Friday, November 14, 2008

NVPC Reply: Charities Selling Greeting Cards

On 3 November 2008, I asked the NVPC for a comprehensive list of charities that sell festive greeting cards to raise funds for their work. This is the reply I got. I thank the NVPC for its reply.

Dharmendra Yadav


I am afraid we do not collate such list. Here are some of the non-profit organisations who do produce greeting cards.

Society for the Physically Disabled
Tommy Tng
Ability Enterprise
2 Peng Nguan Street
SPD Ability Centre
Singapore 168955
Tel: 6236 6360
Fax: 6222 0637

Bizlink Centre Singapore Ltd
Carol Heng
Marketing, Business Development & PR
Blk 512 Chai Chee Lane #01-09
Bedok Industrial Estate
Singapore 249028
Tel: 6249 8160
HP: 92968228
Fax : 6446 5825
Email :

Very Special Arts Singapore Ltd
Ms Cynthia Poh
Project Executive
Blk 133 Bedok North Ave 3
Singapore 460133
Tel : 6448 6275
Fax : 6441 6403
Email :

APSN (Centre for Adults)
Ms Jennifer Lee
Corporate Communications Executive
143 Alexandra Road
Singapore 159924
Tel : 6479 6252
Fax : 6479 6272
Email :

Metta Welfare Association
Ms Felicia Wee
Events and Publicity Manger
Metta Building
32 Simei St 1
Singapore 529950
Tel : 6580 4688
Fax : 6580 4699
Email :

800 Margaret Drive
Singapore 149310
Tel : 6479 5655 ext 229

Best regards
Andrew Koh
Online Services Development
Community Partnerships
National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre

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

Monday, November 03, 2008

Charities Selling Greeting Cards


Every year, a number of charities in Singapore sell festive greeting cards to raise funds for their work.

Can the NVPC provide a comprehensive list of charities doing so and who members of the public can contact for possible purchases?

Ideally, the list can include prices of the cards. It will also be preferable if information can be provided about whether customisation of the cards are available for specific persons.

Also, can the NVPC clarify if such purchases from charities qualify for tax exemption purposes?

I hope the NVPC will be proactive and forthcoming with such information as it fits directly with its mission "to promote and develop volunteerism and philanthropy across all sectors and at all levels of society".

Thank you.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Service For Persons Seeking Legal Representation


There have been a number of instances, where a person needs legal advice and is unable to find a suitable lawyer to represent him or her. This does not paint a helpful picture of the legal profession.

I would like to suggest that either the Law Society of Singapore or Singapore Academy of Law consider setting up a section on its website for persons requiring legal representation. The information about such persons should be retained on that section so long as the person requires legal representation and is unable to secure such representation.

Lawyers can be frequently encouraged to visit this section of the website or to receive by e-mail information updates on the website. Using information available on the website, they can contact persons, whose cases they may be interested to take up.

For this service, the relevant operator can charge a nominal fee of $1 - $10. The amount collected from such fees can be used to offset the cost of running this service.

I hope the Law Society of Singapore or Singapore Academy of Law can consider providing this service.

It is in the interest of the legal fraternity to facilitate access to justice in Singapore.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Interview on Tan Kin Lian


In your dealings with him, what kind of person does Mr Tan strike you as?

I worked with Tan Kin Lian since 15 August 2003 until his retirement on 1 April 2007. I did not report directly to him. I reported to the present general counsel of NTUC Income, Vincent Yeo.

Tan has often believed in doing what is right and in helping those that really do need help. In doing these things, he is pragmatic and he takes calculated risks. He also has this remarkable ability to simplify matters. I guess these qualities come from his background as an actuary.

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."

Were you surprised that he would turn out to be such a vocal activist after leaving NTUC Income? Did you expect him to do so?

No, Tan has always been vocal about issues of the day, especially matters that he is concerned or passionate about, 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."

Mr Tan's actions are rare in Singapore. We hardly ever see ex-CEOs or ex-politicans publicly taking on a contrarian position to the authorities and rallying people to the cause. So far, Mr Tan's efforts have been quite positive, in terms of creating awareness and getting people's support. What do you think are the reasons why he has been successful in doing so?

Perhaps, most of these ex-CEOs or ex-politicians have other priorities. Nevertheless, Tan Kin Lian is not in unchartered territory. For example, before him, we had Ngiam Tong Dow and the late S Rajaratnam. Of course, Tan has the benefit of blogging technology, which his predecessors did not have the luxury of exploiting.

I am hopeful we will see more ex-CEOs or ex-politicians publicly taking on a contrarian position to the authorities and rallying people to the cause. We already see hints of such will in current leaders such as Lee Wei Ling, Liew Mun Leong and Ho Kwon Ping.

I am presently training to be a trial lawyer. One of the things that is impressed upon you as a trainee advocate is how much your credibility before the Court is very important. The more credible you are, the more the Court is likely you to find you believable. Of course, it is also important to have good knowledge of the law. Tan has been successful simply because, firstly, he knows what he is talking about and, secondly, he has built up enough credibility to be believed. My sense is that both the authorities and the people he has rallied trust him to do what is right and to act within the law.

For many, it's about time that someone spoke up loudly on consumer rights. Do you see this as boding well for the future of Singapore? What could be some of the pitfalls that you think Mr Tan have to watch out for, to avoid the fate of other prominent political/civil activists?

Traditionally, labour and consumer rights have been championed by the National Trades Union Congress. As Chief Executive Officer of NTUC Income, Tan was a pioneer in backing consumer-centric initiatives. Tan is thus keeping to the NTUC agenda by speaking up loudly on consumer rights in the financial sector.

I have always held the view that an active citizenry bodes well for the future of Singapore. It is an indication of how much people care about their country. In being active, citizens should check their facts and stay within the parameters of what is legal. As long as citizens watch out for these things, they can avoid the unfortunate actions other prominent political or civil activists have had to face.

Does Mr Tan come across to you as someone with an axe to grind?

Exemplary leaders have only one loyalty: their cause.

In staying true to his cause, Lee Kuan Yew bowled over the communists and many others that came in his way. Does that mean Lee had an axe to grind? If yes, the same can be said of Tan.

I would prefer to think Tan is staying true to his cause.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Singapore Wonder

Seen on the outer walls of the current Supreme Court of Singapore building.

Art or anatomy?

Tasteful or downright vulgar?

No wonder the honourable Former Speaker of Parliament Tan Soo Khoon had no qualms referring to this Supreme Court building as one of the "Seven Wonders of Singapore".

One wonders indeed.

Thank you for permitting me to use this photograph, Puja V.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Replies: Banned JBJ Film

I sent a request to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA), Media Development Authority (MDA) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) to release and screen a banned JBJ film. MICA sent an initial reply and I sent a follow-up.

Further replies came from both MICA and NP. As a matter of public interest, these are made available below after my afterthoughts on this issue. The replies are self-explanatory.


1. I am now looking forward to the Films Act amendments, which the Prime Minister should be commended for raising.

2. I thank NP for correcting the impression that their film equipment and tapes were confiscated by our censors. In fact, they do not own the film. They also had no equipment confiscated. I only wish NP had provided this information much earlier. It would have reduced hassle and saved both NP and me some time.

3. Nevertheless, it is regretful that NP does not wish to consider making a comprehensive documentary. They did not provide reasons so one can only speculate. Perhaps, their student newspaper may investigate this aspect further.

4. I hope someone will bring this exchange to the attention of the film-makers, who are really in a better position to pursue this matter with the relevant bodies. It is clearly in Singapore's interest to have this film retrieved and preserved for purposes of history.


I refer to your follow-up queries.

MDA will fund and support film projects based on a careful assessment of their merit and contribution to the Singapore film industry. Pending the amendment of the Films Act, it is premature to speculate on what kind of political documentary will be supported by MDA.

K Bhavani
Press Secretary To Minister and
Director, Corporate Communications Department


Thank you. I look forward to the public consultation on amendments to be made to the Films Act. I request that Secretary Chan exercise his discretion to forward the proposed amendments to the Law Society of Singapore for feedback before they are placed before Parliament.

In the meantime, I shall await the response from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Dharmendra Yadav


I refer to your email to Ms Bhavani which was copied to my Principal.

Thank you for your feedback.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic has no plans to pursue the matter further.

May Goh
Deputy Director
Corporate Communications Office


...Having taken 5 days to digest your reply, I do not understand your reply. Which matter are you referring to since the e-mails do raise a number of matters?

For purposes of comprehension, let me set out the matters I raised again here.

With the proposed amendments to the Films Act, I hope:
a. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can request Media Development Authority to return its confiscated film equipment.
b. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can request Media Development Authority to release its tapes.
c. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can arrange for a screening of the film after the tapes are released.
d. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can produce a more comprehensive documentary about the late J B Jeyaratnam.
e. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can arrange for the full stories of the film-makers of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's banned film to be told.

Thank you.

Dharmendra Yadav


We have no plans to pursue any of the matters you have listed.

Thank you.

May Goh
Deputy Director
Corporate Communications Office


Since Ngee Ann Polytechnic has no plans to pursue any of the matters listed, please:

a. Allow me to put on record that the confiscated film equipment were bought using funds of the polytechnic. These resources are financed at the end of the day by funds raised through fees paid by students and/or government subsidies funded by ordinary taxpayers. Your plans not to pursue this matter - where the Prime Minister has indicated a green light - does not appear to be in the interests of financial prudence that the public bodies such as yours should be held up to. The irony of the situation is unmissable. Ngee Ann Polytechnic was able to conjure plans and commit resources to break the law. But given the opportunity to uphold its legal rights, it has no plans to pursue a matter permitted by the law. This is an unfortunate reflection of the management of Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

b. Give me your permission to request MDA to release the tapes to Singapore's national archives. It is clearly in the national interest to have these tapes preserved for purposes of history.

Dharmendra Yadav


I wish to clarify that the film referred to was not commissioned by the polytechnic. The polytechnic did not 'conjure plans and commit resources' to make the film, nor did we have any film equipment confiscated. Point (b) is moot since the film does not belong to the polytechnic.

As mentioned in my earlier email, we have no plans to pursue any of the matters listed. With this clarification, we will not enter into further correspondence on the subject matter.

Thank you.

May Goh
Deputy Director
Corporate Communications Office


...Your response is adequately appreciated.

Please be aware that one source notes:
"Apr 2001: Government officers raided Ngee Ann Polytechnic and confiscated film equipment and tapes after three lecturers had made a documentary about JB Jeyaratnam. The three were told that they could be charged in court if they went ahead with a planned screening of the film at the Singapore International Film Festival. They submitted written apologies for making the film and withdrew it from the Festival."

Having read your final reply, I now wish you had clarified earlier that the polytechnic neither commissioned the film, owns the tapes nor had property confiscated. It would not have led to my negative impression of your organisation, which was motivated by the initial reply from your good office. Had I got the information that you have just provided earlier, I would also have been more than happy to drop this matter.

Taking your lead, I too "will not enter into further correspondence on the subject matter" with you or Principal Chia. I may write to the then Ngee Ann Polytechnic female lecturers - Christina Mok, Mirabelle Ang and Tan Kai Syng - to request them to pursue this matter with the relevant authorities.

Have a great week!

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why Kindness Exists

A diabetic orphan aged 12 was featured on television earlier today. His mother died of tuberculosis many years ago. He too had tuberculosis but has now recovered. His father abandoned his sister and him. The responsibility of caring for them fell on his grandmother. Unfortunately, she had to leave them in an orphanage and died some years later.

The feature saddened me. I asked a friend, "Why is God not good to everyone?"

My friend replied, "Because if he's good to everyone, then kindness can't exist."

Many of my friends and I are blessed. We lead happy and healthy lives. We have had a good education and are now sowing its benefits. All in all, the world has given us a lot that we can be grateful for.

Yet, I am surprised by some who feel that what they have received is not enough. They are bent on chalking up more of the material deliverables that society has to offer. Nothing wrong with that. But I hope they can give as they take.

I think it is important that we should be kind to others, especially those in need.

Two of my former bosses did not fail to share an important lesson with me. They said in quite similar terms that it is important to give, give and give. Their rationale being that the more you give, the more you will get back.

In the years that have passed, I have had many opportunities to help others. I have found those opportunities highly rewarding as much as the rewards cannot be defined materially. Nonetheless, I can add that these opportunities have taken me to new highs on my personal satisfaction index.

Kindness exists because some are more blessed than others. Kindness exists when we share and be good to others. Go on then, be good!

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Handling Queue-Jumpers


Last weekend, I attended a community event. At the event, each attendee was entitled to a complimentary serving of food.

Naturally, it being dinner time, there was a long queue for the food. While my friend and I were waiting in line, an ageing buxom lady (who I shall call Mrs Buxom India) and her slimmer friend appeared in front of us and started having a chat.

After a while, my friend and I realised that they were not there to simply chat. They had, in fact, queue-jumped.

I confronted the two ladies. I asked, "Excuse me, are you here to just chat or to collect your meal?"

Mrs Buxom India replied that they were waiting in line to collect their food. As much as I appreciated her shameless honesty, I had to tick her off. I said pointing to the end of the line behind me, "Then, we were here before you and the line actually begins over there."

By that time, Mrs Buxom India's slimmer friend had disappeared to join the end of the queue. Mrs Buxom India insisted, "Well, if you need to go first, you can go before me."

I shot back, "It's not a question of just me going first. It's a question of all those before you going first."

Mrs Buxom India then left the line.

I am reminded of a similar event I went through as a university student. Some years ago, after leaving a disco, I was waiting for a taxi. Someone appeared in front of me and tried to flag a cab. As he was about to get into the taxi, I went up to him and said, "Excuse me, I think your friend over there is looking for you and calling out your name."

As he sought to look for the friend apparently calling him, I got into the cab and told the driver to head to the destination I wanted to.

We should not condone queue-jumping. Of course, if one is elderly, pregnant, handicapped or needy in any other manner, an exception can be made to help them.

We should not hesitate to stand up for what is the right thing to do.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Decline to Return Used Crockery & Trays


Since the Prime Minister's National Day Rally this year, there has been a concerted effort to get people to clean up after they finish eating at our coffee-shops. This usually involves returning the used crockery and trays you use to designated areas. I am not in support of this initiative.

Returning used crockery and trays is not difficult for my generation of Singaporeans, who had to do the same when we were in school or in national service. In fact, I used to do so judiciously until some 5 years ago.

Then, I had recently returned from England to take up a job in Singapore with a cooperative of the National Trades Union Congress. A new colleague invited me out to lunch.

After lunch, I cleaned up the table and was about to return the tray I had used.

My colleague yelled, "No, don't do that!"

I asked her, "Why? What's wrong?"

She then pointed to an elderly lady who was going round the eatery clearing the tables. She suggested, "If you do this, old people like her will lose their jobs. There'll be less for them to do and therefore less incentive for owners of such eateries to keep them employed."

I questioned my colleague, "Am I not help helping her by doing this?"

She said, "If you really want to help her, clean up the table and place all the things that you need to return or throw away on the tray. But let her take the tray from the table to where it should go. She will be more grateful to you as a person for helping her to do that."

Since that incident, I have followed my colleague's advice. The smile I get from elderly cleaners when I do as advised is an experience to be cherished.

The National Environment Agency, with food court owners and cleaning agencies, has now come out to argue that returning the crockery and cutlery one uses to designated areas will not affect the jobs of such elderly, since they will have other things do do.

Like many other diners and cleaners, I do not buy the NEA's argument.

A table that has not been cleared away leaves the greatest impact on the consumer. Many owners of eateries know this. They therefore undertake great efforts to ensure tables remain clear. It is not unusual for them to employ more than the usual number of cleaners during peak periods so that more consumers will patronise their eateries.

I agree that cleaners have other things to do but these other things can be done by employing more cleaners or getting the same cleaners to do the same during non-peak periods.

It is important here to also note how The Straits Times reported NEA's position on 7 October 2008: "The NEA, foodcourt owners and cleaning agencies have come out to assure cleaners - some of whom are elderly - that they will not lose their sources of livelihoods. The NEA, for example, says hawker centres will always require cleaners, so they will be redeployed to wherever they are needed, if necessary." (emphasis added)

Firstly, I noted, in particular, the absence of any indication of NTUC involvement or support to this initiative. Secondly, the key words in the above paragraph are "if necessary". Need I say more?

If you really wish to help a cleaner, do clean up the table you use and place all the things that you need to return or throw away on a tray. Let the cleaner clear the tray. When the cleaner comes to get your tray, thank the cleaner for doing so and watch out for that appreciative smile from him or her.

By doing so, you will not only be helping eateries to remain clean but also helping cleaners to retain their jobs. This way, we build not just a gracious society but a society that looks out for its needy.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Monday, October 06, 2008

Engaging the Nay-sayer

Ten years ago, student journalists in the National University of Singapore published uncut an interview with a leader of an opposition party. The publication of the article did not come easily for these students. It involved a lot of negotiation with the then university administrators.

This year, student journalists in the Nanyang Technological University tried to publish a sanitised news report of an opposition party leader's unsolicited visit. It is unfortunate that the students failed to publish the story. This non-publication is also a reflection of the state of mind of the person who made the decision to kill the news report.

Today, in Singapore, we have a team of persons in leadership positions, who were brought up on a culture of fear. To them, when unsure, the natural answer should be no. They have been tamed to simply avoid taking risks, if given a choice.

Former diplomat Vergese Matthews wrote about such persons in his story, Speaking Up For Singapore, in the book, The Little Red Dot, Reflections by Singapore's Diplomats: "I fear that there has been a perceptible deterioration in... the civil service as a whole where this culture of speaking up and/or offering views at variance with those held by the leadership has dissipated...One possible reason is that there has been a national tendency to favour "safe hands" that would not rock the proverbial boat and that had the additional uncanny ability to second-guess what the Ministers were thinking."

Without engaging these persons through confidence building measures, nothing will be achieved. It will require a lot of time and a great deal of patience to get them to trust you. It can be a very frustrating process.

As a result, many choose to simply give in to their demands. Others make a quick exit from the organisations these persons run, so as not to be led by such persons.

I have found it more rewarding to engage these persons and win them over. I have found that, once you have their trust, they do all they can to get you what you want. They will also stick their necks out for you, should you get into trouble.

It was therefore a shame that, instead of continuing to engage their university administrators and exhausting the highest channels of appeal available to them internally, the student journalists chose to bring their battle out into the public sphere.

It has damaged the reputation of their university. It will do little to help them achieve what they want, that is have the news report published in the university publication.

Of course, I am not saying one should not take out one's gloves. There are some battles worth fighting in the open. This just does not appear to be one of them.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Preserving JBJ Name

A reader of this blog, Lin Yu, shared the following poem about Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam earlier today:

You could have made it big, you could have been very rich
But you gave it all up for what is your belief.

You could have given in to all the troubles and you could have given up the fights
But for the love of your country, it is a thought you neither haboured nor took flight.

Alas, a son of Singapore has left us with honour and dignity
But his name and his spirit will always be in our history.


1. Lin Yu, thank you for sharing your poem. The poem has been edited for grammatical accuracy.

2. Some persons have recently initiated a petition to the Prime Minister to get the Government to preserve JBJ's "public spiritedness and love of the law". First, they desire "a professorial chair in the name of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam be created in the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore". Second, they desire "a scholarship fund in the name of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam for graduate studies in political science and/or constitutional law and/or civil society studies".

3. Personally, it is not in the interest of a Government controlled by the People's Action Party to do so. It will be a miracle if the Government responds positively to such an effort. Of course, it is possible, if enough backers of the Government write in to them to do so, the Government may be prompted to react in some manner. But if you know some of these backers, they will probably tell you that they have better things to do.

3. My own sense from the Cabinet's neutered response to JBJ's death is that there is a conscious lack of interest or desire to give JBJ's expiry more attention than he deserved during his lifetime. This conclusion can be drawn particularly from the condolence letter that the Prime Minister sent to JBJ's family.

4. As much as I laud the efforts of those petitioning the Prime Minister, I think they will need to do more legwork before the Government responds. For example, by raising the seed funds needed to realise what they wish to see for JBJ.

5. Fortunately, the political hero of my generation, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong had the foresight to put in place helpful measures before he stepped down as Prime Minister. He began an ambitious programme to move Singapore's local universities on a path of being self-reliant. The process of giving to our local universities is therefore far more transparent than it used to be.

6. Since the petitioners desire to give to the National University of Singapore, a "professorial chair in the name of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam" in the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore will cost $2,000,000. The "scholarship fund in the name of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam for graduate studies in political science and/or constitutional law and/or civil society studies" will cost $150,000.

7. A total of $2,150,000 will need to be raised. The Government will respond by matching the gift dollar-for-dollar. Singapore residents who pay taxes and contribute will also enjoy double tax deduction. Those who strongly desire to preserve JBJ's "public spiritedness and love of the law" should consider setting up a fund-raising committee to raise the necessary $2,150,000.

8. Indeed, like many other things in Singapore, we need to help ourselves first before the Government helps. If any response comes, this is probably what the Prime Minister will tell the petitioners.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

MICA Reply: Banned JBJ Film

Some days ago, I sent a request to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA), Media Development Authority (MDA) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic to release and screen a banned JBJ film. This is MICA's response and my follow-up.


Thank you for your feedback addressed to PS [Permanent Secretary] MICA.

In his National Day Rally speech, the Prime Minister has set the direction for reviewing our current laws on party political films. The Government accepts that our policies must evolve to remain relevant in the current media landscape. It is no longer realistic to disallow all forms of party political films.

In line with this direction, the Films Act is currently being reviewed. The amendments have to be passed by Parliament and the amendments are likely to be tabled early next year.

K Bhavani
Press Secretary To Minister and
Director, Corporate Communications Department


Thank you...

Your reply only addresses one aspect of my query. From your reply, I gather that you are trying to impress upon me that a politician's death does not make a film non-political. Thus, if and when the amendments are passed by Parliament, the banned film about the late J B Jeyaratnam can be released and screened. Correct?

There was one other aspect to my query. Would Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Media Development Authority be willing and able to produce a more comprehensive documentary about the late J B Jeyaratnam?

If Ngee Ann Polytechnic does not wish to undertake this public service, can other film-makers apply for funding from Media Development Authority to make films about the late J B Jeyaratnam? What is the likelihood of MDA approving such a funding request? And how can one increase one's chances of having a funding request for a film about the late J B Jeyaratnam approved?

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Friday, October 03, 2008

Test Your MP

Some months ago, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong encouraged residents of Hougang to hold their Member of Parliament (MP) accountable by scrutinising how their constituency is managed. His comments could apply to any MP in a parliamentary democracy.

Indeed, a voter should hold his or her parliamentary representative accountable. This is not only measured by how well the MP manages the constituency. It is also important to follow how effectively an MP will take concerns of his or her constituents to the Legislature.

In the past few months, at least two crises have been experienced by Singaporeans. These involve defective products that have made their way into our consumer sector. As a result, there is now a supermarket sweep taking place for defective China-produced milk or milk-related products. There is also a major damage control effort being undertaken by financial institutions to help investors, since financial products sold to such investors was prima facie unsuitable.

Voters affected by such crises can therefore put their MPs to the test. They can lobby their respective MPs to raise questions about each crisis in Parliament. What kind of questions can an MP raise?

Here are some questions, by way of example, that you can encourage your MP to raise:

1. How come we were initially told that this crisis will not create problems for Singapore and later it created more problems for Singapore than we anticipated?

2. What problems has the crisis created?

3. What is being done to control the crisis?

3. How will the Government help those consumers affected by the crisis?

4. What steps will the Government take to facilitate filing of legal claims by those consumers who suffered losses?

5. What corrective and preventive steps will be taken to prevent such a situation from recurring?

6. Who and how have those responsible been held accountable for this crisis?

Finally, ask your MP this important question: how else can you help me as my MP?

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Remembering Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam

5 January 1926 - 30 September 2008

"Lee Kuan Yew thinks he is God," said the legendary David Marshall once.


Like David Marshall, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam (JBJ) showed the people of Singapore why Lee was no God but a mere moveable mortal.

Lee clearly did not feel comfortable with Marshall and JBJ. As such, he let the late Dr S Rajaratnam deal with these opposition politicians.

JBJ's 1981 by-election win at Anson, which made him the first opposition politician in independent Singapore's legislature, shook the People's Action Party (PAP) at its core. Through the remainder of JBJ's life, the PAP remained scarred. It failed to secure absolute control of Parliament.

I first heard of JBJ at a family party in 1984 held to celebrate the first birthdays of two of my siblings. My family also made it a celebration of JBJ's victory.

I grew up in awe of this man, who had dared to take on Lee. For the authoritative awe that both Lee and JBJ evoked, both I feared to ever meet. It was for this reason, as a young person, I found it easier to reach out to Marshall and eventually interview him.

I attended JBJ's election rallies when he stood up for elections with Tang Liang Hong. He had a presence that rocked! It was an unfortunate sight to see him scorched by lawyers representing politicians of the ruling party. But, even then, he did not flinch and held his head up high.


When I was a student, I would also see him hawking his books. Notwithstanding his past status as a established member of the Bar and Bench in Singapore, he saw no shame in doing so. He did this with pride and an unshakeable voice. In fact, there would be many a day where I would see people walk faster to avoid being seen near him or to look another way to deflect eye contact with him.

Initially, I could not muster up the courage to approach him. He would look people straight in the eye and the stare would only provoke a strange uneasiness. When I found the strength to face my fear, I could only go up to him and shake his hands.

As I had a small school allowance then, I could not afford to buy his books. I knew that I would be in a position to buy his books some years later. I eventually did. Unfortunately, I loaned the books to friends, who were keen to read his views. The books never came back.

I hope Singapore's bookshops will now find the courage to carry JBJ's books because it is the right thing to do. The history of independent Singapore is not the history of one man. Many shaped the Singapore we are today, including contrarians like JBJ.


After returning from England, I agreed to be legal counsel of a cooperative of the National Trades Union Congress. The NTUC supports the PAP in many ways. Doing so was part of an important personal challenge I had given myself.

Around the same time, former AWARE President Dana Lam offered me an opportunity to lunch with JBJ. I had personally desired this opportunity for a long time.

Sadly, my duty and loyalty to the NTUC required that I decline to meet him. I regret to this day having had to decline Dana's invitation.

In March this year, I ceased working for the NTUC cooperative. One of the things that I desired to do was to arrange a meal with JBJ. I wanted so much to know what he would have said to young lawyers today. Alas, that meeting will never be.

His fearlessness, tenacity and passion for public service should be an inspiration for a whole generation of Singaporeans. JBJ made it right for Singapore in his own inimitable way.

I will miss JBJ.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Release & Screen Banned JBJ Film


This country today mourns the loss of one of its sons, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam.

In April 2001, under the instructions of its then leadership, officers from Singapore's media regulators raided Ngee Ann Polytechnic and confiscated film equipment and tapes after three lecturers had made a documentary about the late J B Jeyaratnam.

The justification of your team then was that it had violated a prohibition in the Films Act. That prohibition can now no longer stand. I hope, with the passing of J B Jeyaretnam, your officers will now release the film.

I hope Ngee Ann Polytechnic will make the request for the confiscated film equipment and tapes to be released to it.

Three lecturers had been involved in making the film. They offered apologies. They were also reprimanded. One resigned, and the remaing two chose to remain silent. I hope Ngee Ann Polytechnic will now arrange for the full stories of these film-makers to be told.

Similarly, I also hope the Media Development Authority will encourage journalists and other media professionals, who had covered J B Jeyaretnam in his lifetime to talk about their experiences covering him. It is important for these stories to be told uninhibited so that lessons can be learnt to better assess the legacy of J B Jeyaretnam.

Both the Media Development Authority and Ngee Ann Polytechnic should jointly arrange the screening of this film. Both organisations can perhaps also look into collaborating to make a more comprehensive film to honour the legacy of J B Jeyaretnam.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Monday, September 29, 2008

Investigative Journalism & Foreign Workers


1. Some years ago, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong stood up and argued that there is no place for investigative journalism in Singapore.

2. Several have begged to differ. The above Al-Jazeera English video underscores the case of those who disagree with SM Goh.

3. Of course, one has to view this video with a pinch of salt since it features no official response from Singapore.

4. Nevertheless, considering the story was aired over a week ago (according to the Youtube link above), there has been no official reaction from Singapore's Ministry of Manpower to this video too.

5. Usually, the Singapore Government is quick to react to issues that are raised by reputable international media, especially those available in Singapore.

6. Perhaps, there are similar stories that Singapore's own local media will find the courage to pursue. But then again it would not be in Singapore's national interest to have its own local media publicise its less than satisfactory laundry, would it?

7. There are precedents, however. For example, The Straits Times' shaming of National Kidney Foundation's excesses.

8. As a result of this initiative, Singapore now has a more accountable National Kidney Foundation. It has also led to higher standards of corporate governance within the charity landscape as a whole.

9. Thank you, Prashant, for sharing this video with me.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Report Investment Cheats To Police

In recent days, the Monetary of Authority of Singapore (MAS) has issued at least three press statements to address concerns raised by investors of structured products. I have read that independent parties will now deal with the complaints of such investors and review the calculation of payouts offered by at least one financial institution.

Such moves are unprecedented by MAS and the financial institutions. The collective reaction is probably intense enough to prompt them into such action.

I have also heard that some persons believe that they have been cheated into purchasing these products and are victims of illegality.

I am not sure how true this is. I have not read any reports of the police commencing an investigation into the incidents. Such claims can only adversely affect our financial system.

Nevertheless, if you feel you are the victim of an act that you think is a criminal offence, make a police report. Let the police (in particular here, the Commercial Affairs Department) investigate the incident and clear the air.

This is perhaps more constructive than merely protesting someone cheated you.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Changed Singapore Dream Means More Flee City of Possibilities


Get a good education, work hard, save money, get married, own homes, make babies, retire and enjoy the fruits of your labour - this was once the Singapore Dream.

In the last 5 years, I know of several friends who have left Singapore because that Singapore Dream, which was once achievable, is now more distant.

A majority of these friends who have left are married.

To some, the decision was very clear and a no-brainer. There was a better quality of life waiting for them beyond the Singapore shores even though it came at the expense of higher taxes.

Some thought long and hard before making this decision. At least one of them even purchased a property in Singapore and was thinking of having children here. But the more they contemplated, the more they got sucked into the rat race and realised that this was a life they did not wish to lead.

Life, to them, is not about stashing away more and more money in their bank accounts but about leading a contented life. And, since they left, they have not regretted making that decision.

Another group of these friends are single and homosexual. They feel strongly, for various reasons, that they cannot live a life of dignity in Singapore. Legislation such as Section 377A of the Penal Code also impedes them from being themselves.

They are now happily settled elsewhere, either still single or attached by civil partnerships to other males. Most enjoy a standard of living higher than they would have in Singapore. One friend has even adopted a new identity in the interest of his family, who remain in Singapore.

Of course, there are another group of friends who have left simply because they can make more money elsewhere. To them, a personal priority is to save as much as they can early in life so that, later in life, they can retire blissfully.

Some years ago, at a Singapore International Foundation event for foreign undergraduates, I asked the then Minister for Law & Foreign Affairs, Professor Shanmugam Jayakumar, about this trend.

He basically made statements to the following effect. There is nothing or little the Government can do to change the minds of those leaving Singapore, and that Singapore should continue to focus its efforts on attracting foreign talent.

This was at a time when the Singapore Government was dishing out scholarships to foreign students and citizenships to foreign sportsmen. We would only realise much later that some of these sportsmen would flee the country as soon as they had accumulated their bounty!

Thankfully, Shanmugam Jayakumar’s view has not been a view shared by the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who has set up the Overseas Singaporean Unit (OSU) in the Prime Minister’s Office and made it the direct agenda of his office to reconnect Singapore with Singaporeans who have left.

How well the OSU will do remains unclear, especially in light of more developments, which are encouraging or enabling more Singaporeans to leave Singapore.

Since stepping down as Prime Minister, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has gone on a whirlwind tour of the Middle East to promote Singapore and Singaporean talent.

This has created new opportunities for some, like an uncle of mine, who, after reaching their mid-40s, faced great difficulty finding jobs here. These experienced persons are now being talent-spotted for work in the Middle East in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates.

Another Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Lim Boon Heng, is pushing for more people to work beyond the retirement age and lobbied very hard for legislation to make employers offer re-employment to those above 62 years old.

My folks and I do not buy this idea that one has to work for life or beyond the retirement age. There is so much more to do in life after retirement.

Like some of those who have left, they are thinking of liquidating some of their assets to purchase a retirement home in Thailand or India where the cost of living is comparatively cheaper.

I also know of many older friends who have purchased homes in Penang and Malacca in Malaysia or moved to Australia or New Zealand, because that is where they wish to eventually retire.

Today, the Singapore Dream has changed: get a good education, work hard, save money, get married, own homes, make babies, retire and then keep on working.

As a result, many more find themselves abandoning the Singapore Dream and fleeing this city of possibilities.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Meeting A Lawyer

Sometimes, you may find yourself in a dispute with another party. You decide to seek legal advice on the matter. And you ask, "What do I need to do before I approach a lawyer?"


It is always good to get legal advice when you have a dispute with another party. Make sure the lawyer whose advice you seek has done similar work in the past. If the lawyer has not, you should ideally find a lawyer who has done equivalent or similar work.


You should make the best use of the lawyer's time when you first meet the lawyer. Usually, the first meeting enables the lawyer to make a general assessment about the strength of your case and to also provide you a quote for the work that the lawyer will undertake. Depending on the lawyer, the first meeting may also be complimentary. To make best use of the lawyer's time, you need to go into the lawyer's office prepared.


It will therefore be useful to put a comprehensive file together before you meet the lawyer. Such a file will help a lawyer better understand your case and provide a more accurate quote for his or her legal fees.

The file should contain:

1. A list providing the identities of all the parties involved in the dispute, including information about your identity.

2. All the documents relevant to the dispute, especially correspondences that you received and material that you have signed or agreed to. If you are not sure if a document is relevant to the dispute, flag it up but include it in the file. Let the lawyer make an assessment if the document is relevant.

3. A chronology of the events leading up to the current state of affairs. This is like a milestone chart and will enable a lawyer to get a snapshot of the dispute.

4. A statement containing your side of the story. This will be useful in helping the lawyer to understand your dispute. Be as concise and precise as possible. Use headings and bold or underline parts that you think are important. Recall in detail particularly any verbal meetings you had with the other parties involved in the dispute. Do feel free in your statement to make references to the material you have prepared in (1) - (3) above.

5. A list of questions for your lawyer to address.

6. Your objective, that is what you want to achieve from the dispute resolution process. This will help the lawyer understand your expectations.

Before going to meet the lawyer, make two copies of the file. One for your lawyer and the other for your own reference.

Finally, update the file as the dispute progresses. This will be useful if you decide to change lawyers later.


The Law Society of Singapore offers more insights into Seeing Your Lawyer. You may find it useful too in preparing for your first meeting with your lawyer.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

The Taste of India

Enough said.

(Note: I am not sure as to the source of this picture. If you know the source, please let me know.)

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Monday, September 22, 2008

Use Lawyer For Injury Claims

A young professional was involved in a road accident some time last year, where he was hospitalised for various injuries. He was a pillion-rider on a motorcycle.

After being discharged, he also realised that he would have permanent scars on some parts of his body. He had judiciously kept all his medical bills and the receipts of transportation expenses he incurred following the accident.

Following his discharge from hospital, he made a claim against the motorcycle's insurer.

The insurer initially offered to pay his medical bills and offered a few hundred dollars to him as compensation.

The young professional approached me, as he was not sure if he should accept the offer. I told him to appoint a lawyer to get independent advice and to deal with the insurance company.

He said he wasn't sure if he could afford a lawyer. I shared that some lawyers may be willing to hold off payment until the conclusion of the matter, that is after the insurer had made him a compensation.

He shopped around and found a lawyer, who agreed to do so and subject to payment of a nominal deposit.

The lawyer secured for him a settlement at least ten times higher than the meagre compensation initially offered to him.

If you are involved in an accident, where you are a victim, seek legal advice about your rights before making a settlement with an insurer. Often, an insurer prefers to swiftly close the matter and, in accepting a quick settlement, you may compromise your interests.

When appointing a lawyer, make sure you ask the lawyer about his or her track record in cases involving traffic accident victims. An experienced and competent lawyer can help secure a fairer settlement for you.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jokes From Readers


"Dharmendra Yadav was in the queue for F1 tickets when he felt someone massaging him. He turned around and saw an elderly Chinese man.

"What do you think you are doing," Dharma asked.

"Pardon me," said the Chinese man, "I am in the massage business so I decided to practice a little while waiting in the queue."

Dharma said, "I am a lawyer but do you see me screwing the guy in front."



"Dharmendra Yadav goes to England and asks his PR man to give him a new name. His PR man calls back the next day to tell him his new name. Kling Eastwood."


1. Readers, who prefer to remain anonymous, recently shared the two jokes above on this blog.

2. I am not sure if they jokes are adapted from elsewhere. I thought they are rather creative. And I wanted to share these with other readers.

3. My friends often share that this blog is too serious. To the readers who sent those jokes, thank you for sharing. Please do keep them coming. It will help keep this blog less serious!

4. I am not sure what's with the ending "Om" in the first joke. Perhaps, the reader is alluding to the beautiful Hindu word often chanted by believers of Sanatana Dharma in the world over. In certain parts of the world, I do get people offering to massage me while I wait in a queue. I think it is a great idea. What better way to kill time!

5. In the second joke, I am not sure what's a PR man. A superhero of sorts, maybe? And, unfortunately, I still don't catch the Kling Eastwood part.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Motivation For Success


A friend today shared with me about how he stretched himself in order to achieve financial independence.

When he first started work, he set himself a goal to purchase a car that could take to and fro work. He saved enough money to buy a car in his first year of work.

Then, he set himself a goal of buying a property. He bought a private apartment with a couple of bedrooms soon after. Recently, he sold the apartment to purchase a bungalow.

He said, every time he decided to use his money in such a manner, he was forced to save money and watch his expenses. By taking on such liabilities, he was also motivated to work harder and stretch himself. This, in turn, enabled him to be more successful.

It reminded me of something else another friend had shared some years ago.

Many parents only have children when they can afford to raise one. This friend has three children. He said, every time his wife gave birth, it would motivate him to find a way to afford that child.

Today, he is studying at a top business school. He also has a successful business. Some years ago, his wife secured a double promotion at work. Having more children motivated them to be more successful.

We have different motivations for success. It is important to find the motivation that will stretch us.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Recognise and Reward Paralympians Fairly


This week, a disabled athlete ensured that the national anthem of Singapore was heard for the first time at the Paralympic Games, held in Beijing. The Paralympic Games shares the same international status as the Olympic Games.

Yip Pin Xiu, since Monday, is the first Singapore athlete to win gold at the games when she came in first in a swimming event.

The newspaper, Today, dubbed her “Singapore’s Golden Girl” and noted that her victory “comes a month to the day after the Singapore women’s table tennis team bagged the country’s first Olympic medal in 48 years, when they beat South Korea in the semi-finals in Beijing”.

And how will the country celebrate Pin Xiu’s contribution to the glory of her motherland?

For some two decades now, schemes have been put in place to reward such athletes for their achievements at such international sports gatherings.

The Singapore National Olympic Council, under the then oversight of one of Singapore’s political legends from the ruling party, Dr Yeo Ning Hong, implemented the Multi-Million Dollar Awards Programme (MAP).

Between $1 million to $2 million is now awarded to an individual or team that secures a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Athletes are rewarded up to a maximum of the first gold medal won at the Olympic Games. Significantly, MAP is for athletes with no disabilities.

For disabled athletes, the Athletes’ Achievement Awards (AAA) applies. This was created in 2006 based on a framework similar to MAP.

Both MAP and AAA are primarily supported by the Singapore Totalisator Board or the Tote Board, which uses surpluses from its gaming activities to fund these initiatives.

However, there are some key differences between the AAA and MAP schemes.

Firstly, between $100,000 to $200,000 is now awarded to an individual or team that secures a gold medal at the Paralympic Games.

Secondly, the incentive is given “based on a single highest achievement”. No additional awards are given for multiple medals but there is provision in MAP for additional awards to be given for multiple medals won at the Asian, Commonwealth and SEA Games.

As a paralympian, Yip will receive $100,000 under the AAA, about one-tenth of what she could have received as an olympian. Had she been an athlete with no disability, she would have been awarded $1,000,000.

Contrast this figure also with the $750,000 that our China-born athletes, who are now Singaporeans and won the silver medal at the Olympic Games, will receive.

The rationale for the divergence in the amounts does not appear clear.

One reason could be the visibility that the Paralympic Games enjoys in comparison to the Olympic Games. Both MAP and AAA are heavily reliant on corporate support. As a result of the greater brand recognition enjoyed by the Olympic Games, corporate sponsors may be more inclined to support the MAP.

Another reason could be that the AAA could do with a fund-raiser like Dr Yeo Ning Hong who, as a result of his clout and extensive contributions both in the public and private sectors, was able to roll out an ambitious programme such as the MAP.

Ideally, there should be little or no divergence in the manner in which we celebrate our olympians and paralympians.

Yip suffers from muscular dystrophy, which impedes her ability to straighten her hands. She is also suffering from worsening vision. These extreme medical conditions did not stop her from giving Singaporeans a compelling reason to be proud about. In the years ahead, she will need much more financially for her medical conditions than an abled athlete. Looking at her needs and merits, there is justification for Yip to receive an award as high as an olympian.

As much as there is nothing illegal about this practice of rewarding abled and disabled athletes differently, there is some basis for one to argue that it is unfair.

Perhaps, a way forward is to merge both the MAP and the AAA so that disabled and abled athletes are incentivised equally for their contributions to Singapore.

In making its bid for the Youth Olympics 2010, Singapore represented that “worldwide, our country is recognized for its honesty, integrity and commitment to fair play”.

Surely, the principle of fair play requires that the achievements of our disabled athletes for the glory of this country be recognised and rewarded as highly as the contributions of our abled athletes.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Friday, September 19, 2008

Reader's Question: Comment Deleted

How come a comment I left on your blog was deleted?

Generally, I welcome your feedback. It is as a result of your feedback that I disabled comment moderation on this blog some time back.

I also think learning from others is an important facet of life. One's views are not necessarily a final view on matters and this is particularly applicable to the things I share here. There is often a different way of looking at things. And such criticism also help our views to evolve with the passing of time. I have often hoped that more people will share their views, without having to use a pseudonym or be anonymous. Individuals should be willing to speak candidly about issues that concern them and be prepared to hear things as candidly.

But a line has to be drawn, especially where a comment is defamatory, seditious or insensitive. Sometimes, readers also leave spam. For example, information about financial scams. It is in these situations that a comment will be deleted. Of course, I accept that there is nothing to stop one from setting up one's own platform to make such remarks there or to find other ways to make one's views known. That is certainly within one's prerogative as a reader of this blog.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Needy Train Travellers

In public trains operating in cities, one often finds a sign encouraging a person to give up his or her seat to someone else who needs it more.

Those in need include the elderly, very young children and pregnant women. In Thailand, this list of needy people even includes priests!

I realise a lot of times people travelling on the trains end up not looking out for such needy.

One such situation happened this afternoon. I was on they way home after having lunch with a friend.

As I walked into the train, I notice a very frail old man standing in the train. He was so weak he had to hold onto the railings on the train with both hands, and his arms were shivering. Seated opposite where the old man was standing were some young persons. I suspect they didn't notice the old man.

I approached one of the young persons and requested that he give up his seat for the old man. He did so as soon as I brought the old man's predicament to his attention. The old man fell asleep within minutes of sitting down. Aww, bless him.

And bless the young man who gave up his seat too. I realised some time later that the young lad was Muslim. This being the month of Ramadan, he would have been observing his fast at that time. He had had nothing to eat or drink since the break of dawn. Thus, he probably needed to remain seated too.

I regretted, at that time, not approaching someone else. But I laud the young person's will to help someone else more in need, even though he was in need too.

We should be sensitive to the needs of others. We can also help others be sensitive to the needs of others.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Trial for Insulting Judge

Last week, in between sessions for a course I am attending at the Supreme Court, I sat through a few hours of the trial of Gopalan Nair in Court 5C of the High Court.

Nair was charged under Section 228 of the Penal Code (Cap. 224), which reads as follows:

"Whoever intentionally offers any insult or causes any interruption to any public servant, while such public servant is sitting in any stage of a judicial proceeding shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to $5,000, or with both."

According to Nair's blog, the charge read:

"Gopalan Nair are charged that you on or about May 29, 2008 in Singapore, did intentionally offer an insult to a public servant namely Justice Belinda Ang Saw Een, a Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore while the Judge was sitting in judicial proceedings namely Notice of Assessment No. 23 of 2008 in Suit No. 261 of 2006 and Notice of Assessment No. 24 of 2008 in Suit No. 262 of 2006 by posting the following words on your blog at

"The following transpired during the last 3 days in court. The judge Belinda Ang was throughout prostituting herself during the entire proceedings by being nothing more than an employee of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders"

and you have thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 228 of the Penal Code (Chapter 224)."

Unfortunately, he was sentenced to 3 months' imprisonment yesterday. I came away with some impressions of the trial. Since the trial is over, I can now share these impressions.


Looking at the charge and legislation and having watched the trial, I think Nair could have put up a more credible defence.

Nair was given a lot of leeway in cross-examining the prosecution witness, Assistant Superintendent of Police Razak Jakaria. Nair adopted various strategies to discredit the witness, even calling into question the religious beliefs of the witness. The month of Ramadan being an important period for Muslim persons, I thought this was insensitive of Nair to do so.

I hope ASP Razak will find the capacity in him to be forgiving of Nair, since the month of Ramadan is also about being forgiving to those who offend us. I think Nair was caught up by the heat of the charge and ended up taking such desperate measures in order to secure an acquittal.

Nair also brought up irrelevant matters. At one point, he argued that he needed to question the witness and make detailed notes about the answers so that this could eventually go into a book. He disclosed that he intends to write about his personal experience of the justice system in Singapore.

As much as I look forward to reading Nair's book, I thought this was an important lesson as to why a person should not conduct his own defence. If you are charged for committing a criminal offence in Singapore, please seriously consider getting a criminal lawyer to represent you, especially if you can afford one. I am not sure if Nair can afford to appoint a defence lawyer.


A lot of the irrelevant questions arose from the fact that Nair had to work blindly. The prosecution had not disclosed all the statements Nair had made to the police and this ended up with Nair conducting a fishing expedition for such information at trial. It was well into the trial that Nair was given a set of such statements by the prosecution.

I cannot appreciate why the prosecution cannot disclose all such statements as soon as a person is charged, since there is no risk of such disclosure jeopardising the investigation at that point. It is possible that early disclosure of the statements may help facilitate and speed up the trial process and reduce the need for a defendant to undertake such fishing expeditions at trial.


The judge hearing the trial, Justice Kan Ting Chiu, left the most significant impression on me. I thought he was extremely patient with both the prosecution and defence. He was decorum and graciousness at its best. At one point, he even went through his notes of evidence and encouraged the prosecution to do the same in order to clarify something Nair could not remember.

Some trainee lawyers hearing the matter thought Nair deserved to be dealt with strongly by the force of law, and be made an example of by being put away longer than was necessary in such cases.

Thankfully, the judge hearing the matter has a less draconian concept of justice. The voice of reason prevailed and he eventually dealt with Nair fairly. The judge was also understanding enough to give Nair some time to settle his personal matters before commencing the prison sentence.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Saturday, September 13, 2008

From Ashwinder to just Ash

Petronas, Malaysian oil company, advertisement:

"The world is changing but we should always be proud of who we are."


1. When I first landed in England in 1999, I was intrigued by how Asians there had a penchant for shortening their names to biteable English-sounding words. For example, Ashwinder Singh Gill would simply be called Ash or, similar to the case of the video above, Samyveloo Reddy would be just Sam.

2. Coming back to Asia about 5 years ago, I noticed this trend had caught on here. My Chinese peers, in particular, have adopted English names. My friend Sian Teck is now Jason or Kinn Oei is now Jervis.

3. When I asked my friends about this, they said it helped them in the course of their work. They shared it made it easier for people to remember their names.

4. Today, there are various short versions of my name circulating among my friend. To some, I am Dee. To others, I am Dom. To many, I am Dharm. To a few, I am Dharam or Endra.

5. Nevertheless, I am happy to remain Dharmendra Yadav. The world may be changing but it doesn't change who I am or where I came from.

6. Finally, I wish to thank my friend, Michael Chua, for kindly showing me how to embed a Youtube video into a blog posting.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Support Yellow Ribbon

My community legal clinics from time to time bring me face to face with persons, who have just been released from our prisons.

These persons are often eager to start their lives on a new page, and to make a difference for themselves and their families. In pursuing this, they are willing to look into the many opportunities that are available to them.

Quite often, these opportunities are limited and society attaches a negative stereotype to such persons. Over time, these persons lose that passion they once had to turn a new leaf, and risk re-offending only to have face our criminal legal system.

This is really unfortunate because there is something we can do about it. It is also sad because a lot of these person have dependants, such as spouses, children and even old parents, who will all have to suffer. Most will lose the capacity to pay their household bills, others will not be able to go to school, and a few such families may end up having to go hungry.

For this reason, the Yellow Ribbon Project is something I value. The purpose of this project is to check this trend of re-offending and to combat stereotypes attached to ex-offenders. And every year, I do something to show my support for this cause. This year is no different.

September is Yellow Ribbon month. Visit the Yellow Ribbon website to find out more about how you can make a difference!

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Prominently Politically Pink

Ho Kwon Ping, Chairman of Singapore Management University, Executive Chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings and Chairman of MediaCorp writing in Today Weekend on 6 September 2008:

"Optimists hope that the decriminalisation of gay sex — a yawn to anyone except the homophobic and the gays themselves — will eventually occur. In reality, rather than in law, gays in Singapore today have never had it so good, and should within a short time, become fully-accepted — not just tolerated — members of an increasingly diverse, and therefore vibrant, Singapore community. But if we pat ourselves on the back for being so “bold” as to accept casinos and Formula 1 events into staid Singapore, why can’t the boldness extend to a simple act to enable gays to realise their dream — indeed, their simple right — to be normal Singaporeans like anyone else, no more and no less."


1. A blogger hopes that more such "alternative views" about how Singapore should go forward will be expressed by other prominent persons in Singapore.

2. Pink is now a colour associated with the homosexual community. For example, there is the Pink Paper, "Britain’s only national lesbian, gay and bisexual newspaper and the biggest circulating gay publication of any kind in the country". This association to pink has its roots in the Pink Triangle, which "was used by the Nazis in concentration camps to identify and shame homosexuals" and "has been embraced by the gay community as a symbol of pride".

3. Yesterday, about three days after Ho's views were published, the Prime Minister of Singapore speaking at the Forbes Global CEO Conference showed why pink is in.

4. Ho noted in his article that "gays are seen to be at the leading edge of the “creative class” — which Singapore is trying to develop as part of its new knowledge-based, creativity-oriented economy".

5. Perhaps, the creative minds, if any, behind PM Lee Hsien Loong's image are indeed sending a message out to Singapore and the world. What more pragmatic way to have it expressed than at the Forbes Global CEO Conference.

6. For reasons I have made known in the past, it is time for Section 377A of the Penal Code to go.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Monday, September 08, 2008

Foreign Bodies In Singapore


Former Straits Times journalist, Siva Govindasamy, reacting on Gee Siva! to objections expressed by Singaporeans living in Serangoon Gardens about having a dormitory for foreign workers located there, 7 September 2008:

"Stereotypes are well and truly alive in this modern multi-ethnic metropolis. We want our own space and are selective about which foreigners will be allowed into it, making a serious dent in the attempts to evolve into a tolerant multi-cultural society."


1. I have observed from time to time that Singaporeans are becoming increasingly intolerant in some ways. The angst that some Singaporeans express when foreigners move into their respective neighbourhoods, especially those issued work permits, is one example of this.

2. I have lived for the past decade in a neighbourhood with many foreigners, Taman Jurong in Singapore.

3. The presence of these foreigners has brought its own inherent opportunities and challenges. Efforts have been made to integrate both Singaporean and non-Singaporean communities. Community events that see the attendance of both these groups are a norm. The joint numbers have also helped some shops in the neighbourhood stay in the black. To allay residents' concerns about crime, there is also a visible police presence.

4. On balance, I would say it has made a neighbourhood that was once ignored as the appendix of Jurong a more vibrant and diverse place to live in.

5. Looking at the objections raised by the residents of Serangoon Gardens, which Siva has rebutted point-by-point, I would submit that the residents are just being selfish. It only reflects a Singaporean mentality that has become too used in looking to the Government for solutions to the extent of being pragmatically insensitive. We can be more accepting of differences in our society.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Donate Refund to Charity

I recently dined at a restaurant and had a less than positive experience.

I sent the relevant restaurant some feedback. The restaurant very kindly offered to waive the cost of lunch and refund me the amount spent.

As I was not comfortable accepting the refund for various reasons, I requested that the refund be donated to charity.

I think it is more important for the service provider to learn from the incident and put in place a system to better manage its customers, which the restaurant has assured that it will do.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Lunch at Supreme Court & Service Recovery


I had lunch this week with a friend at the Academy Bistro at the Supreme Court.

I had ordered chicken as the main course. About five minutes into the main course, I realised the meat was uncooked and bloody.

I sought the waiter's assistance and requested that the problem be rectified. The waiter said he will have the chef look into the matter. The same piece of chicken merely came back reheated.

I was then asked a second time if the food was okay. Unfortunately, the meat remained bloody. I made this known to the waiter but proceeded to complete the rest of the main course without eating the bloody parts.

Following the incident, the waiter on duty made it a point to apologise three times. This is commendable. First, when I first complained that the chicken was bloody. Second, when the main course was re-served and the waiter checked if everything was okay. Third, when I left the restaurant.

Saying sorry is only one aspect of service recovery. The overall service recovery attempt leaves much room for improvement.

Prices at the Academy Bistro are relatively high, if compared to restaurants of similar standing. At such a restaurant, the food would not have been reheated. A new dish would have been duly served.

If the new dish had still been unsatisfactory, an offer could have been made to either waive the charge for the particular course or the whole bill.

I hope corrective and preventive actions can be taken to address such situations.

The Academy Bistro feeds the legal fraternity. It is also host to many guests of the legal fraternity. Above all, it enjoys a privileged space in the iconic Supreme Court building.

It must therefore observe the high standards that one would expect from a valued member of the legal fraternity.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Singapore Chief Justice on Golf

Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong speaking at the welcome dinner of the inaugural ASEAN Law Association Judicial Cooperation Programme, 12 August 2006 -

I don’t play golf and so [I] have no understanding whatsoever of the passion that impels avid golfers to forever seek the perfect game, sometimes thousands of miles away from home to play at classic golf courses. I am also told that golf is a very self-directed game, in that a golfer does not compete with another golfer, but with himself. I suppose that is why golfers, who blame fate for every untoward event in their lives, feel personally responsible when they make a hole in one. I am also told that golf provides a good testing ground in civility and good manners. In primitive society, when native tribes beat the ground with clubs and yell, it is called witchcraft; in civilised society it is called golf.


1. I really like the comparison made between witchcraft and golf here. How times have changed indeed.

2. This blog will now carry a new section called "Quotable". This section will feature quotes that I find in my daily life that has left an impression on me and which I feel is worth sharing on this space. If necessary, I will leave an 'afterthought' about the quote featured. All credit for the quotes should of course go to the respective authors.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Journeying with strangers


A new friend recently reminded about an article I had written some time ago. She said it made an impression on her.

The interesting thing is that it's been some time since I wrote that article and it remains very relevant.

I continue to meet interesting people on the train.

For example, early this year, I met a retired engineer on the train. We see each other regularly. I still don't know his name. We have good conversations. He tells me about the places he has travelled to with his family. He tells me about his son who lives and works overseas. And he provides interesting perspectives on issues of the day.

These experiences have made some of my train journeys seem shorter but more meaningful.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Political Censorship Revisited

Three years ago, I argued that the Government had to rethink its policy on political films in Singapore.

At this year's National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong adopted some of the suggestions made.

I had premised then, "These moves would address the Government's concerns about the negative effect of party political films and its desire "to keep political debate in Singapore serious", while in the long run, also enrich our creative industries and make audiences more media savvy."

I stand by those views.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dealing with Young Offenders



Can you give us a general overview of the current legislation concerning juvenile delinquency?


A general overview of how our courts deal with juvenile offenders can be found here.

Please peruse the above website.

As you will see, our legal system clearly treats young persons differently from adults and our courts have various options to deal with young offenders.


We understand that, through statistics, juvenile delinquency has been on the rise for the past decade. We are proposing that the legislation regarding Juvenile delinquency be made harsher so as to reduce the number of juvenile crimes. Through research, we know that certain countries have adopted this method to reduce the Juvenile Crime Rate. For example, take the case of United States of America, [where juveniles can be tried as adults for certain serious crimes and where laws hold parents either criminally or civilly liable for their children's acts].

Q2. What is your opinion on our proposal that Singapore should also adopt similar methods to reduce her Juvenile Crime Rate?
Q3. What methods or changes to the legislation do you suggest to reduce Juvenile Delinquency?


As you will see from the website link provided in my earlier answer, our courts apply a number of methods to deal with offences involving juveniles. I think our policy-makers will tell you that we should be careful about transplanting the practices of other jurisdictions because what works elsewhere may not necessarily work in Singapore.

What I want to emphasise is different, a comment I made recently in a newspaper. By the time a young person ends up having to face the hammer of the court, it is often too late.

Young persons often display warning signals before they commit crimes. Safeguards should be placed in society to reach out to these young persons early in order to help them. Legislation and the courts cannot do this alone.

Dharmendra Yadav

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

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lawyers Still Have Space


The Law Society has long desired to see a change to a 22-year-old amendment that ended its powers to propose legislative reforms. Last week, it tried again when it responded to the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute’s report on Singapore.

The institute had said that the Law Society’s ability to comment on law reform was restricted by law and that the Society “is currently not fulfilling its mandate to speak out on law reform issues in Singapore”.

The Society emphasised that it “only has the powers conferred upon it by the Legal Profession Act” and that “it will welcome a change that allows it to initiate proposals for legal reforms”.

The Government stuck to its gun, arguing that the rationale for the current situation remains valid, which is essentially to prevent the Law Society from interfering in political matters.

But the issue does not have to be seen in such black-or-white terms. The Society can concentrate on matters affecting its members. Then, there are the goals of getting the public to understand legal issues better and maintaining the standards of the legal profession. One can argue that encouraging reflection on law reform issues falls within these other aims.

It is on this basis that Senior Counsel K S Rajah was able to argue that judges should be given some discretion when considering an offence that attracts the mandatory death penalty.

In 2003, he wrote that such a penalty could be unconstitutional because the Privy Council had found in another case that it infringed the protection against inhumane punishment. Although later, Singapore judicial decisions held otherwise, he further wrote in 2005 that “Singapore judges are made of sterner stuff and can be depended upon to pronounce the death sentence in a proper case”.

These articles, in turn, generated awareness and publicity about the issue in the media.

One can also argue that the Society is still free to comment on matters put up by the Government for public consultation since “the public” includes the Society.

Also, the limitation put on the Law Society has not prevented many legal practitioners from expressing their views on a range of issues. For example, lawyers Thomas Koshy and Mr Siew Kum Hong have from time to time raised law reform issues in this newspaper.

Lawyer N Sreenivasan was recently highly critical of the prosecution’s attempts to water down a court’s finding of acquittal. His view drew support from Judge of Appeal V K Rajah.

Lawyers have also been able to express their views through other groups that represent them.

For example, the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association, on its own initiative, presented its views to the Government on workplace safety and health legislation.

The Insurance Law Association (Singapore) had raised in its publication some concerns about difficulties faced by insurers in making payments to beneficiaries of insurance policies.

In 2005, the Monetary Authority of Singapore began to consider incorporating provisions in the Insurance Act to govern the nomination of beneficiaries. Draft legislation was eventually put up for public consultation last year.

Another important group is the Singapore Academy of Law, where Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong sits as senate president.

Here, there is a dedicated independent law reform agency: The Law Reform Committee (LRC) headed by Justice Judith Prakash.

The LRC has produced some papers that have led to changes in existing laws or the enactment of new legislation. For example, the LRC’s work in 2000 led to the introduction of the Limited Liability Partnerships Act in 2005, which has changed how some professional services firms operate in Singapore.

Early this year, members of the legal profession were invited to propose reforms for the LRC to look at. This is a powerful avenue for lawyers who wish to pursue a reform agenda.

The Ministry of Law has never declined “to receive comments and suggestions from the Law Society on specific legislation where it concerns the legal profession”.

The Society has stated that its “current relations” with the Government are “excellent”. Thus, it may wish to persuade the Government to direct other ministries to follow the example of the MinLaw by being as open to receiving the views of the society.

The Law Society can be pro-active in pursuing dialogues with ministries or key statutory bodies. Such regular meetings will encourage the relevant agencies to be more confident about seeking input from the Society.

In any case, the legal profession also enjoys a special position in Parliament. Several lawyers from both the ruling and opposition parties sit in the Legislature.

There is nothing to stop the Law Society from inviting these “lawyer-legislators” to meet lawyers on a regular basis for an exchange of views.

And there’s nothing to stop a lawyer who feels strongly about an important law reform issue from speaking up about it. It will not be unprecedented.

Dharmendra Yadav

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