Alan Soh

I am my own columnist, sharing my own thoughts and experiences!


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Quick Thoughts on LBGT

Pinkdot Singapore

He could not tolerate 2 men kissing, so the 29-year old man became angry and went on a shooting spree killing 49 fellow human beings who were in a gay bar in Orlando with a rifle gun. It happened this week.

What wrong did these people do to end up being killed tragically?

It chills me when I see there are people among us who cheered the shootings made by the American killer, thinking along the line that “oh these LGBT people really deserve to die, if only we can do the same to the same group of people here in Singapore”.

Why do we have people in this world who just could not accept differences among us?

 
Please allow me to see things in an objective viewpoint.
Who started the “war” in the first place? Very often, I think it is the non-LGBT group especially the very conservative ones with a religious perspective.
 
Group A don’t offend Group B, yet Group B keep attacking Group A.
It is natural that Group A would rebut back, seeking equal treatment actively.
 
This is because Group B cannot tolerate the existence of Group A.
(Of course I don’t deny the fact that there are some LGBTs who keep pushing the boundary line.)
 

Come on, we are all not saints.

 
Among people in the LGBT group, they could be our brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunties, sons, daughters, or very close friends. They did not offend you but are you going to end the relationship simply because of their sexual orientation?
 
Ask ourselves – are we willing to sit down and talk openly with them in the first place, seek to understand them without any pre-judgement? Are our eyes blinded by misconceptions? More importantly, do we respect and accept them for who they are? Are they friendly to you? Do you still love them the same as before?
 

It is regrettable that there are people in this world who just don’t understand the simple saying – “Treat others as how you would like to be treated”.

 
Many of us are not patient, and don’t listen enough to understand the other party. Some of us simply look at matters from our own perspective. Cannot give and take.
This explains why conflicts or wars still exist in many parts of the world today. 😦
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Inclusiveness. Perception.

A recent survey commissioned by Lien Foundation reveals that in these 1000+ respondents, only 1 in 10 Singaporeans is confident of interacting with a child with special needs. 50% of the adults polled are comfortable with having a child with special needs in their children’s class. And finally, only 8% of the people polled are willing to make a child with special needs feel welcomed.

What does it say about us? Why? Why this discomfort? Is it because of misconception, pre-judgement or stereo-typing? Thinking that people with special needs among us are “stupid”, “unable to contribute to society”, “always depending on others for help”, “can’t achieve much in life” or “better not to be seen and heard”? Why are there Singaporeans not walking the talk about inclusiveness in the Lion City?

In my course of work, my interactions with Singaporeans with special needs often made me go awe. Because I discovered some of them have hidden talents. Most importantly, these people are easy to get along with. They are very friendly people. I feel at ease talking to them.

We should focus at what these people can do, NOT what they cannot do. Like anyone of us, some of them are born with different gifts. From there, we can redesign job-scopes to cater to their strengths. They are a hidden pool of potential talents, if we give them opportunities to develop their abilities. They are raw diamonds.

I always believe disability happens only if I am disabled in the mindset, not my physical limitations. Of course people are entitled to their own opinions at the end of the day.
This is beyond my control.

At the end of the day, it is about our perceptions. How we see this special group of people. It is a matter of our willingness to understand these fellow Singaporeans with special needs.

Let us open our hearts and minds.  They might just surprise you with their abilities. 🙂


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One Year On..Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s departure

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Just a couple days ago, the Singapore Government and many fellow citizens remembered our Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew, of whom has passed away at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) on 23 March 2015, at 3.18am.

With deep sadness, his son, of whom is also the current Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong announced his father’s passing away via mass media later that morning. The news of his death has rocked the nation and many other countries worldwide.

Mr Lee’s health was deteriorating, however many Singaporeans had hoped that he would be able to recover and join in the upcoming SG50 National Day celebrations in August. Heard that he last stepped into his office in April 2015 before hospitalisation.

I believe some Singaporeans were bracing themselves for his impending death. I was one of them. However I didn’t expect the news to come suddenly that Monday morning.

On this day 25 March, exactly a year ago, there was a procession of the gun carriage bearing Mr Lee’s body along a 2 kilometre long route from the Istana, through the Civic District, to the Parliament House where his body was laid in state – for Singaporeans, and for foreign friends, far and near, to come paying their last respects to him, round the clock. 24 hours. For 5 days. His State Funeral took place on Sunday 29 March 2015.

As you can see, a Singapore state flag was drapped around his coffin as a gesture of highest respect and honour for this great man.

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Thousands of Singaporeans including myself went to queue, just to pay respects to him. It was a historic moment because many people including the elderly were very much willing to go the extra mile, bracing the hot sun to queue. This is where the Singapore Spirit came alive – strangers stepped forward to do something for their fellow citizens, offering free drinking water, fans, umbrellas, mini seats to people who were queuing. Taking initiative to do something.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew and other founding fathers made the Singapore Story a legend. He unified all Singaporeans as one, even in his death.

On Wednesday evening, I went to one of the remembrance events held at the steps of the National Arts Gallery (former Supreme Court building). It was held from 6.30pm till 8.30pm.

Penned my thoughts on the electric candles provided. And worn the red/white ribbon given, onto my tee shirt.

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If you ask me for one Singapore national day song to play at Padang for us Singaporeans to remember Mr Lee Kuan Yew, I personally think the 1986 song “Count on me Singapore” is the best choice.

The song lyrics are appropriate and meaningful, especially on this 1-year death anniversary day. Talking about rallying Singaporeans together to keep Singapore going till and beyond SG100. I believe this is the biggest concern or worry which Mr Lee Kuan Yew have had before he passed on.

We will continue to write the Singapore Story until the day the island state turns 100 years old in year 2065.


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A random Sunday thought

On top of my hearing impairment condition, I always make it a point to mingle more and try to understand people from their point of view. Especially from the best smart ones. Although I admit that my critical thinking ability may not be very good. Okay, perhaps it means I need to read up more?

It is another separate issue if people are not willing to share.

At my current age, I already learnt not to pre-judge people first. These days, I understand things by listening and observing, and then try to understand why things are done in a certain pattern.

Until today, I am still trying to understand what is my unique standing position in Singapore and this world. Why am I born in Singapore? Why am I in this current state? Why do I exist? What is my purpose? Is there something I can help to change in this world? How do I go about doing it?

I somehow think that purpose is getting more clearer and clearer to me.

The challenging part is often about how one can look beyond surrounding naysayers say and follow what he or she wants to do wholeheartedly.

I think sharing perspectives can help to broaden my mind further.
I like talking to people, to understand their thoughts on an issue.

Hmm..maybe it is time to come up with my own version of MediaCorp Channel 5 “Let’s Think About It” conversation with some friends over coffee?


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Taiwan Trip 2015

Collage 1

I made 2 trips to Taipei in 2015, the first was made on 25 November and the second on 29 December.

The first trip was made with Charles tagging along. I spent 4 days in Ximending, Taipei while he continued staying on till 1 December 2015.

The second one was a solo trip. I spent my NYE holidays there also in Ximending, aiming to see Taipei 101 fireworks at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day. I met up with a fellow Singaporean friend Billy Loh, who was there for a Chinese Buddhist Temple retreat activity from 24 to 28 December.

I felt that doing solo travel is quite liberating, as I have full control over where and when I want to go. It gives me an opportunity to be even more self-dependent, and at the same time, be more observant of my surroundings. More importantly, I step out of my comfort zone to discover new things. Hmmm so I say, it is quite enjoyable. 🙂

Collage 2

Civic mindness. This is what I observed when I spent my NYE holidays in Taipei.
Many people including myself were sitting on the closed roads near Taipei City Hall area, waiting in anticipation for the Taipei 101 fireworks to take place. Many were seen with their DSLR cameras or smartphone cameras. I expected people standing up immediately at the stroke of midnight snapping photos of the fireworks.

It never happened. Except for a few people using tripod stands, I was so surprised and amazed to see people continued sitting snapping photos of the fireworks! The Taiwanese perfectly understood that if they are to stand up, they would obstruct the view of others who are sitting down behind them.

This would not happen in Singapore.

The metro trains were running 24 hours on New Year’s Eve. After the fireworks, people were queuing to take train at Taipei City Hall Station. A stampede could happen any time if crowd control measures are not implemented. The train station was shut down temporarily. Using a microphone and a friendly tone, the station master (I presume) urged public members waiting at the station entrance not to push one another while going down the elevators to take train when the station reopens. To further lighten the mood among the waiting crowd, he even cracked some friendly jokes. Party revellers laughed. People also made way automatically for a wheelchair-bound individual, for him to be wheeled to a safe spot outside the station, with the kind assistance of a train station staff. A few other train station officers were also present, professional yet patient to answer any public queries.

As usual, the Taiwanese queued on the right side of elevators.

That human touch. A sense of inclusiveness. 人情味。体谅与关怀。This is one positive aspect of Taiwan, which I REALLY like about her. 🙂

 

 


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A memory walk done the lane

If time permits, I often like to spend my work-free weekends walking around in different parts of Singapore. I like to walk in HDB neighbourhood areas. I also go snapping pictures on my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone if anything catches my eye.

It is 15 years or so since I last came down to Bishan Street 14. I decided to take a walk there last Saturday 31 October 2015. After buying hearing aid batteries and taking lunch at a coffeeshop at Blk 511 Bishan Street 13.

The open field near former ITE Bishan school campus site.

The open field near former ITE Bishan school campus site.

I was there taking a 2-year Certificate in Business Studies (Secretarial) course at the former Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Bishan campus, which is located at the traffic junction near Blk 190 Bishan Street 13 in July 1998 to April 2000. The building is located right next to the MOE Language Centre.

It wasn’t a happy period then because I was “demoralised” after having to accept the fact that my 1997 O-level grades were only eligible for me to enter ITE, a vocational training school for students who may be least academic inclined. I was unhappy. In fact I felt lousy. It does not help that there was a social stigma or prejudice among Singaporeans that ITE students are not well-behaved, stupid and are “destined to be a failure in life”. Remember that there was a saying that “ITE = It’s The End”?

For the first time and the last time, I once played truancy there. =P

To bring about a more positive image transformation of ITE, its Board of Governors unveiled an ITE Transformation Plan near to the end of 1990s which placed a high strategic focus on greater engagement with the public and key stakeholders to close up information gaps, and thus aimed to change Singaporeans’ perception of vocational and technical education. ITE did a quite successful re-branding exercise, re-structuring itself as a post-secondary institution.

ITE students today are perceived more positively by the general public, educators and employers.

The route to school.

The route to school.

This is the pathway in front of the school. I always walk there after exiting Bishan MRT Station and the bus interchange, and crossing the traffic junction of Bishan Street 13/14.

I couldn’t fare well in accounting and shorthand, of which are 2 core subjects. Sorry, I am just not good in numbers. As for shorthand, it is mainly due to my hearing impairment in my left ear which started to cause problems. I did not get a full ITE certificate.

After ITE, I went to serve my National Service for 2 years. Thereafter I decided to pursue my next course interest – Mass Communications. I started from the part-time foundation programme. Despite my hearing issue, I managed to clear all hurdles and proceed onto the full-time Diploma programme. And which of course, I had my hands on the diploma cert successfully!! Yeah.

In 2001, there was a plan being developed to cluster all 10 ITE schools into 3 mega campuses that will allow the institution to offer better facilities and greater choice in skills training.

There was ITE College East which is built first at Simei in 2005, followed by ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang in 2010. Then in 2013, ITE Bishan students moved to the latest mega campus building — ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio. This ITE college houses students from Bishan, Tampines, Yishun, Balestier and Macpherson campuses.

Ok. And so….can you guess which school is residing temporarily at the former ITE Bishan school site now?

St Joseph's Institution.

St Joseph’s Institution.

I only knew that SJI is residing in the ITE Bishan school campus when I walked to the school gate. It is a holding campus for the all-boys Catholic secondary school from January 2014 to December 2015.


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Pre-Singapore General Elections 2015

Singapore Polls

Singapore 12th Parliamentary Term General Elections (GE) take place tomorrow 11 September 2015.

It is Cooling-Off Day today where all political parties are forbidden to do further campaigning in order to allow voters to calm down thinking rationally about their choice of vote.

All 89 Member of Parliament seats are contested. No walkovers.

29 electoral divisions. 16 Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and 13 Single Representation Constituencies (SMCs). 24,000 first-time voters.

It is the day in which 2,460, 977 eligible voters including myself will decide and cast our votes at 832 polling stations. The day which we all have been waiting for (and yes, yayyy..another long weekend). You see, the Polling Day which falls on Friday 11 September 2015 is a declared public holiday.

Several months after founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s demise in March and the recent Golden Jubilee national celebrations, I believe this is going to be a GE closely watched by Singaporeans and political observers locally as well as internationally. After 8pm tomorrow, would we be seeing another watershed election results? I don’t know. But I have a gut feeling that the voting results could be “historic”.

The current GE campaigning news from various political parties are so electrifying, in my own words. Sparks fly. Political views are also expressed actively by netizens on social media platforms.

Given what we have seen in GE 2011, I think Singaporeans today have gained much political consciousness than before. Many of us understood that we are part of the Singaporean Family, thus having a stake or say in our country’s future via the ballot paper. Many schooling and working youths started having active discussions on national issues. As such, some of us somehow now believe strongly that they can effect a big social change through voting, by voting for credible opposition parties.

Sharing a post made by a friend in Facebook, she says there are 12 questions for us voters to think about.
1) Are you prepared to accept the possibility of a freak election result where the Opposition forms a coalition government since many people assume that there will always be enough people to vote the incumbent into government, thus it will still be safe to vote for opposition? Your vote could be the swing.
2) Will you be comfortable for the current slate of Opposition candidates to speak on Singapore’s behalf at international affairs/functions and forums? Can any of the current opposition candidate be able to make us proud like Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tharman during his recent interview at St Gallen?
3) Why do the Opposition mostly focus on domestic issues and not international matters? Are they only capable of handling domestic issues? What are their views on world affairs as Singapore is very dependent and vulnerable to her external environment? Will they be able to engage and talk in depth with other world leaders and business leaders?
4) Are you confident that the Opposition can continue to maintain our existing good international relationships with other nations, especially given the sensitive relations with our neighbours and the big countries? How will they handle the haze from Indonesia and the water issue from Malaysia etc? They cannot conveniently tagged on the solutions already provided if the incumbent party is voted out of government.
5) Is it so important to have a different voice in Parliament just for the sake of it regardless of the quality and credibility of that voice? Does this voice truly speak for the people or merely to serve their personal agenda or grudges against the ruling party?
6) Are you looking at the big picture or do you only care about the details? If Singapore does not have enough water for its people, do you think we will still be sitting here complaining about MRT service breakdowns? Without existing framework of stable and strong government, social harmony, economic prosperity, do you think you will still complain about foreign workers? We might have to be foreign workers ourselves.
7) What are some of the knee jerk reactions if the ruling party is voted out of the government? Probably market will react, foreign funds will flee Singapore immediately, our Singdollar currency might lose its value and our investments will drop. Do you think investors will risk their money and wait for the new government to prove itself? No investor likes a politically unstable country. Look at Malaysia. As soon as a whiff of a political unrest is detected, the ringgit went into a free fall.

8) Why do you want to give your vote to a new and unknown candidate who did not even contribute to the community before and yet penalize the person who has been serving the community through grassroots work? Have he or she earned it? Some candidates only appear every 4-5 years when election fever comes.
9) It is very easy to be popular by saying what people want to hear and promise to give more, but it is even more courageous to implement the right policies for the nation long term and be unpopular short term. Nobody like to be the one to give hard truths but someone has to do it.
10) Is there a perfect government in this world? Ask yourself – why are countries sending their diplomats to study from a small little red dot if our government didn’t get most of it right?
11) Do you want a paralyzed parliament which is often bogged down with bickering over short term national issues to gain political points from voters? You need a government with foresight and do long term planning. Marina Bay, Changi Airport expansion, PSA ports etc cannot be built in a one election cycle. Do you think a weak government fighting for political survival will have the time for these long term projects?
12) Why do we have to keep striving to be among the best of the best in the world? Would other nations or MNCs or investors bother with Singapore if we are just mediocre? There are so many big cities around the world with many natural and human resources, so how does Singapore stand out if we are just average? What captures the world’s attention about Singapore? As our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loonghas said, the work is never done, there are still many more peaks to scale. Can we afford to remain stagnant and be complacent as a little red dot?

I feel that election votes are not really meant for individuals to express their unhappiness towards the Government whatsover. They are actually meant to be a representation of the Member of Parliament (MP) you want to help taking care of you and your neighbourhood areas, the MP whom you want in Parliament debating government policies as well as potentially a Cabinet minister who would have to head a ministry, or represent Singapore overseas at official functions.

More importantly, the vote you cast is about the ideals of country leaders whom you want to lead Singapore forward. Is it about capability or track record? No. Is it about the leader who make great speeches? No. It is about choosing the right people who have decided to sacrifice their personal time, stepping forward willingly to serve you, their fellow Singaporean.

It is about the attitude and the heart.

For Singapore. For all Singaporeans, present and future generations.

For US, the world was never the same again after 11 Sep 2001. Wheras for Singapore, the world might never be the same after 11 Sep 2015?

We shall see the results tomorrow. 😉


Latest Note (13 Sep 2015):

A total of 2,304,331 votes were cast by Singapore electorate, of which there were 2,257,016 valid votes and 47,315 rejected votes.

In this election, there were 9 political parties contesting, namely People’s Action Party (PAP), Workers’ Party (WP), National Solidarity Party (NSP), Reform Party (RP), People’s Power Party (PPP), Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDP), Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Singapore People’s Party (SPP), and Singaporeans First Party (SingFirst). And 2 independent candidates as well.

The ruling party PAP had a landslide victory, winning 69.9 percent of the valid votes – the best performance since 2001 and a 9.8 percent surge from the 60.1 percent it got in GE 2011 when it lost Aljunied GRC to WP, an opposition party. It confirms a two-third majority in Parliament.

PAP has won back Punggol East SMC which was formerly under WP in the Punggol East By-elections 2013.

The overall poll results were quite a surprise for many Singaporeans including myself.

Here is a quick glance at the vote results. (News Source: Channel NewsAsia.)

An overall view of Parliament seats won in Singapore General Elections 2015.

An overall view of Parliament seats won in Singapore General Elections 2015.

Party share of votes in the constituencies contested in Singapore General Elections 2015.

Party share of votes in the constituencies contested in Singapore General Elections 2015.