Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wear pink for prayer & expression on October 22

On Monday, 22 October 2007, Nominated Member of Parliament and corporate counsel Siew Kum Hong will take an important prayer to Singapore's most sacred law-making body, Parliament.

Scheduled to be heard and debated at some point between 1.30pm and 4.30pm, it is a prayer for thousands of people young and old, male and female.

The prayer is humanity's cry for fair treatment and non-discrimination. The prayer stands for the land of equality that independent Singapore's founding fathers and mothers sought to build.

The prayer also represents the dawn of a new page for civil activism in Singapore, where many holding strong views about the issue did not hesitate to come out and make their views known.

Siew Kum Hong is not just seeking the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code. (It is highly unlikely that the legislation will be repealed, since most indications from the elected political leadership swing in favour of keeping Section 377A.)

Siew Kum Hong's prayer is more significant. It is about the future of expression in Singapore, and the importance of standing up and fighting for the things that one believes in.

Siew Kum Hong took on a very difficult task of bringing an important plea to his parliamentary colleagues. That journey for him has not been easy. People are have called him names. Others have also sought to stereotype him. He has been scrutinised at both a professional and personal level.

As a citizen of Singapore, I am proud to have a Nominated Member of Parliament like Siew Kum Hong. (I am as proud of the fact that he is a friend, who I respect greatly.)

He is doing what Nominated Members of Parliament should be doing in Parliament, in providing a voice for the parts of society that go unheard; and in highlighting issues that elected Members of Parliament, whether from the ruling party or otherwise, will hesitate to raise for fear of losing votes at General Elections.

Even if Siew Kum Hong does not seek or have a second term as Nominated Member of Parliament, it is clear he will go down in Singapore's history books as a pioneering NMP.

If you are free, make sure you are there to witness history in the making.

Be in the public gallery in Parliament on October 22 to hear Siew Kum Hong's prayer.

Also, wear a pink shirt / blouse to let him know that you're there to support him in what he is doing; and that you believe fundamentally in the importance of standing up and fighting for things that one believes in .

Even if you can't be in Parliament, wear a pink shirt / blouse on Monday to show that you too believe in standing up and being counted.

Your support will certainly make a difference. Let's be festively pink on October 22!

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this? Website Stained & Shamed

When was launched, it made me very happy. To me, it represented people who were willing to stand up, make their views known and be counted. I was also encouraged by the level of transparency shown in the petition signing process, right down to identifying the regions where people lived in Singapore.

When the website came out, the civil activism made me even more glad. To me, it was about having a voice that needed to be represented, in response to

I was, however, surprised by the decision of to keep the "silent majority" hidden. The creators of the website were encouraging others to sign anonymously.

Since I was not too happy with this arrangement, I set up a Keep s377A group on Facebook to complement the work of the website. I feel people, who feel strongly about retaining Section 377A, should have a choice to identify themselves and be able to engage others about the views they cherish.

My decision to do this attracted much criticism since I have come out to support the repeal of Section 377A. One person even accused me of being hypocritical.

Fortunately, I managed to persuade some of these critics on the importance of doing so.

I also feel it was important to set up this group since a good number of my friends support the retention of Section 377A and this would be a useful platform to make known their position.

In a few days, has gone on collect over 10000 signatures. Perhaps, this is a sign that the "silent majority" is really not so silent after all.

In a way, I was happy because the number of signatures had shown the case that Singapore's political leadership and mainstream media have been endeavouring to make.

But this morning, a friend shared with me his experience in signing the petition on He had included his name in the petition but he had left a comment to say that he was not signing the petition. Instead, he stated that he was disputing it and, in the comments section, he went on to highlight his reasons for disputing it.

Some time later, he checked back His name still remained there but his comments had been removed, and this gave the impression that he supported the petition. He has written in to the creators of the website to have his name removed but his name remains. (Update on 22 October 2007: His name has now been removed.)

This experience is not isolated. A reader has wrote in to another website to share this: "I've noticed that there were a lot of spoof messages on the keep 377a petition, whose ironic comments were taken down. However, their names were NOT taken down. This is dishonesty: either they should have left the comments and names, or taken down both. Please draw attention to this fact, as I believe that through this ruse the petition organisers at Keep377a have inflated their numbers through, essentially, fraud."

It is unfortunate that this has happened. An exemplary exercise started by a well-meaning group is now stained.

It is also shameful for civil activisim since the very integrity of the creators of can now be called into question. These creators have lost the moral authority to run the website.

They had sought to establish their case on the basis of "healthy and wholesome traditional family values" and "to do what is right". But their impropriety is a slap in the face to those same values they have sought to espouse and to the supporters of that have placed their trust in the petition on

It also does not do justice the case that Singapore's political leadership and mainstream media have tried to make.

It also means that Members of Parliament in Singapore, who seek to make the case for retaining Section 377A tomorrow in Parliament, will now have to seriously think about their credibility if they seek to rely on the results of the petition.

The honourable thing for the creators of to do now is to apologise for their actions, step aside and let a fresh group of persons run the website.

The fresh team can decide to re-start the petition process.

Alternatively, the fresh team can submit the petition to an independent audit of the signatories before the results are submitted to the Prime Minister of Singapore.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Readers Question - From Facebook

In August and July 2007, I was asked several questions on Facebook. Here are some of those questions and my answers.

Virtual Recruitment: Is this the next big thing for recruiters?

In my last job, I was recruited virtually. Everything was conducted and concluded by e-mail!

What role would you play in an adventuring band?

I'd be the non-musician turned adventurer!

Best place you have ever visited?

Mount Cook, New Zealand.

Would you kiss on a 1st date?

The lawyerly reply would be - it depends!

What is one thing you always carry with you?

Mobile phone.

Lee Kuan Yew - man, metaphor or hologram?

None of the above! Son of God because at the 1988 Singapore National Day Rally, Lee said, "Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.”

Who should pay on the first date?

Three ways to do it:
a. The one who asks for the bill.
b. The one who asks for the date.
c. Split it if you don't want to see the other person again!

What is the one thing I should always carry with me?

A mask!

What is the point of God?

Then, you don't get the point.

How can it be any other way?

Because that's what having a choice is all about!

Dharmendra Yadav

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Friday, October 05, 2007

More Time For Public Response

The Ministry of Trade & Industry, Singapore, has responded to my letter concerning the short period of consultation for the proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act through The Straits Times.

It has extended the period of consultation. Its response is below.

Dharmendra Yadav


(Source: The Straits Times Forum, 5 October 2007)

Public consultation extended to Oct 26

We refer to the letter, 'Why only 10 working days for feedback?' (ST, Oct 3).

The proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act and subsidiary legislation arose from the taskforce that reviewed the Act. The taskforce had considered inputs from various sources in the course of its work. At the same time, we have broached the proposed amendments with consumer and industry organisations when developing the taskforce's recommendations.

Notwithstanding this, we will extend the period of public consultation to Oct 26 in order to give more parties the opportunity to comment on the proposed amendments.

We thank the writer for his feedback.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Corporate Communications
for Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Trade and Industry

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Dealing with errant library members


The National Library Board (NLB) in Singapore has implemented a programme to recover more than $5 million in overdue fines from some 800,000 library members.

This has prompted varied reactions from such errants users.

In some cases, the overdue fines relate to books borrowed several years ago.

Plus, some $3.5 million have been written off "for amounts greater than $6 that have been outstanding for more than five years belonging to library members who were not contactable, for foreigners who have left the country and for users who have since died".

The NLB can learn from this and put in place measures to swiftly recover such debts.

Where debts are written off or users fail to pay despite repeated reminders, the NLB should not hesitate to list such users on the databases of credit bureaus. This will affect the credit standing of those live users who seek access to credit facilities and may encourage them to clear their debts with NLB.

Separately, in other cases, "the cost of recovering the money (postage and printing charges) is a lot more than what" is owed by the user. The National Library Board has said that the estimated operating cost of this recovery exercise is "less than 1 per cent of the amount to be recovered".

By not returning the books promptly, these errant users are doing a great disservice to others who equally deserve the benefit of such public services. They are being absolutely selfish by depriving others of the gift of knowledge.

For these reasons, one can perhaps question why the National Library Board should even bear the estimated operating cost of this recovery exercise. In fact, this cost should be charged to and recovered from such users who fail to pay on time, either in the form of a late payment fee or interest charged for late payment of fines.

I welcome the steps taken by NLB to recover the amounts owed by members of the library. I hope it will take up some of my ideas and that the amounts recovered will be used to improve library services in Singapore.

Dharmendra Yadav

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