A great note on local TV, not so sure about film

Here is a very angry but insightful article about the TV/Film industry. It is a depressing read, especially if you are already in the industry or even worse, about to enter the industry. I do not agree with everything that's being said. Especially on local films. Mentorship is a privilege, not every filmmaker is obligated to mentor, especially if they themselves are already struggling financially (oops , this makes it more depressing ain't it?) My personal take is not that there is no money but the 'cheaper, better, faster' motto among production houses and the 2 big media conglomerates needs to change. Here are some excerpts form the article.


On cameramen and crew
...So you have a producer (who is already busy enough) wasting their time shooting an e-mail to a DOP with scripts and storyboards attached and then having them show up on set, asking the producer or director, “Eh, what is this scene about?”....

On local production houses
...Lately, the ugly picture is that many of the owners of such places play a dirty game of squeezing everyone they hire to get a show out on-air and keep the rest of the money in a fixed security deposit or invested in a new condo and/or luxurious car....

On censorhsip (I like this one)
...Our fear of showing what’s real about Singapore or dealing with sensitive issues in documentaries or films is costing us a lot. It’s costing us talent that decide to quit the industry early because there is no long-term development or support in terms of subjects filmakers/TV producers are allowed to portray....

On having to pay foreign experts to say the same things that we could say
...They are also bogged down by the Asian mentality that one must not challenge the ideas or visions of someone sitting at the top. There is no one with ground level experience to fight the powers or expand on their thinking unless it’s some unbelievably highly paid consultant from the US or the UK who has been specially flown down to our shores to suddenly miraculously open the minds of these high-ranking incumbents, at the taxpayer’s expense....

And no amount of money or seminars can help us unless we cleanse the industry of incumbents who really do not know what media is about. It is also useless to call upon the expertise of consultants from developed countries whose intrinsic cultures are based on democracy, freedom of speech and thought that allows for such highly sophisticated modes of creativity... 


AirAsia X IPO

I still stand firm with my intention to boycott AirAsia...and that includes to not subscribe to its IPO of AirAsia X.

I am impressed, though, at how well the writer of the Star making use of the Singapore Airlines' plans to start a long-haul budget carrier to relate to the so-called credibility of AirAsia X's business model.

These ignorant, greedy-for-recognition people are still claiming they're the originator of a long-haul budget carrier? Sigh. Google for 'Sir Freddie Laker", will you?! Or check out the Wikipedia article about him.

Singapore Airlines' plans to start a long-haul budget carrier have added credibility to AirAsia X's business model and augurs well for the latter's proposed initial public offering (IPO) exercise.

“SIA would have studied this plan extensively before deciding to embark on it. The plans will definitely help us with our IPO and will give us credibility - there is a market for running a long-haul low-cost airline,” AirAsia X Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani told StarBiz.

AirAsia X is most likely to appoint its IPO advisers next month to raise between RM900mil and RM1bil.

“What is important now is that we do not lose our four-year lead as an airline we cannot lose our first-mover advantage. Now is not the time to scuttle and not grow; key issues that need to be addressed include route approvals and key infrastructure like KLIA2 (the new low-cost carrier terminal) being up and running on time,” he said.

Azran said it was vital for AirAsia X to fully capitalise the next 12 months (before SIA's new airline starts operation) and grow as quickly as it could.

According to data compiled by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, SIA recorded a passenger growth of some 11% over the past decade, having transported 16.6 million passengers as at the end of its fiscal year on March 2011. Meanwhile, Changi airport grew 32% over the decade, recording 42 million passengers as at end last year.

Changi's growth was not led by SIA, which had seen its market share erode from 50% to 35% in the last three years. Other airlines, notably low-cost carriers, had helped Singapore's airport grow.

While Changi grew 13% to 42 million passengers last year (year-on-year), KL International Airport grew 14.8% to 34.1 million passenger in 2010 from a year ago.

A local analyst pointed out that Changi's traffic growth rate was lagging behind Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, and if the momentum continued, Changi would be a smaller airport in the next five years and could lose its prominence as the hub of the region.

“Malaysia needs to realise that we have a head start (in LCC space). AirAsia has shown that you can succeed where there is competition. For instance, there were concerns when Tiger Airways was launched but AirAsia has continued to grow and succeeded,” said Azran.

SIA wanted to establish a new no-frills, low-fare airline operating wide body aircraft on medium and long-haul routes. The move was to help the group serve a largely untapped new market and cater to the growing demand among consumers for low-fare travel, following an extensive review and analysis.

To be operational in a year, it will be wholly-owned by SIA but operated independently and managed separately from SIA.

“As we have observed on short-haul routes within Asia, low-fare airlines helped stimulate demand for travel, and we expect this will also prove true for longer flights,” SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong said in a statement.

Analysts have mixed views on SIA branching out into the long-haul low cost model.

Kim Eng Securities said in a report that SIA was well-suited to run a budget airline as the airline has been very cost conscious despite its premium branding.

“Other than technical know-how and operating experience, having SIA as a parent brings several advantages, such as bulk purchasing and cheap funding,” the report said.

While some overlap on routes could be expected, budget airlines could create their own market of new travellers and SIA was unlikely to risk its profitable branding on its own premium product, Kim Eng added.

However, OSK Research expects SIA's long-haul budget airline to be value destructive to SIA's premium branding and would potentially dilute yields. “A key to succeeding in the low-cost business is generating passenger volume and we believe this could succeed for shorter haul routes as revenue and high margins are primarily driven by ancillary income initiatives,” it said.

Although Australia's Qantas Airways has successfully differentiated its LCC product with subsidiary Jetstar, there were airlines that have attempted similar feats such as Oasis Hong Kong, but failed due to their inability to shift to a low-cost base structure.

“SIA may face this hurdle although we think the group stands a better chance of succeeding compared with Malaysia Airlines given its tight cost discipline,” OSK Research said.

From the Star, "AirAsia X IPO gets a boost".

Just over half a decade ago it was hard to predict that travellers would be able to fly long haul destinations like London, Paris, Christchurch, Melbourne, Tokyo and even Tehran at a fraction of the cost that premium airlines charged.

Today that has become a reality. Hopefully in the near to medium term more destinations are added to budget-carrier AirAsia X's (AAX) network so that travellers can fly far and wide on this long haul low-cost carrier.

Route expansion is a vital component for AAX and key to its sustainability. Without government approvals for new routes, its growth will be hampered. It needs both primary and secondary routes and this is what potential shareholders will scrutinise if they were to invest in this airline which is planning an initial public offering (IPO).

AAX will be the first long haul low-cost carrier to be listed on a stock exchange but the IPO has been postponed to next year. Originally the plan was to list in the second half of this year. This airline has access to key Asia-Pacific markets, Europe and eventually Middle East and the United States.

Soaring crude oil prices that has pushed jet fuel prices to US$140 a barrel is a factor to the delay and hence its route expansion.

"To have a successful IPO you need to show the prospective shareholders that your financial results are very promising. It is no secret that soaring fuel prices are crippling profits margins and that remain a challenge.

"AAX also needs to let its operations mature to show good results so that it would lead to a better story telling," said an analyst with Maybank Investment Bank.

Analysts are also predicting a turbulent year for airlines this year due to soaring jet fuel prices and they see a u-turn in prices in the near to medium term.

Passenger numbers may be strong but the imposition of higher fuel surcharges and fares to combat rising cost will cause travellers to delay travel plans.

The International Air Transport Association (which has 230 airlines as its members) released data showing a 2% traffic loss by Asia-Pacific carriers in March compared with February. This led to a sharp 2.3% fall in load factor to 74.2%.

So, delaying the IPO may be apt, said an analyst.

AAX has yet to appoint investment bankers. It may do so soon and the plan is to list on Bursa Malaysia and have a dual listing on a foreign exchange, possibly bourses in Hong Kong, the US or Europe.

How much they will raise will depend the valuations and over 1bil ringgit (US$328mil) in valuation is not surprising.

AAX CEO Azran Osman-Rani had said the amount raised would be similar in size to that of its sister airline AirAsia in 2004, which received 863mil ringgit from the sale of 700.51 million new and existing shares.

The listing will be a test case and it would be closely watched by global airlines simply because it is rare that a long haul low cost carrier can sustain for so many years and still create waves when so many others have failed miserably.

The idea of the long haul low-cost carrier was conceptualised and announced on Jan 5, 2007 amid widespread belief that such a model was doomed for failure. It also came about at a time when the world's first low-cost long haul carrier Oasis of Hong Kong (which offered flights from Hong Kong to London via Gatwick) collapsed.

But the promoters of AAX which included the flamboyant Tony Fernandes just went ahead despite the scepticism.

Fernandes said: "No one has looked hard enough at the model. That's how new businesses are built. In time you shall see. They can succeed but we aren't going to tell all now. Time will tell."

What AAX did was to replicate AirAsia's proven short haul model, despite scepticisms that it was not workable for long haul operations.

AAX capitalised on the AirAsia branding, its scale, had access to AirAsia's feeder traffic and operations and catered for the demand of the middle class population since premium class travel was expensive.

"It was an opportunity and they saw it," said an analyst.

Fernandes and his long time friend Kamaruddin Meranun are founding members of AAX and AirAsia - an airline which has created a strong name for itself in the global aviation market place.

AirAsia was designed to cater to markets that were within the four-hour flying range.

AAX's inaugural flight was to Gold Coast, Australia in November 2007. It had to then lease aircraft but there has been no turning back though the fight for routes remained its biggest challenge.

It is still fighting to fly into the controversial KL-Sydney and KL-Jeddah routes, which are primary routes but it has been told to add more secondary points before having access to these routes.

A year after AAX was formed, Fernandes got Virgin Group boss Sir Richard Branson to invest in AAX, Today, AeroVentures Sdn Bhd hold 52% in AAX, AirAsia 16%, Virgin's interest is held by Corvina Holdings (10%), Orix Corp of Japan (11%), and Manara Malaysia Ltd (11%).

AAX flies to 15 destinations - Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth, New Dehli, Mumbai, Hangzou, Tianjin, Chengdu, Taipeh, Tokyo, Seoul, Tehran, London, Paris, and Christchurch.

The recent earthquakes in Japan and Christchurch did not deter the airline's efforts to connect people even though it affected its load factor as demand was lower.

On the radar screens are destinations like Busan, Sydney, Jeddah, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Istanbul, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the US.

AAX boss Azran Osman-Rani has resigned to the fact that "we just have to wait patiently for the rights."

AAX operates a fleet of 11 aircraft, of which nine are A330s and two A340s. To cater for future growth it has committed and paid deposits for 30 aircraft, comprising 17 A330-300s, 10 A350s and three A330-200s.

It has delayed taking delivery of aircraft this year but will take two in the middle of next year. Some of these aircraft are more fuel efficient compared with others that are flying across the globe now.

Those who travelled on this airline loved the pricing the airline offerred although for the leg room in the economy class was slightly smaller than that of premium airlines. However, its XL seats are a favourite among travellers that prefer some kind of comfort at a fraction of the cost of a business class seat on a premium airline.

The airline flew 1.92 million passengers last year and hoped to carry 2.7 million in 2011.

Does the long haul low cost model work?

The proof is in the financial results and for financial year ended Dec 31, 2010, AAX recorded a net profit of RM81mil, which translated into a 14% return on equity and its core operating profit was RM52mil.

The challenge of getting routes and managing margins due to high jet fuel prices are real but the biggest winner are Fernandes and Kamarudin.

He will certainly be laughing all the way to the bank for he has three IPOs planned this year - AAX, Thai AirAsia and Indo AirAsia. Of the three, getting AAX listed will not just be a major coup but he would once again get to prove the skeptics wrong.

From Yahoo! News, "COMMENTARY: AirAsia X's IPO an eye-opener".

Dr Tan Cheng Bock will be the next President, thanks to Lim Boon Heng & Inderjit Singh...


The above screenshot is from YouTube clip, "Lim Boon Heng cried on his last appearance as a PAP MP- 11Apr2011".

Mr Lim Boon Heng, the retired minister was quoted to say that he feels Singaporeans would prefer a President 'not so closely related to PAP'. He also expressed his doubt about the President wannabe Dr Tan Cheng Bock 'fully meets the bill'. He implied that Dr Tan Cheng Bock might not be the best person (to be the President) as he stated his hope 'that other capable Singaporeans will come forward so that the country could pick the best person'.

His 'negative' endorsement on Dr Tan Cheng Bock might have done the latter good actually.

See, it's kind of using reverse psychology when one said one thing to steer another person to do the opposite.

Especially as only over last weekend, PAP MP like Inderjit Singh declared that it's going to be 'awkward' to have Dr Tan in the Presidential race. Mr Singh suggested that "for Presidential Elections, there's always been a candidate that the Government supports ... it's quite clear that we will be fully behind this person". And yes, 'this person' is clearly not referring to Dr. Tan.

Aww, Dr Tan is being an underdog now?

We LOVE underdogs!

Given the current sentiment among the electorate, Singaporeans might prefer a President who is not so closely linked to the People's Action Party (PAP), retired minister Lim Boon Heng said yesterday when asked about former PAP MP Tan Cheng Bock's bid to run for the Elected Presidency.

The former Minister in the Prime Minister's Office said he read the news of Dr Tan's intention with "very, very mixed feelings".

Both Mr Lim and Dr Tan were first elected to Parliament in the 1980 General Election (GE). They were parliamentary colleagues for 26 years before Dr Tan stepped down from politics prior to the 2006 GE. Mr Lim retired from the political scene before the recent GE.

Speaking at the sidelines of a People's Association event, Mr Lim said: "My sense is that people would prefer if there were someone who can be a strong unifying symbol for Singaporeans, who's not so closely related to the PAP."

While there could be exceptions, he added: "I don't know whether Dr Tan Cheng Bock, in spite of his independent streak of thinking and expression of views, fully meets the bill."

Mr Lim said he hopes that other capable Singaporeans will come forward so that the country could pick the "best person for the current climate that we have".

From Today, "S'poreans might prefer a President 'not so closely related' to PAP: Lim Boon Heng".

News that his former comrade-in-arms Tan Cheng Bock, 71, has declared his intention to run for President caught veteran backbencher Inderjit Singh off guard.

The Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) told Today: "For Presidential Elections, there's always been a candidate that the Government supports ... it's quite clear that we will be fully behind this person so it will be very awkward (to have Dr Tan in the contest)."

His fellow People's Action Party MP, Mdm Halimah Yacob, was also surprised, although she felt that it was not something "completely unexpected".

"I know that Cheng Bock is a very passionate person who holds very passionate views about things," she said.

The PAP Government has yet to unveil the candidate, if any, it is endorsing. Notwithstanding other individuals who may throw their hats into the ring, Dr Tan's potential candidacy will rekindle memory of the last contested Presidential Election in 1993, which incidentally also saw a contest between two establishment figures.

Then, Mr Ong Teng Cheong stepped down as Deputy Prime Minister to run against bureaucrat-turned-banker Chua Kim Yeow.

But political watcher Eugene Tan pointed out: "(Dr Tan's) very independent-minded as an MP and had his own differences with the Government ... So despite his long ties with the ruling party, voters would be able to look past his label."

Incidentally, Dr Tan's independent streak also drew comparisons among observers with the late Mr Ong. Former Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong noted Dr Tan's "proven track record of speaking his mind even if it went against the party".

The most recent Presidential Election in 2005 saw presidential hopeful Andrew Kuan - a former group chief financial officer of JTC Corporation - putting his name forward. JTC Corporation subsequently called a press conference in which it described Mr Kuan's work performance as unsatisfactory - an assertion which was rebutted by Mr Kuan.

Ultimately, the Presidential Elections Committee considered Mr Kuan ineligible for the election. It felt his seniority and responsibility as JTC's group CFO were not comparable to those required under the Constitution.

Speaking to Today, Dr Tan said he was not worried about any potential attacks on his track record.

"For 26 years, I've served as an MP and nobody has thrown mud at me. I've been doing my job," he said.

Dr Tan had resigned from the PAP earlier this month, ending decades of association with the ruling party. Asked how he feels about potentially running against a PAP-endorsed candidate, Dr Tan said: "The better man would win, that's all. This election is not about politics, it's about which candidate voters feel will be able to fulfil the main tasks of a President, which is to guard our reserves and to appoint the top echelons of Government servants."

Adding that the recent General Election has polarised Singapore society, he said: "The President should be a unifying figure for all Singaporeans of whatever political affiliation, race or religion."

Speaking to 938Live yesterday, Dr Tan reiterated that his "affiliation with the PAP is not an advantage".

He said: "I've said many things which my party doesn't agree but I think I have to say it. So Singaporeans have to judge me slightly differently."

He added that it was important for any presidential hopeful to declare his or her intentions early.

"I want to be an open book for Singaporeans to examine me," said Dr Tan, "I set up the blog, Facebook ... I let the young people study me - to do that, I've some videos of what I've done in the past ... I assume all the young people have never heard of Tan Cheng Bock."

From Today, "PAP MPs surprised Dr Tan might run for President". (28/05/11)

No Halal Beer, please! You're Muslims & you're in Malaysia...

Not Halal Beer, anyone? | Photo source


Learning a new thing everyday! Today it's about 'halal beer'. For the ignorant consumers (like I am), apparently consuming beer is not forbidden by Islamic law, as long as the content is permissible--not exceeding 0.01 per cent alcohol content.

The so-called halal beer currently sold in Malaysia apparently has alcohol content about 0.5 per cent!

I am more curious to see (and perhaps taste) this halal beer. I'm trying to google for 'halal beer in Malaysia' at least to find out what the brand is.

By the way, for comparison purpose, the leading non-halal beer in Singapore, Tiger Beer has alcohol content of 5%. And the usual accompanying adjective for that 5% figure is 'moderate'. Heh.

Oh, did I mention about The World Muslim Consumer Association Blog has this interesting post, "Halal Beer Today… What’s Tomorrow; Halal Pork?"? They have photos of what I suspect as halal beer. Wait a minute, there's a brand mentioned (in the photo at least): Behnoush.

They dare to claim 'Non-Alcoholic'?!


MUSLIMS in the country are being advised against drinking a type of beer claimed to be 'halal' (permissible) by the distributor because the beverage has been found to contain a higher alcohol content than permitted by Islamic law.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said the company's claim that the beer contained only 0.01 per cent of alcohol was not true as a laboratory test showed up 0.5 per cent of alcohol.

He said the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) and the state Islamic affairs councils would prohibit the sale of the beverage to Muslims.

'We will consult the Royal Customs Department to seek more information on the matter,' he told reporters after closing a 'Juara Rakyat' programme organised by Padang Serai Umno at the Sungai Karangan public field near on Saturday evening.

A newspaper had reported on Saturday that the 'halal' beer was popular among Muslims and its sale was detected by the Johor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIJ) recently.

The daily had quoted a source as saying that JAIJ took samples of the beverage and found that the drink was produced from various fruit flavours and the alcohol content was 0.5 per cent.

From Straits Times, "Muslims in M'sia advised against drinking halal beer".



Muslims in Malaysia should avoid consuming a brand of beer claimed to be halal as it contains more alcohol than is permitted, a minister in the Prime Minister's Office said.

Mr Jamil Khir Baharom said that despite claims by the distributor that the beer only had 0.01 per cent alcohol content, laboratory tests showed that it contained as much as 0.5 per cent alcohol.

"We will refer (the matter) to the Royal Malaysian Customs Department to get a better picture," Mr Jamil Khir told reporters yesterday.

He added that the Malaysia Department of Islamic Development together with state Islamic councils will take steps to stop the sale of the beer to Muslims.

"I advise Muslims to stop consuming the drink so as to not get trapped in a confusing situation," Mr Jamil Khir said.

It is understood that the sale of "halal" beer, which is becoming more popular with Muslims, was detected by the Johor Islamic Department recently.

The department took samples of the beer to be tested and found that the drink, which comes in several fruit flavours, had a 0.5 per cent alcohol content.

Johor Mufti Mohd Tahrir Samsuddin said the National Fatwa Council had ruled that alcohol content in food and drink should not exceed 0.01 per cent. He said Muslim scholars fixed alcohol content at that level as alcohol could sometimes be produced naturally in food and drink.

The beer, said to be imported from the Middle East, is widely sold in cafes in Malaysia for RM3 (S$1.20) to RM5 a bottle. The Malaysian Insider.

From Today, "M'sia's Muslims advised not to drink 'halal' beer".

Cat mom hugs baby kitten: "There would be lasting peace purr on Earth".


Incredibly...cute! And amazing how this video, "Cat mom hugs baby kitten" which was uploaded to YouTube only 3 days ago (26 May) has gathered 9,740,389 views!

By the way, some part of the title of this post is influenced by Michael Learns To Rock's Sleeping Child. Enjoy!


Pink Profile: Oogachaga

It's not easy being gay in Singapore, but there is a whole bunch of people working towards making this country a more open-minded and harmonious home for all Singaporeans. This is the first in a series of profiles of local LGBT organisations. We talk to the everyday heroes who make Singapore a better place person by person, day after day. These groups will also have a booth (or a picnic mat) at Pink Dot 2011, so come by and say hi!


OOGACHAGA

Who they are: A counselling and social service group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and curious individuals.
What they do: Counselling services and support group events, which are run by a pool of volunteers and volunteer counsellors. They have 60 volunteers, 12 who are counsellors and 4 full-time staff.
When was it set up: 1999 by Jason Wee, Steve Wong and Kenneth Lau.
How to get in touch:
Email: contact@oogachaga.com



[Snapshot]

Singapore's only LGBT organisation that offers counselling services as well as over the phone and email, Oogachaga is also known for its support groups that hold weekly activities, such as the Mature Men Project. They have launched an annual guide What's Out There, a resource list for lesbian, gay, transgendered, bisexual and curious people in Singapore.





[Q&A]

Pink Dot chats with Oogachaga centre manager Bryan Choong, 34, on why he gave up his cushy career as an airforce specialist to go into social service.

When did you first get involved with Oogachaga?

Since I was 24, I've always been involved in community service as a volunteer. But nothing beats being able to make a change within your own community. I first got involved in Oogachaga in 2005 when I joined their support group sessions, then was roped in as a volunteer, and helped out ever since. In June 2009, joined Oogachaga as a full-time staff.


Why do you think support services are important?

Our team of 12 counsellors held about 230 counselling sessions last year with 80 clients. Our hotline, which is open on Tues to Thurs and Saturdays, held 400 chats. Demand is strong. Our rates are competitive as well, about $40 per session and $60 per couple per session.

I think that Oogachaga offers a space for people who don't like to club but like being social. Our events are about building friendships in a non-clubbing scene and in a non-sexual environment.
A lot of what we talk about are issues close to ourselves, e.g. coming out to family, friends, sexual health and the community.


What's in the future of Oogachaga?

Our aim is to be recognised as a leading social service agency that is catered for the LGBT community, as well as a training institute for people to learn about sexuality. We also want to reach out to more Singaporeans as well as to talk to social service centres and engage them in dealing with LGBT issues.


Is it hard getting the cooperation of social service centres?

Not at all. A lot of this is based on fear. The people we work with from social service centres are not homophobic, it's a misconception. Last year, we spoke to more than 50 social service professionals in Singapore.


What are you wearing to Pink Dot this year?

Pink! I'll also be wearing an Oogachaga signboard so you can recognise us easily.




Universal Studios Singapore Grand Opening ... and i'm missin' it!!

How could I miss the yesterday Universal Studios Singapore Grand Opening?!?! So much for marking it on my calendar. Sigh.

A lot of photo ops on this grand event. Darn. Now I can only enjoy the second-hand photos (still great shots, though!) from Straits Times photo gallery here.

It's very encouraging to see how the news travel to India. Check out the Times of India article, "India will have to wait for a movie studio theme park". Partially quoted:

However Indian film studios are aspiring to build their own theme parks on the lines of the Universal Studios especially Film City Mumbai for which they have been in consultation with the studio. Tom Williams, CEO of Universal Theme Park said, "Discussions are on, but it will be a while before India is ready for a theme park. It is imminent though."


Malaysian My Sinchew has this to report in "Universal Studios significant for Singapore's tourism landscape":

Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang said Sentosa has developed different leisure and entertainment zones to cater to diverse interests and the opening of Resorts World Sentosa, including Universal Studios Singapore, would add to the "buzz" on the island.


It sure adds 'buzz', alright!

So have you gone to Universal Studios Singapore already? ;)


Universal Studios Singapore website tickets



About 1,600 guests attended a star-studded red carpet event to mark Universal Studios Singapore's grand opening on Friday.

They included international celebrities, as well government officials and prominent business people.

Some of the celebrities who turned up include Jet Li, Vicki Zhao, Maggie Cheung as well as former American Idol judge Paula Abdul.

Cheung also told the media what she's been up to lately.

"I'm actually enjoying myself, learning new things and doing a few things outside of acting because I feel if I ever wanted to achieve anything else but acting, I have to start now," said the Hong Kong actress.

Ex-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was slated to be at the event, but reportedly terminated his presence, so he could focus on domestic issues back at home.

American Idol star Fantasia Barrino also cancelled on her appearance.

Her judge in the past, Paula Abdul, who did make a showing, earlier held a press conference and spoke about American Idol season 10 winner, Scotty McCreery.

She said: "What you probably don't know is that I guessed the winner - from eight seasons since I was there, I guessed six of the eight winners. I put my answers on a self-addressed envelope and get it notarised, and I have so much fun going look who I picked!"

From Channel NewsAsia, "Star-studded opening for Universal Studios Singapore".

Felixia Yeap: the first MALAYSIAN Playboy bunny!!



China Press reported that Malaysian model Felixia Yeap (Felixia Yeap Chin Yee) has become a Facebook sensation after she became the first Malaysian Playboy bunny at the Macau Playboy Club at Sands Macao--the only Playboy Club in Asia.

See the above two photos (Source from the Net; just google for 'felixia yeap'), it's hard to imagine such a face that potentially can also launch a thousand ships (Sorry, Helen of Troy!) is now famous as the first Malaysian playboy bunny. No, let's not stress on the word 'first', but on the word 'Malaysian'.

Malaysia, truly boleh!

It's easier to visualise her wearing an innocent, say, Mickey Mouse t-shirt & becomes the first Malaysian Minnie for Disney's House of Mouse.

Photo source here


Hey, I don't mean to criticize her severely! I mean, who would have the heart to do so, what, with such an innocent face.

Yet, this latest news of her being the first Malaysian Playboy bunny is really undoing her achievement so far! Felixia Yeap was one of the top 18 finalists of the last year Miss Universe Malaysia! And in her blog as the contestant, she showed so much potential as she expressed her thought as clear as her crystal eyes.

Felixia Yeap - Miss Universe Malaysia 2010 blog


Pity the crown went to Nadine Ann Thomas.

And instead of tiara, Felixia Yeap chose to don a Playboy bunny ears, instead. Oh, Felixia! Whatever did you think?? That's not the appropriate way to "represent the country you are proud of, Malaysia..."!

Her other accomplishments is for sure eclipsed by her latest fame of being the 1st Malaysian Playboy bunny.

So much for being a finalist in the TV reality show, "I Wanna Be A Model (Season 3)" when she's just 19 years old...

So much for being the 1st runner-up for Miss Chinese World Malaysia 2006...

So much for being listed in the Hall of Fame for Miss Malaysia Tourism 2007...

So much for being a finalist for FHM Girl Next Door 2009...

So much for winning the title as VelocityAngels Model Of The Year 2009...

So much for winning the Panasonic Lumix Star Of The Year 2010 (and thus, being the first official prominent ambassador for the Lumix series in Malaysia)...

Well, in retrospect, one shouldn't be unduly shocked with her being the Playboy bunny as she was once quoted to say:

“One of the biggest reasons I love beaches is because I get to wear really tiny bikinis and run around in public - provided I don’t get in trouble with the law.”
From The Star, "A model who loves lingeries, stilettos and cats".


I guess, the more appropriate question now is whether or not she'll get in trouble with the law once she's back to Malaysia.

After all, this is Malaysia we're talking about.

Annie Yi Nengjing nude photo ... but sorry, not during singing

Scroll down to the end of this article to see the photo of not only her without any clothes on, but also two other beautiful ladies.

The angelic Annie Yi Neng Jing denies that she is the young girl singing nude in a see-through dress. (Wait a minute, it's kinda paradox, isn't it? Nude but in a see-through dress? Hmm...)

Anyway, this is not the first time this Taiwan singer-actress is sensationalised in the media. Some time in November 2008, Annie Yi Nengjing asked media to stop publishing 'untrue' reports. The 'untrue' reports refer to Annie's troubled marriage to Taiwan pop singer Harlem Yu Chengqing after the paparazzi photographed her strolling hand-in-hand with Taiwan actor Victor Huang Weide on the streets of Beijing.

I agree with her. It's definitely untrue. How can such an angelic person be involved in that untruth?! After all this is the same Annie Yi Nengjing who posed nude for Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign in 2006.


Annie Yi Neng, Chinese actress Jiang Qingqing & Hong Kong actress Wu Junru


Taiwan singer-actress Annie Yi Neng Jing has come forward to deny her involvement in clips from a video DVD, showing a young girl singing nude in a see-through dress that have gone viral on the Internet in recent weeks, reported Channel News Asia.

Yi held a press conference to clarify matters in Taiwan on Saturday, reported Taiwan media.

Taiwan tabloid "Next" last week claimed the girl in the video, which looks to have been recorded in 1986, "closely resembled" her in her teenage years.

"I am very sure that (the woman in the video clip) is not me," Yi told reporters.

Yi said the article in "Next", which contained screenshots from the clip, violated her rights as it linked her to the woman in the clip and tarnished her reputation.

She explained that it may have also violated child protection laws because the woman in the video clip appeared to be under-age.

The 42-year-old singer-actress, who separated from ex-husband, Taiwan singer Harlem Yu in 2009, expressed that she had since instructed her lawyers to send a letter to the tabloid.

She left after speaking for just three minutes, leaving her lawyers to answer queries from the media.

When asked why she left so quickly after speaking, Yi said it was simply because she was too angry and did not want to act out in front of the media.

"There was this anxiety borne of rage. I was very afraid I would disgrace myself in public," Yi later told Chinese media.

"I have decided not to overlook hurtful reports about me. Regardless of how remote the possibility of it harming me, I will seek legal redress."

In addition to her own rights, Yi said she decided to speak out in order to defend the rights of the girl featured in the video.

Responding to the statements Yi made at the press conference, a "Next" spokesperson said Yi had "no basis for claiming the girl was underage since she (Yi) is not the girl in question".

The spokesperson re-iterated that the publication "only suggested that the girl resembled Yi but did not say it was her".

From Yahoo! News, ""Not me in the video!"".



It's her in the video! But not as the young girl nude in a see-through dress!


Presidential Election: Tan vs Tan?

The Tan-s here are referring to former MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock, former MP and former chief of NTUC Income, Mr Tan Kian Lian.

The former (too many 'former'-s ya?) has indicated that he may be a candidate in the coming presidential election. And yes, there are a few articles about it in his blog.

The latter had earlier said he was keen, he declined comment when contacted by CNA on Friday. And no, he didn't say anything yet in his blog (Tan Kian Lian's blog).

Let's ask hypothetically who you prefer to be the President?

I'd say it will be Dr Tan Cheng Bock. I like his calm YouTube video, "Dr Tan Cheng Bock's view on the naming of Ng Teng Fong Hospital".



To be fair, though, the video of Mr Tan Kian Lian during the last election rally is more popular than that of Dr Tan Cheng Bock.

The video is titled, "Tan Kin Lian: 3 Scenarios for Singapore after GE". It has gathered 9,149 views (as per today 9:54 PM) compared to Dr Tan Cheng Bock's 2,596 views.



See why I prefer the soothing style of Dr Tan?

No, dammit! I don't intend to be sarcastic. I strongly and genuinely believe a President ought to radiate a sense of calmness when he speaks. Which is not evident from Mr Tan Kian Lian's video.

THE Elections Department has issued a statement on Friday stating that the current term of the President will expire on Sept 1, 2011.

The Presidential Election has to be conducted not more than three months before the date of expiration of the current term of the President.

The statement also said that 'all persons who desire to be a candidate for the Presidential Election must apply for a Certificate of Eligibility from the Presidential Elections Committee'.

Applications may be made at any time from June 1, 2011 but will close on the third day after the Writ of Election is issued.

Application forms can be obtained from the Secretary of the Presidential Elections Committee, Elections Department, 11 Prinsep Link, Singapore 187949, as follows:

Weekdays-9am to 5pm

Saturdays-9am to 12.30pm

From Straits Times, "Applications for Presidential race to start from June 1".

All persons who wish to be a candidate for the Presidential Election can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility from the Presidential Elections Committee from June 1.

Application will close on the third day after a writ is issued for the Presidential Election, said the Elections Department on Friday.

The government also announced on Friday the setting up of the Presidential Elections Committee under the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore.

The committee is chaired by the chairman of the Public Service Commission, Mr Eddie Teo.

The two other members of the committee are Ms Chan Lai Fung, chairman of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, and Mr Sat Pal Khattar, a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights.

The function of the Presidential Elections Committee is to ensure that candidates for the office of President have the qualifications to stand for the election.

The current term of the President will expire on 1 September 2011 and the Presidential Election has to be conducted not more than three months before the date of expiration of the current term of the President.

One possible candidate for the Presidential Election is former MP Tan Cheng Bock.

Ever since news broke that he is likely to contest the election, Dr Tan's Facebook page has been flooded with comments. Many expressed support, with some volunteering to help in his campaign.

The 71-year-old quit the People's Action Party (PAP) earlier this month.

Dr Tan said that a contest is important and noted there wasn't one during the last two elections.

He said he made up his mind during the hustings at the recent General Election.

"I go to many rallies during this General Election and I noticed there's a lot of anger, a lot of harsh words being used - some of them very, very terrible. (They were also used) in the new media. I was thinking to myself: there must be a way in which we can mend all these fences. Then I thought: can the President play such a role?" said Dr Tan.

"I know very clear the two roles the President play - one, to guard the reserves, the other one, also to have a say on the appointment of all the top echelon government appointments. I think I would like to also play a third role - like a unifying figure for all Singaporeans irrespective of whether you belong to which political party, which political affiliation. Honestly, I don't want to see a divided Singapore," added Dr Tan.

Another possible candidate is former chief of NTUC Income, Tan Kin Lian. Though he had earlier said he was keen, he declined comment when contacted on Friday.

A political observer said a contest in the race will be welcome.

SMU's Assistant Professor, Eugene Tan, said: "When you look at what happened at the recent General Election, Singaporeans see how important their individual ballot is. I think Singaporeans also want to take an active part in deciding who should be head of state.

"And given that the elected President office has not been contested in the last two Presidential Elections - the last time that Singaporeans voted for the elected President was in the first Presidential Election in 1993 - so we're coming close to 20 years."

"I think the opportunity for Singaporeans to express their democratic choice is something that will go down well. It forces Singaporeans, in a way, to engage the issues. It creates a greater awareness of the role of the elected President within our constitutional system of government," added the Singapore Management University (SMU) professor.

Dr Tan said the Presidential Election is a political contest, that there's no political agenda. He hopes to see more people who are interested to come forward, and would be sad if there is no contest.

The Presidential Election must be held before 31 August this year.

A Writ of Election will be issued by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who will indicate when Nomination Day will be.

Nomination Day must take place at least five days to a month after the writ is issued.

Candidates have to place a deposit to contest.

Under the Presidential Elections Act, the sum is three times the amount required for a parliamentary election candidate - which this year works out to S$48,000. Those who poll less than one-eighth of total votes lose the deposit.

There will be a minimum nine days of campaigning, plus a 'cooling-off' day.

From Channel NewsAsia, "Presidential Election: Eligibility certificate applications open June 1".

FORMER Member of Parliament Tan Cheng Bock has quit the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) and indicated that he may be a candidate in the coming presidential election.

He told The Straits Times on Thursday: 'Many people have been urging me to stand as president, and I am very honoured. But there are rules I have to follow. One rule is I must apply for the certificate of eligibility first.'

Dr Tan, 71, confirmed that he had resigned from the PAP earlier this month but declined to say if this meant he would indeed run for president in the election which must be held before Aug 31.

The Elections Department is expected to announce that aspiring candidates can pick up forms to apply for certificates of eligibility next week.

Under Singapore's Constitution, candidates must satisfy a list of stringent criteria and be screened by a Presidential Elections Committee (PEC).

In the 2005 election, three aspiring candidates failed to meet the criteria, leaving President S R Nathan to be returned unopposed for a second time.

From Straits Times, "Tan Cheng Bock keen to run for President".

PS. Just found out this very interesting article, "No more Blank Cheque for the PAP" which was also Dr Tan Cheng Bock's speech at the Presidential Address Debate on 1 March 1985!

Alan Shadrake enjoys an 8-week stay in jail

Alan Shadrake lost his appeal & is still sentenced to 6 weeks' jail and a $20,000 fine for contempt of court. His attempt to strike back is swinging in thin air.

But what is this nonsense that he will not be able to pay the fine (and therefore, he will serve the default two-week jail term)? Surely he's more than enough money to pay if he's willing to.

No, Sir. My guess is that he intentionally decides to save $20,000 and enjoys an additional 2-week stay in jail instead and works on his new book without any disturbance!

Let me see what the title of the book may be? The Changi Redemption? Birdman of Changi? The not-so-Great Escape?

And see, even before his new book is published, he has already earned some free publicity!

I suspect even his appeal is just a greedy attempt to be featured more in the media. In this AFP article, "Singapore jails UK author for 'insulting book'", it says that he "laughed and joked with reporters after the Court of Appeal upheld a prison term and fine imposed in November."

He's also quoted to say, "I expected the decision. I am very sorry for Singapore. I'm not sorry for myself."

PS. The book, "Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock" is however available at Ebay.com.sg. Surprise, surprise! One is sold from Malaysia (priced $28.00) and another from Singapore ($29.95). Heh. For such amount, I'd prefer buying other books, for sure...

THE Court of Appeal on Friday affirmed the sentence of six weeks' jail and a $20,000 fine handed down to British author Alan Shadrake by the High Court for contempt of court.

After the decision by Singapore's highest court, Shadrake, 76, through his lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, asked to start serving his jail term next Wednesday. The request was granted.

Last year, the Attorney-General had applied to commit Shadrake for contempt of court on the ground that 14 passages in his book, Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, had scandalised the judiciary.

In November last year, he was found by High Court judge Quentin Loh to have impugned the impartiality, integrity and independence of the courts here in 11 out of the 14 passages. Justice Loh sentenced Shadrake to six weeks' jail and a $20,000 fine - the heaviest punishment handed down here for contempt of court by way of scandalising the judiciary.

Shadrake appealed.

On Friday, a three-judge Court of Appeal, contrary to Justice Loh, found nine of the 14 passages to be in contempt.

The appeal court disagreed with Justice Loh's approach in giving Shadrake a 'sentencing discount' to signal that the courts have no interest in stifling legitimate debate on the death penalty. The appeal court said that Shadrake's conduct merited a substantial jail term as this was 'still the worst case of scandalising contempt' that has come before the Singapore courts.

Shadrake, who walked out of court flashing his usual V for victory sign, said: 'They gave me what I expected. I expected the results.'

He said he did not regret writing the book although he admitted making 'minor' errors.

Shadrake said he will not be able to pay the fine and will serve the default two-week jail term, making a total of eight weeks.

From Straits Times, "British author Alan Shadrake loses appeal".

'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' by Futures


Talking about the previous hoax & the boy (or a 24-year-old man) who cried wolf, let's enjoy the real song, 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' by this group, Futures.

Hoax: an F-16 jet crashed at the Ubi/Eunos Link area!

Not Hoax: the aftermath...that is, the 24-year-old man had been arrested for allegedly posting an alarming hoax message online.

He's got to be the Singapore version of the boy who cried wolf.

Kudos for the alert netizen who reported to the police immediately and well done to the police for their prompt action to tract the man, or the boy who cried an F-16 jet crashed at the Ubi/Eunos Link area.

A 24-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly posting an alarming hoax message on an Internet forum.

In the message posted on Thursday, the sender wrote that an F-16 jet had crashed at the Ubi/Eunos Link area and there were many casualties.

A netizen reported the incident to the police at 12.20pm.

After confirming that the message was a hoax, the police conducted an investigation and arrested the suspect at about 8pm at his home at Bedok Reservoir Road.

A desktop computer was also seized from his house.

If found guilty, the suspect can be jailed up to three years, fined or both.

Central Police Division commander Tan Hung Hooi said the police take a serious view of such irresponsible Internet postings that could cause public alarm and will spare no effort to track the perpetrators and take them to task.

From Channel NewsAsia, "Alarming hoax leads to arrest".

Starting 26/05/11 2301 hrs, let's boycott AirAsia!!

Yes, Tony Fernandes the CEO of AirAsia is damn full of air when he said that pircay continue to follow him. (This is referring to Singapore Airlines' plans for a long-haul budget airline.)

Tony's arrogance just shows how poor he understands about the intellectual property. He should have patented the idea of a long-haul budget airline if he's so convinced that the idea truly belongs to him.

Google for 'long-hauled budget airline whose idea?' and you may come across this gem of information:
Sir Freddie Laker who pioneered the idea with his SkyTrain DC-10s between London and New York in the 1970s, and PeopleExpress took up the mantle in the 1980s. Both airlines ultimately failed.


So what piracy continues to follow whom, Tony? You too followed the idea of Sir Freddie Laker, didn't you? Didn't you?? Didn't you?!

I hereby swear off AirAsia! Now everyone can fly, huh? Yes, but not using your service, AirAsia...

AIRASIA chief Tony Fernandes on Thursday brushed aside Singapore Airlines' plans for a long-haul budget airline that will challenge his AirAsia X, saying 'piracy continues to follow me'.

SIA announced on Wednesday it was looking to set up a new airline using wide-body jets within the year, saying there was an opportunity to make the most of an untapped market.

Analysts said the move will put the new carrier in direct competition with AirAsia X, the long-haul affiliate of budget carrier AirAsia and British tycoon Richard Branson's Virgin Group.

But Mr Fernandes said he would not be ruffled by the idea of new competition, despite the fact it would have financial clout, citing the fact that Tiger Air with its strong backing had failed to take his airline down.

'I left the music business thinking piracy has gone. But piracy continues to follow me. It is flattering to me. They laughed at us at first,' he told AFP.

'When Tiger Air was started a lot of people asked me: 'How are you going to compete with Tiger Air which has much bigger investors including Singapore Airlines and (Singapore investment fund) Temasek?'

From Straits Times, "AirAsia's Fernandes brushes off SIA low-cost plan".

Following Singapore Airlines' (SIA) announcement that it would launch a new budget carrier yesterday, AirAsia's Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes aired his thoughts, sharply suggesting the local airline giant was a copycat.

On his personal Twitter account, Fernandes yesterday posted: "singapore airlines to set up a long haul low cost carrier. Hahahaha. Deja vu.

"Airasia staff should be proud that we have been copied again. Will be the same result like tiger."

SIA's low-cost subsidiary will serve the mid- and long-haul segments, competing with other airlines like Qantas, Jetstar and AirAsiaX.

The new entity will operate on twin-aisle, widebody aircrafts.

While SIA has yet to reveal a name for its budget offshoot, Fernandes quipped on Twitter: "Wonder if singapore airlines will call it singapore X."

Other details about the new airline's management team, branding, products and services, and route network will be announced at a later date.

The move comes as SIA sees a need to capitalise on what it sees as a potential growth market.

In a statement, the premium carrier said: "The new airline is being established following extensive review and analysis."

"It will enable the SIA Group to serve a largely untapped new market and cater to the growing demand among consumers for low-fare travel."

SIA's new Chief Executive Officer Goh Choon Phong said: "As we have observed on short-haul routes within Asia, low-fare airlines help stimulate demand for travel, and we expect this will also prove true for longer flights."

“We are seeing a new market segment being created and this will provide another growth opportunity for the SIA Group,” he added. He also underscored SIA's commitment to offering the highest-quality products and services to customers.

In 2006, Australian low-cost airline Jetstar introduced long-haul flights, and a year later, Malaysia's AirAsia X followed suit.

Jetstar, which flies from Australia to Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and the United States, and from Singapore to Australia and New Zealand, expects that by end-June, it would have carried about 10 million long-haul passengers, reported The Straits Times.

AirAsia X is the long-haul budget carrier unit of Malaysia's AirAsia. According to Reuters, Fernandes is in the midst of negotiating a major deal with Airbus that could include more long-haul A330 passenger jets for AirAsia X as well as medium-haul A320neo aircraft.

From Asiaone, "AirAsia boss suggests SIA is a copycat".

5 Possible 'complications' over Nicole Seah online donation

Yes, I did avoid listing down the possible complications in the same previous article of "POLITICAL DONATIONS ACT as easy as ABC...really!".

So what are the potential rooms for error likely caused by Nicole Seah requesting netizens to donate or transfer their hard-earning money to her savings account? Here are 5 of the likely problems:

1. Foreigners may be the ones who donate & there's no way to ascertain if the donors are not foreigners if one chooses to deposit/transfer to her savings account especially if using ATM transfer.

2. Singaporeans who are younger than 21 years old may be the ones who donate. And no, it's not allowed.

3. Unincorporated organisations (such as trade unions, societies, charities, mutual benefit organisations, businesses, professional firms and so on) may be the ones who donate. And ditto, it's not allowed. (Note and disclaimer: Clandestine Regime of Anonymous Bloggers or in short CRAB do not donate to Nicole Seah!)

4. There may be anonymous donation of more than $5,000. And guess what, it's not allowed!

5. Clauses 9 and 15 of the Bill require every political association or candidate or his election agent to take all reasonable steps to identify the donor and to determine whether the donor is a permissible donor before accepting any donation received. How then, this is possible if one is to transfer the money, say, via ATM transfer?

The list may grow longer once I understand more about this Political Donations Act. (Yeah, I'm still struggling to read through its complete content!)

PS. Don't get me wrong. This list is not meant to undermine Nicole Seah. Like what I mentioned before, the NSP chief Mr Goh Meng Seng is supposed to guide his party members to avoid the so-called controversy over election donations.

Nicole can always claim 'ignorance'--and still win our hearts.

Mr Goh cannot.

POLITICAL DONATIONS ACT as easy as ABC...really!

What we have learnt from the controversy over Nicole Seah rallying for donations using her personal saving account?

For me, it's about the ignorance of what's known as Political Donations Act.

I googled for it and I must admit it's not easy to comprehend. Just check the full content of POLITICAL DONATIONS ACT (CHAPTER 236) here. Getting headache already, aren't you?

So I further hunted for more information about 'Political Donations Act' & I came across this page from Ministry of Home Affairs. It's a lengthy article indeed, but much easier to understand.

I even highlight those important parts in 'red'. Heh. I'm so proud of myself. Hur hur.

The Political Donations Act was passed by Parliament in May 2000. The Political Donations Act seeks to prevent foreign groups from interfering in domestic politics through donations to political associations, parliamentary election candidates and presidential election candidates. The Act prohibits political parties, organizations gazetted as political associations under the Act and candidates of parliamentary or presidential elections from accepting donations from persons or bodies that are not permissible donors. It also requires political parties, organizations gazetted as political associations under the Act and election candidates to report large donations that they have received. The Act and its subsidiary legislation came into operation on 15 Feb 2001.

_____________________________________________________

2nd Reading Speech by Minister for Home Affairs Mr Wong Kan Seng
Date of Parliament Sitting: 22 May 2000


Political Donations Bill

Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Introduction

2. The Political Donations Bill seeks to prohibit donations to political parties, political associations, and candidates in parliamentary election or presidential elections by persons and bodies who are not permissible donors. It also requires political parties, associations and candidates to report large donations that they have received.

3. Mr Speaker, Sir, Singapore is an independent and sovereign country. Foreigners should not be allowed to interfere in our domestic politics. It is no more legitimate for foreigners to pay money to support a political association or candidate than it is for them to have the right to support the associations' cause, or to vote for the candidate. Any Singaporean or organisation that allows himself or itself to be used by foreign elements, or collaborates or colludes with them to interfere in our internal affairs, is subverting the independence, integrity and sovereignty of the country. We must not allow this to happen. Politics in Singapore should be for Singaporeans only.

4. But Singapore is not immune to foreign interference. We have had to deal with interference in our domestic politics. In 1959, a Government Commission of Inquiry revealed that two sums of money totalling $700,000 were transferred from New York to Mr Chew Swee Kee, then Education Minister from the Singapore People's Alliance, the ruling party led by Mr Lim Yew Hock, then Chief Minister. I think many young Singaporeans do not even know about this. The Inquiry revealed that the money was meant as a political gift to the Labour Front (and I quote the report) "for the purposes of fighting subversion in the colony" and "strengthening" the Labour Front "as an effective party and bulwark against communism." Then in 1976, the Secretary-General of the People's Front, Mr Leong Mun Kwai, who is still around today, revealed during Police's investigations on the misappropriation of the People's Front's funds, that he was given financial assistance and made use of by a neighbouring intelligence service in a "black operation" against the interests of Singapore. A more recent case was in 1988, when a US diplomat interfered in Singapore's domestic politics. The diplomat actively cultivated Mr Francis Seow. Mr Francis Seow was advised by the diplomat how to establish a more effective opposition in Parliament and to set about seriously to recruit more young professionals into the opposition. This is gross interference in Singapore's domestic politics.

5. We should not condone such activities. Currently, we have no law prohibiting foreign funding of political parties, political associations and candidates of parliamentary or presidential elections. This Bill seeks to put in place a legislative framework to prohibit such foreign funding.

6. Sir, Singapore is not the first country to introduce such legislation. Many countries, such as the United States, Canada, India, France, Japan, Germany, already have laws either prohibiting or regulating foreign political donations. Hong Kong and Taiwan also have similar laws. In South Korea, under their Political Fund Act, foreigners and foreign corporations, except foreign corporations and organisations under the control of nationals of the Republic of Korea, are not allowed to contribute political funds to any party. The UK also has recently introduced a "Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill", which amongst others, aims to regulate political donations. It is therefore timely for Singapore to introduce controls against foreign funding. We have studied the various examples in other countries and generally adapted the UK Bill to suit our local context.

Overview

7. Let me now give an overview of what our Political Donations Bill would cover, before highlighting the main clauses of the Bill.

8. The Bill aims to prohibit political parties, political associations and candidates from accepting donations from foreign sources by treating these as impermissible. Political parties, political associations and candidates are allowed to accept donations, so long as these come from permissible sources. Similar to the approach taken in the UK Bill, we have chosen to define who is a permissible source or who the permissible donors are because it is easier to define who is permissible rather than who is impermissible. Any donations other than those from the defined permissible sources would constitute impermissible donations. If political parties, associations or candidates receive any donations from impermissible sources, they would have to return the donation to the donor. If they are unable to do so, they would have to surrender the donation to the Government's Consolidated Fund. Political parties and associations and candidates would also be required to report large donations, to ensure that they keep proper records of these donations.

Who does the prohibition cover?

9. There are three groups of people who will be covered by the prohibition against foreign funding. Firstly, all political parties, such as the People's Action Party, the Singapore People's Party, the Workers' Party, and other political parties registered with the Registry of Societies will be covered by the definition of "political association" in clause 2 of the Bill. They would not be allowed to accept foreign donations.

10. Secondly, candidates of any parliamentary or presidential elections and their election agents would also be covered by the prohibition. The prohibition would apply to both candidates fielded by political parties as well as independent candidates. The prohibition against foreign funding applies whether or not the candidates are successfully returned.

11. It is clear why registered political parties and candidates should be covered by the prohibition - they contest in elections, and if elected, can influence the policies and political process in Parliament. They can even form the government if they have the majority in Parliament. The election agent is responsible for all campaign funds (under the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Acts) of the candidate. It is therefore logical that the election agent is also covered by the prohibition on foreign donations.

12. The third group covers any organisation, regardless of whether the organisation is registered as a society, a business or a company, so long as its objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, and it is gazetted as a political association under the Bill. To leave out such organisations from the Bill would present a loophole for foreign interests to interfere in our domestic politics. Although the organisation's activities or objects may not be directed at procuring a candidate for election into Parliament or as President, it can accept foreign donations, promote a particular political platform and influence the political process, but in the interest of its foreign donor. This should not be allowed. The Straits Times, in a recent article on 13th May, "Regulating the flow of money in politics" highlighted an example where a political party in a foreign country is under investigation for allegedly "setting up non-profit organisations that channelled large contributions from foreign donors". Also, in Business Times, on 10th May, and in fact, in today's Straits Times, in reports focusing on the political donations laws in the US and other countries, highlighted the controversy on the use of "soft money" for purposes like "party-building" and "discussion of national policy issues", which are not directly for election purposes. Indeed, to confine politics to just contesting in elections and electioneering for candidates would leave out organisations who accept or make use of money from foreign sources to seek to change our laws or policies, or decisions of the Government. We have little control over activities and spending by organisations unconnected with candidates or parties during an election. Foreign groups can, through such unconnected organisations, influence local politics. Surely, this cannot be allowed. Such organisations should therefore be subject to the prohibition from accepting foreign donations.

13. The expression "relates wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore" in the Bill is not new. This is adapted from our Films Act. Further, a similar expression - "wholly or mainly of a political nature", can be found in the UK Broadcasting Act 1990, and has already been subject to interpretation by the UK Courts. As regards political activity, we would be taking into account whether:
(a) the activity is intended or would likely to affect voting in any election or national referendum in Singapore; or
(b) the activity is, for example:

an election or a national referendum in Singapore;
a candidate or group of candidates in election;
an issue submitted or otherwise before electors in an election or national referendum in Singapore;
the government or a previous government or the opposition to a Member of Parliament;
the current policy of the Government or an issue of public controversy in Singapore;
or a political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any such branch of such party or body.
To define "politics" and "relate wholly or mainly to politics" as referring to "elections or electioneering activities" only as proposed by some civil society groups is therefore too narrow. All we need to do is to read the Washington Post article as reported in the Straits Times of 18th May this year and in it, there are details on certain groups, although they claim that they are not electioneering, not campaigning for political party or activity or candidate, who are actually influencing the cause of the activities of the candidates or parties.

14. To ensure transparency, the Bill empowers the Minister to gazette such an organisation as a political association for the purpose of the new law and be subject to the prohibition against foreign funding. Such an approach ensures that organisations would be fully aware that, if they are gazetted as a political association, they are prohibited from accepting donations from impermissible sources. If they are not gazetted, then they are not required to follow the requirements of this Bill.

15. In deciding whether to gazette any organisation as a political association, the Minister would have to consider carefully all relevant factors, such as its objects and activities, its links with foreign organisations, and the support it receives from such foreign organisations.

Permissible donors

16. Under clauses 8 and 14 of the Bill, political associations and candidates are only allowed to accept donations from permissible sources.

17. All Singapore citizens, who are at least 21 years old, and all Singapore-controlled companies, are considered permissible donors. A Singapore-controlled company refers to a company registered with the Registrar of Companies, and the majority of its directors and members are citizens. All other sources would be considered foreign in nature and deemed impermissible.

18. Naturally, Singaporeans, who have attained the age of maturity of 21 years old and above, should be permissible donors. Singapore companies are allowed to make political donations, as they are our corporate citizens, and should have an interest in Singapore's well being. After all, political stability is a key fundamental for economic growth, and provides the environment for businesses to flourish.

19. Unincorporated organisations are not permissible donors. Political associations and candidates therefore cannot accept donations from these organisations. Unincorporated associations include trade unions, societies, charities, mutual benefit organisations, businesses, professional firms and so on. Trade unions, societies, charities, mutual benefit organisations are set up for specific purposes. As it is now, most if not all of these associations are already prohibited from making political donations under their respective Acts or constitutions. Sole proprietors, partnerships and professional firms have no separate legal identities from their owners. That is to say, the profits and losses of the business are the profits and losses of the individual owners. Hence, if they wish to make donations, they should do so as individuals, as long as they are Singaporeans and are 21 years old and above.

Anonymous donations

20. The Bill allows a political association to accept anonymous donations of less than $5,000 in any one financial year of the association. Candidates can also accept up to a similar amount of anonymous donations during the period of 12 months prior to his declaration made before nomination day. This is to take into account that some well-wishers may wish to remain anonymous in making donations to political associations or candidates. We have chosen a reasonable limit of $5,000 to strike a balance between allowing well-wishers to make small anonymous donations and not opening up a loophole for significant foreign donations to slip through as anonymous donations.

What is a donation?

21. Clauses 3, 4 and 5 of the Bill deal with the definition of donations and how the donations are valued. These provisions are adapted from the UK Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill. Donations are defined broadly to include all goods or services, such as any gifts of money or property, subscription and affiliation fees, loans, property, services and other facilities provided to the candidate or political association that are not on commercial terms. For example, if the goods or services are rendered to a political association at less than commercial rates, the value of the donation would be the difference between the actual cost to the association and the cost which the association would have incurred if it had been provided on commercial terms.

22. Donations would not include any notional benefits of airtime during lawful party political broadcasts, or any postage-free elections communications authorized by written law. These benefits are granted by or pursuant to our written laws, and would not be considered as donations.

23. Like the UK Bill, donations would also not include any voluntary services by an individual. It is neither practical nor feasible to put a value to voluntary services. For example, if an individual contributes, in his own time, professional services within his own sphere of expertise, such as accounting expertise, to a political party, this service would not be regarded as a donation. He could be self-employed, or he could take leave from his employer to provide his service to the political party. As long as he volunteers his services in his own time, it would not be regarded as a donation. However, if the individual is paid by his employer while providing services to a political party, the services would count as a donation by the employer to the political party. The value of the donation is the commercial rate of providing the services.

What should a political party or a candidate do upon receiving a donation?

24. Clauses 9 and 15 of the Bill require every political association or candidate or his election agent to take all reasonable steps to identify the donor and to determine whether the donor is a permissible donor before accepting any donation received.

25. If the donation is from an impermissible source, the political association, candidate or his election agent must return the donation to the foreign source. If that cannot be done, the donation must be returned to the person who transmitted the donation or to the bank, if the money was drawn from a bank. If that is also not possible, the donation must be surrendered to the Registrar of Political Donations.

26. If a political association receives an anonymous donation, it must ensure that it has not accepted $5,000 or more of such donations in the year in question. Any anonymous donations above the allowed limit must be returned either to the person who transmitted it or the bank, or in the last resort, surrender it to the Registrar. Similar provisions operate with regard to candidates and election agents receiving anonymous donations.

Reporting of Donations

27. Sir, the Bill provides for political associations and candidates of parliamentary or presidential elections to submit a donation report and a declaration on political donations to the Registrar of Political Donations.

28. By requiring a declaration to be submitted with a donation report, it would obviate the need for the political associations to list all donations, which would be administratively tedious. The declaration would state that the political association or candidate did not accept any foreign donations as well as anonymous donations beyond the permissible limit, ie, less than $5,000. Political associations and candidates need to list only large donations of $10,000 or above in the donation report. This reporting requirement ensures that political associations and candidates keep proper records of the donations which they receive.

29. Let me elaborate on the reporting requirements.

Political Associations

30. Sir, clauses 12 and 13 of the Bill require political associations to submit a donation report and a declaration to the Registrar within 31 days from the close of its financial year. This is similar to current practice whereby political parties are already required under the Societies Act to submit their annual returns and statement of accounts to the Registrar of Societies within 31 days from the close of their financial year or the Annual General Meeting, if there is one.

31. The political association should list in the donation report all donations of $10,000 or more, whether it is a single donation, or a series of donations from the same source, which adds up to $10,000 or more during that financial year. For example, if the political association accepts three donations from the same individual donor, and the three donations add up to more than $10,000 in the financial year, the political association should also record this series of donations in the donation report.

32. The political association would also have to submit a declaration with the donation report that it has not received any donations from impermissible sources, as well as anonymous donations beyond the permissible limit of $5,000.

33. The president, the secretary and the treasurer are responsible for the preparation and accuracy of the report. The president, the secretary and the treasurer are the key officers of a political association, and should therefore be responsible for the political donations. They have to ensure that the donation report and the declaration are submitted on time, and declare that the donation report is complete and accurate.

Candidates

34. Sir, clause 18 of the Bill requires every person who intends to take part in any parliamentary or Presidential election to submit to the Registrar a similar donation report and declaration. The donation report and declaration are to be made after the issue of the writ of election, and sent to the Registrar of Political Donations at least two clear days before Nomination Day.

35. The donation report and declaration by a prospective candidate are similar to those by a political association. That is, the prospective candidate must list in the donation report all single donations of $10,000 or more, and any series of donations from the same permissible source which adds up to $10,000 or more, for the year prior to his declaration. He would state in the accompanying declaration that the donation report is accurate and complete, and that he has not accepted donations from impermissible sources as well as anonymous donations beyond the permissible limit of $5,000. Thereafter, the Registrar would issue a political donation certificate to the candidate.

36. The candidate is then required to submit the political donation certificate, together with his other papers required for nomination purposes, to the Returning Officer on Nomination Day. The nomination of his candidacy would only be accepted if he can present the political donation certificate together with his nomination papers and other legal requirements.

37. After the election, the candidate and his election agent would be required to submit to the Registrar within 31 days of the declaration of election results, a second donation report and declaration. This second report and declaration are similar to the first declaration and donation report, except that it covers the period from the time of the first report to the time of the second report. This second report is necessary, as in practice the candidate is likely to receive donations during this second period, when he is campaigning for the elections.

Donors

38. Clause 21 of the Bill requires donors of "multiple small donations" to political associations, which add up to $10,000 or more in a calendar year, to report to the Registrar. This is a counter-evasion measure. It helps the Registrar to keep track of small multiple donations that add up to a significant amount of $10,000 within a short period of one year. The reporting requirement will also lessen the tedious task of verifying such donations. A donor would not need to declare if the total donation is less than $10,000 in a calendar year. He also would not need to declare if he made a single donation, or a few donations, each of which is $10,000 or more. In this case, the political association should have captured these donations in the donation report. A similar requirement can also be found in the UK Bill.

Reports Not Open to Public Inspection

39. The donation reports submitted to the Registrar of Political Donations would not be open to the public. Allowing public inspection of the donation reports could inhibit permissible donors from donating to political associations or candidates.

40. As it is now, political parties, like all other registered societies, are required to submit annual returns and statement of accounts to the Registrar of Societies and these annual returns and statement of accounts are also not available for public inspection.

Offences

41. Let me now turn to the offences under the Bill.

42. Sir, under this Bill, accepting foreign donations per se would not be an offence. Instead, the foreign donations would just be forfeited if they are not or cannot be returned to the donor. Clauses 11 and 17 of the Bill enable the Public Prosecutor to apply to a District Court to order the forfeiture of a donation from an impermissible source which a political association or a candidate or his election agent has accepted. Clauses 11 and 17 also provide for appeals to the High Court against the decision of the District Court.

43. Each of the responsible officers of a political association or a candidate or his election agent would commit an offence if any of them makes a false declaration in relation to political donations. For example, if a political association accepts a foreign donation but the declaration accompanying the donation report declares otherwise, each of the responsible officers would have committed an offence of false declaration, unless he can show that he did not know and could not reasonably have known that the declaration was false. This is reasonable since the political association is in the best position to know the circumstances under which the donations were received.

44. If convicted of false declaration, then each of the responsible officers of the political association would be liable to a fine of not exceeding $5,000 or an imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, or to both. Repeat offenders would face higher penalties - a fine not exceeding $20,000 or an imprisonment not exceeding 3 years, or to both.

45. Under the Bill, it would be an offence if political associations and candidates and their election agents do not submit the donation reports and declaration within the stipulated time, for example, for the political association, it would be within 31 days from the close of the association's financial year. If convicted, each of the responsible officers of the political association would be liable to a fine of up to $2,000.

46. Clause 23 of the Bill makes it an offence for a person to facilitate the evasion of the restrictions on impermissible donations. For example, if an individual, who is a permissible donor, accepts money from an impermissible donor and donates the money to a political association to circumvent the prohibition, the person would have committed an offence. He would be liable upon conviction to a fine of not more than $3,000, or to imprisonment for not more than 12 months, or to both.

47. Clause 30 of the Bill makes it an offence to alter, suppress or destroy any document he is required to produce to the Registrar, with a view to evade the provisions of the Bill.

48. Clause 27 of the Bill empowers the Registrar to compound any offence under the Act. This provides the flexibility for the Registrar to offer composition of not more than $500 for the less serious offences. Offences which carry a mental element, such as false declaration of donations, facilitating in the evasion of the restrictions on impermissible donations, would not be made compoundable. As per normal practice, the compoundable offences would be prescribed by regulations.

Consequential Amendments

49. Finally, clauses 36 and 37 of the Bill make related amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act and the Presidential Elections Act. A prospective candidate would have to deliver to the Returning Officer, together with his nomination papers on nomination day, a political donation certificate issued by the Registrar of Political Donations. If he fails to do so, his nomination would be rendered void and may be rejected.

Conclusion

50. Sir, this Bill aims to keep foreign interference out of our domestic political process. It does not prevent political associations and candidates from accepting donations, so long as the donations are from Singaporeans or Singapore-controlled companies.

51. In drafting the Bill, we have kept the framework as simple as possible. No doubt, the associations would have to put in some effort to account for the donations that they receive. But this small effort would go a long way in upholding the independence and integrity of our political process. I have made such a long speech to explain this because I think it is necessary for Members to have a clear understanding of the Bill.

52. Sir, I beg to move.

From Ministry of Home Affairs, "Introduction of the Political Donations Act".

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