Monday, October 30, 2006

Readers Question: Wee Shu-Min Affair

A college student and daughter of a political leader in Singapore recently hit out at the views of a middle-class Singaporean. True to the idealism and evolving maturity that one finds in youth, she spared no punches, and even called the middle-class Singaporean names. She made her point, and her views sparked off more points.

Her father, a Member of Parliament, came out to defend her, and ended up rubbing salt to an open wound. Eventually, he had to apologise a second time. And now there are calls requesting him to resign.

This forest fire, which one blog has comprehensively followed and colourfully labelled "The Wee Shu-Min Affair a.k.a. [also known as] The Wee-Wee Saga/The Adventures of Elite Girl", rages on.

Readers have raised three questions relating to this matter:
1. How should one react to what the young person said?
2. What would I have done if I were the young person's father?
3. Should the young person's father step down as Member of Parliament?


I respect one's right to express oneself. And in the process of such expression, to have those views challenged, amended and/or revised. I have found personally that youth quite often enjoy more leeway, since people tend to take what such youths say in their stride. As such, I did not mind what this young person said.

But it was disturbing to me how people went after this young person, even pulling her family into the picture. Eventually, the issue received negative airing in the national press.

I don't think, if I was this young person, I would want my life scrutinised like that. Of course, this also means that, as a young person, I would take steps to protect my privacy, which I recognise was not done in this case.

I think it would have been better for individuals to focus on the views rather than seek to ruthlessly discredit a person. This whole incident to me is really a reflection of how ungracious or unforgiving we have become as a society. We label, we discredit and, eventually, we eliminate. How very unfortunate.


I would have recognised that every parent wants to create an environment where his / her child will be able to test views, to make mistakes, to learn from it and to grow. I would have emphasised this incident was therefore part of such a learning process for the child. Finally, as a parent, I would have apologised to individuals affected by my child's actions, and requested for some empathy in bringing this issue to a closure.


At the end of the day, this decision is out of the hands of the general public.

It is a matter for his constituents, his community leaders and his own political party members to decide, and to make known their views through avenues available to them.

If there is a real possibility that the whole incident could adversely affect the work of the Member of Parliament, the way forward may indeed be for him to step down.

Nevertheless, I think it is important to recognise how new this Member of Parliament is, and such teething problems are inevitable. Perhaps, it may be useful to give him some more time to fill the large shoes he has stepped into.

Dharmendra Yadav

Friday, October 27, 2006

Future of national television for Singapore Indians

My family and I are a part of a lesser known community within the Indian community in Singapore.

A Singapore newspaper recently carried an article about this lesser known community - the Bhojpuri-speaking community in Singapore, many of whom have origins in the northeast Indian states of Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. A secular Bhojpuri Society to champion this niche group's interests has been formed.

Around the same time, my sister was reflecting about what it means to be a Singaporean Indian and the relevance of national television to Indians in Singapore.

My sister was flabbergasted when someone appearing on national television suggested that the winner of a Singapore beauty pageant for the Indian commuity should be a person who speaks Tamil.

Many people in Singapore tend to assume that, if you're an Indian, you speak Tamil - one of the four national languages in Singapore.

My own view is that this assumption is less prevalent now than in the past.

In recent years, in this part of the world, there has been greater awareness of the diversity that shapes India.

This is partly attributable to the higher level of profile that the global Indian diaspora enjoys. It is also due to the greater appeal of Bollywood one finds around the world today.

Languages such as Hindi, Punjabi or Bengali are now thought in Singapore schools. Singapore is also seeing more successful people coming out of these niche groups in the Indian community.

On cable television today in Singapore, one finds more non-Tamil channels catering to Indians, includng other non-Indians.

I understand that these channels are well-subscribed, even though official numbers are not available.

Resultantly, these all have implications for the future of the national television channel for Indians in Singapore. Non-Tamil-speaking audiences such as my family, who used to watch this channel regularly, now almost totally do not watch it.

We increasingly rely on other sources of information for updates about Singapore.

There is today a debatable perception that the Indian television channel in Singapore no longer appears to serve as many in Singapore as it did in the past.

This begs the question if it should enjoy the same of level of government support it has received in the past.

Perhaps, this is something Singapore's media regulators will look into with the relevant persons in Singapore.

Dharmendra Yadav

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reader's Question: My Car Accident Claim


I was involved in a traffic accident 1 year ago and here is the scenario. I was the 1st car and had sought damages from the 2nd car which is a taxi. The police report and other evidence confrim that the taxi was in the wrong.

However, the taxi company, until today, refuses to pay me until they have sought damages from the 3rd car. The problem is that the 3rd car is disputing the claim by the taxi company against the 3rd car and thus prolonging the case.

My car is covered comprehensively by another insurance company (not yours).


I am not sure why you are having to do all these yourself. You should have claimed on your own motor insurance policy, and let your insurers sort it out.

You should seek independent legal advice if you feel strongly about this.

As importantly, since you are not insured with NTUC Income, please consider doing so.


It is normal for taxi companies to defend such claims aggressively; this is part of their strategy to mitigate the risks they are exposed to.

Some such cases can take years to resolve so it is better to let insurers with the necessary expertise in handling such claims sort it out.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, October 16, 2006

Alternative Ideas For Early Access To Counsel


I welcome the changes in our criminal justice system where "prosecutors to reveal all in proposed new law" (The Straits Times, 16 October 2006).

It is unfortunate that our policy gatekeepers do not see the value of providing individuals exposed to our criminal justice process early access to legal advice, that is when an investigation involving the individual begins.

Our criminal justice system presumes one is innocent until proven guilty. It is therefore only right for an innocent to have early access to legal representation.

But I respect that our public defenders have raised some valid concerns about such early access to legal professionals, despite recognising the need to protect the innocent. Perhaps, a win-win outcome can be reached through other means.

Lawyer Thomas Koshy recently proposed making and disclosing video recordings of statements provided to the police. This is something that can be considered.

Some time ago, the financial sector faced a similar issue. People were making disastrous financial decisions. A major initiative was launched to educate the public. Today, all buyers of financial products get free guidance materials. There are also many regular and complimentary financial literacy workshops for them.

Likewise, it is necessary to educate persons subject to our criminal justice practices about what they can and should do in such events.

Perhaps, the Law Society, Singapore Academy of Law and other relevant organisations can look into launching continuous programmes to keep the public regularly updated about their rights and responsibilities.

Innocent persons must be sufficiently protected from the adversarial aspects of our criminal justice system.

Dharmendra Yadav

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Resume & CV Different

From time to time, I get asked questions about applying for a new job. This largely stems from my previous job, where - among other things - the organisation provided career coaching. And many friends have successfully used such advice to secure roles so the word gets around.

One such event happened last week. A friend, looking to get employed either in a sales / banking role, asked me how to prepare a CV (Curriculum Vitae).

I often get shocked by such a question, even though it is something that I am asked quite frequently. A resume is NOT a CV.

Even seasoned practitioners in human resource roles fall into this unfortunate inaccuracy. Many seem to use the terms inter-changeably, especially in Asia.

A CV is something a person would need if, for example, he is applying for a research position at a university. It is often gives detailed information about your education, the papers you have published, the conferences you have attended and the subjects or topics that one has taught in educational institutions. A CV is predictably much longer and comprehensive than a resume.

A resume is something an individual needs when he is pursuing a career in all positions other than scientific, academic, education or research jobs. It is essentially a summary, in one or two pages, of outcomes, results and achievements, while in school, or at work or play. If a resume fleshes out too much information, it is possible for it to end up a CV.

Before deciding how to prepare a resume, it is more important to ask why one needs a resume and what does one want the resume to do. Many people often make a leap here.

They often reply that the purpose of a resume is to help one find a suitable job, so they end up putting things that one would normally be asked in an interview. Perhaps, it is more accurate to say that a resume is meant to open that door for you to get an interview, which eventually leads to a suitable job.

Once there are specific objectives that one wants the resume to achieve, it becomes easier to prepare a resume.

A friend of my former boss, Paul McGee, has written a very useful book called "Write A Great CV"; it is a useful read.

Dharmendra Yadav

Monday, October 09, 2006

Understanding Deaf Community

Today, I began a new journey.

I started a course "Introduction to the Deaf Community, Culture and Language" organised by the Singapore Association for the Deaf.

It is a course that I have been interested in for some time, especially since I have a sister who is deaf. As she gets older, I am finding it difficult to communicate with her and the only way for me to bridge this is to take some personal responsibility to understand her mode of communication better.

What kept causing me to postpone this decision was the distance of the school where such courses are conducted. It would take about two hours of travelling time between the school and home.

Last year, NTUC Income introduced a SkillsSave initiative for its employees. The beauty of this initiative is that each individual gets up to $3,000 over three years to pursue courses that he or she is interested in. Such courses are independent of training initiatives relevant to one's function which NTUC Income sponsors, that is they need not be work-related.

The employee can also take up to 5 days of self-selected learning leave, which is in addition to one's annual leave, to pursue such programmes.

Key programmes such as sign language courses are specially brought into the workplace and doing so helps cut unnecessary travelling time for employees.

This is important for an organisation like NTUC Income. We have begun to employ persons from minority communities such as the blind, deaf or those without limbs in a big way. For example, some of our office support work is undertaken by deaf people, and our research surveys are carried out by blind persons.

One of the more useful takeaways from this course for me was how deaf persons celebrate success. They raise their arms and wave their hands, rather than clap. But my deaf sister has been, as part of her own efforts to understand the hearing community, clapping her hands like we do.

For me, that realisation was important in strengthening my resolve to communicate with her better. If she can adapt to the hearing community, I don't see why those that hear and care for her cannot adapt to her.

After all, one of the things that the deaf community shared with me is that they do not consider being hard of hearing a disability. To them, this is a strength since sign language - as a growing body of research shows - is a fascinating language in itself. And, at least in this part of the world, English is the deaf community's second language.

I came home to practise some of what I had learnt with my sister. I showed her my notes. She was beaming from ear to ear.

I told her I will soon be starting to learn sign language and she will now be my teacher while I her student. She was ecstatic!

More people can make special efforts to understand minorities in our society.

Dharmendra Yadav

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Lesson For Judges In Singapore

On 29 August 2006, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, delivered the Singapore Academy of Law Annual Lecture on "Terrorism & Human Rights". He was appointed as the most senior judge in England and Wales last year.

When I heard his lecture, he struck me as a person with great respect for the rights of an individual.

He emphasised, "Respect for human rights must, I suggest, be a key weapon in the ideological battle. Since the Second World War we in Britain have welcomed to the United Kingdom millions of immigrants from all corners of the globe, many of them refugees from countries where human rights were not respected. It is essential that they, and their children and grandchildren, should be confident that their adopted country treats them without discrimination and with due respect for their human rights. If they feel that they are not being fairly treated, their consequent resentment will inevitably result in the growth of those who, actively or passively, are prepared to support the terrorists who are bent on destroying the fabric of our society."

It was therefore no surprise recently that he did something, which is unprecedented for a member of the English judiciary. In his own words, Phillips shared, "I posed as a shipping solicitor convicted of driving with excess alcohol and sentenced to 150 hours' unpaid work and 18 months' disqualification."

According to The Observer, "he wanted to prove that non-custodial sentences are the right alternative for many to prisons, now so overcrowded he considers it 'difficult or impossible' for them to rehabilitate offenders and prevent re-offending".

Phillip's decision to experience the effects of sentencing first-hand has been lauded, and it may strengthen the point he desired to make. His move also highlights how a judge can be in touch with individuals affected by the work of the courts.

As Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, shares with The Observer, "'If only sentencers would go out and see for themselves that community penalties work far better for petty offences than wasted time in overcrowded jails."

Perhaps, our judges in Singapore will learn from this and undertake similar covert practical stints to understand the effects of their orders better.

Dharmendra Yadav

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Publications That Bring Hope

Some people complain that the Singapore press is compliant. Others have lost all hope in it, and have cancelled their respective subscriptions.

A couple of years ago, I was among those that agreed with this writing off of such local publications. But I realised that I had become too accustomed to reading newspapers first thing in the morning and it was too difficult a habit to kick.

Now, I supplement what I consume in the domestic media by reading the Financial Times, the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal (in order of personal preference). In the office, I get regular supply of magazines such as the Economist and Time.

I also read India Today and Frontline, magazines which one can purchase for about S$3 from Mustafa Centre.

When time permits, I watch Channel NewsAsia which I supplement with the BBC. I was especially pleased to hear my favourite news channel from my university days, Sky News, is now available in Singapore.

Thanks to our local sources of news, who give me much to disagree (and sometimes agree) about on a daily basis, I have predictably developed a voracious appetite for current affairs in the last few years.

I continue to harbour feelings that the quality of independent reporting and analysis in our local media will improve.

It is where school publications such as The Campus Observer and Nanyang Chronicle offer much hope. I know for a fact that Singapore's mainstream media have often used the latter as a source of information for its news.

The Campus Observer is a new kid on the block. Set up about two months ago as an independent initative of students for students, the issues it has had to face offer a peek into the kind of pressure an independent newspaper could face in Singapore.

Managing Editor Aaron Ng of The Campus Observer writes on his blog, "The Observer has been in business for 5 weeks now, and it’s 5 weeks of hell."

In addition to dealing with operational issues, he shares more about the baptism of fire that his team of journalists and him have had to go through.

These include the harassment of journalists, allegations of unethical practices by such journalists and even being barred from attending events they were entitled to attend!

This is partly a result of The Campus Observer's editorial policy, "We are committed to articulating a mature voice that emphasizes accuracy and fairness. While we do not claim to represent the student body, we are committed to the expression of diverse viewpoints, to being a top source for in-depth and comprehensive news and features, and a rewarding co-curricular activity for our staff members."

Aaron elaborates further on his blog, "We act in the interest of the public that the newspaper serves. As members, students have the right to know what goes on in campus. We do not bother with whether the report looks good or bad on you. What is of concern to us is that we got the facts right, and we did not misrepresent anyone."

A brave position with strong words indeed.

Contrast this to the stories one hears from journalists in the mainstream media about how a certain story was not carried as it would affect relations with a particular news-maker.

Some days ago, I too wanted to write something about certain comments that a news-maker had made. I was informed it would not be published in a local publication.

If the first five weeks of The Campus Observer are a precedent to go by, it can look forward to many more interesting milestones!

Dharmendra Yadav

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Separating Facts And Views

A columnist in Time recently addressed the issue, "Do Newspapers Have a Future?"

He bleakly concluded that they don't. But, more importantly, the following lines in the article caught my attention: "The Brits have never bought into the American separation of reporting and opinion. They assume that an intelligent person, paid to learn about some subject, will naturally develop views about it. And they consider it more truthful to express those views than to suppress them in the name of objectivity."

It reminded me of an incident that happened in Singapore a few months back.

Ironically, it looks like something which forms the backbone of Singapore's media policy is the very thing that its media regulators have sought to keep out of its media: "foreign influence".

Quick, read the article while it's still free!

Dharmendra Yadav