Archive | August, 2012

S’poreans Have To Be Prudent & Realistic About Their Financial Means: Khaw

5 Aug

SINGAPORE: National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said given the existing financial climate, Singaporeans need to be prudent.

In buying houses, for an example, he said Singaporeans should buy within their means.

He made these points at the National Day Observance Ceremony in Sembawang GRC.

Singaporeans, especially second-time flat buyers, can count on the government to address their concerns.

Mr Khaw said he’s quite happy with progress made over the past one year.

He said first-time home buyers are now able to apply for a Build-to-Order (BTO) flat in a non-mature estate with relative ease.

“So now this year, I’ll be focusing on second-time (home buyers) and improve their chances. So the recent BTO, I’m looking at the subscription rates day by day and it’s quite healthy, but we will press on to build more to satisfy Singaporeans’ demand to catch up on the deficit in the last few years,” he explained.

He also stressed that Singaporeans should be realistic about their financial means.

“There’re now some gimmicks coming along, some banks offering 50 years’ (loan) so please don’t fall for that. It doesn’t make sense.

“If you want to immediately come out from school and want to get a five-room flat and think that a 50-year loan will help you achieve that, I don’t think that is very wise.”

And Mr Khaw said it’s a “good sign” that only very few people have opted for the 50-year loan.

“So I’ve been checking how many people take up this 50-year loan; as far as I gather, the number is very few, which I think is a good sign.”

Mr Khaw points out that Singaporeans should be realistic about their financial means.

“If your salary allows you to buy a three-room flat, buy a three-room flat. In 10 years’ time, if you continue to work hard, I’m sure your salary will grow, and then you can upgrade.

“Then by that time if Singapore economy is doing well, your three-room flat will fetch a better price, so with the improvement in the price of your three-room (flat) you can then upgrade.”

In conjunction with the National Day Observance Ceremony, Mr Khaw also launched a new resident patrol week in the constituency.

The programme will have more than 230 volunteers spreading fire safety messages for a week, starting 1 to 9 August, every year.

Sembawang GRC has one of the highest rates of public residential fires.

But with efforts targeting the problem, the numbers have slipped to 74 – from 80 in the previous quarter.

On a national scale, more than 800 public residential fires were reported from January to March this year.

This is about 60 cases more than last quarter.

– CNA/ck

Channel News Asia

Every Child Deserves Best Possible Help In Pre-School: Shanmugam

5 Aug

SINGAPORE – It’s common knowledge that middle-income parents are able to give their children a headstart. But how does Singapore make sure that other children, with fewer advamtages, also get “as best an education as possible even before they get into primary school”?

This was the question that Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam posed on Saturday night, at a National Day celebration dinner in Chong Pang.

“Our primary school system is very good, our secondary school system is very good, our universities are world class.

“I believe that the first six years are also extremely important, and we do a lot on the preschool system – but I personally believe that as a society, we can emphasise (the latter) even more,” he said.

In his speech at the dinner, the minister dwelt on two key fundamentals to Singapore’s success: Meritocracy and equality of opportunity. While these fundamentals do not change, the Government has to constantly re-examine whether its policies are consistent with the fundamentals, he said.

Singling out pre-school education, he said all children deserved it and should get the best possible help in their pre-school years. Every child from every background needs to be helped to achieve their full potential, Mr Shanmugam emphasised.

In an interview with TODAY earlier this week, Mr Shanmugam had also spoken of his “close interest” in pre-school education. In 2005, the Chong Pang PAP Community Foundation kindergarten piloted a programme – based on the Reggiano concept – to promote innovative thinking, curiosity and problem solving skills. He has raised over S$1 million to help subsidise the programme in his constituency.

The National Day celebration dinner on Saturday was attended by some 1,800 residents. Mr Shanmugam gave out bursary awards to 189 primary and secondary school students, in amounts ranging from S$50 to S$350. – CHANNEL NEWSASIA AND TAN WEIZHEN

Today Online

Olympics: Bolt Bids For Legend Status In Olympic 100m

5 Aug

LONDON: The men’s 100m at this Olympic Games has deservedly attracted more interest than all other track and field events and will be beamed live to hundreds of millions of viewers.

The attraction in large part comes down to the role played in the resurgence of athletics on a global level by Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, who won treble gold at the Beijing Games, notably the 100m and 200m, in then-world record times.

Athletics officials, fans and sponsors alike immediately took to Bolt’s ebullient, fun-loving character and obvious ability on the track, catapulting him to stardom as one of the most marketable personalities on the planet and lending the sport a massive boost in terms of public awareness.

The 100m here not only sees Bolt bidding to replicate his achievements in Beijing, but also the rise of tyro Yohan Blake alongside a strong US team seeking to reclaim the sprinting mantle long held by Americans.

“I’m always ready,” said Bolt. “It’s all about championships. I’ve had slight problems, but I’m ready to go.”

Fitness concerns, an early morning car crash and losing both the 100m and 200m to training partner and compatriot Blake at the Jamaican Olympic trials raised serious doubts about Bolt’s ability to defend his titles.

But Bolt said: “I’m going to focus on going out there to win.

“My back was a little stiff and it affected my hamstring but I’m over that. I’ve been training for the past two-and-a-half weeks and everything is all right.”

Blake has been tipped as a natural successor to Bolt since his victories in the trials, but the 22-year-old insisted he was focused not on Bolt or other runners, but solely on running his own race.

“My philosophy is that the sky’s the limit,” said Blake, crowned world champion in Daegu last year after Bolt’s sensational false start in the final.

“I’ve always wanted to be at the Olympics. It’s everyone’s dream.

“I’m not focusing on Usain. It’s all about going out there, focusing and executing the race.”

For the first time since the advent of electronic timing, the field for the blue riband event of the Games will comprise the four fastest men in history — Bolt, Blake, Jamaica’s Asafa Powell and American Tyson Gay.

Gay headlines a United States team seeking to re-assert their authority on sprint events.

Despite only having made his competitive comeback after 50 weeks on the sidelines in June, Gay expressed the wish his legs would hold up sufficiently to get him a place on the podium.

“My only hope is that my body’s ready to go,” said Gay, who needed surgery on his hip after pulling up injured at the Beijing Games.

“It’s a lot of pressure, I’m not going to lie. The missing piece in my heart is an Olympic medal.”

Gay’s teammate Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion, missed Beijing while serving a four-year doping ban.

However, he ran his fastest ever 100m in winning the US trials and warned his rivals: “There’s a lot left in the tank.

“I have been through some dark past. What has kept me going is the faith of my fans knowing I am a legitimate athlete. I’ve been tested multiple times since I have been back. I’m a clean athlete. I’m focused on that.”

– AFP/cc

Channel News Asia

NUS Prof In Sex-For-Grades Scandal To Remain In S’pore

5 Aug

SINGAPORE – The National University of Singapore (NUS) law professor embroiled in sex-for-grades allegations appeared in court yesterday afternoon to withdraw his application to leave the country.

Tey Tsun Hang’s lawyer Peter Low told the court that, two nights ago, Tey was informed by the university that, as he had been suspended from active duty, NUS “will not approve his sabbatical leave or leave for academic or other purposes”.

“NUS is (also) not able to support his application to leave jurisdiction to teach at Hong Kong University”, said Mr Low.

Tey was supposed to teach at the Hong Kong University from September to May next year. He had made plans and arrangements for the sabbatical since last May, added Mr Low. In March, the law faculty confirmed that approval had been given for Tey.

Yesterday, Tey read out a statement in Mandarin to reporters before he entered court, saying he would do his utmost to defend against the charges which he strongly believes have no legal basis. He also requested for fair reporting by the media.

Tey, 41, a former district judge, is alleged to have given his former student Darinne Ko Wen Hui better grades between May and July 2010, in return for sex on two occasions.

Besides allegedly receiving a S$740 Mont Blanc pen and tailor-made shirts, Ko also allegedly paid for one of Tey’s bills amounting to almost S$1,300.

Tey’s next court hearing is scheduled for Aug 23. If convicted, he faces up to five years in jail and a fine of up to S$100,000.

Today Online

Severe Punishment “Certain” For Those Guilty Of Corruption: K Shanmugam

5 Aug

SINGAPORE: Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam said that Singapore cannot completely eradicate fraud and bad conduct, even though it has created a system that is very clean and efficient by international standards.

Mr Shanmugam made these points in his speech at a National Day celebration dinner in Chong Pang on Saturday.

Mr Shanmugam highlighted meritocracy as a bedrock of Singapore’s system.

Noting that some people have questioned it due to the recent spate of corruption cases, the minister said that corruption and falling to temptation are basic vices that have existed since time immemorial.

“Like in all societies, and in Singapore as well, there have always been people who have been corrupt. There will always be people who will be corrupt,” Mr Shanmugam said.

“There will be people who, whatever rules you put in, they will look to find a way around the rules and they will fall for temptation. There is no society in the world, in the past or the present, where every person is totally clean.”

Mr Shanmugam warned that in the clean and corruption-free society of Singapore, wrong-doers will be exposed and punished regardless of who and how high they are, and that they will lose everything.

The minister added that Singapore is neither special nor superior, and that Singaporeans are also human.

But he stressed that the difference in Singapore is that correct conduct in public service is emphasised and required.

“In the last 55 years, the political leadership has emphasised moral rectitude and correct conduct in public service,” the minister said.

“If anyone breaches that, if anyone goes out of that, it is likely to be found out and severe punishment is certain for those who are guilty.”

Mr Shanmugam added that besides meritocracy, another key fundamental to Singapore was equality of opportunity.

The minister said that while these do not change, the government has to constantly re-examine whether its policies were consistent with the fundamentals.

He singled out per-school education, saying that all children deserved it and should get the best possible help in their pre-school years.

Every child from every background needs to be helped to achieve their full potential, Mr Shanmugam emphasised.

“Pre-school years are formative and highly important. Research is not conclusive whether there are superior academic outcomes as a result of pre-school, but what it does show is that generally in life, there are superior outcomes. People do better, they don’t get into trouble if they go to a good pre-school,” he said.

“The real question is if people, our children, are our only resources, can we afford not to make it a high priority item and invest heavily in pre-school?”

“Doing so, giving this opportunity to every child from every background will help their child fulfill his or her fullest potential and that’s consistent with meaning of equality of opportunity,” Mr Shanmugam added.

“How do we achieve it? For example, in schooling, it’s obvious middle-class parents, professional parents are able to give a lot of advantages to their children. Now we can’t prevent that, and we shouldn’t.”

The minister asked: “But, to what extent can we, as a society, make sure that other children also get as best an education as possible, even before they get into primary school?

“The first six years are very formative, and I personally am very passionate about this. I’ve raised a substantial sum of money, to try and do a good pre-school in Chong Pang, and I believe very strongly that … children, people are our only resource. We need to invest heavily in them.”

The National Day celebration dinner was attended by some 1,800 residents.

At the event, Mr Shanmugam also gave out bursary awards to 189 primary and secondary school students ranging from S$50 to S$350.

– CNA/wm

Channel News Asia

Olympics: Singapore To Face Japan In Table Tennis Team Semi-Finals

5 Aug

LONDON: Rivalries between the women paddlers of Singapore and Japan will be renewed at the London Olympics.

On Saturday night (Sunday morning, Singapore time), Singapore overcame North Korea 3-0 at London’s ExCel Arena to set up a semi-final clash with the Japanese on Sunday (Monday morning, Singapore time) in the women’s team event of the London Games’ table tennis competition.

Singapore had denied the Japanese a bronze medal in the women’s singles earlier this week after Feng defeated Kasumi Ishikawa in the third-place play-off, although the left-handed Japanese world No 6 had eliminated Wang from the women’s singles.

Japan, the competition’s second seeds, beat Germany 3-0 in the last eight.

And Singapore’s national women’s team assistant coach Jing Junhong believes the semi-final showdown will be another tense encounter.

“We are old rivals, and matches between us are always close affairs. We’ve a 50-50 chance,” said the former national player who reached the last four of the women’s singles at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Against the North Koreans, world No 11 Wang Yuegu got Singapore off to a strong start with a 3-1 (11-7, 11-9, 5-11, 11-5) win over Ri Myong Sun, before Feng Tianwei doubled the advantage by beating Kim Jong 3-1 (9-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-4).

It was left to Wang and Li Jiawei to seal victory with a 3-1 (4-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8) win in the doubles’ game over Kim and Ri Mi Gyong.

“I need to get ready for Japan, especially (Kasumi) Ishikawa as she is fast,” said Wang. “The selection of players will have an impact on the game. It’s important we can keep up with their speed.”

The other semi-final on Monday will see top seeds China against South Korea.

China swept aside the Netherlands 3-0 earlier on Saturday, while the South Koreans edged Hong Kong in a 3-0 victory.

In the men’s team event, Singapore beat Australia 3-0 to advance to the quarter-finals. Singapore will meet China on Sunday for a place in the semi-finals (1000 GMT).

Channel News Asia

Govt To Provide ‘Ladders For Success’

5 Aug

SINGAPORE – Even as he reassured Singaporeans that the young have a good future, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday outlined what the Government will do better to improve opportunities for everyone.

He said the Government will make opportunities more equal at an early stage in life, provide “ladders for success” to Singaporeans after they leave school, and improve the delivery of subsidies to older Singaporeans.

Speaking at his constituency’s National Day Dinner last night at Taman Jurong, Mr Tharman said Singapore’s situation is “not bad” to start with.

Almost eight in 10 Singaporean parents were confident that their children will do better than them when they grow up, he said, citing a recent survey commissioned by The Straits Times and reported on July 21. This is in contrast to a global survey by Pew Research Centre, released on July 12, which found fewer than half of American parents feel the same way, Mr Tharman noted.

In Europe and Japan, the Pew survey found that fewer than half of parents there are confident of their children doing better than themselves when they grow up.

Mr Tharman said that not everyone does well in school, and it was important to help young Singaporeans after they leave school.

“We still have in Singapore too much emphasis on academic credentials,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we provide ladders to success for everyone, including those who do not do well in school. And there’s more work to be done in this regard, by the employers and by all of us as customers and as society.

“We have to pay more respect to blue collar workers, give them pride in their jobs, pay them fairly and help them progress in their careers up to the highest level their skills can take them.”

Mr Tharman cited two employees he met on Thursday at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, who started out as waiters before subsequently upgrading themselves. One of them, Branden Chia, 31, attained his diploma and is now earning nearly three times the S$1,100 he started out with 12 years ago.

Some older Singaporeans have expressed concerns about low pay and healthcare costs, and Mr Tharman said the Government will help via increasing productivity and wages through the tripartite approach, via Workfare, and via the healthcare framework of Medisave, MediShield and Medifund.

“Many of them are still worried about their healthcare costs and we will improve how we deliver our subsidies, how we explain upfront how much they can receive, so they don’t have to worry so much before their treatments,” he said.

Today Online

Australia’s Tasmania May Allow Same-Sex Marriage

5 Aug

SYDNEY: The small island of Tasmania could become the first Australian state to allow same-sex marriage after Premier Lara Giddings said Sunday she backed legislation to permit it.

Giddings said she believed that a “tipping point” had been reached where more people were in favour of allowing gay marriage than were opposed to it.

“We are intending to… debate the legislation that is currently before the Tasmanian parliament, that would allow for marriage to occur between same sex couples here in Tasmania,” she said.

Tasmania was the last state in Australia to decriminalise homosexual sex when it did so in 1997, but Giddings said since then the lush island state had been progressive in its social reforms.

“Since then we’ve led the nation on significant relationships laws,” which broke down other discriminations against same-sex couples, she told Channel 7 television.

“And now we are leading the way on saying the time has come where the last bit of discrimination where the state is involved… should now be removed.”

Marriage is covered by federal legislation in Australia which defines it as between a man and a woman so while civil same-sex unions are recognised in five states, the couples are not seen as “married” by the national government.

Same-sex couples have, however, the same rights as heterosexual couples in areas such as pension schemes and medical benefits.

Giddings said she had received legal advice that Tasmania could press ahead with the reform.

“That’s not to say that it couldn’t be, or wouldn’t be, challenged down the track,” she said. “And of course if it ends up being challenged in the High Court, it will become a matter for the High Court to determine.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard opposes legalising same-sex marriages but will allow members of the national parliament a conscience vote on the matter and some, including Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, have said they will support it.

But because the conservative Liberal/National opposition will likely reject the legislation there is little prospect of the laws changing.

– AFP/ck

Channel News Asia

What Was PM Doing At Bishan Park?

5 Aug

SINGAPORE – The Prime Minister recorded his annual National Day Message at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park – which faces his Teck Ghee ward – yesterday morning.

This is the first time that Mr Lee Hsien Loong has recorded his message entirely at an outdoor location. The message will be broadcast on television on the eve of National Day.

Later in the day, Mr Lee posted a picture on his Facebook wall with an update: “Snapped at Bishan-AMK Park this morning. An impromptu audience watching me record my National Day Message.”

Within hours, Mr Lee’s post attracted more than 1,500 “likes” and more than 70 comments. Joni Chua, one of those who commented, wrote: “Cool. Going closer to the ground is a good approach in engaging the people. Like the idea. Look forward to the ND (National Day) msg.”

Catch the Prime Minister’s National Day message on Channel NewsAsia on Aug 8 at 6.45pm.

Today Online

Detentions As Vietnam Breaks Up Anti-China Protest

5 Aug

HANOI: Vietnamese police detained at least 20 people as they broke up a protest in Hanoi against Beijing’s territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea, witnesses said.

Demonstrators on Sunday were forced into waiting buses and taken to a rehabilitation centre usually used to detain sex workers and drug users, after attempting to gather in defiance of a heavy police presence, one detainee told AFP.

“There are at least 25 people here and there are arrestees elsewhere,” the person — who requested anonymity for security reasons — said by telephone from the Loc Ha detention centre.

Another eyewitness estimated that 20 people had been detained.

Before being forcibly dispersed, the activists shouted “Down with China’s aggression!” and waved Vietnamese flags and banners.

The protest is the fourth such rally in just over a month to be staged by activists in Hanoi. There were no arrests at the previous three.

The demonstrations come at a time of rising regional tensions over the South China Sea, which is believed to contain vast oil and gas deposits.

Hanoi and Beijing have a long-standing territorial dispute over the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which both countries claim, and frequently trade diplomatic barbs over oil exploration and fishing rights.

Relations between the pair have soured recently, with Vietnam attracting China’s ire last month after it adopted a law that places the Spratlys under Hanoi’s sovereignty.

China’s state-backed China National Offshore Oil Corp. also said it was seeking bids for exploration of oil blocks in disputed waters — a move slammed by Vietnam.

Vietnam, a one-party Communist state, last year allowed a number of anti-China rallies to go ahead without interference, but later clamped down, briefly detaining dozens of people.

China says it has sovereign rights to the whole South China Sea, which also has major international shipping routes. The sea is also subject to overlapping claims by Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.

– AFP/ck

Channel News Asia