Parliament passes new Bill to manage law and order

By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 13 April 2009 2057 hrs

SINGAPORE: A new Bill to manage public law and order has been passed in Parliament.

It rationalises current rules for public assemblies and processions by moving away from rulings based on the number of persons involved in these activities.

Instead the focus is on whether the activity may have a disruptive effect on the public.

Scenes of disruption like those at international meetings such as the G20 meeting in London and more recently, the failed ASEAN Summit in Thailand’s Pattaya, are common.

But that’s exactly what Singapore, which will later this year host the APEC meetings where many world leaders are expected to attend, wants to avoid.

That is why it is introducing new legislation at this time.

The new Public Order Act rationalises the existing two Bills – the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (PEMA) and the Miscellaneous Offences Act (MOA).

At the heart of the Public Order Act is one key philosophy.

Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam, said: "The approach is to seek the optimal balance between the freedom to exercise political rights while not affecting public safety security and not affecting stability.

"Have we gotten that balance right? Well, ask yourselves two questions. In our region, which country would you rather be in? And amongst the countries in the world which became independent in the 1950s and 60s, which country would you rather be in?

"The answer to these questions would be the answer to the main question I asked."

Under the new Bill, three types of activities will require permits: Those that demonstrate support for or against views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government; those that publicises a cause or campaign; and those that mark or commemorate any event.

Many sporting and recreational activities will be exempted. This means that 50 per cent of activities that now require permits will no longer be regulated by permit.

There will also be changes to the penalty regime. First-time offenders will be fined and repeat offenders will face stiffer penalties.

The Act will also give police officers new powers to issue pre-emptive "move-on" orders, which will be in written form, ordering demonstrators not to congregate at the intended rally area, or give them a chance to leave without getting arrested.

Currently, police can only observe and warn a person if an offence has been committed and follow up with investigations after the event. The police can only arrest the person on the spot if it is a seizable offence such as for carrying weapons.

Mr Shanmugam said: "If a person complies with the order and leaves the designated area, no offence will be made out against him. By giving the person in the first instance, an opportunity to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities, the move-on powers bridge the current gap of ‘doing nothing’ and ‘outright arrest’."

The police will also get special powers for international events, which Mr Shanmugam describes as "trophy targets for terrorists", where they can search people and personal property.

And learning from the Mumbai terrorist incident, the police will have powers to stop the filming of ongoing security operations and seize such materials so that operations are not compromised.

Police could even take such a person, who is believed to have such a film or picture, into custody if he refuses to stop filming or surrender his materials. But this does not apply to routine police duties.

– CNA/ir

What’s the World Coming To?

This must be the weirdest news in March!

STRAITS TIMES

March 18, 2009

Lesbian attacks wife with sperm

PITTSFIELD (Massachusetts) – ONE HALF of a lesbian married couple has ended up in custody after allegedly attempting to forcibly impregnate her ‘wife’ with her brother’s sperm.

According to a number of website reports on Wednesday, Stephanie Lighten, 26, allegedly threw her wife Jennifer Lighten, 33, on a couch in the couple’s home.

She then threatened to impregnate her with "a turkey baster" filled with semen from Stephanie’s brother kept in a sealed container, reported letzgetreal.com.

A "turkey baster" is a large syringe with a catheter tip, according to the police who confiscated it.

Police also discovered and confiscated a container of semen donated by Stephanie’s brother, Nicholas Lighten, and some aluminium that also apparently had contained the semen said a report on news.com.au.

Jennifer is reported as say she struggled with a "liquored up’ Stephanie on the couch who grabbed at Jennifer’s clothes.

She said she then ran to the bathroom and locked herself in but allegedly Stephanie broke down the door.

Police then arrived and arrested Stephanie.

Jennifer Lighten has declined to press attempted rape charges because she does not believe Stephanie seriously intended to impregnate her said letzgetreal.com.

Stephanie been charged with domestic assault and will be required to attend the Central Berkshire District Court on April 29 for a pre-trial hearing.

Seeking Mr Right

We all know how enthusiastic the government can be when it comes to matchmaking the people of Singapore… now, even the birds are involved… (albeit not by the government)

STRAITS TIMES

March 23, 2009

Wild hornbill seeks Mr Right

By Grace Chua

WANTED: A mate for Singapore’s only wild rhinoceros hornbill living in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

The female already has possible suitors from among captive males, but they may belong to any of three sub-species of this endangered bird and not be an exact genetic match.

Preserving the sub-species is vital as each is uniquely suited to its environment. Allowing them to cross-breed may produce less hardy hybrids.

Wildlife photographer and field researcher Marc Cremades said: ‘We are trying to provide a boyfriend for the lady, and have them breed, and then provide some friends for the babies.’

The striking bird, with its orange-and-white beak and casque, was first sighted in Singapore four years ago.

Its search for love has been bumpy. Last year, researchers – who aim to reintroduce the rhinoceros hornbill sub-species here – decided the bird needed help.

Mr Cremades and his comrade for this mission, gynaecologist and amateur naturalist Ng Soon Chye, front the Singapore Hornbill Project, which has teamed up with the National Parks Board, Jurong BirdPark, National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Nature Society.

Last month, NUS and NTU researchers captured the bird from the nature reserve, and compared its DNA to that of rhinoceros hornbills from the birdpark and from an aviary in Bali. This DNA typing reveals the sub-species, which differ slightly in colour and plumage.

A single male rhinoceros hornbill, now stationed in an aviary at the nature reserve, will undergo DNA testing.

If the test confirms he is Mr Right, he will be released into the wild, so the female hornbill will be lonely no longer.

2nd Best is Better Than Nothing At All?

This is good food for thought.

MM Lee on Singapore’s population

SINGAPORE: Even after the millions spent on Baby Bonuses and other parenthood incentives, policy-makers are confounded by a problem that goes to the very heart of survival: Singaporeans are still not reproducing themselves.
And on Friday, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew reflected on this challenge at the National University of Singapore Society’s (NUSS) dialogue on "Singapore and Singaporeans: A Quarter Century From Now".
In Singapore, he said, it is becoming a "lifestyle choice" for women past the age of 30 to stay single as they are well-travelled and have no one to worry about.
"My daughter is one of them. What can I do? When she was in her early 30s, my wife used to tell her, what you want is a ‘MRS’. She did not think it was funny.
"Now she is 50-plus, her mother is bedridden, I’m on a pacemaker, I got this rambling house. Everything is looked after now. What happens if we are both not there?…
"She says, ‘I’ll look after myself’. But we know she has not been looking after herself all these years. When she went to Boston for training, her cooking was to just to put her salmon into the microwave."
Mr Lee added: "But that’s life. It’s a choice that she has made, and a choice that 30 per cent of our women are making. Who am I to complain? Society lives with the consequences it is making."
The problem that this trend creates: "Without new citizens and permanent residents, we are going to be the last of the Mohicans. We are going to disappear".
But immigrants bring their own challenges to a society.
Some Singaporean parents have complained about migrants entering schools and competing with local children. He urged parents: "Would you want them to compete against you or with you as part of the team? If you don’t have them with you as part of your team, they will be on the Chinese and Indian team."
Some of these migrant students, he acknowledged, use Singapore as a stepping stone to other countries. So "why are we so stupid" in allowing this?
"Because more than half (of these students) do not make the grade to go to America, and the second tier is not bad for us."
Singapore needs to draw from a big talent pool beyond its own shores, "so that we can continue to punch above our weight. No other way".
"Would you want the pie to grow? You want a small pie with your children taking the last portion, or a big pie where you get a bigger portion, even though the talented person may get a bigger slice? That’s life. If you are afraid of talent, you will not succeed."
One catch he foresees: Even as the second generation of today’s immigrants become more Singaporean, one dubious habit they might also adopt, is to have only one child.
"So we got to make this breakthrough, otherwise we are going to have a constant problem.
"We got to get people to realise that if we don’t have 2.1 (babies) to replace ourselves, we are always dependent."
Earlier in the evening, Mr Lee officially opened the new NUS Alumni Complex, which comprises the redeveloped NUSS Kent Ridge Guild House and Shaw Foundation Alumni House. – TODAY

Singapore’s AIA To Become an American National Insurer too?

WASHINGTON: US insurance giant AIG is to receive up to an additional 30 billion dollars in federal assistance in the latest overhaul of its government bailout, US media reported Sunday.
Under the new plan, American International Group, Inc. is to repay most of the 40 billion dollars it owes the Federal Reserve with equity stakes in two of its overseas units, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The units were American International Assurance Co., which is based in Asia, and American Life Insurance Co., which operates in 50 countries.

AIG was originally supposed to repay the Federal Reserve in cash with interest.

The New York-based company, already set to announce a fourth-quarter loss of some 60 billion dollars on Monday, would also convert between five and 10 billion dollars in debt into securities, backed with life insurance assets.

The 60-billion-dollar Federal Reserve credit that AIG received in November, from which the company has already withdrawn 40 billion dollars, would then be reduced to 25 billion dollars.
The newspaper said AIG’s board met late Sunday to vote on the plan and was "expected to give its approval".

"Major credit rating agencies have already signed off on the deal," it added.

The US government bailed out AIG for more than 150 billion dollars last year after a home mortgage crisis that sent shock waves across the global financial markets.

The bailout plan was the largest in US history and came as AIG burned through billions of dollars of cash and reported a third-quarter loss of 24.47 billion dollars.
– AFP/yt

Does this signal retrenchment in telemarketing firms?

See underlined portion below.  I hope this means no more calls from telemarketers pushing personal loans!  Woohoo!

Minimum income requirement for unsecured credit relaxed to S$20,000

SINGAPORE: From next month, more people will be eligible for unsecured credit facilities. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has lowered the minimum annual income requirement from S$30,000 to S$20,000.

However, this lower limit does not apply to credit cards and remains unchanged at S$30,000 for individuals at or below 55 years of age and S$15,000 for individuals above 55 years of age.
The move, which is still subject to a cap of two times one’s monthly income, has been welcomed by Credit Counselling Singapore.

Kuo How Nam, president, Credit Counselling Singapore, said: “We’ve always believed banking should actually be inclusive and you shouldn’t exclude people just on the basis of income.
“There is always a danger here of people getting into trouble, borrowing too much. But I believe this is still a good move because you cannot ignore the fact that there are people who may have a genuine need for unsecured credit."

However, if the borrower has an annual income of at least S$30,000, he can obtain unsecured credit of up to four times his monthly income.

MAS said the new rules state that borrowers with an annual income of less than $20,000 can only take a small unsecured personal loan not exceeding S$3,000, with the interest capped at 18 per cent per annum.

The unsecured lending provisions will not apply to high net worth Singaporean or Permanent Residents earning at least S$120,000 per annum, and non-Singaporeans/Permanent Residents.

The unsecured lending provisions also provide for exclusions from their application for certain types of loans, for example, loans for purposes of medical treatment, study and renovation.
As part of the new rules, banks will be required to be more stringent when it comes to lending.

MAS is now making it a requirement for financial institutions to conduct comprehensive checks with Credit Bureau (Singapore) before approving each new credit card, charge card or unsecured credit facility.

Financial institutions will also be barred from making unsolicited offers of unsecured credit facilities such as credit lines to customers unless these customers write in for them.
This follows similar restrictions on unsolicited offers of credit cards already in place.

Also, when it comes to explaining credit charges, late payments and other additional information, banks will now have to be much clearer than before.

MAS said these changes follow extensive consultations it held with the Law Ministry, financial industry and the public.
These changes will be incorporated into the new Moneylenders Rules which will take effect from March 1.

These will come under the new Moneylenders Act which also takes effect on the same date.

It was passed by Parliament in November 2008 and replaces the existing Act.

MAS said the new Act will allow for a more flexible and progressive approach to the regulation of moneylending in keeping with the modern credit economy.

It also clarifies the moneylending activities to be licensed, modernises moneylending operations and tightens the regulatory framework. – CNA/vm

President Nathan visits Marina Barrage for the first time

Saw on the CNA website that President Nathan visited the Marina Barrage for the time yesterday.  I’m sure, being the President, he was busy and thus couldn’t find time to visit earlier.  But when you read the headlines, and in consideration that the Marina Barrage has been opened for some time now… don’t you think it makes it sound as though the President damn sua gu?  Hehe.

One Man’s Cooking is Another Man’s Poison

Read another article in CNA about a top civil servant getting reprimanded for writing about this family’s vacation at a top French cooking school.  Apparently, some people felt that it was insensitive of him to publicise it ‘cos it showed how out of touch he was with your average Singaporean. 

One woman that CNA spoke to said, “I think that the S$45,000 that the whole family used to travel could be put to better use at this time”.

Oh come on!  It’s his own money lor!  Why can’t he use it the way he wants to?  When the woman said the money “could be put to better use”, did she mean donate to charity?  Eh give the man a break lah.  He earned the money so it’s up to him how he wants to spend it lor. 

Anyway, the head of the civil service spoke to the poor guy about the matter.  Although it was acknowledged that whatever one does during his vacation is a private decision, to have the whole episode publicised was apparently a bad judgement call as it “stands in contrast to the values and ethos of the service…”

I don’t know if the whole brouhaha was started ‘cos he boasted of his wealth in the article he wrote or something (I’ve not read it) but assuming it was a sincere account of his holiday, people should perhaps look at it on the bright side?  Maybe this will spur people to work harder so they can go on expensive cooking holidays too?  Sigh.  I still feel sorry for the poor guy.

See!  This is why I don’t cook.  You can get fired from your job (think Thai ex-PM) or get rapped for it!

Lost in Translation

Was feeling a little sleepy after lunch so I was reading the news on CNA.  Saw this article about how Shiseido is increasing its sales of whitening products this year.

Somewhere in the middle of the article is a quote from Miriam Yeung that says, “I quite easily get dark in the sunlight. I will have a spot on my face and (this) makes me so confused and frustrated. So I think whitening is very important for me.”

Wow.  I better start using whitening products too!  Don’t want to walk around feeling confused you know.  😛

Most Unfortunate Member of Parliament in Singapore History

Member of Parliament (MP) Seng Han Thong (in my opinion), must be the most unfortunate MP in the history of Singapore.  He was assaulted by a cabbie some years back over a taxi licence revocation issue that the cabbie wanted Mr. Seng’s help with, and now some guy who’s mentally unstable splashed kerosene on him and set him on fire. 

News reports stated that Mr. Seng suffered 10-15% burns on his body (his back, face, neck).  Thankfully, his eyes were not hurt in the incident.  Sigh.  For more info, click here