's supporting me. Thank you Dr Ting.

Mountbatten SMC SPP Rally - Bryan Long's Speech

Bryan Long, the from the SPP team for Bishan Toa-Payoh, speaking for me at the SPP Mountbatten Rally. Thanks Bryan!

Official "Jeannette For Mountbatten" Campaign Video 2015

Jeannette Chong Aruldoss - Nomination Day


Mountbatten voters, 4 years ago I stood before you and told you of my desire to serve you. Four years have now passed, but my desire to serve you has only grown more intense, and more urgent.

We need to close the gap between what our government is delivering - and what we deserve. We need to close the gap between the system we now have - and the society we want.

Let me speak-up for you, because my opponent sometimes cannot speak, for fear of the party whip. Let me stand up for you, to fight for your entitlements, because our leaders sometimes do not hear our voices.

Mountbatten voters, come polling day, vote for me. I will be your tireless MP in Mountbatten, and your fearless fighter in Parliament.

My Mountbatten Manifesto

Dear friends, do take a look at my manifesto for Mountbatten below. Many of the plans have been inspired by consultations with residents, and they address many of the heartfelt concerns of those who desire for Mountbatten to grow and thrive as a community.

Friday, August 14, 2015


In 2004, over 1000 volunteers worked to uncover Fort Tanjong Katong in Katong Park and, in the process, recovered and fortified their community ties.

A dry season in 2001 uncovered an outline of a bastion wall, capturing the attention of Mountbatten resident, Jack Sim, who urged authorities to investigate the site. In 2004, archaeologists were commissioned to excavate the buried Fort. The initiative grew at a rapid pace and in space of four weeks, $200,000 had been raised to fund the excavation.

Archaeologists and volunteers worked tirelessly to uncover a military structure so intact that experts were quick to call it Singapore’s only ‘true fort’. It was hailed as one of Singapore’s most important archaeological finds.

The uncovering of the Fort created an atmosphere of euphoria as more than 1000 volunteers, ranging from students to working professionals, came together to assist archaeologists. Lim Chen Sian, archaeologist and Head Project Manager of the 2004 Fort Tanjong Katong excavation, marvelled the project’s effect on the local community:

“It triggered something in themselves and their environment [because] it’s more than just ‘My school teacher told me this’ or ‘My textbook taught me that’. It became something organic.” – Lim Chen Sian
(Source - http://www.goingplacessingapore.sg/heritage/2014/FortTanjongKatong.aspx)

The Fort stirred a fierce spirit within the residents of Mountbatten. The discovery of history and the reappearance of a remnant of a different era created a sense of ownership among the people. They united with a new spirit – bersatu dengan semangat yang baru – to uncover and perhaps even recover something they could call their own. Something unique to their neighbourhood; a landmark they could be proud of.

The restoration of the Fort represented a similar re-building of a spirit of community buried in the hearts of Mountbatten’s residents. As the Fort was increasingly revealed, so were the ties of community. The Fort became an important symbol of the neighbourhood’s identity, something not immediately obvious, but clearly felt by the hundreds who volunteered in that period.

Unfortunately, efforts to uncover the Fort have run into obstacles over the years as the government cited costs of excavation and maintenance, and problems arising from the fact that the Fort extends into state land. It is a shame that local government organizations like the People’s Association did not push for initiatives like these to be completed. It is disappointing that Mountbatten’s political leaders did not seize this momentous opportunity to listen to its community and work with them to rediscover heritage and strengthen communal ties. This is certainly a let-down for the community at large. The Fort not only possesses a historical significance, but it also could have also served as a symbol of pride and identity for Mountbatten residents and for Singaporeans at large.

As the over a century-old Fort is reburied into the ground, the atmosphere of community excitement surrounding it has also died down. The hundreds of volunteers have since fragmented and moved on with their own lives – perhaps wistfully holding on to the memory of a time when Mountbatten came together uncover a piece of history they could claim as their own. In short, a golden opportunity for community-building has been squandered.

But the short excavation gave us a glimpse of Mountbatten’s potential. A fort is a defensive structure that allows a group of people to defend and fight as a stronger unit.  It is designed to turn away foes and to strengthen a community of people. It surrounds, it protects, and it inspires. It is a physical symbol of the courage and resilience of a people, because it sends the message, “We are here; we are in this together; and we are staying.”

But a fort does not need to be standing to draw a community together. Its metaphorical walls also can remind people of their unity and spirit.

In 2004, the Fort allowed a community to be greater than the sum of its parts.  The gathering of 1000 enthusiastic volunteers shows that the community can be strong and vigorous when it is united for a cause.

I believe that this is but a tantalising taste of what Mountbatten as a community is capable of when it is able to come together. I only hope that the community will be given another opportunity to rediscover its identity and be proud of its heritage.

If elected, I would fight for the well-being of the Mountbatten community, defend its heritage and champion its unity of spirit.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Making Singapore Exceptional - Singapore's Challenges, Mountbatten's Story

Singapore’s Golden Jubilee makes me feel unspeakably proud. Since our improbable conception as an independent nation sited within an unstable geopolitical environment, we’ve managed to vault into pole position in the region, punching well above our weight both economically and geopolitically.

With the pride comes a deep sense of awe and humility as I use this landmark anniversary to reflect on the challenges that lie ahead for Singapore in general, and Mountbatten in particular.

To my mind, it’s not enough to ask what we need to do to maintain Singapore’s standing: we need to push ourselves to ask what it will take for us to make Singapore an exceptional country.

To me, the answer to that question lies in our people and our communities.

One of the greatest challenges we face as a nation moving ahead will be to maintain and strengthen community bonds in the face of increasing population pressures.

Nationally, increasing social mobility is critical to keeping Singapore strong and cohesive. Our national philosophy of meritocracy must continue being our guiding light, but we need to recognize that as each succeeding generation of Singaporeans passes, our system of meritocracy confers inherent advantages to those already ahead that the less economically well off do not benefit from.

Locally, what makes Singapore strong is our sense of community, reflected in our built environment and our common spaces. When we speak of bringing back the “kampong spirit”, we must never lose sight of the fact that for the “kampong spirit” to thrive, our “kampongs” need to be preserved.

There is no better place to reflect on these challenges than from the vantage point of Mountbatten.

Within the constituency, there’s a diverse range of people from different socio-economic backgrounds: some of the wealthiest in our country live in the landed estates in the constituency, while some of the poorest live in rental housing estates.

Singapore’s challenge, in closing the mobility gap between those who’ve made it and those who aspire to make it, is writ large in Mountbatten. This is a challenge we need to confront, and a gap we need to close.

Singapore’s challenge to preserve, promote and enhance our national identity, is also Mountbatten’s. Mountbatten is a constituency with a unique identity and a rich history.

Encompassing parts of Katong, Mountbatten has a distinctly “Katong” spirit that’s hard to put your finger on but which you’d immediately recognize if you chit chat with the elderly convent schooled aunties at Dakota Crescent.

The built environment of Mountbatten is also unique: one of Mountbatten’s most recognizable estates is the 17 blocks at Dakota Crescent, with the iconic small tiled dove playground.

To keep our Mountbatten community strong, we need to preserve, promote and enhance the built environment of Mountbatten, as well as the local businesses that have taken root in the community and which sustain it.

Mountbatten is a small constituency, but one with a distinct identity. I believe Mountbatten, like Singapore, can punch above its weight if we get our priorities right.

While celebrating how far we’ve come as a nation economically and on the world stage, it’s important never to lose sight of the people and communities that make up Singapore. Our people and our communities have made Singapore strong, and I am committed to strengthening our people and our communities because I believe that together, we can make Singapore exceptional.

Happy National Day. Majulah Singapura!

An exceptional view of an exceptional country. Happy Birthday Singapore!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mrs Seow Peck Leng - Spirit of Mountbatten

In 1959, the people of Mountbatten voted in a female opposition candidate. She successfully campaigned for change on a nationwide level and the result was the passing of the landmark Women’s Charter in 1961. Mountbatten voted and Singapore evolved.

The odds were stacked heavily against Seow Peck Leng. She took part in the 1959 General Election as an opposition candidate and faced four other opponents, including a PAP candidate. She emerged victorious.

Her underdog status did not end after elections. When Seow Peck Leng entered parliament, she was an opposition MP facing an overwhelming PAP majority. Furthermore, she was the only female opposition MP in a male-dominated Legislative Assembly during her term. Undeterred, Seow Peck Leng embarked on a nation-changing cause for women and again emerged victorious.

Seow Peck Leng dared to dream big. She envisioned a Singapore where women and men stood on equal footing. A future in which polygamy was abolished and wages were paid equally. Mountbatten believed in her ambitious vision and voted to allow her to represent the community. In return, Seow Peck Leng gave Mountbatten a noble cause to fight for and a new identity.

Mountbatten hitched its fortunes to Seow Peck Leng and she became the spirit of the community - a fiery, passionate, noble leader representing her community on a national stage. Both Mountbatten and Seow Peck Leng became synonymous in the fight for gender equality across Singaporean society.

Seow Peck Leng was more than a mere politician and Mountbatten saw that in her. She tackled a large problem in society and dared to envision a better Singapore. Mountbatten endorsed her and in doing so, backed her vision. Mountbatten voted for Seow Peck Leng to the Legislative Assembly and Singapore experienced genuine legislative progress.

Despite being an opposition Assemblyman, she successfully reached across the aisle and worked with the PAP to achieve a goal of national importance. She reminded the PAP of their pledge in their manifesto, and worked with them on constructive legislation. She could have spent her term opposing the PAP; but instead, she worked with them, and together they produced ground-breaking legislation that took provided national leadership and took into account the needs of all Singaporeans.

Mountbatten’s people were passionate, and voted in a passionate social activist. They were ambitious, and voted in an ambitious leader. They were courageous, and voted in a courageous woman. A marriage of such a community and a strong leader had a tremendous impact on Singapore society.

I believe that the story of Seow Peck Leng shows what a leader of a relatively small SMC can do for people all over the nation when given the opportunity. Seow Peck Leng gave Mountbatten a glimpse of an alternative Singaporean narrative in which both genders were equal in and out of the workplace. When Mountbatten endorsed her and gave her the platform as a Member of Parliament, she immediately set out to achieve a nationwide goal. Her parliamentary term brought about the passing of the Women's Charter, which paved the way for ground-breaking change in Singapore.

Seow Peck Leng was an inaugural member of Singapore Women's Hall of Fame.  As Singapore turns 50, it’s a good time for us to remember the contributions of a pioneer Singaporean and Honourable Member of Parliament for Mountbatten.

Seow Peck Leng has passed on, but her spirit remains in Mountbatten. She rose dauntless to meet the challenges of her day, vindicating her voters for having chosen her over others to be their voice in parliament.  

Today in Singapore, the tried and tested solutions are either becoming less and less effective, or not effective anymore.  As we grapple with the many national issues which hog our conversations, we will do well to recall the trailblazing, feisty spirit of Seow Peck Leong.  In those days, the people of Mountbatten boldly elected a bold lady, and the nation took a big step forward. 

Shall we repeat history?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Keep Dakota Crescent – a vital link to our past

Situated in Mountbatten SMC lies a cluster of unassuming old buildings known as Dakota Crescent. 

Named after the Douglas CD-3 Dakota aeroplanes that used to land at Kallang Airport, Singapore's first civilian airport, Dakota Crescent was built in 1959 by the Singapore Improvement Trust, the predecessor of HDB.  

For more than 50 years, Dakota Crescent has been providing homes to many pioneer generation Singaporeans.

Local residents and commentators have noted the estate’s highlights – ranging from its unique architecture, the iconic Dove Playground to its ties to Singapore’s aviation history.

Today, Dakota Crescent is slated for redevelopment.  The fate of the buildings which comprise the estate is uncertain. 

Certainly, Dakota Crescent must be conserved as a heritage for our future generation. We should not let it be demolished. 

Dakota Crescent is a key rung in the ladder of Singapore’s evolving social housing and community-building efforts. It was an experiment in public housing by the Lim Yew Hock Government (in office from 1956 to 1959) to address a housing crisis.  The estate is a physical reminder of a past struggle by the government to elevate its citizens from slums and squatter settlements into affordable public housing. 

Knowing our past challenges and how we overcame them are keys to build nationhood, enrich our identity as Singaporeans and inspire our way ahead.

It is important to make the effort to conserve Dakota Crescent because of its place in Singapore’s history of public housing and community building efforts.

Conserve Dakota Crescent for the Community

Singapore’s conservation efforts have often been found wanting – the Bukit Brown controversy is testament to that.  

Even when buildings are conserved, public icons have ended up becoming closed to the communities they once served. One prominent example is the Fullerton Building, which used to house the General Post Office from 1928 to 1996. The landmark building was the main communications hub in those days.  Businessmen and ordinary folk frequented its massive hall to mail out and pick up their letters.  However, after being gazetted as a conservation building in 1997, the Fullerton Building turned into 5-star luxury hotel.  Its purpose had turned from community to commercial.

Redevelopment is often necessary in Singapore but it would be a shame if after conservation, Dakota Crescent is reorganised into an up-market commercial purpose or private space that excludes ordinary Singaporeans.  Especially since Dakota Crescent was originally built to serve the community.

The redeveloped estate must allow the public access to walk around the estate and not be confined to view it from the outside. 

Future use of Dakota Crescent

The possibilities for redevelopment are many and they include arts/educational centres, and other social spaces for community use.

Dakota Crescent is situated around an MRT station, sports, recreational facilities, market and hawker centre, which makes it a natural centre for community to congregate. The locality has an established community of residents and amenity-suppliers who have been in the area for five decades.  A vibrant community of retirees, working adults and children offers opportunities to create symbiotic multi-functional facilities like childcare, elder care with retirees looking out for the young ones.

A hybrid development plan could be explored, allowing the developer the freedom to commercialise a certain portion of the area, while binding the developer to ensure that a certain portion of the area be allocated for community use. There could therefore be a win-win compromise between commercial and community purposes. 

Alternatively, an open competition to encourage ideas for the redevelopment of the estate could be a creative way to engage local voices and opinions. Singaporean architects, urban planners and other bright minds could enter the competition to discover creative ways to ensure that redevelopment does not compromise the preservation of history and heritage.

The Old National Theatre, Van Cleef Aquarium, Old National Library Building - they are gone.  Let’s ensure that Dakota Crescent remains, and not meet the same fate as those icons.   

If the estate is to be redeveloped, then let it be in a way that honours Dakota Crescent’s historical narrative of building the community.

Jeannette Chong- Aruldoss

Dakota Crescent resident, Mdm Kang. Aged 86, she has 10 children, 16 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My condolences to PM Lee Hsien Loong

Dear Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong,

My humble condolences to you and your family for your personal loss.

Undoubtedly, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a faithful husband to his wife and a devoted father to his children. By any measure, that alone would have been enough for any man to be well-respected and highly regarded for.

Yet, he is also the first of the founding fathers of our outstanding nation! As you have well said, " We won’t see another man like him".

As so, the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew is also a personal loss to Singaporeans like me, beneficiaries of the personal sacrifices made by - and audacious vision of - our founding fathers.

I salute Mr Lee Kuan Yew and join my fellow Singaporeans to mourn his passing.

- An ordinary but proud-to-be-called Singapore citizen.