Monday, December 25, 2006

Checklist For Daily Living

Christmas is a time of reflection. It is a useful period to think about what was good in the past year and what could have been better.

While I am Hindu, I have been attending the Saturday novenas in Novena Church or Church of St Alphonsus, as regularly as reasonably possible, since I was 16.

It is one of the few places in Singapore where I find peace, away from the hustle and bustle of this busy city.

In reflecting about the year, I have applied a series of questions called the "Examination of Conscience", which are printed in the last few pages of the book for Saturday novenas.

The book, Novena Devotion To Our Mother of Perpetual Help, can be purchased at Novena Church.

I have adapted some of these questions for my own use. I believe it is a useful checklist for all persons, regardless of their spiritual leanings.


1. When making important decisions about my way of life, who have I put first?

2. Who have I really trusted, especially in times of difficulty?

3. Is my heart set on money, on my own amusement at any cost?

4. Do I pray each day, spend time with those that I love, and am thankful for what I have and enjoy?

5. Who do I see in others, even in those who have hurt me?

6. Do I love others as much as myself? My family, my friends, my working colleagues, my classmates, my next-door neighbours, people I meet each day?

7. Do I use people for my own ends and advantage?

7. In my family life, do I really try to fulfill my responsibilities, as father or mother, as husband or wife, as son or daughter, as brother or sister?

8. Do I make my home a happy, loving and peaceful place by being accepting, understanding, tolerant and forgiving, giving others consideration and supporting them in their personal difficulties?

9. Have I been faithful to my husband / wife?

10. As a parent, have I done my best to provide for both the spiritual and material needs of my children?

11. Do I use other people? Do I use their bodies for my sexual gratification? Do I respect them, as I would my own family member or a loved one?

12. Do I empathise with others, especially the suffering, the sick, the poor and the aged?

13. Do I spend time and money on the less fortunate? Have I forgotten to help victims of oppression or poverty?

14. Do I do my fair share in working for the good of my community and contributing in some measure to the good of the whole society?

15. Do I selfishly stand aloof and neglect all appeals for help? Do I avoid getting involved with the people at home or at work?

16. Do I do nothing about obvious injustice suffered by others?

17. Am I honest when talking about others? Do I build myself up while I tear others down?

18. Am I prejudiced, making fun of others who are different? Other races? People of other religions? Those who disagree with me? Those I dislike for no reason at all?

19. Have I failed to share my positive beliefs and experiences?

20. Do I intentionally break the laws enacted by legitimate authority? Do I drive dangerously or recklessly? Have I driven under the influence of drink?

21. Have I been truthful and fair? Have I deliberately deceived others? Judged or condemned them rashly? Injured their reputation by lies about them? Have I revealed secrets and broken confidences?

22. Have I stolen the property of others or planned to get hold of what belongs to another?

23. Have I made restitution of what I have wrongfully taken and made good their loss?

24. Am I grateful for the way I am or do I belittle my particular gifts or talents?

25. Do I mistreat my body with drugs and alcohol or overwork? Do I get enough rest and recreation?

26. Do I make my own decisions with the help and guidance of others?

27. Am I a good and loving friend to others? Do I use others for my own well-being? Am I self-centred and egoistical, thinking only of myself?

28. Do I waste money on frivolous things? Do I share what I have generously with others?

29. Do I appreciate what I have, count my blessings or harp on my mistakes, failures, focus on my shortcomings and limitations, wallow in self-pity?


The reader perusing the above checklist should bear in mind that the questions in bold have been amended to enable me to personally apply it to my unique circumstances as a non-Catholic.

The rest of questions in the checklist are the same as what one would find in the book for Saturday novenas.

If you would like the original list of questions, please do purchase a copy of the book for Saturday novenas from Novena Church, 300 Thomson Road, Singapore 307653. I am sure your contribution will help the church to continue its good work.

Dharmendra Yadav

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Explore Solutions Beyond Restoring CPF Cut

Outgoing chief of the National Trades Union Congress, Lim Boon Heng, has been lobbying for higher Central Provident Fund contributions from employers for middle-income Singaporeans.

He has argued, "We hope that the Prime Minister and the other Cabinet Ministers should be hearing this favourably. We hope also that the employers would consider this seriously and support this, because workers have made sacrifices in the past few years and since, generally speaking, they're doing well, then they should reciprocate the actions of the workers of the past by doing the small restorations to the CPF."

Employers are being encouraged to increase their level of CPF contributions from 13% to 16%.

Lim Boon Heng has suggested, "We should do this gradually, so we shouldn't ask the employers to straight away raise it to 16 per cent but maybe somewhere in between. The timeline would depend on whether we get consensus and support from the employers and whether we also get support from the government."

Some years ago, these level of contributions, which use to be higher than the present 13%, were reduced to help Singapore be more competitive and to enable it to attract investments needed to create jobs.

These threats continue to be relevant, even in these good times.

And, suppose, if the Singapore economy were to return to its dark days, will one have to resort to the CPF cut again?

Interestingly, the outgoing Chief Executive Officer of NTUC Income, Tan Kin Lian, has argued, "There is some discussion in the newspaper on the need for the employer to increase the contribution rate to the Central Provident Fund. The final outcome is not significant in financial planning. It is clear that the CPF is no longer the sole source of funds for retirement."

Perhaps, there are other ways of rewarding employees in these better moments.

For example, when the employers' CPF contributions were cut years back, my own employer decided to reward employees by giving them one month of paid leave every three years.

Another solution could be for employers to do a one-off top-up of CPF contributions when the employers are doing well, much like how the annual wage supplement operates.

The labour movement can explore solutions other than the restoration of the CPF cut.

Dharmendra Yadav

Friday, December 15, 2006

Why I Write But Not Always Right

Recently, a position I took has sparked off a robust debate in the blogosphere.

A friend today wrote an e-mail to me to say "not often I think you [are] right", and agreed with a point I had made in another e-mail.

I responded and shared some quick thoughts with him.

First, I don't claim to always be right on everything I share. Opinions, even the so-called "balanced" ones, are often subjective.

Second, I don't write for people to agree with me or to be seen as relevant.

At the end of the day, I will be bored by the staleness that such agreement or relevance brings.

Instead, in expressing myself, I would like to see my views tested.

I rather people disagree with what I express. It is the best way of knowing one's views are being acknowledged, mulled, debated and disputed.

This, as a process, has enabled me to revisit my own views, revise them where needed, and grow as a person.

This is also one the reasons why I value those friends - all of whom are, quite frankly, my mirrors - that subject my views to their numerous and rigorous tests.

So reader, please let me write and, please do feel free to tell me when and why I am not right.

Dharmendra Yadav

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Reader's Question: Get In Touch

How do I contact you?

Easy, e-mail me. You will find my e-mail address under the sub-header "Contact" in my profile.

I will respond to your e-mail within 7 days, depending on how long it is!

Dharmendra Yadav

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Singapore Not Just Story Of One Old Man


On National Day, an interview done about a decade ago with the late Chief Minister of Singapore, David Marshall, was released on a blog. It was inundated with comments from readers.

What was disturbing was that some of the readers said they did not know who Marshall was. He was not only one of Singapore's finest legal minds but also contributed many years to public service, especially in promoting Singapore's image in Europe as ambassador to France.

It was even more disturbing that some thought he was a trouble-maker silenced by our Government, and one who never had good things to say about the achievements of the People's Action Party leadership.

This is far from the truth; at many points in the interview, Marshall emphasised how impressed he was by the performance and integrity of our Government, even as he felt there were things that could be improved in society.

This experience is not an isolated one.

Some older folk have shared how some young Singaporeans are under the impression that the success of modern Singapore is the legacy of one individual: Its longest-serving former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The success of independent Singapore was not the work of one person but, in fact, the legacy of not just a group of excellent leaders but also a cooperative, hardworking citizenry.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong touched on this problem during the National Day Rally in August.

He said: "This year, several of our first-generation leaders passed away ... Many Singaporeans didn't know these people, what they had done. They didn't know that Mr Rajaratnam wrote the pledge or that Mr Lim Kim San was the reason that we all have homes in HDB flats."

Yes, we are at an unfortunate point in our history, where many of independent Singapore's movers and shakers have left us or faded from active public memory.

There is a critical need to capture and share some of the contributions and views of the many individuals who made Singapore what it is today.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong acknowledged this at Tanjong Katong Secondary School's 50th anniversary celebration last week.

"The Government is partly to blame for this state of affairs," he said bluntly.

"The leaders did not believe in glorifying their place in history. They did not name streets, MRT stations, buildings, stadiums and parks after their colleagues who have died.

"I think we should do so from now on, so that Singaporeans can remember the pioneers, philanthropists, social workers, leaders and others who had made a difference to the lives of Singaporeans. This will make the history of our nation alive for Singaporeans."

PM Lee had also offered some solutions to dealing with this problem: National education in schools and getting parents and grandparents to share stories about Singapore's history with their grandchildren. Unfortunately, more young persons today are being brought up by maids rather than their parents or grandparents.

PM Lee did recognise that many are spending time on the Internet finding information by "googling" things.

And, here, perhaps lies another solution: To expand the information available online on the Singapore story.

In adding to the public picture of the Singapore story, every citizen has a role to play, not just schools, parents or grandparents.

The Singapore Heritage Society is already playing a pivotal role with its online People's Encyclopaedia of Singapore History, and its recently-published Book of Singapore's Firsts.

The National Heritage Board, too, recently published the Singapore Encyclopaedia. Describing it as a work in progress, board chairman Professor Tommy Koh welcomed Singaporeans' input.

Some effort has already been put into capturing the legacies of some of our founding fathers. Groups such as the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies are taking this work further by commissioning biographies about them.

But independent Singapore is not just the legacy of these founding fathers. The Singapore story had its fair share of founding mothers, contrarians or even "villains". Their stories, too, need to be shared.

One example is the late war heroine Elizabeth Choy. In his tribute to her after her death in September, President S R Nathan remarked: "We have lost a truly remarkable woman and a shining example of courage and compassion."

Unless more effort is made to better share such tales, the Singapore story is at risk of becoming patchily remembered, or remembered as only one man's legacy.

Dharmendra Yadav

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Blogs Should Self-Regulate


With Malaysia contemplating tough Internet laws to control bloggers, and controversy in China over the move to get bloggers to register their real names, it looks like some governments are prepared to challenge popular wisdom and attempt to bridle the Internet.

And no wonder, with an estimated nine million blogs in cyberspace and one more born every 7.4 seconds, according to The Scientist magazine.

Before state regulators step in with the heavy hand of the law, should the blogging community pre-emptively introduce some form of self-regulation?

There is reason for authorities to take seriously the growing power of blogs. Last week, it was reported that an online survey by Microsoft found that about half of Internet users in Singapore think blogs are as trustworthy as mainstream media.

Politicians have acknowledged the need to engage this growing cyber-constituency and begun using blogs to communicate their thinking on issues of the day.

The power of blogs has also created unique issues for our law enforcers. The zero tolerance policy on negative ethnic and religious content has seen a handful of individuals convicted or warned, while the recent proposed amendments to the Penal Code — if passed — would give our police and state prosecutors more teeth to deal with offending blogs.

Yet, for all this, few preventive steps have been taken in Singapore to help bloggers stay out of trouble. Whatever has been achieved so far has been piecemeal.

In August, the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University held a workshop to help bloggers write in a lawful, responsible manner, covering basic issues of copyright, defamation and so on.

Some employers such as IBM provide their employees with guidelines relating to their personal websites or blogs. My own employer in the financial sector has a similar policy. Recognising that what employees share on their personal blogs can reflect on the organisation, it gives them tips on how to write constructively and stay within the limits of the law.

Unfortunately, the use of such policies are limited to the larger organisations. What of the larger proportion of bloggers employed in smaller organisations, or who are self-employed or students?
At a conference last week, director of British Press Complaints Commission Tim Toulmin suggested that "blogs and other internet sites should be covered by a voluntary code of practice similar to that for newspapers in the United Kingdom".

Such a code could provide avenues for "people angered at content" to seek redress.

Meanwhile,, which is linked to the Online News Association in New York, has proposed a Bloggers' Code of Ethics which it encourages bloggers to use.

The code lays down best practices for bloggers to "be honest and fair", to "minimise harm" and to "be accountable". This is modelled after a similar code for journalists created by the Society of Professional Journalists in the United States.

Perhaps these are ideas that the Media Development Authority can look into. Or even better — given bloggers' instinctive aversion to anything state-prescribed — perhaps local denizens of the blogosphere could get together to evolve their own self-regulating code.

They could take their cue from the Media Bloggers Association (MBA) in the US. This is "dedicated to promoting, protecting and educating" its members; supporting the development of "citizen journalism" as a distinct form of media; and helping to extend the power of the press — with all the rights and responsibilities this entails — to citizens.

The MBA, one blogger argues, does valuable service by "helping to shield bloggers from intimidation and frivolous defamation lawsuits, a problem that has been getting worse recently".

Perhaps the Singapore Press Club can play a similar role, if it amends its constitution to appeal to a wider category of citizen journalists — although it would not be surprising if its leadership prefers to focus its resources more on full-time journalists in the mainstream media.

A more obvious route is for bloggers to form their own association. There are already informal channels for collaboration among bloggers, which they may wish to take further. Some got together to organise the Singapore Bloggers Convention last year. Another fruit of collaboration is, a blog aggregator featuring current postings from the local blogosphere.

There is an increasing need for bloggers to stand up, represent and self-regulate their own community more formally. This is also ideal. Otherwise, like other media, blogs may soon find themselves under closer scrutiny by media regulators in Singapore.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, December 04, 2006

Experiencing Experiment With Health

Over the past 5 years, I have put on the pounds. Sometimes, I find that friends, who I do not meet as regularly, don't even recognise me!

I often used to blame this personal state of affairs on the lack of time. I also used to set myself health goals but would soon abandon them afterwards.

Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi has written in his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth: "No matter what amount of work one has, one should always find some time for exercise, just as one does for one's meals. It is my humble opinion that, far from taking one's capacity for work, it adds to it."

In another book, Key To Health, he elaborates, "Like the mind, the body must also be kept well and usefully occupied, so that the fatigue of the day may lead to refreshing dreamless sleep. As far as possible, work should be in open. Those who for some reason or the other, cannot undertake physical labour, should make it a point to take regular exercise. In my opinion, a brisk walk in the open is the best form of exercise."

A newspaper in India, The Hindu, has observed, "Mahatma Gandhi had believed that he would live to be 125. In a life packed with crowded events and noted for its ceaseless toil, struggle, and self-denial, he took reasonably good care of his health... His zest for life and energy were remarkable for a man of his age, but not surprising in one given over so strongly to rigorous self-discipline."

I decided to take some responsibility for the state of my health this year. I got a very strong reason when I returned home one day and found myself struggling to climb the stairs to my flat on the second storey of a building.

In this regard, I had set a goal early this year of completing the quarter marathon (10 km) before the year turns - a goal that I had kept postponing for some three years.

In April this year, I completed about half of a quarter marathon in under 45 minutes.

I achieved my goal last weekend when I finally completed the quarter marathon on Sunday, 3 December 2006, in under 90 minutes - my first time participating in the Singapore Marathon, a part of the Greatest Race on Earth series!

I have brought back three key lessons from this experience:
1. Exercise liberates!
2. Surround yourself with friends who are supportive; especially those willing to run with you and treat you to breakfast afterwards!
3. Get a strong reason to be responsible for your own body.

And so begins my own experiment with health.

Dharmendra Yadav

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Fee-Fixing In British University

Some university students in Singapore have raised concerns about the almost unilateral manner in which tuition fees are raised in their local tertiary institution.

I am not sure to what extent this is true but I will soon have an opportunity to find out. I will be joning this institution of higher education next year to pursue a postgraduate programme.

I did my undergraduate studies in law at a prominent British university. Do study there if you have an opportunity to do so!

The university administration there actively includes students in its decision-making processes, including at the University Senate level - the equivalent of the Board of Directors in organisations.

During my time in university, I served on at least one fee-fixing committee.

Any plan to increase fees is disclosed about a year in advance. Months of consultation with students, which follow after this disclosure, are a norm.

Attempts are also made to consider how operational expenses can be reduced or to seek more efficient and productive ways of doing things. Other sources of revenue are also deliberated.

My role was to represent and consult the persons who would be most affected by such decisions, that is the students. And I brought the concerns expressed back to the various committees that I sat on.

University administrators listened and they implemented measures in a way that took these concerns into account. I came back with a feeling that we had been satisfactorily treated.

There were also other safeguards that had been put in place. For example, fees could not increase by more than a certain fixed percentage between one academic year and another. This cap is usually disclosed to students in university prospectuses.

When the decision to increase fees was made, I went back to the peers I represented. I shared with them what concerns had been raised, how these concerns had been taken into account and the compromises that had been made.

I felt it was important for me to do so since I owed a duty to my fellow students and, in the appointment process, I had promised to serve them. Failure to do so would almost certainly win me a label as being a person with no integrity. And, in such a case, my expulsion as representative of such students would swiftly follow.

Of course, I would be ashamed of myself too, if I didn't.

Dharmendra Yadav

Sunday, November 26, 2006

When Money Beats The Story

A journalist from an English newspaper in Singapore this week shared with me about how some good stories that he or some other journalists wrote were often killed by their editors.

This was, more often than not, due to the intervention by some individual from the advertising team who took the view that running such a story could affect advertising revenue.

The journalist is now thinking of leaving the profession, and wanted to hear what I had to say.

I know from conversations with other journalists that this is a issue that they too have faced. One journalist once vividly shared with me how he was made to write all sorts of stories to please a key advertiser.

An editor of another English newspaper shared with me how often some articles were watered down to put a more positive spin on the story in order to avoid ruffling feathers.

Such journalists, who share these stories, are often facing a crisis where their own conscience seem to disagree with their organisational priorities.

A long-standing observer of Singapore, Eric Ellis, recently highlighted another practice in his article, "Could Singapore Have Feet of Clay?", dated 24 November 2006.

This article reflected about the things news-makers have to sometimes contend with in order to have their stories featured by Singapore media.

In the article, representatives of one such Singapore media were "unimpressed with the generous 66% reduction" offered by a resort owner to be featured in an "eight-part series program [that] would highlight Asia’s chic resorts". The representatives desired to "receive complimentary accommodation".

The retired Editor-In-Chief of Singapore Press Holdings, Cheong Yip Seng, is said to have shared "in a speech that the three qualities a good journalist should have are sensitivity to a changing environment, skilful writing and good old-fashioned legwork".

To these qualities can be added another: management of the interests of a newsmaker or an advertiser in the context of one's conscience.

Being asked to do something by an employer or another person of influence, which one may not wish to do, is a problem not just unique to journalists.

It is an issue one finds in other professions too, including the legal profession. For example, when a lawyer is made to prosecute or defend someone he does not wish to.

My own advice to a person, who is asked to do something by an organisation that is out of place with the person's own values, is really that of my mentor - walk away or resign.

Most do think of leaving but a majority do not for a variety of practical reasons.

For example, they need the job for the running of their households or they have signed fixed contracts with their employers.

Simply put, the opportunity cost is too high and it is difficult to bite the bullet.

They thus swallow their conscience and choose to take the path of sacrifice and suffer.

Yet, the few who sacrifice by leaving their roles, tell me how their lives have improved since they left.

Most earn as much, if not more. And even more love and enjoy what they do now, which in turn enables them to be more positive.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, November 13, 2006

Singapore Combats Blogs With Light Touch


As some countries like China and India take drastic measures to ban controversial blogs or Internet websites, Singapore is taking quite a different tact.

In 1995, academic Ang Peng Hwa remarked in his paper, 'Censorship and the Internet: A Singapore Perspective': "Singapore's case is instructive in that it is trying to both control information and yet benefit from the information age. Current thinking suggests that it is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve both aims. Nevertheless, Singapore is trying."

This position was emphasised by current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong most recently in his National Day Message to mark Singapore's 41 years of independence.

He remarked, "The internet is a tremendous tool which is changing the world. We should make full use of it to link up with the world, engage one another, and be a productive economy and vibrant society. But the internet creates new problems too. Not everything on the internet is reliable; it is not easy to tell apart fact from fiction in cyberspace; and instant communications can cause people to over-react hastily and unthinkingly to events. Therefore we must learn how to live with this new medium, and adapt to it. This is a challenge to many societies, not just Singapore."

As a result, Singapore has adopted various measures to deal with two key groups of stakeholders, that is the internet service providers and the publishers of internet content.

An automatic licensing framework has been implemented for both internet service providers and content providers. Individuals who provide personal web pages, including blogs, are exempted from this licensing scheme.

Internet service providers are required to register with the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA). No registration is required for internet content providers, unless the provider is "invited" to do so.

The MDA requires Internet Service Providers to observe the following guidelines: "ISPs are required to limit access to some high-impact websites, as identified by MDA. ISPs are encouraged to take their own initiative against offensive content through their own Acceptable Use Policies. They are not required to monitor the Internet or their users' Internet activities."

A think-tank considered the effectiveness of these guidelines in a recent study, 'Internet Filtering in Singapore in 2004-2005'.

The study concluded, "Singapore's state-mandated filtering of Internet sites is quite limited. Our testing found only six pornographic sites, one illegal drugs site, and one fanatical religion site blocked, and each of these sites could be reached in at least some of our tests. Only six sites were blocked in more than one-third of our tests, including five pornographic sites. We believe that these six sites are those most likely targeted for deliberate blocking by Singapore. Moreover, similar content is readily available at other, unblocked sites. Thus, the state's technological Internet censorship is minimal, reflecting the MDA's professed symbolic commitment to preventing access to this type of material."

It is also significant that the study observed, "Singapore uses other, non-technological measures to prevent online posting of and access to certain material, particularly that related to political groups other than the People's Action Party and to religious and ethnic conflict. The threats of extremely high fines or even criminal prosecution as a result of defamation lawsuits, imprisonment without judicial approval under the Internal Security Act, and police monitoring of computer use may deter users in Singapore from creating or obtaining access to potentially objectionable material. Thus, Singapore's filtering regime for political, religious, and ethnic material is primarily low-tech, yet nonetheless potentially effective."

In particular, the organs of state in Singapore have adopted a zero tolerance policy of negative material on ethnic and religious content. At least two individuals were charged and convicted in 2005.

Benjamin Koh Song Huat, 27, was jailed for a month. Nicholas Lim, 25, was imprisoned for one day and fined the maximum S$5000 for racist remarks against the Malay community. In another case this year, police investigated an individual for publishing offensive cartoons of Jesus Christ. No charges were brought against this individual but he was given a stern warning.

The Singapore government has been especially concerned about the impact blogs may have on the democratic process in Singapore. It is because of these concerns that the government amended legislation for parliamentary elections.

During a Parliament sitting in April 2006, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Balaji Sadasivan gave an overview of this legislation: "Political parties, candidates and election agents are permitted to use the Internet for election advertising based on a “positive list” of activities listed in the Election Advertising Regulations. The “positive list” ensures the responsible use of the Internet during the elections."

He emphasised, "Party political websites must be registered with the MDA. Failure to register is a breach of the class licence conditions. Private or individual bloggers can discuss politics. However, if they persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues relating to Singapore, they are required to register with the MDA. During the election period, these registered persons will not be permitted to provide material online that constitutes election advertising."

It was interesting some individuals read this as a warning, and decided to anonymously discuss political issues in Singapore. One blog, for example, carried recordings of opposition party election rallies in Singapore.

Ironically, the Minister had sought to encourage otherwise, "We recognise that in our society, people will have their diverse opinion and some will want to share their opinion. But people should not take refuge behind the anonymity of the Internet to manipulate public opinion. It is better and more responsible to engage in political debates in a factual and objective manner."

Singapore's regulation of the internet is a pragmatic one, and one that takes a risk-based approach. It will not tolerate actions that seek to compromise its national interests. At the same time, it wants to provide internet users the opportunity to benefit from the intelligence one finds on the Internet.

As Associate Professor Ang Peng Hwa's research paper on censorship and the internet concludes, "The Singapore government knows that it cannot do much to censor the Internet. But it refuses to give up without a fight."

Blogs have upped the ante in this fight that continues.

Dharmendra Yadav

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ideas For Legal Education

In August 2006, I was asked to contribute some ideas to buzz up the legal education landscape in Singapore. I shared the following ideas:

1. Allow people to do a Master's In Law in National University of Singapore / Singapore Management University as an alternative to the Postgraduate Diploma In Singapore Law.

2. Develop short programmes for corporate counsel to undertake. If there are programmes already available, look into publicising these more proactively with the help of Singapore Corporate Counsel Association and Law Society of Singapore.

3. Look into transition programmes to help corporate counsel going into practise or those from practise going on to be corporate counsel.

4. Help take some pressure off corporate counsel and lawyers in practice by developing affordable law appreciation or self-help law courses for managers responsible for making business decisions or members of the public. These courses must be affordable. A good example is a recent Blogging & Law workshop organised by Nanyang Technological University, which was useful for public awareness.

5. Develop the international legal consulting sector that enables Singapore to provides emerging jurisdictions with its legal expertise. For example, when Singapore developed its Insurance Act, it tapped Australia's experience. Now, for example, the insurance sector here is helping Cambodia. There can be more such soft approaches to promote the use of Singapore law in the region.

6. Revisit part-time Master's In Law programmes to provide opportunities for continuing legal development.

7. Provide financial and other incentives to professional bodies like Singapore Corporate Counsel Association to invite foreign expertise to develop knowledge in niche areas of law. For example, data protection, privacy, anti-harassment, which are emerging areas of law in Singapore.

8. Create conducive climate for the hosting of more regional law gatherings in Singapore.

9. Develop our publishing clout in laws of the region.

10. Welcome lobbying! Allow law professionals to champion law reform in their pet areas; promote robust discourse on inadequacies of the law. This will promote more critical thinking of the law, which is fundamental to the legal education landscape.

Dharmendra Yadav

Friday, November 10, 2006

Busybody Leader

To be a good leader, you must know your work. To know more about your work, you must first learn more about what others do. You must be the biggest 'busybody'.


A 'busybody' leader will do these things:

1. Spend 10 mins, walk around and meet a different person each day. Find out what he or she does and consider how you can add value to his or her work.

2. Abandon the "protect-my-turf" mentality. Share what you know with others. And be willing to accept criticism.

3. Grab responsibility and make other people's affairs your own affairs. Celebrate victories and share sorrows.

4. "No" is not an acceptable answer. Go round the rules, question and make things happen. Experiment.


Of course, the negative leader will respond to such ideas as follows:

a. Spending 10 mins to walk around is a waste of time. You are very free.

b. Don't be so patronising. I don't need others to teach me how to do my job better.

c. Mind your own business.

d. You are indisciplined.

Some emotional intelligence will therefore be necessary to manage such negativity.


To be good leaders, we need to be 'busybody' leaders.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, November 06, 2006

Law Society Publishes David Marshall Interview

The Law Society of Singapore has published, with minor editing, the interview with David Marshall in its November 2006 issue of the Singapore Law Gazette.

Law Society President, Philip Jeyaretnam, makes an excellent introduction to the interview in his President's Message for November, Marshalling The Future.

I wish to thank the Law Society for kindly agreeing to publish a link to this blog and allowing me to request donations for Saint Andrew's Junior College.

Readers interested in some background about this interview may wish to read these frequently-asked questions.

There have been three other developments, which I believe will be of interest to readers.

The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, has commissioned a biography of David Marshall, which I understand will be written by a former law professor.

I had also shared earlier that this interview was completed with two others as part of a college assignment. I recently learnt that one of them also studied law and was admitted to the Singapore Bar on 24 May 2003. Unfortunately, he no longer practises in Singapore.

One of my schoolmates then, who was meant to do this interview, was unable to make it for the interview. That fortunately didn't stop her from reading this full interview at that time, since she too was with the college newsletter. After leaving college, she went on to study law. Today, she works as corporate counsel for a prominent statutory body in Singapore.

There you have it, a fantastic objective outcome: one interview made at least three legal professionals.

Dharmendra Yadav

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Paying Pittance For Legal Work

Often, I meet practising lawyers who share with me that certain organisations are making it difficult for them by paying a pittance for regular matters. And they tell me it is the role of corporate counsel to share this feedback with their respective employers.

While I agreed it may be difficult for these lawyers, I disagreed it is the role of corporate counsel to protect the interests of such practising lawyers.

The primary duties of the corporate counsel is, after all, to protect the interests of one's employer and to control the legal liabilities and expenses that such an employer is exposed to.

I also disagreed that these organisations were making it difficult for such practising lawyers. I put the blame squarely on those lawyers that produce good quality work and yet agree to be paid a pittance for such matters.

It would be ridiculous for corporate counsel to persuade the management of their respective organisations to pay more in legal fees in the face of such credible practising lawyers agreeing to do the work.

Dharmendra Yadav

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Breeding A New Kind Of Legal Eagle


THIS newspaper recently revealed that, under the four-year law degree programme that the Singapore Management University (SMU) has proposed, a law student could graduate with up to 40 per cent of his or her degree comprising non-law subjects. Students will also spend less time in the classroom.

This proposal has ruffled some feathers across the profession. Questions are being raised. Should a law student take so many non-law subjects? What does a student do with all that extra time? Will this unique education do Singapore's legal profession good?

Yet, this proposal represents what many legal professionals here have wanted to see in a second law school — something different from what the National University of Singapore's law school offers, and competition in the teaching and learning of law.

There is a growing school of thought here which feels that legal training needs to shift away from the mere process of acquiring legal knowledge. Ms Angeline Lee, president of the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association, expressed hope that legal training would "go beyond merely preparing law graduates for legal practice in Singapore".

She pointed out that more regional headquarters locating here would mean a need for more law graduates who have "an appreciation of how global businesses work".

Likewise, some law professionals believe that legal training needs to focus more on legal thinking. In this approach, what matters is not the amount of time you spend in the classroom, but how effectively you use the time outside it to reflect on the law.

This can enable one to develop expertise in an area of law that one may not have studied in school. It is this skill that enabled some conveyancing lawyers to move to more lucrative areas of law, when their area of expertise faced a crunch some years ago.

But just how different is SMU's proposal? Associate Professor Victor Ramraj, vice-dean of the NUS Law School, said the school believes "in incorporating inter-disciplinary perspectives into our law courses as much as possible, rather than simply making distinctions between law and other subjects".

It has taken the different tack of introducing double degrees, including one in law and public policy to meet the needs of those aspiring to join the public service. So, it seems that the SMU law school will simply take what NUS has been doing a step further.

Tied closely to this question of law curriculum is the appeal that SMU law school graduates will have. In the face of strong alumni links fostered by the NUS law school over the decades, it is clear that its new rival will not have it easy. Legal practitioners will need to be convinced that its law graduates are of the same, if not better, calibre as those from NUS' law school.

Nevertheless, since its establishment, SMU has fostered close links with industry, which has enabled its graduates to secure positions of choice. SMU law graduates could thus have little difficulty in joining top companies.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that SMU graduates are different from other local graduates — partly due to the flexible admission criteria and the opportunities SMU has provided for students who would not normally be offered places by other local universities.

One result could be that the SMU law school will move away from primarily attracting students who do well at the GCE A Levels, or the top achievers of Temasek Polytechnic's diploma of law programme.

It may, in fact, accept more law diploma holders who have demonstrated excellence in sports or other activities. Some places could also go to paralegals with excellent work experience but not necessarily the grades one normally needs for admission to law school. This, in part, could help loosen the "old school boys/girls culture" in the legal profession today.

Finally, there is also a political element associated with less classroom time that the SMU law school will need to factor in — a reason why one finds students in universities here spending more time in class than some of their counterparts overseas.

It will have to assure the authorities that less classroom time will not translate into more of its law students getting involved in activities that could threaten Singapore's stability, as active students with less classroom time did in the early days of Singapore's independence.

If SMU's proposal for its new law school is ruffling feathers across the legal profession, it's because few people cherish change. The legal education landscape in Singapore has certainly been long ripe for it.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, October 30, 2006

Readers Question: Wee Shu-Min Affair

A college student and daughter of a political leader in Singapore recently hit out at the views of a middle-class Singaporean. True to the idealism and evolving maturity that one finds in youth, she spared no punches, and even called the middle-class Singaporean names. She made her point, and her views sparked off more points.

Her father, a Member of Parliament, came out to defend her, and ended up rubbing salt to an open wound. Eventually, he had to apologise a second time. And now there are calls requesting him to resign.

This forest fire, which one blog has comprehensively followed and colourfully labelled "The Wee Shu-Min Affair a.k.a. [also known as] The Wee-Wee Saga/The Adventures of Elite Girl", rages on.

Readers have raised three questions relating to this matter:
1. How should one react to what the young person said?
2. What would I have done if I were the young person's father?
3. Should the young person's father step down as Member of Parliament?


I respect one's right to express oneself. And in the process of such expression, to have those views challenged, amended and/or revised. I have found personally that youth quite often enjoy more leeway, since people tend to take what such youths say in their stride. As such, I did not mind what this young person said.

But it was disturbing to me how people went after this young person, even pulling her family into the picture. Eventually, the issue received negative airing in the national press.

I don't think, if I was this young person, I would want my life scrutinised like that. Of course, this also means that, as a young person, I would take steps to protect my privacy, which I recognise was not done in this case.

I think it would have been better for individuals to focus on the views rather than seek to ruthlessly discredit a person. This whole incident to me is really a reflection of how ungracious or unforgiving we have become as a society. We label, we discredit and, eventually, we eliminate. How very unfortunate.


I would have recognised that every parent wants to create an environment where his / her child will be able to test views, to make mistakes, to learn from it and to grow. I would have emphasised this incident was therefore part of such a learning process for the child. Finally, as a parent, I would have apologised to individuals affected by my child's actions, and requested for some empathy in bringing this issue to a closure.


At the end of the day, this decision is out of the hands of the general public.

It is a matter for his constituents, his community leaders and his own political party members to decide, and to make known their views through avenues available to them.

If there is a real possibility that the whole incident could adversely affect the work of the Member of Parliament, the way forward may indeed be for him to step down.

Nevertheless, I think it is important to recognise how new this Member of Parliament is, and such teething problems are inevitable. Perhaps, it may be useful to give him some more time to fill the large shoes he has stepped into.

Dharmendra Yadav

Friday, October 27, 2006

Future of national television for Singapore Indians

My family and I are a part of a lesser known community within the Indian community in Singapore.

A Singapore newspaper recently carried an article about this lesser known community - the Bhojpuri-speaking community in Singapore, many of whom have origins in the northeast Indian states of Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. A secular Bhojpuri Society to champion this niche group's interests has been formed.

Around the same time, my sister was reflecting about what it means to be a Singaporean Indian and the relevance of national television to Indians in Singapore.

My sister was flabbergasted when someone appearing on national television suggested that the winner of a Singapore beauty pageant for the Indian commuity should be a person who speaks Tamil.

Many people in Singapore tend to assume that, if you're an Indian, you speak Tamil - one of the four national languages in Singapore.

My own view is that this assumption is less prevalent now than in the past.

In recent years, in this part of the world, there has been greater awareness of the diversity that shapes India.

This is partly attributable to the higher level of profile that the global Indian diaspora enjoys. It is also due to the greater appeal of Bollywood one finds around the world today.

Languages such as Hindi, Punjabi or Bengali are now thought in Singapore schools. Singapore is also seeing more successful people coming out of these niche groups in the Indian community.

On cable television today in Singapore, one finds more non-Tamil channels catering to Indians, includng other non-Indians.

I understand that these channels are well-subscribed, even though official numbers are not available.

Resultantly, these all have implications for the future of the national television channel for Indians in Singapore. Non-Tamil-speaking audiences such as my family, who used to watch this channel regularly, now almost totally do not watch it.

We increasingly rely on other sources of information for updates about Singapore.

There is today a debatable perception that the Indian television channel in Singapore no longer appears to serve as many in Singapore as it did in the past.

This begs the question if it should enjoy the same of level of government support it has received in the past.

Perhaps, this is something Singapore's media regulators will look into with the relevant persons in Singapore.

Dharmendra Yadav

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reader's Question: My Car Accident Claim


I was involved in a traffic accident 1 year ago and here is the scenario. I was the 1st car and had sought damages from the 2nd car which is a taxi. The police report and other evidence confrim that the taxi was in the wrong.

However, the taxi company, until today, refuses to pay me until they have sought damages from the 3rd car. The problem is that the 3rd car is disputing the claim by the taxi company against the 3rd car and thus prolonging the case.

My car is covered comprehensively by another insurance company (not yours).


I am not sure why you are having to do all these yourself. You should have claimed on your own motor insurance policy, and let your insurers sort it out.

You should seek independent legal advice if you feel strongly about this.

As importantly, since you are not insured with NTUC Income, please consider doing so.


It is normal for taxi companies to defend such claims aggressively; this is part of their strategy to mitigate the risks they are exposed to.

Some such cases can take years to resolve so it is better to let insurers with the necessary expertise in handling such claims sort it out.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, October 16, 2006

Alternative Ideas For Early Access To Counsel


I welcome the changes in our criminal justice system where "prosecutors to reveal all in proposed new law" (The Straits Times, 16 October 2006).

It is unfortunate that our policy gatekeepers do not see the value of providing individuals exposed to our criminal justice process early access to legal advice, that is when an investigation involving the individual begins.

Our criminal justice system presumes one is innocent until proven guilty. It is therefore only right for an innocent to have early access to legal representation.

But I respect that our public defenders have raised some valid concerns about such early access to legal professionals, despite recognising the need to protect the innocent. Perhaps, a win-win outcome can be reached through other means.

Lawyer Thomas Koshy recently proposed making and disclosing video recordings of statements provided to the police. This is something that can be considered.

Some time ago, the financial sector faced a similar issue. People were making disastrous financial decisions. A major initiative was launched to educate the public. Today, all buyers of financial products get free guidance materials. There are also many regular and complimentary financial literacy workshops for them.

Likewise, it is necessary to educate persons subject to our criminal justice practices about what they can and should do in such events.

Perhaps, the Law Society, Singapore Academy of Law and other relevant organisations can look into launching continuous programmes to keep the public regularly updated about their rights and responsibilities.

Innocent persons must be sufficiently protected from the adversarial aspects of our criminal justice system.

Dharmendra Yadav

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Resume & CV Different

From time to time, I get asked questions about applying for a new job. This largely stems from my previous job, where - among other things - the organisation provided career coaching. And many friends have successfully used such advice to secure roles so the word gets around.

One such event happened last week. A friend, looking to get employed either in a sales / banking role, asked me how to prepare a CV (Curriculum Vitae).

I often get shocked by such a question, even though it is something that I am asked quite frequently. A resume is NOT a CV.

Even seasoned practitioners in human resource roles fall into this unfortunate inaccuracy. Many seem to use the terms inter-changeably, especially in Asia.

A CV is something a person would need if, for example, he is applying for a research position at a university. It is often gives detailed information about your education, the papers you have published, the conferences you have attended and the subjects or topics that one has taught in educational institutions. A CV is predictably much longer and comprehensive than a resume.

A resume is something an individual needs when he is pursuing a career in all positions other than scientific, academic, education or research jobs. It is essentially a summary, in one or two pages, of outcomes, results and achievements, while in school, or at work or play. If a resume fleshes out too much information, it is possible for it to end up a CV.

Before deciding how to prepare a resume, it is more important to ask why one needs a resume and what does one want the resume to do. Many people often make a leap here.

They often reply that the purpose of a resume is to help one find a suitable job, so they end up putting things that one would normally be asked in an interview. Perhaps, it is more accurate to say that a resume is meant to open that door for you to get an interview, which eventually leads to a suitable job.

Once there are specific objectives that one wants the resume to achieve, it becomes easier to prepare a resume.

A friend of my former boss, Paul McGee, has written a very useful book called "Write A Great CV"; it is a useful read.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, October 09, 2006

Understanding Deaf Community

Today, I began a new journey.

I started a course "Introduction to the Deaf Community, Culture and Language" organised by the Singapore Association for the Deaf.

It is a course that I have been interested in for some time, especially since I have a sister who is deaf. As she gets older, I am finding it difficult to communicate with her and the only way for me to bridge this is to take some personal responsibility to understand her mode of communication better.

What kept causing me to postpone this decision was the distance of the school where such courses are conducted. It would take about two hours of travelling time between the school and home.

Last year, NTUC Income introduced a SkillsSave initiative for its employees. The beauty of this initiative is that each individual gets up to $3,000 over three years to pursue courses that he or she is interested in. Such courses are independent of training initiatives relevant to one's function which NTUC Income sponsors, that is they need not be work-related.

The employee can also take up to 5 days of self-selected learning leave, which is in addition to one's annual leave, to pursue such programmes.

Key programmes such as sign language courses are specially brought into the workplace and doing so helps cut unnecessary travelling time for employees.

This is important for an organisation like NTUC Income. We have begun to employ persons from minority communities such as the blind, deaf or those without limbs in a big way. For example, some of our office support work is undertaken by deaf people, and our research surveys are carried out by blind persons.

One of the more useful takeaways from this course for me was how deaf persons celebrate success. They raise their arms and wave their hands, rather than clap. But my deaf sister has been, as part of her own efforts to understand the hearing community, clapping her hands like we do.

For me, that realisation was important in strengthening my resolve to communicate with her better. If she can adapt to the hearing community, I don't see why those that hear and care for her cannot adapt to her.

After all, one of the things that the deaf community shared with me is that they do not consider being hard of hearing a disability. To them, this is a strength since sign language - as a growing body of research shows - is a fascinating language in itself. And, at least in this part of the world, English is the deaf community's second language.

I came home to practise some of what I had learnt with my sister. I showed her my notes. She was beaming from ear to ear.

I told her I will soon be starting to learn sign language and she will now be my teacher while I her student. She was ecstatic!

More people can make special efforts to understand minorities in our society.

Dharmendra Yadav

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Lesson For Judges In Singapore

On 29 August 2006, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, delivered the Singapore Academy of Law Annual Lecture on "Terrorism & Human Rights". He was appointed as the most senior judge in England and Wales last year.

When I heard his lecture, he struck me as a person with great respect for the rights of an individual.

He emphasised, "Respect for human rights must, I suggest, be a key weapon in the ideological battle. Since the Second World War we in Britain have welcomed to the United Kingdom millions of immigrants from all corners of the globe, many of them refugees from countries where human rights were not respected. It is essential that they, and their children and grandchildren, should be confident that their adopted country treats them without discrimination and with due respect for their human rights. If they feel that they are not being fairly treated, their consequent resentment will inevitably result in the growth of those who, actively or passively, are prepared to support the terrorists who are bent on destroying the fabric of our society."

It was therefore no surprise recently that he did something, which is unprecedented for a member of the English judiciary. In his own words, Phillips shared, "I posed as a shipping solicitor convicted of driving with excess alcohol and sentenced to 150 hours' unpaid work and 18 months' disqualification."

According to The Observer, "he wanted to prove that non-custodial sentences are the right alternative for many to prisons, now so overcrowded he considers it 'difficult or impossible' for them to rehabilitate offenders and prevent re-offending".

Phillip's decision to experience the effects of sentencing first-hand has been lauded, and it may strengthen the point he desired to make. His move also highlights how a judge can be in touch with individuals affected by the work of the courts.

As Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, shares with The Observer, "'If only sentencers would go out and see for themselves that community penalties work far better for petty offences than wasted time in overcrowded jails."

Perhaps, our judges in Singapore will learn from this and undertake similar covert practical stints to understand the effects of their orders better.

Dharmendra Yadav

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Publications That Bring Hope

Some people complain that the Singapore press is compliant. Others have lost all hope in it, and have cancelled their respective subscriptions.

A couple of years ago, I was among those that agreed with this writing off of such local publications. But I realised that I had become too accustomed to reading newspapers first thing in the morning and it was too difficult a habit to kick.

Now, I supplement what I consume in the domestic media by reading the Financial Times, the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal (in order of personal preference). In the office, I get regular supply of magazines such as the Economist and Time.

I also read India Today and Frontline, magazines which one can purchase for about S$3 from Mustafa Centre.

When time permits, I watch Channel NewsAsia which I supplement with the BBC. I was especially pleased to hear my favourite news channel from my university days, Sky News, is now available in Singapore.

Thanks to our local sources of news, who give me much to disagree (and sometimes agree) about on a daily basis, I have predictably developed a voracious appetite for current affairs in the last few years.

I continue to harbour feelings that the quality of independent reporting and analysis in our local media will improve.

It is where school publications such as The Campus Observer and Nanyang Chronicle offer much hope. I know for a fact that Singapore's mainstream media have often used the latter as a source of information for its news.

The Campus Observer is a new kid on the block. Set up about two months ago as an independent initative of students for students, the issues it has had to face offer a peek into the kind of pressure an independent newspaper could face in Singapore.

Managing Editor Aaron Ng of The Campus Observer writes on his blog, "The Observer has been in business for 5 weeks now, and it’s 5 weeks of hell."

In addition to dealing with operational issues, he shares more about the baptism of fire that his team of journalists and him have had to go through.

These include the harassment of journalists, allegations of unethical practices by such journalists and even being barred from attending events they were entitled to attend!

This is partly a result of The Campus Observer's editorial policy, "We are committed to articulating a mature voice that emphasizes accuracy and fairness. While we do not claim to represent the student body, we are committed to the expression of diverse viewpoints, to being a top source for in-depth and comprehensive news and features, and a rewarding co-curricular activity for our staff members."

Aaron elaborates further on his blog, "We act in the interest of the public that the newspaper serves. As members, students have the right to know what goes on in campus. We do not bother with whether the report looks good or bad on you. What is of concern to us is that we got the facts right, and we did not misrepresent anyone."

A brave position with strong words indeed.

Contrast this to the stories one hears from journalists in the mainstream media about how a certain story was not carried as it would affect relations with a particular news-maker.

Some days ago, I too wanted to write something about certain comments that a news-maker had made. I was informed it would not be published in a local publication.

If the first five weeks of The Campus Observer are a precedent to go by, it can look forward to many more interesting milestones!

Dharmendra Yadav

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Separating Facts And Views

A columnist in Time recently addressed the issue, "Do Newspapers Have a Future?"

He bleakly concluded that they don't. But, more importantly, the following lines in the article caught my attention: "The Brits have never bought into the American separation of reporting and opinion. They assume that an intelligent person, paid to learn about some subject, will naturally develop views about it. And they consider it more truthful to express those views than to suppress them in the name of objectivity."

It reminded me of an incident that happened in Singapore a few months back.

Ironically, it looks like something which forms the backbone of Singapore's media policy is the very thing that its media regulators have sought to keep out of its media: "foreign influence".

Quick, read the article while it's still free!

Dharmendra Yadav

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Verify What You Are Told

My friends send me chain e-mails about a variety of issues.

Sometimes, when a story in the e-mail interests me enough to find out more, I send them a reply requesting for the source of their information. (I guess it's an occupational hazard for anyone with legal training; wanting to know the basis of any information that one seeks to rely on.)

A lot of times, my friends come back and reply that they have not verified the information.

I received one such e-mail a few days ago. It is about an event, which involves two famous celebrities, Oprah Winfrey and Tommy Hilfiger.

The story goes: "I'm sure many of you watched the recent taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show, where her guest was Tommy Hilfiger. On the show, she asked him if the statements about race he was accused of saying were true. Statements like"...if I'd known African-Americans, Hispanics, Jewish and Asians would buy my clothes, I would not have made them so nice. I wish these people would *NOT* buy my clothes, as they are made for upper class white people." His answer to Oprah was a simple "YES". Where after she immediately asked him to leave her show."

There are other versions being circulated too.

Both celebrities have shared that this incident did not happen.

One website, which is a useful source for verifying such chain e-mails, notes, "Tommy Hilfiger is not the first or last famous person to be falsely accused of publicly telling certain ethnic groups to not buy their products. Liz Claiborne, Lauren Hill and Shakira all stand accused. None of the accusations stand up to scrutiny. Some are based on misunderstandings, while others, like the one above, are complete fabrications built on favorite elements of urban legendry. Break this Chain."

Delivering the Commencement Address at Yale University in 1962, the late American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy shared: "As every past generation has had to disenthrall itself from an inheritance of truisms and stereotypes, so in our own time we must move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality. For the great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. Mythology distracts us everywhere."

It is important to verify what we are told. Otherwise, being the inherently fallible species that we are, we too become distracted by mythology and risk ending up as liars.

And if you are one of those who have been circulating this unfortunate story about Tommy Hilfiger, do Tommy a favour, redeem yourself and buy his clothing today.

Dharmendra Yadav

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Hady Mirza Second Singapore Idol

I did not follow the recent Singapore Idol contests; only caught the last episode when the phone lines for voting the second Singapore Idol opened.

I found Hady Mirza to be the better singer. My family voted for him. I am happy Hady won!

When Taufik Batisah became the first Singapore Idol, I had shared in a newspaper, "The Singapore Idol contest, where 3 million votes were cast, could also be viewed as a mandate for equality. And the winner, Taufik Batisah, is a shining example of the fact that meritocracy, not ethnic considerations, mattered in the end."

I am also happy that this view still holds water.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hassle-Free Payment For Union Membership


Union members are now being made to pay their dues by GIRO under a "seamless membership" banner. It affects people like me who do not use GIRO but prefer, for our own unique reasons, to transact by cash, cheque or credit card.

The only other choice given to us is to terminate our union membership. And loyal union members will find it difficult to make this other choice.

As the labour movement prepares to appeal to all as part of it 2011 vision, it must seriously consider becoming hassle-free and provide other payment modes for union dues. For example, payment by the NTUC-OCBC credit card.

Otherwise, it may well be that some of these persons or less loyal union members may find it more hassle-free to make the choice to terminate their membership or not be a union member.

I hope NTUC and its unions will look into this suggestion.

Dharmendra Yadav


Thank you for the suggestion. We are indeed looking into the payment of membership fees via NTUC-OCBC card.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Readers Question: Tan Kin Lian Stepping Down

After the newspaper reports in Business Times, The Straits Times and Berita Harian, some readers have wrote in to ask me about this. Here are some of the frequently-asked questions.

Is it true that Tan Kin Lian is stepping down as Chief Executive Officer of NTUC Income?

Yes, he will step down on 1 April 2007 "to pursue other interests". He has confirmed this on his blog.

By that time, Tan would have given 30 years of public service to NTUC Income.

What is your reaction?

The announcement was received by some colleagues as a shock. But to many I know, it was an affirmation of issues that have been discussed in the office in the past week.

I joined NTUC Income on 15 August 2003. I have worked in NTUC Income as its Legal Counsel for about 3 years and 1 month now. I was expected to last less than a year.

In these 3 years, I have learnt many things. But one key lesson is that, in any situation, we must be positive and make the most of the opportunities it brings.

I think a new leader will bring new ideas and new ways of doing things in NTUC Income.

What else do you hope to see in the new leader?

First, the same courage that Tan had to make his views known, even if the issue involved regulators or others with influence.

When I joined NTUC Income, my mentor told me, "Tan Kin Lian is one person who will stand up for what he thinks is right. And he is the one person who will let you do the same. So the opportunity to work with him is an honour."

Second, the same desire and willingness that Tan had to help deprived constituencies in society.

I remember, when I first joined NTUC Income, a manager had put forward a proposal to Tan. The manager painted a very rosy picture and provided enticing figures to support that image.

Tan replied, "Our goal as a cooperative is not make too much money. We only need to make a reasonable amount of money. Our goal should also be to help people and to create jobs so that they can help others."

Third, I hope the new leader will preserve some of the laudable things that Tan has done. For example, our level of promptness in responding to queries and the accessibility of the Chief Executive Officer to our policyholders.

How do you think the newspapers covered the report?

I think the reports could have painted a better picture of what he has achieved and the legacy he is leaving. But then, there was no confirmation that he is actually leaving. Now that this is known, perhaps, the newspapers will do so.

It is not easy to take a cooperative "from an asset base of $40 million in 1977" to "total assets exceeding $17 billion and annual premiums exceeding $2 billion". NTUC Income is also "rated "AA" by Standard & Poor's, [which] is the highest rated insurance company from Asia".

Tan Kin Lian brought you into NTUC Income. Is your position secure?

I do not report directly to him, although I have done some work for him from time to time. The status of my position is determined by the head of legal, who supervises me.

In any case, I think, in this day and age, it will be fool-hardy for anyone to think he has a secure position.

It is more important to know if one is adding value and if such value creation is appreciated.

In this respect, at the start of every year, I agree on a set of performance indicators with my supervisor. And by the end of the year, I am measured against these benchmarks. So far, I am meeting most of these standards.

Dharmendra Yadav

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Keep Your Mobile Phone Number Confidential

Digital Phone Company in England has revealed, "Millions of mobile phone users are being subjected to a new wave of money making scams currently being carried out by a number of rouge agents set on taking advantage on the curiosity of the individuals they target."

As a result of this scam, a colleague ended up chalking a bill S$1581. He cancelled his mobile phone line subsequently.

Another colleague shared, "I received [an] sms saying I'd won US$80K, and to call back a China [number] for instructions on how to get the prize. Very tempting, and I'm sure some people would have fallen for the scam."

Digital Phone Company recommends, "The best way to prevent this scam is to apply caution, and only return missed calls to those numbers you recognise. And remember, if someone is genuinely trying to get hold of you, they’ll call again."

My view is that the problem has more to do with the way we use our mobile phone numbers.

Many people today give out their mobile phone numbers indiscriminately. They participate in marketing promotions such as lucky draws with these numbers. They also join other mailing lists with such numbers.

These lists are later sold for profit and eventually end up being used for dubious purposes.

Individuals must take steps to protect their privacy. Disclose your mobile phone numbers only if necessary.

Limit such disclosure to friends and family only.

You can also disclose it to reputable or credible organisation with clearly-defined policies about how your phone number will be used, or financial institutions which may need to get in touch with you for urgent transactions.

If you need to disclose phone numbers to any other party, use your land line number.

Most importantly, if your mobile phone number has been compromised, do yourself a favour - change it or get rid of it.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, September 18, 2006

Tissues & Tables: Changing Bad Dining Habits

A fellow corporate counsel today shared with me about how objectionable he finds the way people "chope" seats by placing packets of tissues on the table in a food court or hawker centre.

The Coxford Singlish Dictionary defines "chope" as "to reserve or hold something for somebody" and it is "sometimes used in games to denote having attained a 'safe' position".

TalkingCock.Com has described this as one of the "60 signs you're a true Singaporean".

Others have labelled this practice "weird" or "bizarre". I too find this practice objectionable and selfish.

Clearly, it is something the Singapore Tourism Board appears to have concerns about too: "For safety’s sake, don't leave your belongings unattended. It’s easiest if someone stays behind to reserve – or as we say, 'chope' – the table."

Despite these reactions, I find it revolting how so many people just accept this bad habit and let it be.

I guess it's in our psyche to not rock the boat and let things be. This can only serve to worsen the situation.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

And I think we all agree we want a more positive world.


The major hawker centres and food courts can prohibit people from reserving tables with packets of tissues. They can also empower their cleaners to get rid of the packets of tissues.

It makes good business sense. It will increase sales of packets of tissues.


If you know of persons who book tables with packets of tissues, tell them to stop doing it.

When you next eat at a hawker centre or food court, sit at the table where a person has placed the packet of tissues.

If the person approaches you and says the table has been reserved, smile and reply you did not know. As a compromise, offer to share the table.

If the person persists to be rude, threatens or intimidates you - which has, very rarely, happened to some of of my friends - call the police or the security at the food court.

Dharmendra Yadav

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Outgoing Leaders: Leave No Strings Attached

A colleague currently attending an industrial relations conference in Bangkok wrote, "Japan has a very interesting model to handle Greying Issues and the re-employment of senior workers. The retirement age in Japan is 60. When a manager retires today, he is being re-employed as a consultant and plays an active role in guiding his deputy who is promoted to take his place. This excellent solution provides both good career advancement opportunities to younger colleagues and re-employment opportunities to more senior colleagues, where their much valued experience can be shared and continued."

I prefer another model.

Not too long ago, a senior person stepped down from heading an organisation in Singapore. He continued to come back to the office afterwards. The new man sent him a memo to such effect; requesting him to vacate the office expediently, as his continued presence was not helping the transition to new leadership.

The old man's office was moved out of the premises soon after. And he has gone on to contribute to other organisations in other ways.

When a manager retires, he should let the new man handle his job without his looming presence. This will enable the new man to pursue his ideas freely without any shadow lurking around.

This is especially useful in situations where one's predecessor is what Harvard Business Review describes as a "narcissistic leader".

Separately, it is useful in roles where your position requires absolute independence. For example, as chief justice of a country.

The old man is, of course, free to share his experience with other companies. The world can be the old man's oyster.

After all, a good manager's expertise is transferable skill and can be as valuable elsewhere.

Dharmendra Yadav

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Reader's Question: Can I Share Your Blog?


Hi, I stumbled upon your blog by chance. I am impressed by the content and style of writing, as well as the purpose (the way you sign off says it all) of your entries. Gushing aside, I would like to request your permission in allowing me to share your blog addresses with my friends. (21-year-olds have much to learn!) I believe they would benefit much from the knowledge that you share on your site, as well as learning about being happy. May I spread the word? - Joy =)


Yes, Joy, Think Happiness can certainly be shared! You and any other reader have my permission to share the blog address.


At first, I was somewhat perturbed by this question. But I remembered that it is normal for some terms of use on certain websites to say you are not allowed to link to that particular website without prior consent from the website owner / publisher. I also realised that this blog is silent on such a position; there is no express permission or prohibition. Perhaps, the reader was in doubt and wished to clarify her rights of use. Hence, an express permission is now given to all readers, thanks to Joy!

Dharmendra Yadav

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Is the Singapore Police Force inadequately prepared for outdoor protests?

There was a Channel Newsasia report on 12 September 2006: "WTO summit showed outdoor protests can turn violent: S'pore Police".

The report noted, "International Risk says, on hindsight, this episode uncovered a key problem - that the Hong Kong authorities did not adequately prepare for such a thing to happen, and it is a risk the Singapore Police Force is not prepared to take."

Immediately after this, the man shouldering the prime responsibility of security for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings was quoted.

Soh Wai Wah, Chief of Staff, Singapore Police Force, shared why these meetings pose key risks for Singapore. He said, "This underscores the point that outdoor protest can be unpredictable. They may appear harmless, but they have a huge potential to turn disruptive or violent unexpectedly. Singapore has been a terrorist target for a number of years and now. On top of that we have this high profile meeting, VIPS coming from all over the world. So we are even more attractive than ever. The threat of security is very real and that is whey we are taking it very seriously."

It is appreciated that the report intended to show the security risks facing Singapore.

But a reasonable person reading the report was likely to come away with the impression that, having factored in the unique security risks for Singapore during the IMF/World Bank meetings, the Hong Kong experience at the World Trade Organisation summit and its own level of preparedness for such risks, the Singapore Police Force concluded that it was ill-prepared for the risks of outdoor protests and has therefore opted to ban them.

Simply put, the report appears to imply that the Singapore Police Force is not taking on the risk of outdoor protests because it is not adequately prepared for such a thing to happen.

To what extent is this true?

Firstly, this appears to run contrary to what the Singapore Police Force has been assuring members of the public about its level of preparedness. It has been quoted extensively in the media that it is prepared to deal with outdoor protests fairly and firmly. It has also invested substantially in assets that will enable it to address effectively public disorder situations.

To a competent policeman, there can be no better baptism of fire than having to really face and control such security situations.

Unfortunately, despite this, it seems that the hands of the Singapore Police Force are tied on this issue, as much as the Singapore Police Force has shown and is showing that it is highly prepared for the risks of outdoor protests.

Perhaps, there are some who do not share this same level of confidence as certain members of the public or the Singapore Police Force itself.

As a result, the prohibition on public gatherings, unless authorised, continue to be enforced NOT because Singapore Police Force is ill-prepared but for other reasons.

I hope that the media will appreciate the unique situation the Singapore Police Force finds itself in, and treat these public servants as fairly and firmly as they would others.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, September 11, 2006

FAQ: Third Thursday Thinking Talkies

Over the last 3 years, I have from time to time organised dinner gatherings on the third Thursday of every month. Here are some frequently-asked questions about these gatherings.


When I first started this initiative, the main intention behind this was for me to find an efficient way to catch up with friends that I had lost touch with. Since then, the idea has evolved to Third Thursday Thinking Talkies.

At these dinners, I bring about 15 - 20 people from different walks of life together; sometimes, they bring friends.

They join me for a meal, and on a typical evening, we discuss a range of issues from history to culture to current affairs to international developments to society, and other things which people wish to know more about.


Each person pays about $10-$15 for his own meal.


People are requested to come without expectations. They should be prepared to meet everyone and anyone!


I have hosted at the same table young and old; academics, students and school drop-outs; chief executives, businessmen, social entrepeneurs, professionals and persons just starting out in their careers; news-makers and journalists; leaders from various sectors of the community; the religious, the non-religious and even a psychic!

One of the things I have realised is how much others know that I don't. And I think the realisation is the same for people who have attended Third Thursday Thinking Talkies. It has been an engaging gathering of wit and wisdom of sorts!

Some who have attended have also gone on to organise their own similar gatherings.


Leave a comment here requesting for an invitation and your e-mail address.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Parallel Importers Get More Attractive

Individuals in Singapore prefer to buy cars from authorised distributors, even though parallel importers can offer cheaper cars. Many of my friends have done the same too.

On 26 July 2006, the Business Times, Singapore, reported that "a total of 61,069 passenger cars were registered by the LTA [Land Transport Authority] in the first half of 2006, and parallel imports accounted for 12 per cent".

A key reason for this trend is the warranty of up to 3 years that comes with the car one purchases from an authorised distributor. This enables a person to have peace of mind, should any manufacturing defect affect the car in the short term.

Now, NTUC Income has started an initiative to make it as attractive, if not more, for individuals to buy from parallel importers. It will work with selected parallel importers to provide a similar warranty on parts due to manufacturing defects. It will also offer motor insurance cover at competitive premiums. More information is available at this website.

In my personal view, this is a useful development for the budget-conscious consumer.

It will also make the growing private transport sector in Singapore more competitive.

Dharmendra Yadav

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Book Review: Singapore Queers In The 21st Century

Some hours before this book was launched, its publishers received a call from the government department responsible for control of publications in Singapore.

Complaints had been received about the book. The public servants thus needed to investigate if there was a need to control the circulation of this book in light of the complaints.

On the surface, a complainant could put forward some valid reasons.

The cover of this book is brave yellow, a colour which the people of Thailand wear to show their love and loyalty to the Thai monarch.

It has a bold title "SQ 21: Singapore Queers In The 21st Century". SQ21, as the author of the book writes in his afterword, "is the world's only direct flight between New York and Singapore" operated by Singapore Airlines.

The stories in the book capture experiences faced by a diversity of people - about 15 of them - in telling others they are homosexual.

To the ill-informed public servant, this would be much cause for concern.

It could have repercussions on an international Singapore brand. It could spark off bilateral tensions. It could also affect other national interests such as the family values which Singapore so proudly cherishes.

But as one delves into this book, one will be struck by how much this book is not an attempt to discredit Singapore and its national interests.

In fact, two themes are striking about the many stories in this book: love and courage.

Heterosexual couple Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen readily highlight this in their foreword.

They share, "SQ 21 is ultimately a book of stories about love... We found ourselves smiling as we read these stories, because love is very much like that for the two of us as well."

It is about "love for one's partner" and loving your parents and children. It is also about being true to yourself and those around you.

As importantly, this book is about saying the things that need to be said but that are difficult to be said. And it is about living with the consequences of decisions one has made.

To do all these, one needs courage and this courage is seen in the many persons who contributed to this book.

One will also find this book an exploration of living in Singapore.

Another interesting highlight of this book is how it shares the plight of other minorities. For example, the deaf person that found difficulty in securing a suitable job. Or the Malay lad who aims to rise the ladders of success and inspire a new level of confidence among Malays in Singapore. Or the woman that is beaten up and gang-raped.

This book has the potential to take reflections about both the Singapore identity and being minority in society forward.

There are some assertions in the book, which are topics of a raging debate in Singapore and elsewhere. For example, the acceptance of homosexuality in religion or therapies to help a homosexual become heterosexual.

This publication will inject new energy to such discussions.

Earlier this month, an encyclopedia was launched to serve as "a reference book for anyone seeking to understand Singapore's history and culture".

Channel NewsAsia reported, "The "Encyclopedia of Singapore" has been launched in conjunction with National Day celebrations. Written by an Australian of Singaporean descent, it is the first of its kind here, featuring an A to Z of Singapore's history, people and culture. It is Singapore's first comprehensive reference source."

There was glaringly no topic on "homosexuality" in that encyclopedia.

"SQ 21: Singapore Queers In The 21st Century" is therefore an attempt to fill a missing page in the Singapore story. This will certainly help complete the Singapore story and facilitate appreciation of a lesser-known aspect of Singapore's history, people and culture.

Dharmendra Yadav