A 2 Years I will Forever Cherish

IMG-20160311-WA0018As the ecstasy and pure, unadulterated bliss of receiving my IC recedes with the day coming to a close, I’ve had some quiet, deep introspection on my two years in National Service. And I discovered that while there were the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs, NS will definitely be a landmark in my life journey which I will deeply cherish. While I’m looking back at this journey of self-discovery, personal growth and one marked by countless new friendships forged, I can’t help but recall a Bible quote from the Book of Timothy.

”I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”- 2 Timothy 4:7

On the 12th of March 2014 as I made my first forays into military life, there was a palpable sense of anticipation and apprehension. As a second generation permanent resident and the first in my family to undergo the rite of passage all Singaporean males are mandated to perform, I had expectations and goals I set out to achieve. As I recited the SAF Pledge and sang the national anthem, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of patriotism and pride strike me. I was born, raised and grew up here. (Yes, I am actually a Malaysian and it actually surprises new acquaintances that I am from across the Causeway because I lack the distinctive Malaysian accent and my lingua franca is mostly Singlish dotted with the ‘lahs’, ‘lehs’ and ‘lohs’) While I could not yet lay claim to the honour of being a Singaporean, this was my chance to repay the good faith and blessings this country had showered on me.



I was fortunate to have landed in the same BMT Company, platoon and section as three other fellow CJCians, Nicholas Teo, Lim Shuqi and Joel Cheung. That made my transition from the civilian realm to the military all the more seamless. It was also my honour to have forged new friendships with Kwek Zhi Yi, Oh Wei Lun Starey, Lee Cheng Xi, Merville Sin, Jing Wei Yeong and lastly but most importantly, my buddy,Jeremy Lau. This band of brothers made BMT just that bit more tolerable, meaningful and worthwhile. We shared weal and woe, sweat and tears together. If anything, my time in BMT is one I will cherish and remember fondly, for it gave me my first taste of the value of grit, teamwork, sacrifice and yes, independence. Grit, because it instilled a fiery determination in me. Teamwork, for I learnt to overcome differences and self-interest to work together towards a common objective. Sacrifice, because we learnt to give and take among friends. And yes, I became fitter and managed a record 10 pull ups during my time in BMT.



BMT was sheer joy for me because being put through our paces in the most gruelling of environments like that of field camp and taking regimental punishments collectively only served to strengthen our camaraderie and esprit de corps within the platoon. The milestone 24KM Route March seemed like only yesterday, and for one good reason: I was filled with gratitude during the route march for the friendship, love, kindness and personal growth I had experienced. To those of you whom I had the good fortune of getting acquainted with, a heartfelt thank you for being part of my life. You have touched me in so many ways and I hope I have touched you too.



Not making the cut for Command School was heartbreak, but I learnt to trust in God that he has a plan for all of us. That came as I was matriculated into SAF Medical Training Institute (SMTI) as a combat medic. If anything, I told myself that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Heartbreak soon translated into a determination to put in my utmost. I soon began to discover that by putting one’s soul wholeheartedly into an endeavor, one begins to enjoy and immerse himself in that very endeavor. I’ve come to appreciate my medic training at SMTI, even today. The competencies and skills, ranging from Intravenous Infusion to Basic Cardiac Life Support, we mastered as medics remain more relevant than ever.



Then came my posting to Jurong Camp Medical Centre. This is where I experienced my steepest learning curve and perhaps faced the greatest tests and tribulations. I had to contend with a difficult superior and immense responsibilities. (ironically, yes, as personal assistant to my superior) I signed extras, shed tears of sorrow and desperation and worked late hours, sometimes having to resort to bringing work back home. I had to learn, sometimes the hard way, how to deal fairly with colleagues while in a position of responsibility. And yes, I was force fed a routine of Microsoft Office that I can safely vouch that using Excel, Outlook, Powerpoint and Word have become second nature to me.



That imparted in me perhaps a few values. Responsibility: I learnt to take responsibility for my work and to stick to set deadlines without compromising on work quality, even if that meant working extra hours to accomplish what needed to be done. Leadership: Inevitably as the second-in-charge in the absence of my superior, I had to learn how to lead effectively. I may have had my shortcomings and my flaws, but I undoubtedly learnt the value of compromise, forging consensus and taking to task colleagues, if I needed to.
Tenacity: I had to work with what was undoubtedly a difficult superior. That drove me to the point of desperation and anxiety (as those in JCMC can attest to, I am a kancheong spider that cannot rest on my laurels if something is not yet done) but if there was one takeaway I am thankful for, it is that I have learnt a great deal about exercising forbearance, learning to stay composed and rational in the face of distress and frustration, as well as being better equipped to deal with a myriad of equally onerous superiors in the future.



If there is one thing I can be grateful for during my time at Jurong Camp Medical Centre, it would definitely be the friends I have made, who made the task that little less complicated and effortless. We’ve all toiled so hard towards that common objective to prove to ourselves what our hard work could achieve, and gosh, did we achieve wonders: from our EMSA Audit 2015 Gold Award, to the 100% achieved at the Annual Stock Take and finally, the climax of it all, our 2016 Mobilemet Emergency Drill Assessment Band 1 Achievement. We’ve climbed mountains we never thought possible.



Chee Chong Junwei Ong Muhammad Danial Irfan Ismail Travis Phey Lim Wen Chi Syafiq Chichawito Jethro Tan Ahmad Iqbal Wong Xiangshengand the rest, we’ve fought the good fight, we’ve run the race of our lives. Thank you for your commitment, effort and cooperation. I may have had my differences with some of you, but I certainly will cherish our shared tribulations under Ma’am. I wish you all the very best! For those still in service, your time will come and I certainly hope that when that day comes, you too will see and feel the same sense of accomplishment and satisfaction I have experienced during my time at JCMC. Keep your head down, stay focused and stay united. While being in JCMC is definitely an onerous task, make the most of your time there and you’ll bring along with you several valuable life lessons.



If I had to go through it again, would I have chosen to change anything? My answer is an affirmative no. I have had the privilege of serving as a combat medic in the service of the wounded and maimed. Being a medic may not command the same prestige as that of a commissioned officer, Commando or Naval Diver, but the medical vocation, just like the transport, logistics and other vocations in the SAF, are but single constituents of a whole institution. If I may draw an analogy to the human body, each vocation can be likened to a single organ. Be it the heart, brain, liver or prancreas, one cannot function without the other. Each serviceman has a unique role to play in the defence of the nation and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to save lives as a medic.



I am also grateful and humbled by the kindness and love I have encountered from those whom I have had the honour of crossing paths with. My fellow medics from JCMC and my BMT comrades, thank you for being a part of my life.



Lastly, I want to thank the people who have been my source of sustenance and inspiration; who have kept me going with their affirmations and belief in me. Without their unyielding and unconditional support, I would surely have faltered. My friends, you have been a God-given blessing. There are many people I would like to personally thank, and I’m sure you know who you all are. I deeply appreciate your company, words of affirmation and being a listening ear when I needed it the most.



And to my family and especially my dear mother, words cannot express my love for you. I may have made you worry immensely during my time in NS, and have on most occasions not been the perfect son you envision, but I do hope that you continue to put your trust in me and that I will repay the good faith that you have invested in me all this while. Thank you for your heartfelt letter during field camp that gave me the strength and willpower to carry on, despite how dejected I was feeling then, to the point of succumbing to failure.



”不要把自已与别人相比, 人各有自已的特点. 做不成大树可以做小草. 做不成船长可以做水手. 最重要的是认识自已, 找到最好的自已”

To translate, ” Don’t become preoccupied with comparing yourself with others, for each person has his own unique traits. If you can’t be a tree, be a shrub. If you can’t be the captain of the ship, be the sailor. What is key is to discover and learn about your strengths, and find the best within you and bring it to fruition”

These words from my mother remain as poignant as ever and speak of the belief and love she has invested in me.



As I conclude, I ask myself whether I have truly fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. It is a resounding yes.



My NS Journey has been a bittersweet one, but it has been a rite of passage I have had the honor of undergoing. It is a chapter in my life I will certainly recall with much wistfulness and fondness. If this is what it means to be Singaporean, I can, hand on heart, proclaim that my NS experience has only strengthened my resolve to become a Singaporean. I have no doubt whatsoever that this land that nurtured me, our way of life, and the people I grew up with is worth defending. Many a time, I have been reminded that in the Chinese word ”国家”, 国 (country) comes before the 家 (home). Likewise, I have grown appreciative of the fact that there can be no home without the country. Home, to me, represents bliss and love. These are blessings my family and friends have showered me with unconditionally. Yet, how am I to come home to seek solace and warmth when there is no country? This is why I believe in the continued importance of national service as a core pillar of the Singaporean state.



If there is one simple retort to the skeptics who doubt the value of National Service, I pose you this final question: If you don’t step up, who will? I may still hate the feeling of lugging my field pack, coupled with a stuffy Long 4,SBO and SAR 21 rifle around. I absolutely detest digging shellscrapes and having to contend with the uninhabitable outfield environment. But the hardships forged a steely resolve in me. It built my determination. It strengthened friendships. It is a rite of passage that I feel many before me will attest to, that has shaped characters and provided a fresh outlook on life. And that is a testimony by many who have served before me, and who will continue to serve this great nation. I am proud to say that I can come to terms with finally, calling myself your fellow compatriot, a Singaporean.



As I close the page to what has been a colourful two year chapter and landmark in my life journey, I look on the horizon that lies before me with optimism and hope, for I know God has been good to me, and will continue to be in the years to come.



CFC Vincent Lee Hong Hui

-Valor, Virtue, Victor, Viper! Platoon 1, Section 3, Viper Company, BMTC School 3 BMT 02/14

-Seek, Save, Serve -SMTI, JCMC EMT P020

“Reforms Don’t Happen in A Day’’- Taiwanese Prospects and Challenges in the Aftermath of the DPP’s Landslide Victory in Taiwanese Polls


There is an ostensible air of change on the streets of Taipei tonight. After all, the ruling KMT has had to cede power in presidential and legislative elections to the opposition, traditionally independence-leaning DPP led by its tenacious, wonkish leader, Dr Tsai Ing-Wen. It is noteworthy that the KMT has been in power since Chiang Kai-Shek’s KMT decamped to Taiwan in 1949 after defeat by the CCP on the mainland. The election results are then, a momentous one in Taiwanese history, for it not only represents the first time that the KMT has lost its overall majority in the Legislative Yuan, but also means that Dr Tsai now has the unprecedented honour of being the first Chinese woman to hold office in the Chinese-speaking world without any prior political pedigree. She is neither a scion of a political dynasty, unlike Park Geun-Hye of South Korea, who is the daughter of the late dictator, Park Chung-Hee. The result had been almost guaranteed months ago, as opinion polls presciently showed Dr Tsai holding a resounding lead over her main contender, Mr Eric Chu of the KMT. The jubilation and buoyant mood may resonate amongst many Taiwanese for days to come, and the electorate will continue to see Dr Tsai as the one to bring Taiwan forward. Yet, as Ms Tsai so aptly put it in her victory speech, “reforms don’t happen in a day.”  In the wake of the elections, it is thus an opportune moment for us to consider the potential repercussions the DPP victory may have on regional stability, as well as the numerous economic and political tribulations Dr Tsai’s administration may face in its tenure.


When one broaches on the topic of Chinese territorial ambitions and growing political muscle these days, issues like the South China Sea and Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands dispute come to mind. It seems that the festering, unresolved issue of cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan have taken a back seat. Then again, we should remind ourselves that the tenures of President Lee Teng Hui in the late 1990s and Dr Tsai’s predecessor, Chen Shui-Bian, were marked by an escalation of tensions between China and Taiwan over the two men’s decision to deviate from the status quo and seek greater recognition of Taiwan globally.


Taiwanese-Chinese relations have always remained a sensitive, fractious issue since the conclusion of the Chinese civil war. To bring things into perspective, it is worth harping on the fact that Taiwan, or Formosa, was annexed from then imperial China by the resurgent Japanese in the first Sino-Japanese war of 1895, who then went on numerous conquests across Asia in the decades that followed. After the conclusion of WW2, civil war broke out on the mainland between the Communist forces led by Mao Tse Tung, and the Republican KMT forces, allied with the Americans, led by Chiang Kai-Shek. Resoundingly defeated, the KMT then fled across the Taiwan Straits, establishing what is now the modern-day Republic of China or Taiwan. Taiwan was recognized as the legitimate representative of the Republic of China at the UN Security Council and was accorded the permanent member status in place of the communist CCP in Beijing. In the 1970s however, with the thaw in relations between the US and China, the UN switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing which left Taiwan isolated internationally, till today.


It is only natural that there are festering tensions between both sides, who are technically still at war (there was never an armistice signed). Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade, breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland by force, if necessary. Taiwan remains stuck in an awkward limbo of neither recognizing Beijing’s jurisdiction nor formally declaring its sovereign status. Beijing has remained recalcitrant and unwavering in its determination to regain the territory while the KMT’s old allies, the US, has set in stone its resolution to defend Taiwanese interests through the passing of the Taiwan Relations Act. Inevitably, just like the old Cold War disputes of Berlin and Cuba, Taiwan has remained to this day a potential flashpoint for superpower rivalry. It was only back in 1996 when the Chinese had provocatively fired missiles into the Straits of Taiwan to intimidate Taiwanese and attempt to influence the Taiwanese election results which led to an immediate American reprisal of naval deployments in the Taiwan Straits to send an unequivocal message to Beijing of its unshakeable commitment to Taiwan.


Under the stewardship of KMT President Ma Ying Jeou, Taiwan oversaw a dramatic détente with China, through numerous signings of trade and services pacts that closely integrated the two economies, culminating in a historic landmark meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ma. This was a 360 degree shift away from the pro-independence advocacy of the DPP’s controversial leader, Chen Shui Bian. The KMT have traditionally been advocates of reunification, unlike the DPP, albeit under its terms. As such, it adheres strictly to the ‘one China’ principle and the 1992 Consensus struck between Beijing and Taiwan, where the two sides agreed to disagee in their differing interpretations of the meaning of ‘One China’.


Clearly, China must have played its cards astutely, shifting from the ‘stick’ approach of assertiveness and stridency to that of the ‘carrot’- economic engagement with Taiwan. If one were to read the Chinese administration’s current cross straits policy, it must surely go like this: seek economic engagement with Taiwan, intertwine the two economies to build Taiwanese reliance on China’s economic prowess to accelerate the inexorable process of political reunification. Many Taiwanese however, see through this and have become increasingly apprehensive of the prospect of closer economic integration with the mainland, fretting that the intertwining of the two economies will lead to the reunification that Beijing pines for and Taiwan dreads. This was very much manifested in Taiwanese students’ Sunflower Movement occupation of the Legislative Yuan in protest of the trade pact Mr Ma had signed with China that would lead to increased interdependency on Beijing, as well as the repudiation of Mr Ma’s diplomatic engagement with China through the trouncing of the KMT in municipal elections last year. It is thus, easy to gauge general Taiwanese sentiment and understand why the KMT has sunk to the nadir of its popularity: young Taiwanese polled today feel more Taiwanese than Chinese, as compared to sentiments on identity expressed a decade ago. Like the Umbrella Movement protesters in Hong Kong, many of the younger generation in both countries have a distinct sense of national identity and express profound apprehension of Beijing’s intentions. It is only natural for the majority of Taiwanese to root for the pro-independence DPP.


This is where I will move to explore in detail Dr Tsai’s track record and thus, analyse the resulting diplomatic implications for her administration. The election of Dr Tsai will surely alarm Beijing given her party’s roots in advocacy for independence. Ms Tsai herself, unlike her KMT opponents, continues to refuse to acknowledge the 1992 Consensus, stating that the “One China principle is one option but not the only one in the question of cross strait relations’. The 1992 Consensus has always been a bedrock for cross-strait relations and any outright denial of the one China principle will surely set back hardly earned goodwill and accommodation.


While Dr Tsai has been pragmatic and sought to reassure the US, Japan and indirectly, China, on its determination to maintain the status quo of good, stable relations with Beijing and to further cooperation in the economic and diplomatic fields, it is one thing to win the electorate over with a moderate stance and another altogether to attempt to appease party hardliners. Would Dr Tsai prove to be another disaster in the making, as Chen Shui Bian did? After all, Mr Chen, like Dr Tsai, took a conciliatory tone during his inauguration, opening up Taiwan to Chinese investments although towards the denouement of his tenure, the nationalist rhetoric spiked in what was surely an attempt to drum up support amongst the party’s key support bases through its pro-independence advocacy.


I would choose to believe not so and urge Beijing not to act capriciously, but instead, act pragmatically to reach out its feelers to Dr Tsai. The natural inclination for Beijing upon news of a DPP landslide victory would surely be to tighten the noose on the DPP. These could be done through avenues like leveraging on its political and economic clout globally to decimate Taiwan’s already limited diplomatic space (Taiwan only has formal relations with 20 odd countries) or seek a range of reprisals short of direct confrontation such as squeezing economic concessions (disengaging from dialogue, investment into Taiwan, and cutting tourism figures). That would be disastrous for a Taiwan already in dire economic straits. Not only would such a move be detrimental for Taiwan, it would also serve to antagonize relations further between the Taiwanese people and China and drive them further apart from reunification, something China would surely not want.


As such, China should follow Dr Tsai’s lead in seeking communication and continued engagement with Beijing. Already, there have been low level talks between the DPP and officials in Beijing. That is promising and rightly so, given that Dr Tsai has had a track record of having experience in international relations, serving as a government official for the KMT back in the 1990s as a trade negotiator in Taiwan’s attempts to join the WTO, as well as serving as Chair of the Mainland Affairs Council under Chen Shui Bian’s administration. It is very well in China’s interests to choose continued communication over coercion and seek to build rapport with a moderate like Tsai. She has reciprocated by assuring that she will maintain the status quo of signing of trade accords with China and continue such moves, albeit with greater public consultation, discussion and transparency. President Xi Jinping and Mr Ma can help Dr Tsai along the way, if only they could recognise that continued cooperation and dialogue in the economic and political sphere will not only ease tensions across the Taiwan straits, but also eliminate a potential flashpoint for conflict in the Asia-Pacific, at a time when China already has its hands full with the South China Sea. Furthermore, it should come naturally to President Xi that peace and prosperity come hand in hand. The former is a precondition for the latter. Mr Ma can help facilitate this by acting as interlocutor between the incoming DPP administration and Beijing to discuss further avenues of cooperation that are amenable to both parties.


Treading the diplomatic tightrope is de rigueur for Taiwanese leaders, but Dr Tsai has had the dubious honour of having to contend with a Taiwan mired in dire economic decline. The increasingly intertwined economies of China and Taiwan have led to a slump as a result of slowdown in growth in China. Taiwan has had to slash growth forecasts and analysts predict it would be fortuitous for it to achieve even 1 percent growth this quarter. Wages have stagnated despite the rise in price levels, while income inequality is burgeoning. Housing prices have ballooned to the extent that almost 66% of household incomes per month are used to pay off mortgages. Little surprise then, that despite the KMT’s long-proclaimed reputation as the guardians of Taiwan’s economy, its policy of economic interdependency with Taiwan is reaping little benefits for the territory and has earned the KMT the enmity of the Taiwanese public for its incompetence under Mr Ma’s tenure.


The DPP has yet to unveil a coherent policy strategy on the economy but she has mentioned a revitalized ‘Go South’ policy as a cornerstone of any blueprint for growth, originally the brainchild of former President Lee Teng Hui, to diversify the Taiwanese economy away from over-reliance on China as a driver of Taiwanese economic growth to that of engagement with the Indian subcontinent and ASEAN, as well as possible accession to the TPP. Those moves too, are fraught with challenges.

It has been made abundantly clear that Taiwan’s dire economic straits are a result of its over-dependency on a slowing Chinese economy. As such, any first move would be to reduce reliance on the volatile Chinese economy and diversify its trade though greater interconnectivity with the regional and global trading systems through more trade pacts. Yet, the path ahead is lined with obstacles, one created by China. Taiwan maintains diplomatic relations with only 20 odd nations, resulting in a dearth of free trade deals. This is largely due to China’s objections of the international community engaging with Taiwan on such substantial affairs as it still views Taiwan not as a separate political entity, but a renegade province. Ms Tsai has advocated enthusiastically for Taiwan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade pact consisting 12 members of the Asia Pacific region, despite its status. The TPP, originally mooted by the US, has deliberately sought to exclude China. Would China allow Dr Tsai to follow through with its plans to accede to the TPP and bring Taiwan further out of China’s orbit? Undoubtedly, the path to accession of the TPP remains a tenuous one as a result of China’s continued influence over the matter.


The second arrow of trade policy will undoubtedly be that of recalibration towards ASEAN through its ‘Go South’ Policy. That is good news for the region as a whole. However, China would surely fret at the prospect of it losing its status as Taiwan’s top export destination as Taiwan seeks to disentangle itself economically from China. This is where Dr Tsai must adroitly negotiate a means to reassure China that it can maintain the status quo in the Taiwan straits and at the same time, cultivate strong economic and political ties with ASEAN. The DPP has got off to a good start here by reassuring China that the ‘Go South’ policy would complement the ‘Go West’ trade policy with China.


Lastly, the DPP has, throughout the election campaign, failed to come up with a suitably coherent and sound economic blueprint to ameliorate the host of problems plaguing the Taiwanese economy, despite rallying popular support through tapping on the disenchantment of the electorate with KMT incompetence. It should seek to do so soon to assure investors and the people alike.

In a region dominated by Confucianism and paternalism, Dr Tsai’s landmark election is worth celebrating. After the party, however begins the real work of dealing with the twin headaches of domestic problems and China. Then again, we can all remain upbeat and rest in the knowledge that just as Europe has had its Angela Merkels and Margaret Thatchers, Asia will herald in a new dawn with the election of a progressive, liberal democrat with a streak for moderation, tenacity and technocratic expertise. She is a living testament that Asian women too, can break the glass ceiling.











A Eulogy to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew; the man behind a ‘Malaysian Malaysia’

As a Malaysian growing up in Singapore, I’ve always had a fascination for the generation of Singaporean leaders that was able to nurture what was then a Third-World backwater into that of a modern metropolis, despite the acrimonious seperation from Malaysia in 1965. How did a country without a hinterland, without anything to fall back on, manage to scale dizzy heights and achieve what it has today? Singapore’s story is indeed a remarkable one in history. And today, despite all the detractors and naysayers, I would like to pay tribute to a man whom the Tunku once perceived as a potent threat to his premiership over Malaysia; a man who, thanks to his conviction, fortitude and tenacity enabled us to enjoy the fruits of his generation’s labour. A man who fought for the ideal of a ‘Malaysian Malaysia’, and carried that ideal of equality and multiracialism forward into independence.

My parents have often recounted to me their childhood and adolescent experiences growing up in 1970s-Malaysia. How could life between the two territories be so different? After all, we shared a common heritage, common cultures, and we were once predestined to be a united political entity. Well, the difference turned out to be stark; shockingly stark.

The Singapore we live in today; the very Singapore we youths take for granted, wasn’t always this blissful. Life was tough, the prognosis for our future seemed bleak especially in the face of a tumultous seperation from Malaysia, a lack of resources and a small population. Today, in what is a far cry from the past, we enjoy stable economic growth, a sense of profound security, social cohesiveness unseen in all corners of the world and it has become a ‘Mecca’ for many nations seeking to emulate and study our success. Consistently, we are rated as one of the world’s most competitive places to do business, and one of the top nations with a clean, unblemished record in governance.  What exactly can be attributed to the achievements we have made? What exactly was this magic formula?

The formula is rather simple, and has been consistently highlighted by public officials. It is Meritocracy and Honesty. Yes, these were the guiding principles that were key in moulding our path to pre-eminence.

Meritocracy, because it is precisely because of such an initiative that we have ensured all Singaporeans feel that they have a vested stake; a shared stake in a shared future. A sense of commitment to a country that isn’t simply defined by one ethnicity or religion. Meritocracy meant that hard work, commitment and resolve would suffice for anyone seeking to succeed. It meant that regardless of one’s religious profession, his skin colour or his language, nothing sought to disenfranchise or marginalise him and one would have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Meritocracy was also key in fostering social cohesion in what was a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. Ethnicity has always been a volatile subject in this turbulent region. It has made minorities realise that no one is going to be discriminated against. It is a virtue imbued in the national pledge that we recite daily. Cue ‘regardless of race, language or religion’. Indeed, it is what has made Singapore distinctively Singaporean. I can safely profess that all races in Singapore now identify themselves as Singaporean instead of being ‘Chinese, Malay or Indian’ respectively.

I believe we are fortunate to have emerged as one of the few ex-colonies without a hint of sectarian violence and ethnic conflict. We do have to credit this to the ideal of a ‘Malaysian Malaysia’ Mr Lee Kuan Yew once held fast. While Malaysia practiced and still practices a policy of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ or Malay supremacy, Mr Lee believed that all Malaysians should have an equal, fair stake in Malaysia and should not be discriminated against simply because they were minorities. I am indeed, thankful that the sound policies developed by Singapore have contributed immensely to the strength of its social fabric today. I can mix effortlessly with a person of another race, who centuries ago, would have come from a culture alien to me. In fact, I can sing the national anthem, watch football and cheer on the Singapore football team with Yusuf, my Malay friend whom I share a diehard passion for the Lions with. I can discuss religion and Middle Eastern politics with Rashaad and Thaqif, and debate whether IS is truly Islamic or un-Islamic. It is here where I can see my fellow Singaporean compatriots, from all walks of life, pursue their dreams without fear of being disadvantaged in any way. Where other luminaries like the late Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King once fought for racial equality on the streets of Johannesburg and Selma, I believe Mr Lee Kuan Yew matched these giants in stature, in fighting for a vision where a region with manifold cultures so diverse and different could thrive in harmony and peace, overcoming barriers.

My parents often relate to me their experience of growing up in Malaysia in the 1970s. Life was hard and one had to work assiduously to succeed. However, I believe what differentiated Singapore’s prospects from that of Malaysia is precisely this policy of multiculturalism and non-discriminatory meritocracy. Where Malaysia institutionalised racial differences in the Federal Constitution, Singapore entrenched multiculturalism as a guiding principle. For one, the university and civil service are prime examples of discrimination at school and at work. Today, we hear of stories where straight As Indian and Chinese students are rejected from University of Malaya places in favour of lower scoring ‘bumiputras’. The civil service, unlike the highly regarded one we see in Singapore, recruits based on race. No matter how qualified, distinguished or talented a candidate may be, he will eventually be judged by the colour of his skin. Honestly, I tell you, Nelson Mandela, a leader the Malaysian authorities pradoxically look up to, would have frowned upon the sort of discrimination minorities in Malaysia continue to face.  Indeed, it is because of such a policy that Malaysia has constantly languished behind Singapore in competitiveness and efficacy of governance ratings. It creates a sense of alienation and disgruntlement. A lack of attachment to a country that treats its country as second class citizens. It leads to a brain drain, an exodus. It is what compelled my parents to come here to Singapore to pursue ‘the Singaporean dream’, just as many have aspired to achieve the ‘American dream’. Thus, I am immensely grateful to have had firsthand experience as a Malaysian of the discrimination and treatment as second class citizens at the hands of a ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ policy and the policy of multiculturalism and a ‘Malaysian Malaysia’ that I have had the privilege to enjoy here in Singapore. I thank Mr Lee Kuan Yew for bringing forward his ideal of an equal, just Singapore from merger right into independence. For enabling me to proudly say, I feel truly at home, where I feel at ease and am colour-blind to the friends I have. With friends I can confer on politics and religion with, with friends whom I know have an equal opportunity to succeed in life just as I have.

Secondly, in the midst of the criticism of Malaysian Premier Najib’s handling of the IMDB financial scandal and spate of corruption allegations in Malaysia linked to top-level officials within Barisan Nasional, I see a stark difference in the principles of governance between Malaysia and Singapore. It is a difference which I once again credit Mr Lee Kuan Yew for. It is establishing the virtue of honesty as a guiding principle.

Singapore is fortunate to have enjoyed the firm, tenacious leadership and foresight of Mr Lee. It is under Mr Lee that a firm, unwavering commitment to the rule of law was established. A commitment to ensure a first-rate public service devoid of the scourge of corruption, nepotism and greed. Mr Lee could have simply made empty promises to the electorate to promote the clean image of governance. However, that would never have gained the people’s trust. What was needed was tangible results and actions, and that he delivered. He showed, in the 1975 conviction of Wee Toon Boon, a cabinet minister for accepting gifts (yes, merely a gift! Not a bribe) from a businessman friend, that no one, no matter the weight his office carried, would be above the law. Honesty henceforth prevailed, and prevail it did. Today, Singapore continues to rank highly in honest government ratings. Coupled with a policy of meritocratic selection of only the best of the best, Singapore has nurtured a first-rate, efficacious civil service held in high regard by foreign counterparts.

Honesty, too proved paramount in the government’s dealings with the electorate. Unlike populist parties we often encounter in the West, the PAP and Mr Lee was brutally honest and forthright in their dealings with the public. Mr Lee never hesitated to tell the truth, no matter how painful it was. Truths such as the fact that we could never survive if we were to become a welfare state like those of the West, where hard work is barely rewarded and sloth can get you by. It is because of such hard truths, that we were able to produce standout policies like that of the ERP and CPF. These policies may seem harsh and unnecessary; a thorn in the flesh for most Singaporeans. However, in retrospect, I believe that these policies have become the cornerstone of what has enabled Singapore to thrive over the years. Yes, I am not joking. Here’s why.

The PAP and Mr Lee were brutally honest in recognising that Singapore could hardly afford to get bogged down by traffic woes that plagued other capitals like Jakarta and Bangkok. Traffic jams hamper productivity and investment while adding to pollution. A nimble, tactful policy like that of the ERP and COE, coupled with the move to establish a first-rate public transportation system, has ensured Singapore remains an attractive prospect in the eyes of investors who treasure the efficient transportation infrastructure Singapore enjoys. This has indirectly contributed directly to Singapore’s prosperity. As for the CPF policy, I believe the system of ensuring a combination of personal responsibility, hard work, risk-pooling and co-payments, coupled with numerous safety nets the government has implemented has made the social welfare system Singapore has one of the best in the world. Many countries look to it for inspiration. It has also led to Singaporeans being able to utilise these CPF funds to purchase their own homes. In no other country in the world can we see such high rates of home ownership.

While many can criticise the government for its authoritarian tendencies and the Western liberal media has often styled Singapore as a ‘benovelent dictatorship’, I feel that ultimately, regardless of the criticism, it is undeniable and indisputable that the government has produced results. Results are truly what matters. Mr Lee may come across as condescending, uncompromising and repressive. But what he has delivered is a promise made to the electorate; a promise made to the Singapore people when he first said he would be accountable for the millions of lives he now had responsibility over, and that we would overcome. He has overcome, and he has exceeded all realistic expectations. He has delivered a standard of living he could barely have dreamt of when he embarked on the seemingly arduous, uphill task of transforming Singapore from third world to first.

Where we turn our gaze to the world around us, we find our developed nation counterparts in the OECD languishing in education standards polls. We find thriving democracies we once looked up to mired in political gridlock, unable to achieve any substantial policy outcomes. We find nations besieged by communal violence, and in the midst of the rising threat of terror, grappling with the contentious issue of integration of religious minorities. While we mourn the passing of a great leader; the founder of the modern Singaporean state, we should also see cause for celebration in this year of SG50 and find time to count our blessings. Mr Lee has led Singapore remarkably for the past 50 years. We can be thankful for the simple pleasures we enjoy today: a roof over our heads, potable drinking water despite a lack of water resources here, affordable food prices and utilities, and a sense of profound security. Our children can grow up healthily and happily thanks to the sweat, blood and tears that Mr Lee and his comrades bled. However, I also believe that it is a time for us to take stock of the past, and look into the future. We cannot let the passing of Mr Lee hinder our progress. A man’s legacy now depends on our generation. It has often been warned ominously that small city-states like that of Venice and Athens vanished after a 100 years of prosperity. What should we do to ensure that by 2065, we are still a bustling metropolis? What are the formulas to succeed? To me, we should hold fast to the principles that our founding fathers firmly believed in- pragmatism, honesty and meritocracy. It has served us well and will continue to serve us well. In being pragmatic, we should not possess a risk-averse attitude. We should be willing to make realistic, yet unconventional choices. Sometimes, this means taking the route less trodden. However, it was precisely this route that Mr Lee embarked on; to embark on the Jurong Industrial Estate many deemed a failure.

The passing of the old guard heralds the dawn of a new era. We can mourn, but we should not mourn forever. It is time for our generation to take control of our destiny. Let us not take the work of our forefathers like Mr Lee for granted, but instead, aspire to live out his legacy.


How do you oppose the PAP?


By Chin | 7 March 2015

Now that the PAP has rolled out the Pioneer Generation Package and has outlined the 2015 Budget, the government has stolen quite a lot of momentum from the opposition. Any push to create a “fair and inclusive society” will invariably be welfarian and populist, despite how much the PAP hates using those words. And this creates problems for the Workers’ Party, principally because it campaigned for more leftward-leaning policy and tightened immigration restrictions in 2011. Now that the government has co-opted some of these suggestions, what is there left to oppose?

This tactic is of course not new. One of the PAP’s greatest achievements was to divorce its identity from any sort of discernible ideology. We can point to the Greens in the UK and say that they stand for the environment, and for sustainable lifestyles. We definitely can say that the Republicans in…

View original post 704 more words

Strategies to counter the Islamic State do not lie solely in punitive measures, they lie in a softer, informal approach to the vulnerable in our community.

‘Lone wolf, IS, homegrown, high-risk traveller’. These words are now part of the lexicon of a renewed war on terrorism, a vocabulary officials around the world are using as they grapple with ways to tackle extremism within their borders. The news of the brutal, merciless murder of Western aid workers and journalists by a purportedly British-born jihadist, the Sydney Lindt Café siege by a self-proclaimed spiritual healer Mon Haron Manis, as well as the recent unprecedented lockdown of Ottawa’s parliament as a result of shootings that occurred both in the Canadian Parliament, and Ottawa’s war memorial, perhaps highlights the exigency of the need to deal with the prospect of homegrown terrorism with deftness and agile thinking. To further underline the seriousness of the issue at hand, as many as 12,000 foreign combatants have joined the fray in Syria and Iraq, while the rates of recruitment in the current conflict far outstrip those of past conflicts, be they Afghanistan in the 1980s-2000, or the 2003 Iraq war. What happens in the Middle East will inevitably have transnational, cross-boundary security implications that all governments have to contend with.

The IS threat poses a serious dilemma for state governments: How do they balance the need for civil liberties and the need for greater enforcement and surveillance that could possibly impinge on civil rights? Tony Abbott, the Australian PM, gives us a sense of the predicament global society faces in its fight against terror: He has sought to persuade Australians to support a shift in “the delicate balance between freedom and security” as he sought to bolster his case for the biggest overhaul of the nation’s counterterrorism laws in a decade. Many critics, especially human rights groups and some opposition parties, have raised concerns that moves to overhaul counterterrorism laws would encroach on some fundamental rights. Concurrently, the governments of Canada, UK and Australia have all raised the official terror threat level to post-9/11 levels. Some of the typical legislations many Western nations have passed include the right to confiscate the passports of citizens they suspect of being involved in illicit terror programs overseas, greater powers to shut down offending jihadist recruitment websites, the mandate to detain suspects without trial, and to arrest and identify those seeking to travel to ‘specifically designated countries’ where there may be legitimate intent to participate in extremism.

Mr Abbott made three broad promises when passing the legislation; that the government would do whatever was possible to keep people safe, that the target was “terrorism not religion” and Australians “should always live normally because terrorists’ goal is to scare us out of being ourselves”. Indeed, Mr Abbott rightly recognizes the existential, visceral threat that IS poses to everyday life in Australia. Countries have made no attempt to hide their concern that Western jihadists fighting with IS in Syria would one day return home, bringing back with them radicalized beliefs and combat training. Such concern was very much vindicated with the recent spate of killing of Canadian soldiers in Canada by ‘lone wolf’ operatives, as well as the uncovering of a plot by senior operatives in Syria instructing acolytes in Australia to conduct ‘demonstration killings’, i.e. public executions at random, leading to eventual raids across major cities in Australia. Mr Abbott has cited the major anti-terror raids to underline the scale of extremism in Australia, as well as the need to reconsider the balance between freedom and security. To give a measure of the level of bipartisan support for counterterrorism measures, the opposition Labor leader, Bill Shorten also said Labor believed security agencies should have the powers and resources they needed to keep Australians safe from the threat of terrorism, but stressed the importance of “safeguarding fundamental democratic freedoms”. “We must ensure that in legislating to protect our national security, the parliament is careful not to damage the very qualities and liberties that we are seeking to defend from terrorist threat,” Shorten said.

Clearly, however, it seems citizens are willing to subjugate civil rights in return for greater security. After all, as Mr Abbott finely put it, how would it be possible for Australians to enjoy the free right to walk on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne without firm measures in place to ensure the safety and security of Australians to continue on with their everyday lives? Indeed, if we are to initiate preventive measures to enforce security and keep the streets safe from terror that IS wishes to visit upon populations, security considerations must override any concerns over civil liberties.

Zooming into the Canadian context, it would be hard to accurately point out the motives and culprits behind the simultaneous shootings occurring in Ottawa, but perhaps judging by speculation, it would be plausible that the attacks were very much planned by small-scale or lone wolf groups, possibly sympathetic to IS causes or in correspondence with IS itself. Canada was previously under immense pressure to support the international anti-IS coalition led by its neighbour, the US. It joined the international effort in October, and is perhaps facing repercussions for joining the fight so far. Since the U.S.-led bombing coalition against Islamic State began, the group has been urging sympathizers abroad to hit back. “If you kill a disbelieving American or European … or an Australian, or a Canadian … kill him in any manner,” an IS spokesman urged earlier this month.
Just this week, police shot dead a radicalised Muslim-convert youth who had ran over and killed 1 Canadian serviceman and injured another. He had been under intense police scrutiny for having been apprehended for trying to get to Syria to join the IS cause and had his passport confiscated. Such administrative procedures may once have seemed draconian, but are now increasingly common across jurisdictions as the specter of the IS threat looms. Yet, the very fact that he was still capable of committing such acts despite being under close surveillance by state authorities shows there is a need to do more. His case was a curious one, where he clearly had extremist intents but was rejected by the Crown Courts as a candidate for prosecution. Canadian intelligence will likely be coming under intense public scrutiny as to how it let both suspects roam freely, when there was little doubt that they posed a potential threat to national security. Such shortcomings by Intelligence clearly indicate much more needs to be done to combat terror. And perhaps, while moves to ramp up anti-terror laws will be set in place by PM Stephen Harper, shortcomings indicate that much more needs to be done to address the increasingly potent scourge of homegrown terror. Law enforcement and already-present legal provisions have clearly failed to prevent such a crisis.
The ubiquitous, increasingly draconian counter-terror legislation passed by Western governments in response to the heightened sense of threats from overseas jihadists may seek to act as preventive measures to stem the flow of jihadis, but is legislation truly an efficacious means to address the issue of home-grown radicalism? How effectively can legislation actually be enforced, in the face of an increasing number of ‘lone wolf’ operatives who can be hard to monitor, identify and arrest as a result of their covert, undetectable activities? Have Western governments’ grassroots counterterrorism programs been effective in achieving their objectives? And most importantly, through the myriad of measures taken to combat extremism, how can governments implement such measures without making Muslims feel targeted? Failure to consider such viewpoints could render counter-terror policies counterproductive.

It is important for Western governments, in their crackdown against terror, not to stigmatise the Muslim community and encourage the use of stereotyping. How can governments effectively address domestic extremism without making Muslims feel arbitrarily targeted? That moderate Muslims around the world have rallied against IS and recognized how its ideals are a travesty to Islam only underlines how misrepresentative of Islam IS truly is. In fact, groups like the Association of British Muslims have written open letters to British PM David Cameron to categorically reject the use of the term ‘Islamic State’ as this would be misrepresentative of Islam and a ‘’slur to their faiths’’. Equally vital are the actions of other Muslim-majority nations to make a stand against IS. Commendably, notable Islamic scholars in Western and Arab societies have come out to label IS as ‘heretics’. Muslim-majority countries like Malaysia, which sees a disturbing number of jihadists fighting in Syria and a key recruitment ground for IS have given their unequivocal support for international actions against IS, promising to undertake firm action against IS members. That prominent religious clerics and Muslim-majority nations are against the violent distortion of religion for the sake of promoting political agendas shows how reprehensible and truly misrepresentative IS’ ideology is. Political and religious leaders must thus, continue to be resolute in their struggle against IS, lending their weight and credibility to the argument that resorting to violence and killing innocents in the name of faith is a travesty of everything Islam stands for. It is only with such steps can we truly stem the flow of youth seeking adventure with militants.

The problem, however, lies in the fact that the will to provide countervailing ideas by harnessing on the clout and credibility of community leaders is something that is sorely lacking in Western policies to grapple with homegrown extremism. There are also several deficiencies in the current grassroots counterterrorism model that the West uses that I will seek to point out, while comparing this with more effective models like that of multicultural Singapore. All in all, a sense of identity remains at the heart of the fight against terrorism; it is not hard to see why secular nations like the UK and France have difficulties integrating their Muslim communities. The failure to implement civic education, laws that have served to alienate ethnic minorities no matter how subtle they seem, such as the ban on the wearing of veils in public in France and lastly, unemployment are just part of such reasons.
To understand the ways in which any effective counterterrorism strategy can be crafted, we must first analyse the motives of youth in joining the IS cause. IS is a global phenomenon that puzzles many. And it puzzles us as to how youths, many of whom barely speak Arabic, are prepared to swop the relative comfort of the stable, predictable lives they enjoy for the harsh desert climate of the Middle East, are prepared to risk their lives to be killed under a banner of extreme Islam that even Al-Qaeda abjures? That radical clerics like Abu Qatada repudiate? Contrary to popular belief, these youths are not ‘misguided’ youths who easily fall prey to the pernicious teachings of clerics. In fact, on closer scrutiny, most of those fighting in the Middle East are not particularly religious. Increased religious piety thus cannot seem to be the main reason for the surge in foreign fighters. After all, there are instances of many being new religious converts or simply purchasing copies of ‘Koran for Dummies’ and ‘Islam for Dummies’ on Amazon. Rather, it is the quest for identity, a yearning to escape the monotony of everyday life and experience new thrills that perhaps explains the surge.

In 2008, MI5 classified documents were leaked to local media, stating that ‘far from being zealots, most foreign fighters do not practice their faith regularly and lack religious literacy.’ This is compelling evidence enough that the Islamic State truly isn’t Islamic. Most see joining the IS cause as very much like a summer camp, providing much needed entertainment, without the booze. Many make enquiries on jihadi forums with questions pertaining not to warfare and weaponry, but on practical advice for living in the Middle East.
More tellingly, a failure of European governments to successfully integrate Muslim communities into their fold and the failure to implement civic education have all contributed to the calamity Europe faces today- an identity crisis in Muslim youths. Muslims feel an identity void back home, and hence gravitate towards the notion of ‘pan-Islamism’. Furthermore, the economic predicament Europe finds itself faced with does little to alleviate social ills like radicalization. Reportedly, Turkish youths have become prime targets for recruitment, being offered carrots of high salaries and a sense of fulfillment carrying Kalashnikovs. Would such thrills clearly offer a stark contrast in comparison to the dull monotony of blue collared jobs in supermarkets or petrol kiosks? Such menial tasks pale in comparison to the adrenaline rush one gets from being in the battlefield, and perhaps, fulfilling their goal of becoming ‘jihadi martyrs’.

Here in Asia, especially in comfortable, pristine Singapore, it has become a tendency for us to drop our guard and turn complacent. After all, our country’s efforts in the fight against IS are minimal, contributing mere refuel tankers and imagery mapping systems. Our country is renowned for its ruthless efficiency, pristine landscapes and exemplary security standards.

I believe it is precisely such mindsets that will allow terror to win the day. Inevitably, we may become appreciative of the safety our country enjoys, as a result of the myriad of news of terror attacks globally while our little red dot remains insulated from such assaults. Yet, this is not the time for us to get complacent. We should remain vigilant and on the lookout for such threats, especially because unknown to many, the prospect of terror looms very real here in South East Asia. In fact, militants from Malaysia and Indonesia are known to have formed fighting units in Syria and could expand their reach and appeal to affiliates, such as the Abu Sayyaf group in Mindanao, which has already pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, as well as the infamous Jemmyah Islamyah (JI). There remains palpable concern at these fighters upon their return. After all, such members have had direct combat experience, radical indoctrination by IS clerics, and thus, could become the vanguard of a fighting force that would reach Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Singapore has also encountered several instances of ‘lone wolves’ and vulnerable segments of the community falling prey to IS propaganda online. Such individuals have come under greater scrutiny and surveillance by government officials for fear of turning their radicalized behavior into outright, violent outbursts. So one may ask, is Singapore adequately prepared to deal with the prospect of a terror threat? Amidst our multicultural society, how can we seek to strike a balance between countering terror and fostering social cohesion? Here, Singapore has taken an approach that has earned the admiration and respect of its international counterparts as a model worthy of emulation.

Singapore, like Western governments, also has legal provisions under its Internal Security Act allowing for the detention of terror suspects without trial. Yet, what differentiates its success story in ensuring the moderation of religion lies very much with its multicultural approach and building a sense of statehood, identity and ensuring all Singaporeans are stakeholders in their future, regardless of their religion. Economics, too, inevitably plays a part. Sterling economic growth rates, coupled with a government that takes a nurturing approach to education by promoting lifelong learning are also one of the reasons why there is little rationale for members of society to feel disenfranchised with the current social order. Because everyone feels appreciated and take pride in their everyday lives, there is little prospect of turning to radicalism to seek escape and a ‘greater purpose’.
Furthermore, a proactive stand in tackling radicalism by the very religious community whose religion has been perversely hijacked, has made Singapore stand out. Without much government prodding, the Muslim community took the initiative and proactively sought to capitalize on their religious credibility to directly counter the fallacious interpretations of Islam and counsel radicalized individuals. This culminated in the formation of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), bringing together leading Islamic scholars and imams to provide counsel to detainees and correct their indoctrinated beliefs. Because the Islamic community has taken ownership of the issue and encumbered themselves with the responsibility of weaning at-risk individuals off radical ideas, this has also helped immensely in fostering social cohesion in Singapore, where the manifold cultures and religions need to be delicately handled. By doing so, other communities began to understand the vital work they were undertaking and that religious extremism represents a reprehensible twisting and perversion of Islam; that violence and massacre are a travesty of the peaceful, revered religion. Through the outreach to the wider community to defend their religion, the group has helped eradicate false assumptions or misgivings held by the general public that Muslims subscribe to terrorist ideologies.

Of course, with the rise of the internet age, IS has also adeptly utilized and harnessed the power of social media to spread its radical ideology. Indoctrination today comes through platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Governments have only begun finding ways to counter such novel activity on the Internet. Here, the sterling work of NGOs like the RRG must be enhanced, and governments must collaborate with these groups to ensure that while dissemination of such information may pervade the internet, individuals do not fall prey to such indoctrination by constantly undermining the message of extremist groups through a more active presence online, in mosques and in schools.

In the event of a terror attack, I believe Singaporeans have the social maturity to exercise fortitude and show solidarity with one another. Essentially, while we do have a plethora of religions and ethnicities, the government has over the years, fostered such great understanding and a sense of identity about what it means to be Singaporean that this has ensured the social fabric that holds society together maintains its durability. We should, however, take a leaf out of Sydney’s book, where the actions of its citizens are indeed worthy of emulation. In the aftermath of the Sydney café siege, one would expect the Muslim community to bear the brunt of abuse, blame and stigmatization by the wider ‘White’ Australian community. However, many came out in support of the Muslim community to show solidarity with not just the victims of the siege, but also with the wider Muslim population. The hashtag ‘#illridewithyou’ was created in response to a video of a Muslim woman who was too ashamed to wear her veil in public and took it off while riding on public transport, telling Muslims everywhere that they shouldn’t have to feel ashamed for the actions of a minority who hijack their religion for political motives. The hashtag was also symbolic of the maturity and goodwill Australians have amidst the chaos of a terror attack.
The sudden, meteoric rise of the Islamic State certainly left the world in stunned silence. However, it is heartening to know that in the face of such brazen acts of terror, the world has not sat back and watched, and has in fact, taken proactive steps to counter the Islamic State on a multi-frontal approach. The focus on the war in Syria and Iraq against IS may centre around the ubiquitous air strikes conducted by the US and its allies, as well as the assistance being provided to local militias in Iraq, such as the Kurdish Peshmarga. However, such military maneuvers, while remaining pivotal in weakening IS as a military unit, are merely stop-gap, provisional measures effective in the short term. It is salient to note that while IS may eventually suffer defeats on the battle plains of Mesopotamia, it has endless potential recruits that could fill its ranks and eventually reinvigorate the organisation. Furthermore, despite the array of sweeping counter-terrorism laws, especially in Australia which has borne the brunt of criticism, there remains loopholes in laws and enforcement cannot remain watertight. Eventually, a multi-pronged approach, one that is durable and will eventually vanquish the scourge of terrorism, is needed. I believe ultimately, our society needs a rethink. We need to become more accepting of our everyday heroes; those who perform jobs that we assume are menial, low-skilled and looked down upon. Behind every transaction, there is someone directly involved in making our day brighter. Recall the young Mcdonalds server who just served you at the cashier? Yes, he deserves a pat on the back, a simple appreciation for helping to brighten up your day. Governments too, need to focus on the youth and improving social infrastructure. As the saying goes, ‘the book is always mightier than the sword’. For too long, governments have neglected the very fact that education forms the key pillars of societies today. Education serves as the very supply lines that provide society with the leaders and thinkers of tomorrow. By providing every youth with education, governments are providing these very youth with the much needed drive, determination and passion to succeed and play constructive roles in society. It is through greater inclusivity, fostering social cohesion and a sense of shared stakehood in the future that governments must now strive for. The time is ripe for governments to seize the opportunity to have a rethink of their social policies. Whether or not they choose to do so, remains to be seen.Isis fighters, pictured on a militant website verified by AP.

Musings on the US Criminal Justice System and its effect on juveniles (Facebook Archives)


Article link can be found above.

An obstacle to higher education, a road block to rehabilitation. Often, colleges request for applicants’ history of criminal convictions and judge potential students on their suitability largely on criminal convictions. This is unfair, because most students would only have trivial offences like juvenile offences, largely minor ones like alcohol convictions. Such minor transgressions, despite the nature of such offences, often lead to difficulties in college applications for students. They thus face discrimination while undergoing reviews and interviews by college admission staff, with many often choosing to forgo higher education altogether, losing hope on themselves.

Students may have committed transgressions while they were juveniles, but as teenagers, it should be understandable that they were undergoing a new, transformative phase of their lives and would inevitably have broken the law. What really matters is whether these students have chosen the right path of rehabilitation back into society and took charge of their lives. One good step should be the inclusion of opportunities for students to showcase their dedication to serving the community and making society a better place, such as that of community service and letters of recommendation.

In prisons, those undergoing in-prison college programs were shown to have lower reoffence rates. Yet, legislation in the US has barred the use of educational grants for use in prison college programs. If America is to truly tackle the high recidivism rates it faces, it should not focus wholly on the retributive aspects of justice. It needs to help reform convicts’ outlook on life, rehabilitate them back into society, and utilise incarceration as a means of self-inspection and reflection of convicts’ trangressions.

Giving people a fair chance at life and learning to forgive and accept ex-convicts require magnanimity. It may not be easy to accept and we may still have our prejudices and doubts, but if society is to truly mature, this must be the path we should take.

Posted on Facebook on September 25th