the world beyond four walls


a lot and not alot


Singapore not ready for same-sex marriage as society is still conservative: PM Lee

The Straits Times/June 5 2015/By Wong Siew Ying

SINGAPORE – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong does not think Singapore is ready for same-sex marriage because the society is still conservative although it is changing gradually.

But the gay community have the space to live their lives in Singapore, he added. “We do not harass them or discriminate against them,” he said when replying to a Filipino journalist who was interviewing him with other visiting Asean journalists on Thursday.

Mr Lee noted that same-sex marriage is gaining acceptance in some developed countries such as Britain and some states in the United States.

But, he added: “Even in America, there is very strong pushback from conservative groups.”

Similarly, the range of views on gays in Singapore include those of “religious groups who push back”, he added. “And it is completely understandable.”

His comments reflect the government position expressed in the past several years. In the 2011 book Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, said he believed homosexuality is in a person’s genes: “Some people are that way and just leave them be.”

Mr Lee Kuan Yew had also said homosexuality will eventually be accepted. “It’s already accepted in China. It’s a matter of time before it’s accepted here.”

On Thursday, PM Lee told the Asean journalists: “Where we are I think is not a bad place to be.”

He also said that if asked, most Singaporeans would not want the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community to set the tone for Singapore society.

“There is space for the gay community but they should not push the agenda too hard because if they push the agenda too hard, there will be a very strong pushback,” Mr Lee said.

“And this is not an issue where there is a possibility that the two sides can discuss and eventually come to a consensus. Now, these are very entrenched views and the more you discuss, the angrier people get,” he added.



SEA Games in Singapore

The Opening Ceremony of the 26th SEA Games is just about an hour away. How has everyone been holding up this week with the preparation for the exams? Here’s a quick video to brighten up your evening!


U.S. government hacked; feds think China is the culprit


Maggi noodles from Nestle ‘hazardous’ – India regulator June 2015

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India accused Nestle of failing to comply with food safety laws.

Nestle withdrew the Maggi brand from stores, after regulators found higher-than-allowed levels of lead in some packets. Maggi is a market leader in India, where a packet costs 12 rupees (12p). Nestle’s global chief executive promised to return Maggi to stores.

Paul Bulcke told reporters in New Delhi: “I am confident that we are going to come back very soon.” Mr Bulcke also asked to see the results of the laboratory tests.

Several states have also been testing the noodles for the chemical monosodium glutamate, widely known as MSG. Read More


Grant withdrawn, but Sonny Liew comic sells out and goes for reprint

The Straits Times/4 June 2015/By Akshita Nanda

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew is published by Epigram Books and sold about 300 copies at Books Kinokuniya alone on Saturday.

The graphic novel, which tells the story of a Singapore artist who represents 60-odd years of local history through his satirical comics, was awarded a publishing grant of $8,000 from the arts council. This grant was revoked when the book reached stores last month. The publisher has to return the $6,400 disbursed and has printed stickers to cover the arts council’s logo in the 1,000 copies printed for sale.

All 1,000 copies sold out last week, after news broke in The Straits Times about the grant being withdrawn.

Epigram Books’ founder Edmund Wee says he appealed last week against the arts council’s decision, but the appeal was rejected this week. He is printing up to 2,000 copies more of the graphic novel to meet demand and says he would need to sell 3,000 copies to break even after the withdrawal of the grant.

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is the fastest selling and most successful graphic novel of the half-dozen Epigram Books has published.

“For most graphic novels, we print about 1,000 on average and these take two years to sell out,” Mr Wee says, citing titles such as the award-winning Ten Sticks And One Rice by Oh Yong Hwee and Koh Hong Teng, which won a rare bronze medal last year at the 7th International Manga Awards in Japan.

In response to earlier queries from Life!, the arts council said the graphic novel’s “sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet our funding conditions”. Mr Khor Kok Wah, the council’s senior director, literary arts sector, added to this yesterday, saying: “The retelling of Singapore’s history in the work potentially undermines the authority or legitimacy of the government and its public institutions, and thus breaches our funding guidelines. The council’s funding guidelines are published online and well known among the arts community.”

He added: “Applications are assessed on their artistic merit, but it is clear any proposed content should not infringe funding guidelines. A grant withdrawal happens very infrequently and we always make extra efforts to explain to affected parties.”

In 2011, a collection of plays by Chong Tze Chien published by Epigram Books also had its funding by the council revoked – but before its publication. The book included Charged, a controversial drama about race relations and national service.

Both artist and publisher say a representative manuscript of The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye was sent to the arts council when applying for funding.

In the first chapter, founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his political rival Lim Chin Siong face off in cartoon form. Later in the book, the 1987 Operation Spectrum, in which 16 people were detained allegedly over a Marxist conspiracy to overthrow the Government, is turned into a plot to replace all music in Singapore with the melodies of American singer Richard Marx.

The comic has scored a publishing deal with American publisher Pantheon for an international edition next year.

Malaysia-born Liew, who became a Singapore citizen while working on The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, told Life! he was initially disappointed about the grant being withdrawn because it would make it harder for the publisher to break even. He added that he did not think his comic subverted the state and “the criteria for deciding are a bigger issue worth looking at”.

Expanding on this in a Facebook post, he thanked the arts council for its support of his other projects but added: “What remains are questions over the role of a national arts organisation, the role of public money, who decides how and why they’re spent. Should the NAC be more focused on artistic considerations and be less bound by political constraints? What is the criteria for deciding if a work crosses unacceptable boundaries?

“These are wider, longer term concerns, though perhaps there’s never a better time than the present to consider them, and I’d be glad if The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye plays some small role in all of it.”



Football: FIFA suspends Indonesia over long-running row

JAKARTA: FIFA on Saturday (May 30) suspended Indonesia after the government in Jakarta sought to oust the country’s football association, the latest crisis to hit the sport in Indonesia.

The decision means Indonesian sides will no longer be able to take part in world football, and comes less than two weeks before the country was due to begin qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup. The national team will, however, still be able to participate in the football tournament at the Southeast Asian Games, which is just getting under way.

FIFA’s decision “resulted from the effective ‘take over’ of the activities of PSSI (the Indonesian football association) by the Indonesian authorities,” a spokesman for the world governing body said. “All Indonesian national teams (national or club) are prohibited from having international sporting contact which includes participating in FIFA and AFC competitions.”

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is one of six regional federations that make up FIFA, and the ban means Indonesia will no longer be able to participate in the AFC Cup, the region’s premier football tournament. PSSI also loses its FIFA membership rights and its members and officials will not benefit from any FIFA and AFC development programmes or training, the spokesman said.

The decision was made at a meeting of the FIFA’s Executive Committee in Zurich on Saturday.


The row erupted in April when the PSSI halted the country’s top-flight league due to a disagreement with the sports ministry over the participation of two clubs. The ministry then froze all activities of the PSSI, and said it was setting up a transitional body to replace the association, which has long faced allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

FIFA, which takes a dim view of governments interfering in domestic associations, backed the PSSI and gave Jakarta until May 29 to allow the association to resume activities, or face a ban from world football.

A series of last-ditch efforts this week to resolve the row, including an attempt by Indonesia’s vice president to persuade the sports ministry to back down, came to nothing. Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi has refused to change course and in recent days expressed hope that the crisis engulfing FIFA would delay the sanction.

Top FIFA officials were arrested this week after being accused by US authorities of taking huge bribes, while Swiss police are investigating the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

President Joko Widodo has supported Nahrawi, saying urgent reform is needed in Indonesian football. “It doesn’t matter if we are absent from international competitions for a while as long as we can win big in the future,” he was cited as saying in the Jakarta Post newspaper on Saturday, before the suspension was announced. “I’m confident when the reforms are made, we will be moving forward.”

The suspension is just the latest crisis for Indonesian football, which was only just recovering from a feud between the PSSI and a breakaway association, which led to the creation of two separate leagues. FIFA also threatened to ban Indonesia over that row but the two sides eventually came back together, avoiding a sanction.

Weak management, poor security at games, and high-profile cases of foreign players dying after going unpaid have also cast a shadow over football in the world’s fourth-most populous country.


US President Obama praises Singapore’s economic success, racial integration

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has lauded Singapore’s economic success and racial integration, saying the two are linked.

Speaking to a group of young leaders from Southeast Asia at the White House, he addressed a question on discrimination against the Rohingya. About 1.3 million of them live in Myanmar, but are mostly denied citizenship. Their plight has come under scrutiny as a migrant crisis unfurls in the region.

 Mr Obama said how countries deal with such issues will decide their prospects, citing Singapore as an example of a prosperous and well-integrated socity.

“There are more than 600 million people who live in ASEAN countries, and you reflect an incredible diversity of faiths and ethnic groups and background and culture. And that diversity has to be celebrated and it has to be protected,” he said.

“We have incredible economic engines like Singapore, and growing economies like the Philippines and Vietnam and Malaysia. Ultimately, this is going to be a great test for the democracy of the future – not just in Myanmar but in areas all throughout the country.

“And the truth of the matter is that one of the reasons that Singapore, as I mentioned earlier, has been successful, is that it has been able to bring together people who may look different, but they all think of themselves as part of Singapore. And that has to be a strength, not a weakness, but that requires leadership and government being true to those principles.”