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Jack Neo’s latest tribute to the PAP should be a comedy – How to train your minister :)

In the recent saga of primary school chinese examination weightage, it is amusing to note the about turn by the administration on one of its gaffes on its chinese language policy.

The Education Ministry has traditionally been one of the most problematic ministries within this Government. Over the years, not only has the inadequacies of our education system have been shown up by our children’s lack of gall, creativity and competitiveness, the sheer fact that on one hand we are touted that our local universities are world class and on the other hand our ruling elite send its young to foreign universities and our administrative service sends our scholars similarly to foreign universities is damning evidence of the fact that in the aspect of education, we are definitely and continually being shortchanged.

Singaporeans being shortchanged aside, the recent controversial remarks by the Bargain Hen, if not for the uproar from the Chinese community, might have turned into a possible change in Chinese Language education policy, if they went unchallenged.

I call Ng Eng Hen the Bargain Hen because way back just after the 2001 elections,  I, witnessed with aghast, a Channel News Asia news report footage of the then Ng Eng Hen facing off and answering questions from supposed grassroot leaders and members of the audience in a talk. During the talk, questions had been raised about the fact that the ministers’ salaries in tiny Singapore being the highest in the entire known world.

I say known world because, whilst unlikely, there is still a possiblity that an alien race, unknown to us, might have similar policies that pays its ministers just as much or even more – even though they might be as arrogant and incompetent as they are. 🙂

The Bargain Hen’s reply from the panel was with gusto and arrogance and,  as far and as accurately as i can recall, goes as follows:-

“Let me tell you, [index finger pointing] what you are paying for the quality of your ministers is a bargain because, i need only work half as hard and i can make five times as much outside [with hand gestures].”

Someone with love for this country needs to access the Channel News Asia archives to pull out that famous footage to verify the exact words for the Bargain Hen’s sake and also my humble self, put it up on YouTube so that Singaporeans can appreciate why i would dearly call Ng Eng Hen – the Bargain Hen.

In this episode, our Prime Minister was forced to come out to face the Chinese press and community to backtrack on what the Bargain Hen had said. In doing so, our Prime Minister displayed more smoothness and tact. He reaffirmed his cabinet’s committment to the Chinese Language as much as he would want you to believe and also identified a few more ways to change how the Chinese Language should be taught.

Note the cabinet’s position change from “change in examination weightage” to “change in teaching methodology”. Yet another change. 🙂

Honestly, I do wonder whether the cabinet’s need for constant change is a philosophical need on their part? [which i do not see being manifest in their political beliefs and system] or is it just plain and simple – The Cabinet is experimenting with our children’s education and correspondingly our children’s future?

In short, the fact that streaming policies change every other year;

The fact that there was already a recent change in the Chinese Language Pedacogy in 2005;

The fact that highly paid Bargain Hen’s suggested change is now shown to be ill-thought;

is proof that PAP ministers often act by shooting in the dark and not really knowing what to do with our country. 🙂

Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with PM Lee Hsien Loong about the need for the institution of 6 levels of proficiency, my view that the 6 levels of proficiency should be instituted not so much for the teaching of Chinese Language but for ensuring competent political leadership – To sieve out those who can make it and those who cannot.

These are my suggested Levels of Proficiency for ministers

Elementary Level

1. To be able to be calm and collected enough not to burst out crying on nomination day / polling day.
2. To possess the humility of public service – please admit that your salary is amongst the world’s highest and in the same breath don’t go around claiming that what the country is paying for you is a bargain.
3. To be smart enough to play smokescreen and divert attention by changing the topic of discussion.

Intermediate Level

4. Be humble enough to see your own errors and admit the same – in this case your own arrogance and greed.
5. Be able to talk sense in parliament and do good for the country when it comes to national policies.
6. To be able and willing to further democracy for the good of a nation despite the obvious threat to your own well being.

[An example of how the lack of practice of democratic principles affects this nation – Ng Eng Hen is in Bishan ToaPayoh GRC – This GRC has been uncontested since GE2001, the Bargain Hen together with his team leader our esteemed Wong Kan Seng strolled into Parliament on two occasions 2001 and 2006. Wong Kan Seng’s performance is sad to say nothing better than dismal :). I need not say more]

In this day and age of untold hardship and uncertainty faced by the born and bred Singaporean with the backdrop of uncertain national well-being given the manner in which our National Reserves are being managed, some respite needs to be given to our people to loosen them up abit.

I think the latest movie Jack Neo should come up with in his next release would be the movie… How to train your minister. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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May 13, 2010 Posted by | Politics | 1 Comment

Finally… I think …. i found the surefooted path to wealth… :)

In as much as the day could actually conspire to give me an experience and a confirmation of the path which i am on, today i am truly grateful for what has been an eye-opener for me this morning – at my office.

I had stumbled out of bed again this morning to yet another workday feeling sleepy – who doesn’t. As i dragged myself through the teethbrushing and bath and off to work, I was greeted by that awfully guilt-ridden feeling of seeing another unused motorbike parked in the garage.

Oh yes, i have not updated everyone as yet. I sold off Blackie recently.

After selling off Blackie, i came across a Honda VFR800fi Interceptor.

Despite the VFR800’s numerous merits, I have to admit that the decision of choosing the bike and the decision to buy it was nothing short of whimsical and frivolous.

Now honestly speaking, who can resist a 800cc bike with fuel injection coloured flaming RED and being called the “INTERCEPTOR”?

Now in boy-speak [the jargon of men who fail to grow up despite accumulating age], the term “Fighter”, “Interceptor” evokes warm feelings of endearment. That’s what the name of the VFR800fi did to me…. at the moment i first knew her name, i felt weak at the knees, a little dizzy in the head, my heart palpitated, my palms turned clammy… my breathing became difficult.

And so the flaming red interceptor ended up in the garage…. laid up [no licence yet you see] … washed and waxed… and covered under trapaulin… saturday mornings are warming up sessions. My old mother would complain about the exhaust. The children in the house would all jump up in anticipation and watch with rapt attention.

However, more often than not, i would feel guilty about the unused INTERCEPTOR. This was because a solid piece of engineering was reduced to being a display piece.

My mum asked me to give up biking and get a car. She had said to me that even my younger brother had a car – 2nd year into his job.

I told her flatly that i could not afford it. To me energy spent working to earn money should be better spent than on enriching the bloody government.

To me being thrifty on transport is a wise thing to do. In Singapore where people are preoccupied with the over-inflated prices of 4-wheelers and the status of being a car owner, having a car is almost like getting a sure ticket to money drain. Unless of course you earn alot of money like our good for nothing cabinet ministers, having a car would almost definitely hurt your pocket like most Singapore mortals would be hurting.

However, interestingly at times, my perverted self would deliberately challenge the evasive inferiority complex hiding behind my committment to a 2-wheeler. I have deliberately hinted to a girl that i cannot afford a car and she has to content herself to being on a 2-wheeler [if she chooses to be with me] until she is married to me and has my child – then perhaps i would get a car for her. 🙂

At times, i would also wonder to myself, if this perverted attitude of mine had contributed to my lack of success with love and whether or not i was deliberately doing myself in. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Then this morning, one experience amongst so many in all of my hectic mornings, changed everything.

As said earlier, i had woken up and dragged myself to work. I was a little late.  My appointments were back to back. One delay meant delay for all the rest. Including the court appearances. So i was getting edgy.

One new client had called me up the night before. He needed something to be urgently done. So I squeezed him into the slot just before my first scheduled appointment of the day.

He was late. The meeting then ran into overtime. My other client was waiting in Court. I was getting edgy.. very very edgy. Another client called asking for directions – saying he was on the way to come meet my secretary, patiently i gave him directions over the phone. My secretary then told me she was running off to the Land Registry. As my mind was engaged, it did not strike me at first, and i did nothing to stop her from leaving.

Finally the client left, with another slot to meet me in the afternoon. I rushed down to my bike with my files and my jacket. As i was making my way down to my bike. An old uncle was pushing his run down Yamaha RXK to the same parking area. I envied his RXK – he just saved 65 cents on a coupon – something which my huge shadow 400 no longer allows me to.

Big bikes cannot squeeze into the little lanes for illegal parking, so recourse must be had to legal parking in designated lots – which comes at a price – 65 cents.

After packing everything into the bike box, as i was about to ride off, i realised that i had left my helmet in the office. And so I rushed up again.

Upstairs, I saw a man waiting outside my office. It turned out to be the client who had called up for directions earlier. He had brought his documents. Now at this point of time, no one was in office, i had to unlock the office for him. I invited him in and told him to take a seat and then went about trying to sms my other client waiting patiently for me in court.

Now since my conveyancing secretary was not around, I had to stay in office. I could not chase a client out of the office, neither could i let anyone remain in my office without my staff around – so i was stuck.

I decided to engage the man in a conversation, as i always try to do with our clients. It is always interesting as they as clients always remember the lawyer, but the lawyer will find it difficult to remember his clients. This is because we have hundreds or maybe thousands of clients who maybe give us work once every few years.

The first thing i realised was that he was in his fifties and chinese educated. After about 5 minutes, I realised that it was not necessary for him to wait for my secretary – he could just pass the documents to me! And so he did. He passed me the title deeds to a property which he recently sold – we were acting for him in the sale.

It turned out to be an enbloc sale and the price of the property was S$1.95 million. He thanked me before he left and i thanked him in return. I gave him my card in the midst of our conversation as I realised that we had never met before.

After he left, I was jumping for joy! Not because of the fact that it was a S$1.95 million property transaction – the legal fee these days is a pittance – thanks to our warped legal system and thanks to having no one protect us from the short-sighted and destructive price-cutting within the profession.

I was actually jumping for joy because i can finally tend to my poor client patiently waiting for me in court!

I grabbed my helmet and made a dash only to slow down when i saw that the client who had just left was waiting at the lift lobby for the lift.

Admittedly and embarrassedly, i slowed my pace. Well, what’s a client to think of a lawyer who is on a bike because he cannot afford a car?

Of course, i have my reasons and my explanations but knowing that i had a long day ahead of  endless back to back meetings and court appearances, i decided against having to explain tiringly and unnecessarily again to the usual client who might very well just find it ridiculous that his lawyer is on a bike and not a car like most other accomplished people.

So shamefully, I let him go in the lift before i entered the lift lobby to take the next lift.

When i reached my bike parking area. I noticed the old Yamaha RXK ridden by the old uncle was just moving off.

I realised with a little shock that the rider was the client i had just met with the $1.95 million dollar property and it was the same uncle whom i had seen pushing the RXK bike into parking position earlier.

This time round, i was rushing a little bit more. I wanted to catch up with him. I wanted to ask him why of all things he was riding an old RXK.

My 242kg shadow needed to be reversed in direction manually before it could be ridden. It felt like an eternity.

As i finally rode off i saw that he had reached the end of the lane before he turned into the main road. Interestingly, from a distance i saw that he had stopped his bike and taken off his helmet.

I rode up beside him and stopped.

I turned to him and smiled at him, “Mr. XXX!” [Apologies to all, due to client confidentiality i have to conceal the name]

He smiled broadly at me “Mr. Chia you are on a bike as well!” It turned out that he had seen me in his rear view mirror and he had decided to stop. I wondered how he recognised me – then I realised that he could have seen the helmet on my office sofa during our conversation.

“Well … its convenient ….  cheap and fun” I said now without the slightest tinge of embarrassment. 🙂

He smiled kindly at me, “Never thought of buying a car?”

There was a pregnant silence. We looked at each other half-knowingly and incredulously and we both laughed.

I said, “Cars are too expensive in Singapore, i still can’t afford one.”

He smiled knowingly at me. He should know better. Given his actual financial strength. Nothing more need to be said. We then waved each other goodbye. I headed off to court and thereafter to complete all my other appointments.

The morning’s encounter stayed in my mind throughout my entire day. So much so that i had break my dry spell and write about it.

The beautiful thing is the thrift and humility i saw in this uncle. The fact that he could give us the title deeds meant that his S$1.95 million dollar property was obviously fully paid. Furthermore, the property was not the only asset in his possession. It was very likely that there were other properties – at the very least one more.

I therefore had proof that at least one multimillionaire in Singapore who goes around on a bike more than 20 years old and costing less than s$800/-. Amazing humility and contentment.

As it is with all educational experiences and stories, what then is the moral of this experience?

I thought very hard and i came up with the following:

1. Owning a car does not mean you are rich. Being rich does not mean you must own a car. 🙂

2. Some bikers are poor, but some bikers are rich. Never judge a book by its cover or rather never judge a biker by his bike. 🙂 🙂

3. Never ever prejudge an old uncle on a dingy Yamaha RXK, you will never know the financial substance behind those two old wheels. 🙂

4. The surefooted path to riches is humility and thrift amongst other virtues. 🙂

5. To be rich, you must own a condominium and it must be fully paid and then thereafter be sold on an enbloc basis, preferably through a lawyer who is on a bike. 🙂 🙂

6. To be rich, you must buy an old Yamaha RXK and ride it like the classic old uncle. 🙂 🙂 🙂

I have to admit that amongst all the above morals. No. 6 seems to be the one that makes the most sense to me. 🙂

Now my mum always hoped that i would one day be rich and make good.  🙂 Given this morning’s revelation, i think i will try to fulfill her wishes for once. 🙂 🙂

Now ….. where was that advertisement i saw recently about a 22 year old Yamaha RXK for sale? 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

May 4, 2010 Posted by | Life | Leave a comment