PUBLISHED BY: AMP
VOLUME 15 ISSUE 3
MCI (P) NO: 078/07/2020
Home Based Businesses in the Singapore Malay/Muslim Community
ISSN NO: 0218-7434
CONTENTS JULY 2020
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK COVER STORY Home Based Businesses in the Singapore Malay/Muslim Community by Fadilah Abdul Majid
Stories and the Theatre by Adib Kosnan
Classical Malay Texts: Of Relevance and Reverence by Muhammad Faris Alfiq Mohd Afandi
SUPERVISING EDITOR Dr Md Badrun Nafis Saion EDITOR Zarina Yusof EDITORIAL TEAM Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim Muhammad Faris Alfiq Mohd Afandi Nabilah Mohammad Nur Diyana Jalil Ruzaidah Md Rasid Winda Guntor
The Future of Work by Muhammad Taufiq Suraidi
Breaking the Chains that B(l)ind Us All by Muhammed Shahril Shaik Abdullah
In the Valley of Dreams with Zannath Bee by Nur Diyana Jalil
Stay at Home, Stay at Risk: Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Domestic Violence by Filzah Sumartono
Book Review: Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited by Nursheila Muez
The COVID-19 Frontliners: Soldiering Against the Pandemic by Nabilah Mohammad
Clearing the Misconceptions about Vaccination by Dr Zuraimi Mohamed Dahlan
T +65 6416 3966 | F +65 6583 8028 E firstname.lastname@example.org
Taking Charge of Our Health by Zarina Yusof
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Singapore. The views expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of AMP and its
OKLetsNo: Misogyny and the Malay/Muslim Men by Ahmad Abdullah
subsidiaries nor its directors and The Karyawan editorial board. © AMP Singapore. 2020. All rights reserved. Permission is required for reproduction.
FROM THE EDITORâ€™S DESK
The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on everyone around the world, with many countries now reporting a second wave of infections. Governments in many countries have adopted some form of lockdown measures, including Singapore, where the circuit breaker period was put in place for almost two months starting from 7 April. Tighter measures were introduced on 21 April, limiting movement outside of the home, as well as the types of businesses that can continue to operate, as a way to curb the rising number of cases. Things came to a head when news broke several days later that home-based businesses were among the businesses that had to cease operations during this period of tightened measures. This was particularly concerning for the Muslim community as many from the community own home-based businesses and rely on income from their business to support their family. The timing coincided with the month of Ramadan, when the number of orders are typically high as the community prepares for the Hari Raya festive period. The community rallied together to find ways to help these business owners, with many advocating for them, and others raising funds to help them. As an organisation that runs a programme that trains home based business owners in elevating their businesses, AMP also reached out to our clients to advise them on their options. Another organisation that moved to action was the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI), which first started by calling for home based business owners to reach out to SMCCI so they can connect these businesses with the available national help and advise them. Mdm Fadilah Abdul Majid, Vice-President of SMCCI, shares how the situation evolved and how they were able to help scores of businesses during that period. You can read her article on Page 8. One significant thing that this incident highlighted was how home-based businesses are important to many in the community. It is a key source of income for them and as such, it is imperative that we find new ways to support them and help them thrive so they can continue to be a significant contributor to our nationâ€™s economy. We hope you enjoy reading this issue.
DR MD BADRUN NAFIS SAION SUPERVISING EDITOR
THE FUTURE OF
BY MUHAMMAD TAUFIQ SURAIDI THE WORK CULTURE OF TODAY Before the Circuit Breaker, anyone who works between 9am and 6pm would probably get up one to two hours earlier to get ready for work. Time is allocated for morning routines like showering, a light breakfast, wearing the appropriate attire, self-grooming, exercising (for some) and then the daily commute to work. For the lucky few, the commute to work would not take too long. However, for the rest,
the commute to work might be an ordeal in itself, with crowded trains and/or buses to contend with. On a weekday in 2018, there are on average some 3.5 million commuters taking the MRT and some 4.3 million commuters taking the bus1.
by a few minutes but not everyone gets a break all the time. This, no doubt, will add to the stress of work.
When in the office, there is then the added concern to be productive and for some, to look productive when, for whatever This usual morning routine will always reason, there is not much work to do for carry the risk of some of us being a few the day. The office manager is always minutes late for work. Some managers or watching. When the day ends, the worker bosses will overlook employees being late must contend again with the rush hour 1 TABLEAU SOFTWARE, LLC. PUBLIC TRANSPORT RIDERSHIP. PUBLISHED ON MARCH 1, 2019. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://PUBLIC.TABLEAU.COM/PROFILE/LTA.STRATEGIC.PLANNING#!/VIZHOME/2019RIDERSHIP_PUBLIC/PTRIDERSHIPDASHBOARD
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crowd in the evening before getting home, partially or fully exhausted, one hour later or more. For some, the work only continues at home with assignments, projects or reports to finish. This scene is repeated every weekday, Monday to Friday. For the employer, the story is not any less difficult. The bottom line determines the survival of the business and for the business owner, it determines his/her livelihood. The bottom line is a function of the productivity of workers, and workers need office space and equipment. They must have a place to sit and do their work, preferably in close proximity with the owner of the business or the managerin-charge. Therefore, offices must be rented and in land-scarce Singapore, the cost of rental is not cheap anywhere. This inevitably affects the bottom line. Employers must then ensure that workers justify their position. This is done by assessing the worker’s attendance at work and whether they can produce results. It is not good enough to just turn up every day, nor is it good enough to produce good results but have a terrible attendance record. For most employers, the employee must have a good attendance record and be productive at work.
adopt remote working as a new work culture. TECHNOLOGY MAKES REMOTE WORKING POSSIBLE Today’s technology allows many of the administrative work of businesses and office processes to be done remotely. With cloud computing technology, employees and team members can share information and work progress, as well as access the company’s information and network anywhere in the world. For one, it is already commonplace that office processes such as applications for leave or applications for office facilities like booking of meeting spaces are done through forms – whether online or paper-based. It is not a major leap for such processes to be digitised and for the approval processes involved to be done through an online platform. Take for instance the management of human resources. Employee profile and records can now be safely stored in a cloud database. Human resource management and processes can also be done online. In many firms today, leave applications are done online. Even job applications are done online. When considering other office processes, it is likely that many of these processes can be digitised and done
online without the need for administrative officers to be in the office physically to service the employees. For work that requires team meetings or meetings with clients, video conferencing technology like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and BlueJeans allows for communications without the need for a physical meeting. Cloud databases also allow collaboration without needing team members to be present at the same location. Even if some types of work require physical meetings to optimise collaboration, there is little reason for office spaces to be rented or built permanently by firms for such work to be done. Such meeting spaces can be rented on a short-term basis to suit the need for that particular project. Firm’s representatives can also meet with clients in more intimate settings at times suitable for one another without the need to be confined to office hours per se. Such meetings can be done over coffee or meals and work can resume remotely thereafter. Ultimately, with today’s technology, an employee’s productivity need not be measured by attendance record and physical presence but by the actual output each employee can produce in the work they are entrusted with. All it takes for an
Part of our work culture is the need to be physically present at the workplace. This need incurs costs for both employees and employers, some of which were explored above. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to relook the way we work, particularly the need to be physically present in the office. Beginning of late March this year, employees were required to work from home or work remotely to stem the spread of the virus. The Circuit Breaker then commenced on 7 April and continued till 1 June 2020. By the end of the Circuit Breaker, Singapore had effectively undergone a nationwide experiment, testing the feasibility of remote working. If anything, Singapore should not end remote working with the Circuit Breaker. Instead, given today’s technology, how work has continued despite the Circuit Breaker and the scarcity of land in Singapore, it might actually be long overdue for Singapore to
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employee to be effective is an active internet connection and the ability to be available when they are needed. With today’s technology, a lot of office processes can be done by personnel working remotely. Likewise, project-based businesses such as web-designing, some legal work, consultancy and advisory services can be done remotely. THE FUTURE OF WORK CULTURE ENVISIONED That being said, how should the future of work post-Circuit Breaker look like given the nation’s experience with remote working? For one, there will definitely be fewer spaces in Singapore designated for offices. Instead, work spaces available in the market will cater to short-term rents where firms can rent on a project or as-and-when-needed basis. Firms will also find it cheaper to have the majority of its workforce working remotely as opposed to having a substantial part of its operating costs going to the cost of renting spaces to run and operate its business. Already the costs of adopting cloud computing technology and signing up for an account with telecommunication technologies like Zoom are becoming affordable. Eventually, the costs of adopting technology and processes to allow for effective remote working will be cheaper than renting office spaces.
possible employment model firms can adopt is flexible work arrangements for workers such that employees are allowed to take up more than one job concurrently provided that they are able to meet certain work targets and they do not engage in employment that competes with their employer’s business. Firms can also explore hiring on an as-and-when-needed basis. This will allow firms to streamline their workforce thus saving costs. In such an environment, employees will enjoy the benefit of greater flexibility in choosing the number of hours they choose to work, and the nature of their employment contract (on a project, permanent or part-time basis). With more flexible working options available in the job market, employees can choose the type of jobs they wish to do and the level of commitment they are willing to undertake to suit their life’s priorities. Another possibility of adopting remote working is that it frees up employers to explore hiring internationally without incurring the expense of immigrating the worker to Singapore. Likewise, if remote working picks up around the world, Singaporeans can also consider working for a firm situated anywhere around the world without the hassle of emigrating.
hour every morning and evening as employees commute to and from work. Finally, with remote working comes the possibility of flexible work arrangements. This frees up more time and bandwidth of Singaporean workers to pick up new skills or take up more than one job at the same time. As such, this will unlock the productivity of our manpower as they can do more at the same time. The Circuit Breaker in Singapore has shown that Singapore is ready to adopt remote working and flexible work arrangements as a work culture. Doing so will only allow the Singapore economy to achieve more than it currently can, unrestricted by the amount of manpower available and the land space we have.
Overall, firms will be able to focus their hiring policy on employee productivity instead of conflating the assessment of its With today’s technology, there is little workforce productivity with its workforce reason why we cannot be at the forefront of changing the employment landscape With remote working, firms will need to attendance. and redefining what it means to work and rethink whether they will require as many to have a job. employees as they do before adopting REMOTE WORKING IN THE remote working. By adopting cloud SINGAPORE CONTEXT computing technology and digitising In light of the foregoing, it bears mentionwork processes, some jobs will no doubt ing the potential benefits and relevance be rendered obsolete and some jobs may remote working as a work culture has for sociate q Suraidi is an As Muhammad Taufi not really require some employees to be Singapore, a land- and manpower-scarce and Dispute ion rat bit Ar n, tio in the Litiga on-call or on-standby all the time. A nation. Dentons Rodyk & ion Department in With the majority of the workforce working remotely, Singapore will be able to free up more land spaces for more beneficial uses such as housing developments, parks and recreational spaces, or for specialised industries to grow and prosper in Singapore. Also, with remote working, the strain on our public transport system will definitely ease up. There will no longer be that rush
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Resolut puty was formerly a De Davidson LLP. He l with se un Co te Sta d r an Public Prosecuto well ral’s Chambers, as the Attorney-Gene Clerk of the w La s’ ce sti Ju r as forme a Singapore. He is Supreme Court of ittee of the mm Co ve uti ec Ex member of the Malay h on Islamic and Centre for Researc the m fro d ate du gra Affairs (RIMA). He with l University in 2015 a Australian Nationa ss Honours) and Cla rst (Fi e gre an LLB de ics. om on Ec in e gre Bachelor’s de
Breaking The Chains That B(l)ind Us All BY MUHAMMED SHAHRIL SHAIK ABDULLAH
When the positive COVID-19 cases spiked in March, Singapore had to undergo a circuit breaker period during which all schools were closed and students shifted to full home-based learning (HBL). On April 18, The Straits Times published a report1 that showed how the move to HBL has exposed inequality in Singapore as it impacted families in unequal ways. Notwithstanding the deeply problematic misrepresentation of the families who were neatly pigeonholed into racial categories, the issue of inequality highlighted in the report warrants our attention. Despite decades of community
and government interventions, the underclass persists. Why do we still have children skipping lunch at school in order to save some money? Why are some families struggling to put food on the table while others are struggling to finish whatever is on their plates? Why are the gaps so difficult to close? What could have been done better? Or what has been done wrong all along?
poor are poor because they choose to be poor. On the other side will be those who would point out the structural causes of poverty. In this article, we shall look at how the underclass has been ideologically and systemically permitted to exist by certain groups who constantly ensure that the underclass will forever remain in their chains, by unsuspected ways and means that make it almost impossible for the poor to break themselves free from the shackles of poverty.
Whenever the issue of poverty is discussed, there would generally be two camps of people. On one side will be those Bridging the gap between the rich and the who blame the victims using the cultural poor requires the equal distribution and sharing of resources. The problem is when deficit theory as a basis to argue that the
VENESSA, L. HOW HOME-BASED LEARNING SHOWS UP INEQUALITY IN SINGAPORE - A LOOK AT THREE HOMES. THE STRAITS TIMES. 2020, APRIL 18. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/LIFESTYLE/HOW-HOME-BASED-LEARNING-HBL-SHOWS-UP-INEQUALITY-IN-SINGAPORE-A-LOOK-AT-THREE-HOMES
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the noble idea of sharing is based on the neoliberal idea of a trickle-down effect, which is actually meant to maintain the status quo whereby the rich and the poor stay put in their respective places in the social order. Some of these trickle-down solutions include fundraising events such as charity golf and charity gala dinners which, by the way, is an absurdity in itself when we consider the fact that, in the name of helping the poor, the rich get to enjoy a ten-course meal in the ballroom of a five-star hotel and entitled to tax exemption when they sponsor a table for themselves. These while the poor still struggle to put food on the table for their family. State paternalism in which the government trickles down national resources to the poor as part of its effort to address the problem of inequality, instead of implementing a minimum wage policy or universal basic income, exacerbates the issue. Payouts do not necessarily help the situation in the long run. What the poor need is a decent wage structure that will provide them with the sustenance and self-empowerment needed to bring themselves out of poverty and to live a dignified life. The need for public display of kindness and generosity by the rich and powerful represents one of those blinding devices to ensure the underclass remain in their chains. It has been referred to by bell hooks as a form of spiritual materialism2, in which the act of giving serves to make the ones giving feel good about themselves, feel appreciated and gain recognition for the kindness and empathy they are showing towards the needy, without any intention to actually abolish poverty. If the upper class and the elites are truly genuine in their wanting to help the needy, the best way to contribute their wealth and power would be to lobby for structural change so that the
needy will no longer be needy. The mark of a truly compassionate society is when the privileged class joins in and participates actively in the struggle of those underprivileged towards self-empowerment and economic independence, instead of engaging in what Paulo Freire has referred to as ‘false generosity and paternalism’, by treating the needy as annual cash cows and coming out with ludicrous initiatives such as an online charity mass walk to achieve spiritual materialism. THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA The media is the other malefactor that systemically immobilises the poor. Media producers play a significant role in shaping and influencing the way society thinks through the works they create and produce. CNA’s Regardless of Class, a documentary that examines the invisible line that cuts through our nation through conversations between people across class spectrums, is an example of how the media could perpetuate the very stereotypical representations that we have been trying hard to dispel all these years. It deludes the kids in the conversation, particularly the ones from the Normal Academic and Technical streams, by leaving a psychological dent on their self-worth in relation to other participants, to the point that they think they are worse off and are hoping the privileged students can teach them to be better. Regardless of Class had set out to examine the class divide, but what it inadvertently did was to tell us that we should not be bothered by our class differences and that we must not let it divide us. Regardless of whether one is rich or poor, one can still get along well with others from a different class without any social awkwardness. In other words, we need to be neutral with each other. With this, the problem of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer will no longer be a social problem. Everyone would get
The need for public display of kindness and generosity by the rich and powerful represents one of those blinding devices to ensure the underclass remain in their chains. It has been referred to by bell hooks as a form of spiritual materialism, in which the act of giving serves to make the ones giving feel good about themselves, feel appreciated and gain recognition for the kindness and empathy they are showing towards the needy, without any intention to actually abolish poverty.
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BELL, H. (2000). WHERE WE STAND: CLASS MATTERS. PP 130
The biggest problem is when we as a society either do not or even refuse to see it as a problem, or when we see it as something that is not our problem. That is how we all become complicit in the reproduction of inequality. along well with each other in peace and perfect harmony. It is thus imperative that we resist this idea of neutrality and of the ‘ideal’ state and also to resist the stereotypical misrepresentations – that poor kids speak in a certain way, and rich kids are all snobs, or middle-class parents are better at parenting as compared to working class parents. What we need to do instead is to work towards a more radical idea that, regardless of class, we can all come together in solidarity to create a just society that demands equal opportunities for all. As long as cultural producers, who have the capacity to largely influence how and what society thinks, persist to reproduce such problematic sketches of the underclass, the climb towards a more progressive and enlightened society would be steep and efforts to close any gap between the rich and poor would be futile.
HOW THE INTELLIGENTSIA CONTRIBUTE TO SYSTEMIC IMMOBILISATION OF THE POOR Another group responsible for the systemic immobilisation of the poor is the intelligentsia. Here we are referring to cultural elites who engage in victim-blaming. An example would be the outburst from a former teacher early last year, who was blaming parents for the inability of children to read when they enter Primary One, which reflects two things. First and foremost, it reflects a prejudice against parents in general, a bigoted worldview that disregards the injuries inflicted by detrimental structures and policies on parents, particularly those in the working class. Bringing up children in a brutal environment that thrives on capitalistic and neoliberal pursuits, parents who do not have the privilege and luxury of time, who have been deprived of social, cultural and economic capital as they struggle on a daily basis to put food on the table, will be left on their own without the required support they need to assist their children in the educational pursuit.
poor playing a role in reproducing their own subservience by internalising and accepting those ideas and structures that tend to constrain their mobility. In our attempt to understand how social class inequalities are reproduced, it is imperative that we develop a critical consciousness that would help us see, resist and call out such acts of violence. If not, we end up bound in our own chains, exalting the upper class by allowing ourselves to indulge and bask in the shadow of their hedonistic lifestyle by consuming unnecessary things just to make ourselves appear as someone belonging to a certain social class. We aspire to own luxury cars, to live in luxury homes and to have our bodies clad in luxury items from top to bottom. At the same time, we engage in spiritual materialism where we seek recognition of our goodness by helping and showing our concern for the poor, without any genuine interest to alleviate their suffering. We keep calm and carry on consuming.
As bell hooks beautifully puts it, “When we all understand the fundamental link between hedonistic materialism and the environmental destruction of the planet, Secondly, it reflects a problematic thinking we can all work together to live simply, so conditioned by a draconian system that that others may simply live.” 4 immortalises technique and deifies efficiency. It considers a child illiterate if The first step is for us to break the chains s/he is unable to recognise simple sight that bind, and blind, us all. words – which are dictated by the system itself – and ignores the vast amount of pictures and visual texts that s/he has read, which basically constitutes his/her own body of knowledge at that very point Muhammed Shahril Sha ik Abdullah holds a in time, before s/he enters school. Master of Education (Le ade The biggest problem is when we as a society either do not or even refuse to see it as a problem, or when we see it as something that is not our problem. That is how we all become complicit in the reproduction of inequality. It exemplifies what Pierre Bourdieu refers to as symbolic violence3, that ‘gentle and invisible violence’ that we have inflicted on the underclass amongst us. This leads to the
rship, Policy & Change) from Monash University and works in a library. His resear ch interest includes critical pedagogy, radical children’s literature and democratic education.
BOURDIEU, P, AND PASSERON, J. (1977). REPRODUCTION IN EDUCATION, SOCIETY AND CULTURE. LONDON: SAGE BELL, H. (2013). ‘CLASS DISMISSED’, IN LIVING WITH CLASS. PP 10
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Home Based Businesses in the Singapore Malay/Muslim Community BY FADILAH ABDUL MAJID
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The success of home based businesses (HBB) in today’s environment of corporatisation of businesses is testimony to the pioneering spirit of Singaporeans.
Even Mdm Halimah Yacob, President of Singapore, weighed in on the controversy in a Facebook post on 1 May, in which she spoke about ordering festive delicacies from HBB every year in order to support It harkens back to the early days of them. The ban was later lifted in time for nation-building when migrants came with Hari Raya. only their bare necessities to set up small businesses on sidewalks which prospered BEHIND THE SCENES to become today’s mega-businesses. This HBB are usually run by women caregivers will to survive is what makes us successful with children and elderly parents. today as a nation. Working outside is impossible for these women because of their responsibilities In recognition of this indomitable spirit, and they often do not have the capital to the Singapore Malay Chamber of start a registered business. HBB are Commerce and Industry (SMCCI) through sustainable due to low costs. They operate its women’s wing, DEWI, has relentlessly year-round but it is during the festive championed the rights of HBB. Today a periods such as Ramadan that they significant 10 per cent of SMCCI’s 850 become truly profitable. HBB provide members are HBB, of which 30 per cent are convenience and choice, and are an women members of DEWI@SMCCI. intrinsic part of the community. An example of a HBB owner is Mdm Rahimah, a widow who is taking care of seven children and a bedridden elderly mother. She had been replaced at her workplace. After submitting job applications for a whole year without success, the reality of living in Singapore dawned on her. In spite of her skills and dedication, no company here was offering her employment. One of Rahimah’s passions is to cook Arab and Mediterranean fusion dishes and invite friends and relatives over for meals. They raved about her cooking and she started receiving orders to cater for functions, which she took only on weekends due to work. However, with her retrenchment, she could take orders on weekdays and soon started an online HBB food delivery service. It was successful enough to sustain her and her family. Then COVID-19 struck and food delivery boomed overnight. Rahimah had to recruit her friends and relatives to assist with the business, and soon came the fasting month of Ramadan. Demand skyrocketed. She was able to settle all her debts and even save for her family. When the announcement that HBB will be banned was made as part of the circuit breaker measures, it was met with unhappiness and confusion within the HBB community including Rahimah. The fact that other food and beverage (F&B) businesses were allowed to operate with third party delivery services added to the confusion.
When news broke on the HBB ban, SMCCI took the initiative to address the issue head-on as it would affect many families including DEWI members. HBB owners suffered a double blow as many had committed resources and purchased ingredients for pending orders. However, they accepted the need to comply with the measures with the hope that the situation would improve and the government would listen to their feedback. SMCCI worked with the authorities to find a solution, remaining steadfast in its commitment to its members and the larger Malay/Muslim business community. A portal collating HBB details was set up to assess the impact of the ban, which lay the groundwork for how SMCCI can best support these business owners in terms of logistics, delivery and business management training. The response was overwhelming. By the time the portal was concluded, almost 2,000 HBB owners had registered.
HBB are usually run by women caregivers with children and elderly parents. Working outside is impossible for these women because of their responsibilities and they often do not have the capital to start a registered business. HBB are sustainable due to low costs. They operate year-round but it is during the festive periods such as Ramadan that they become truly profitable. HBB provide convenience and choice, and are an intrinsic part of the community.
Cooperation and mutual understanding were essential in facilitating an open discussion between SMCCI and the government in order to develop real solutions for the affected HBB. Many HBB were contacted to acquaint them with the various national assistance schemes available. The assistance covered three fronts: firstly, the HBB’s financial situation. Owners suffering a loss of income could benefit from the Temporary Relief Fund (TRF).
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Minister Masagos’ announcement that SMCCI-registered HBB would be eligible for TRF was helpful in this regard. Secondly, HBB would be provided free legal support if they are unable to fulfil their commercial obligations. Thirdly, the implementation of support measures to counter the impact on the HBB’s income.
A sizeable proportion are full-time employees who support family income by monetising their skills outside of their full-time work. Some are part-time employees supplementing their income to better support their families. The majority of HBB are selling food and delicacies compared to those selling products and services. Most HBB have already been in operation between two and five years. There are basically three types of HBB – small businesses to supplement basic income; businesses that have grown to a certain scale but prefer to remain as an unregistered entity; and finally, businesses with aspirations to expand into a registered company.
Two cases of HBB that have grown beyond expectations are Julie Bakes and Pondok Abang.
When Julie Bakes first started its operations, owner Mdm Juliana Jahayer was selling brownies and cupcakes to acquaintances during weekends while she was still working in a shipping company. SMCCI advocated with key agencies such When she was retrenched in 2015, she as Enterprise Singapore, Singapore Food decided to bake full-time with help from Agency, Housing & Development Board her sisters and daughter. However, the and the Ministry of Trade & Industry, on market was already saturated. She then restarting HBB with mitigating measures, created a niche by baking traditional and received assurance on the easing of fusion cakes like her signature ondeh-ondeh restrictions to allow HBB operations to cake, which became a huge success till resume in time for Hari Raya orders. Two today. She soon expanded her business by weeks before Raya, HBB was allowed to renting a shop at Baghdad Street and has resume operations. It should be noted that in its early years been operating there successfully for five under the chairmanship of Mdm Junaidah years now. INSIGHTS INTO HBB Tarjo, DEWI moved to legalise HBB in The data collection exercise revealed spite of the tough challenges. DEWI Pondok Abang’s founder, Mr Abdul that the presence of HBB is bigger than approached government bodies, offered Rahman Yad Ali, started his business expected, and the demand for HBB talks and encouraged them to be involved 30 years ago selling curry puffs to factory products is higher during the Hari Raya in SMCCI programmes. I witnessed this workers in Tuas to better support his period. This was best articulated by while I was the business editor of the family while working as a refuse truck President Halimah, a long-standing DEWI Ekoniaga section at Berita Harian. SMCCI driver. His wife, Mdm Kalsom Bee, would supporter. In the same 1 May Facebook worked with the daily to discuss the way also prepare food and air katira to be sold post, she said, “It’s not the standard forward for HBB in the presence of during the month of Ramadan. After 16 commercial cookies that are on sale President Halimah. years, he left his day job to set up his first everywhere but cookies up to your own foodstall selling Chinese rojak. He then taste. So in this way, the home-based Today, HBB continue to be an important opened more stalls, selling both Malay and business meets an important need of many part of SMCCI. However, concerns still Indian food. In 2008, he bought the premises families celebrating their Hari Raya.” remain amongst some HBB owners on at Jurong Food Hub as a supply centre for Additionally, she mentioned that she whether they would be accepted as legal his stalls. He started manufacturing and herself looked forward to purchase from entities. The Chamber aims to reach out to supplying food to other stalls. HBB after the restrictions were lifted. HBB to address these concerns and help transform them on the digital front In 2015, his son, Mr Hasan, developed a A further analysis of the data SMCCI through the implementation of contactless strategy to take the company to greater collated from HBB confirmed that owners delivery and payment systems, as well as heights with the goal of being the leading are predominantly female (88.8 per cent). in marketing and branding. The response value chain halal food supplier. Pondok More than half are full-time housewives from HBB has encouraged SMCCI to Abang is now the leading Muslim-owned supplementing their family income. ensure that they are well-supported. halal food manufacturer in Singapore.
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LONG-TERM PLANS HBB’s contributions to the economy can no longer be ignored. SMCCI will continue its engagement with HBB to foster an ecosystem and a supply chain offering structured and sustainable growth. SMCCI's long term strategy for the micro business community includes: • Providing capability and capacity building opportunities for HBB; • Establishing a support system for HBB to continue operating from home such as shared resources, food safety, marketing, and delivery; • Providing a structured platform for HBB through the aggregation of services such as supply chains, central kitchen, and hawker centres; and • Setting up a Micro Business Development office to look specifically into the needs of the HBB industry. Through the ecosystem and supply chain, SMCCI will provide both the gateway and platform to strengthen SMEs. The gateway will be through the SME Centre for capability development through grants. The platform will be through mothership projects and micro businesses to help create business opportunities for members. SMCCI is currently in talks with Singapore Muslim Women’s Association (PPIS) and AMP to sign a memorandum of understanding to further grow and transform HBB. In summary, HBB is definitely here to stay. We aim for HBB to grow and transform into full-fledged businesses and look forward to greater participation from HBB to work with SMCCI for the plans to be effective and successful.
Fadilah Abdul Majid is the Vice President of Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SMCCI), and the Chairman of its women’s arm, DEWI. She is also the Managing Director of beauty and wellness outlet, SpaJelita.
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STAY AT HOME, STAY AT RISK:
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Domestic Violence BY FILZAH SUMARTONO
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries put in place lockdown measures as safety precautions to curb the spread of the virus. Staying at home, for most, meant being safe from a possibly fatal affliction. However, for victims of domestic violence, this was not necessarily the case.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) adult and child protective services saw a 14 per cent increase in enquiries related to domestic conflicts and violence in the first two weeks of circuit breaker1. Meanwhile, of the 6,600 calls received by MSF’s National Care Hotline in its first three weeks, 6 per cent were related to family and marital Since the beginning of April, when circuit disputes and 4 per cent were related to breaker measures were implemented in family violence2. Similarly, the Singapore Singapore, there has been a spike in calls Police Force reported an increase of 22 and reports related to domestic violence. per cent of reports related to family
violence since the beginning of the circuit breaker period3. It should be stressed that these statistics only reflect reported cases. The true extent of domestic violence is surely even higher – a study conducted by Ipsos in 2019 found that 3 in 10 Singaporeans say they or someone close to them have experienced domestic abuse, indicating a higher prevalence rate of domestic violence than what is captured on official records4. Findings from the International
CNA. COVID-19: MSF KEEPING 'CLOSE WATCH' ON DOMESTIC ABUSE CASES AS MORE REACH OUT FOR HELP OVER CIRCUIT BREAKER PERIOD. 2020, APRIL 23. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/SINGAPORE/COVID-19-MSF-DOMESTIC-ABUSE-VIOLENCE-CASES-CIRCUIT-BREAKER-12671330 2 GOH, YH. OVER 6,600 CALLS MADE TO NATIONAL CARE HOTLINE. THE STRAITS TIMES. 2020, APRIL 30. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/SINGAPORE/HEALTH/OVER-6600-CALLS-MADE-TO-NATIONAL-CARE-HOTLINE 3 IAU, J. CORONAVIRUS: MORE CASES OF FAMILY VIOLENCE DURING CIRCUIT BREAKER; POLICE TO PROACTIVELY HELP VICTIMS. THE STRAITS TIMES. 2020, MAY 14. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/SINGAPORE/COURTS-CRIME/CORONAVIRUS-MORE-CASES-OF-FAMILY-VIOLENCE-DURING-CIRCUIT-BREAKER-POLICE-TO 4 IPSOS. PRESS RELEASE: 3 IN 10 SINGAPOREANS SAY THEY OR SOMEONE CLOSE TO THEM HAVE EXPERIENCED DOMESTIC ABUSE. 2019, DECEMBER 10. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.IPSOS.COM/SITES/DEFAULT/FILES/CT/NEWS/DOCUMENTS/2019-12/PRESS_RELEASE_PERCEPTIONS_OF_DOMESTIC_ABUSE_IN_SINGAPORE_IPSOS_UWS_6_DECEMBER_2019.PDF 1
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Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS) conducted in Singapore found that less than one-quarter of victims reported incidences of domestic violence to the police5. This is particularly so if the violence is committed by a husband or an intimate partner as they did not want their partner arrested6.
domestic violence, but it did create the perfect environment for domestic violence to occur. One hallmark of society’s response to COVID-19 is social distancing – and a primary way that In Singapore, the traditional “head of abusers exert power and control is by household” concept still exists in policy isolating their victims20. This includes controlling what victims do, where they and decision-making15. It reflects a hierarchical view of the family whereby go, who they meet and talk to. Women are thus prevented from connecting with DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS a male breadwinner has higher status their support network of friends and A GENDERED PROBLEM and greater authority than a female co-workers; they may also lack sufficient Domestic violence is not just physical caregiver, and affects decision-making privacy from their abuser to call helplines violence. It is any behaviour used to by public agencies in areas such as and access other formal services. Now maintain power and control over an housing16. This concept is also present in Malay/Muslim community discourse that social distancing measures have intimate partner. Abusers use overt about domestic violence. Statements such trapped women with their abusers at behaviours such as physical and sexual violence to dominate and instil fear over as, “Sebagai suami, maka gunakanlah kuasa home, such situations are more likely to happen. Those who were already in their partners7. They also use more subtle kita dengan sebaik- baiknya dan janganlah abusive situations may find themselves melampaui batas”17 rely on the husband’s tactics such as intimidation, emotional facing more extreme violence with no and economic abuse, isolation, and so on, benevolence and require women to be dependent on men. By not addressing the way of escape. to control their partner’s behaviour and unequal power relationships between maintain power over them so that the As the pandemic has caused disruption husband and wife, women are still abusers can get what they want8. vulnerable to abuse at the hands of a less and uncertainty in our lives, abusers may attempt to seek a sense of control in their benevolent husband. Although anyone can be a victim of lives by taking it out on those around domestic violence, women are much them. A research study on intimate Patriarchal interpretations of religion more likely to be victims of violence partner violence and the global financial perpetrated by males. The IVAWS found can also be used to justify violence against women. Surah an-Nisa’, verse 34 crisis in the US linked unemployment that nearly 1 in 10 women in Singapore has been grossly misinterpreted to justify and economic hardship to abusive experienced physical violence by a behaviour in households21. Another wife-beating18. Although the Islamic male perpetrator9. Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) study also found that when women are Studies have shown that there is a has rejected any notion that Islam unemployed or at risk of unemployment, correlation between men’s adherence condones domestic violence19, without it makes it harder for them to escape to sexist, patriarchal, and/or sexually sustained dialogue and discussion on the abusive situations due to their economic hostile attitudes and the use of violence dependency on their spouses22. concept of “head of household” and its 10 against women . These attitudes include implications on domestic violence within that men should be dominant in the community, the verse is still used as a IMPACT ON MARGINALISED WOMEN households and intimate relationships, convenient divine declaration to permit Some women are even more vulnerable and that men have the right to enforce to violence than others due to the violence against women. their dominance11. Unfortunately, such intersections between gender, citizenship ideas have a long history in many status, sexuality and work status. CIRCUIT BREAKER AND cultures and have been enshrined in DOMESTIC VIOLENCE legal systems12 and social norms13. The The COVID-19 pandemic did not create
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idea that authority belongs to men while women must be submissive provides a cultural cover for violence against women14.
FLOOD, M, AND PEASE, B. FACTORS INFLUENCING ATTITUDES TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. PUBMED. MAY 2009. PP 51. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.RESEARCHGATE.NET/PUBLICATION/24345795_FACTORS_INFLUENCING_ATTITUDES_TO_VIOLENCE_AGAINST_WOMEN. IBID, PP 53. THE DULUTH MODEL. POWER AND CONTROL WHEEL - UNDERSTANDING THE POWER AND CONTROL WHEEL. 2016, MAY 2. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://YOUTU.BE/5ORADC6YSIY IBID. CHAN, WC, BOUHOURS, B, BONG, B, AND ANDERSON, S. SINGAPORE IVAWS (FINAL REPORT). JUNE 2013, PXIX. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.RESEARCHGATE.NET/PUBLICATION/257410179_SINGAPORE_IVAWS_FINAL_REPORT. FLOOD, M, AND PEASE, B. FACTORS INFLUENCING ATTITUDES TO VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. PUBMED. MAY 2009. PP 126. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.RESEARCHGATE.NET/PUBLICATION/24345795_FACTORS_INFLUENCING_ATTITUDES_TO_VIOLENCE_AGAINST_WOMEN. IBID. PP 128. STRATON, J. (2002). RULE OF THUMB VERSUS RULE OF LAW. MEN AND MASCULINITIES. MEN MASC. PP 103-109. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.RESEARCHGATE.NET/PUBLICATION/249697307_RULE_OF_THUMB_VERSUS_RULE_OF_LAW BERKEL, L, VANDIVER, B, AND BAHNER, A. (2004). GENDER ROLE ATTITUDES, RELIGION, AND SPIRITUALITY AS PREDICTORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ATTITUDES IN WHITE COLLEGE STUDENTS. JOURNAL OF COLLEGE STUDENT DEVELOPMENT. PP 119-133. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.RESEARCHGATE.NET/PUBLICATION/236828063_GENDER_ROLE_ATTITUDES_RELIGION_AND_SPIRITUALITY_AS_PREDICTORS_OF_DOMESTIC_VIOLENCE_ATTITUDES_IN_WHITE_COLLEGE_STUDENTS SUNDAY, BF. PSYCHOMETRIC PROPERTIES OF BELIEFS ABOUT RELATIONSHIP VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GENDER STEREOTYPES SCALE. 2016. PP 246. UNITED NATIONS COMMITTEE ON CEDAW. “MANY VOICES, ONE MOVEMENT”: COALITION REPORT OF NATIONAL NGOS. 2017. PP 8. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://SGCEDAWCOALITION.FILES.WORDPRESS.COM/2017/10/MANY-VOICES-ONE-MOVEMENT-COALITION-REPORT-OF-NATIONAL-NGOS-ON-SINGAPORE.PDF. THE STRAITS TIMES. FORUM: 'HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD' CONCEPT HAS NO PLACE IN POLICY. 2016, FEBRUARY 4. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/FORUM/LETTERS-ON-THE-WEB/HEAD-OF-HOUSEHOLD-CONCEPT-HAS-NO-PLACE-IN-POLICY TRANSLATION: “AS HUSBANDS, USE OUR POWER WISELY AND DO NOT OVERSTEP THE BOUNDARIES.” BERITA HARIAN. CARA URUS ISTERI DEGIL. 2017, OCTOBER 13. BERITA HARIAN/ PENOLONG PENGARAH PEJABAT MUFTI PERJELAS SOAL SUAMI KASARI ISTERI. 2017, OCTOBER 16. THE DULUTH MODEL. POWER AND CONTROL WHEEL - UNDERSTANDING THE POWER AND CONTROL WHEEL. 2016, MAY 2. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://YOUTU.BE/5ORADC6YSIY SCHNEIDER D, HARKNETT K, AND MCLANAHAN S. INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE IN THE GREAT RECESSION. DEMOGRAPHY. 2016. PP 471-505. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.NCBI.NLM.NIH.GOV/PMC/ARTICLES/PMC4860387/ DAN, A, HELMUT, R, JONATHAN, W, AND TANYA, W. UNEMPLOYMENT AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: THEORY AND EVIDENCE. IZA. JULY 2013. PP. 23. AVAILABLE AT: HTTP://FTP.IZA.ORG/DP7515.PDF.
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Migrant Wives Data from the Association of Women for Action and Research’s (AWARE) Helpline suggests higher rates of family violence experienced by migrant wives, as compared to Singaporean women. From 2016 to 2018, 13 per cent of Singaporean women who called the Helpline experienced family violence, while 27.5 per cent of migrant wives callers experienced the same23. Callers reported experiencing spousal violence. Some citizen spouses also used the threat of cancelling visas/visit passes as a way of inflicting psychological abuse and preventing their non-resident wives from seeking help24. Fear of losing their right to remain in the country and be with their children force these women to compromise their own safety and stay in abusive marriages.
workers are also subject to increased surveillance by their employers and some may not be able to leave the house to seek help29. Their dependence on employers for employment and income may lead to some domestic workers having no choice but to tolerate abusive or exploitative conditions in order to provide for families back home.
CREATING A NEW NORMAL In 2019, there was a full repeal of marital immunity for rape in the Penal Code, indicating a positive step towards reducing domestic violence30. However, it is important to realise that AWARE and other organisations have been advocating for the repeal of marital rape immunity for the past three decades. It took years of continuous, community-driven public advocacy before married women were finally given the same protection as LGBTQ+ Persons unmarried women. These changes have A recent survey conducted by Brave Spaces come far too slowly — and women have and Sayoni, on the impact of COVID-19 to bear the consequences. on LGBTQ+ persons in Singapore, found that 1 in 5 respondents currently live in The pandemic has brought about a major family environments that are hostile shift in everyone’s lives. The world we towards their sexual orientation and/or knew previously is gone. As a community, gender identity25. Under circuit breaker the men in our midst cannot let their measures, LGBTQ+ persons are trapped sisters, mothers, colleagues, friends and in homes with unaccepting families, loved ones carry the burden of changing increasing their risk of domestic violence systemic sexism and structural by family members who may resort to discrimination on our own. Domestic violence and abuse to “correct” or punish violence cannot be seen as a women’s them for their sexual orientation or issue when the perpetrators are gender identity26. Moreover, there are overwhelmingly male. Male allies need too few social services catered for the to stop giving lip service to fighting community, and these tend to be run by domestic violence. Under the Convention under-resourced and under-funded NGOs. on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Domestic Workers Singapore ratified in 1995, the state is Since the implementation of circuit obligated to eliminate discrimination breaker measures, Humanitarian against women and achieve substantive Organisation for Migration Economics equality. Men need to have the courage (HOME) has reported a 25 per cent to hold other men accountable for their increase in calls to their helpline from actions. Men in leadership and positions domestic workers27. Some employers of influence in state bodies, institutions, restrict domestic workers from using religious organisations, companies, their mobile phones during work hours, charities and so on need to step up and further isolating them and reducing take concrete efforts towards ensuring their communication access28. Domestic gender equality in their contexts.
Men need to start reflecting on their unconscious bias, their actions and their silences and ask themselves – how has their inability to hold other men accountable for acts of inequality allowed domestic violence to perpetuate? If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, you can reach out to the following helplines: AWARE’s Women’s Helpline: 1800 777 5555 Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm National Care Hotline: 1800 202 6868 24-hour Brave Helpline for LGBTQ+ persons: 8788 8817 Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm HOME Helpline for domestic workers: 1800 797 7977 or 9787 3122 (WhatsApp/Viber)
Filzah Sumartono is a Projects Manager at Association of Wome n for Action and Research (AWARE). She is also an advocate for an end to the practic e of sunat perempuan (female circumcision) in Singapore.
AWARE SINGAPORE. MIGRANT WIVES IN DISTRESS. JUNE 2020. PP 6. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://D2T1LSPZRJTIF2.CLOUDFRONT.NET/WP-CONTENT/UPLOADS/AWARE-REPORT-1-JUNE-2020-MIGRANT-WIVES-IN-DISTRESS.PDF 24 IBID. 25 SAYONI. 2020, JUNE 1. HTTPS://WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/FBSAYONI/POSTS/10158568092643169 [FACEBOOK UPDATE] 26 IBID. 27 HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION ECONOMICS. COVID-19 AND IMPACT OF CIRCUIT BREAKER MEASURES ON DOMESTIC WORKERS. 2020, MAY 15. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.HOME.ORG.SG/STATEMENTS/2020/5/15/COVID-19-AND-IMPACT-OF-CIRCUIT-BREAKER-MEASURES-ON-DOMESTIC-WORKERS 28 IBID. 29 IBID. 30 RACHEL AY. IMMUNITY FOR MARITAL RAPE BEING REVIEWED. THE STRAITS TIMES. 2017, APRIL 5. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/SINGAPORE/IMMUNITY-FOR-MARITAL-RAPE-BEING-REVIEWED
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THE COVID-19 FRONTLINERS:
Soldiering against the Pandemic BY NABILAH MOHAMMAD
THE WORLD REMADE BY COVID-19 Just a few months ago, the Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, was unheard of, but now, almost every continent is battling the virus. The disease is an infectious one caused by a newly discovered coronavirus and has taken almost half a million lives worldwide at the time of publication. On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the viral disease which was first identified in
December 2019 in Wuhan, China, has reached the level of a global pandemic1. Citing concerns with “the alarming levels of spread and severity,” the WHO called for governments to take urgent and aggressive action to stop the spread of the virus. As of 18 June, there are about 8.24 million cases reported and about 446,000 deaths globally2. Singapore has reported more than 41,000 cases, with 8,130 active cases and 26 deaths3.
On 3 April, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a much stricter set of measures, collectively known as a "circuit breaker", amid concerns over escalating COVID-19 infections in Singapore4. Some of the measures included the closure of most workplaces and students moving to full home-based learning. “Social distancing”, “quarantine”, “essential services” are buzzwords that often pop up in conversations among Singaporeans these days. Face masks and
CNA. COVID-19 OUTBREAK 'A PANDEMIC': WHO CHIEF. 2020, MARCH 12. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS-PANDEMIC-WHO-CHIEF-12528328 WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. CORONAVIRUS DISEASE (COVID-19) SITUATION REPORT – 150. 2020, JUNE 18. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.WHO.INT/DOCS/DEFAULT-SOURCE/CORONAVIRUSE/SITUATION-REPORTS/20200618-COVID-19-SITREP-150.PDF?SFVRSN=AA9FE9CF_2 MINISTRY OF HEALTH. SITUATION REPORT - 18 JUN 2020. 2020, JUNE 18. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.MOH.GOV.SG/DOCS/LIBRARIESPROVIDER5/2019-NCOV/SITUATION-REPORT---18-JUN-2020.PDF CNA. COVID-19: SINGAPORE MAKES 'DECISIVE MOVE' TO CLOSE MOST WORKPLACES AND IMPOSE FULL HOME-BASED LEARNING FOR SCHOOLS, SAYS PM LEE. 2020, APRIL 3. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/SINGAPORE/COVID19-DECISIVE-MOVE-WORKPLACES-CLOSED-LEE-HSIEN-LOONG-12606614
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hand sanitisers have been highly sought after with many shops and online sites running out of stock5 during the early stage of the outbreak. The coronavirus has spread around the world, halting industry, bringing flights to a standstill, forcing the postponement of social events and even sent several countries into lockdown. Everything has been impacted: how we live and interact with each other, how we work, how we move around and how we travel. For many of us, we’re battling a loss of normalcy in our daily lives, especially those who have to work in the frontlines. Like in any other country affected by the coronavirus, here in Singapore, frontline workers are keeping the population safe from COVID-19. They are those, who in the course of their employment, experience a high level of physical contact with the public, such as healthcare workers as well as those in other essential services such as security officers and cleaners. The Karyawan team interviewed three frontline workers to get a glimpse of how their lives had changed, been disrupted, and upended by the pandemic. The Karyawan team spoke to Mr Farhan (not his real name), 30, who is a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with 7 years’ experience in pre-hospital emergency. Farhan is an EMT with a private ambulance company dealing with non-emergency ambulance calls through the 1777 hotline. He also provides hospital transfer services for both stable and unstable patients. Many frontliners like Farhan have to deal with the mental strain of having to keep up with constantly changing protocols and definitions of suspect cases as the COVID-19 situation rapidly evolves. According to Farhan, additional protocols include the usage of full personal protection equipment (PPE) and responding to ambulance calls, to
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convey both suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases. “Some of the new measures include a temperature check of the crew every six hours in our 12-hr shift, and social distancing measures such as the restriction of crews of different ambulances from physically interacting with one another,” Farhan shared. We also spoke to Rizal (not his real name), who shared the same sentiments. Rizal, 29, is an enforcement officer assigned to one of the foreign worker dormitories here. He shared that his work site has been classified as one of the red zone areas in Singapore, which means that there is a high number of COVIDinfected cases reported in the area. His job scope during this pandemic period includes patrolling the dormitory area to make sure the migrant workers do not wander around or loiter near the barricade that surrounds the affected dormitories. “The first day of my assignment was very hectic and stressful due to the environment of the dormitory. There are a lot of measures implemented. I have to work twelve hours per day for five days before I get a day off. It’s very tiring,” Rizal shared. The Karyawan team also interviewed Nazri (not his real name), 35, who is a staff nurse at a local hospital. According to him, additional procedures and health screening have been implemented at his workplace, including conducting COVID-19 swabs for those who are considered high risk. He also shared that contact precaution and infection control practices such as the “5 Moments for Hand Hygiene” are maintained. The 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene approach defines the key moments when healthcare workers should perform hand hygiene procedures6. In addition, PPEs such as N95 masks, surgical masks, gloves and protective gowns are easily accessible to the ground staff.
Our interviewees shared that, besides juggling busy work schedules, they are also grappling with lost time with family members and disruptions to their personal routines and plans. “I am a divorcee and was supposed to spend time with my kids every weekend. However, I had to sacrifice my time with my kids and have not met them ever since the pandemic started as I was called to be on the front line due to the nature of my job. To prevent putting my kids and my parents at risk, I have not met any of them since,” Farhan shared. Rizal concurs. He says, “The current pandemic and my busy work schedule have affected my family time. I’ve got no time for my family.” As frontline workers who are constantly exposed to the virus, our interviewees also shared that they often worry about bringing the virus home to their family and children. As a father of two young children, Nazri shared that he is deeply concerned about the well-being of his kids. “There are fears and concerns about bringing any viruses home. This is especially so as my children are young and are usually clingy with me; they would always want to be hugged and carried when they see me at the house gate. Although I observe strict infection control protocols at work, as a precautionary measure, I will always take a shower at work before changing to clean clothes before heading home. I am thankful that my family is very supportive of what I do and is proud of it,” Nazri shared. THE OTHER COVID-19 BATTLE Since the early days of the pandemic, the frontline workers have gone above and beyond to ensure the community’s safety. Yet, a number of them, instead of being accorded the hero's treatment they deserve, are being subjected to discrimination7, stigmatisation,
5 THE STRAITS TIMES. MASKS, HAND SANITISERS SUBJECT TO USUAL GST RULES: S'PORE CUSTOMS. 2020, FEBRUARY 18. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/SINGAPORE/MASKS-HAND-SANITISERS-SUBJECT-TO-USUAL-GST-RULES-SPORE-CUSTOMS WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. MY 5 MOMENTS FOR HAND HYGIENE. ACCESSED 2020, JUNE 26. HTTPS://WWW.WHO.INT/INFECTION-PREVENTION/CAMPAIGNS/CLEAN-HANDS/5MOMENTS/EN/ 7 CNA. DISCRIMINATION OF HEALTHCARE WORKERS DUE TO CORONAVIRUS ‘DISGRACEFUL’: AMRIN AMIN. 2020, FEBRUARY 12. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/SINGAPORE/WUHAN-VIRUS-CORONAVIRUS-COVID19-DISCRIMINATION-HEALTHCARE-WORKER-12426528
harassment and violence, mainly due to unfounded COVID-19 fears8. All our interviewees spoke about instances where they felt that they were subjected to discrimination by the public. “Although the majority do look up to the healthcare team as ‘heroes’, we are bound to encounter those who might look at us in a different way. Some might avoid us, not wanting to take the same lift as us when we are in our uniform and will give us an unwelcoming look. My family and I have been subjected to some discrimination and harassment. Although it can be upsetting, especially when we are putting ourselves and our family at risk to help others, we choose to be understanding and know that they are just worried about the well-being of their family,” Nazri shared. Farhan also shared that he wasn’t spared from the discrimination by the public. “Twice, private hire drivers cancelled my call upon arriving at the pick-up location and knowing that I’m a frontline worker with the ambulance. However, I would like to emphasise that not everyone is like that,” Farhan said. It's not just hospital workers who are facing the stigma. Rizal shared that there were instances when he was discriminated against when he took the public bus which he boards near his work location. “I also face a lot of issues when taking public transport. The public stares at us as we take the public bus from the dormitory. Some of them alight from the bus to take another bus. Some even change seats when they see us approaching them,” Rizal shared. Foreign worker dormitories are one of the largest COVID-19 clusters in Singapore. Reports of infections among migrant workers in Singapore trickled in from 30 March 2020, when 35 new cases of COVID-19 were detected in 24 hours9. It took only 10 days for that figure to double
“It is often forgotten that healthcare Nazri felt that the discrimination and workers who are on stigmatisation may stem from the misconception that their profession the frontlines battling makes them virus-ridden. Nurses, against COVID-19 are for instance, disinfect themselves thoroughly before leaving the hospital, humans too, just like only to encounter paranoia from the very people they are protecting. you and me. We eat, “Some misconceptions I came across are breathe, and bleed that nurses are the cause of the spread of the virus to others. What people might not the same way as be aware of is that as healthcare workers, we follow strict hand hygiene guidelines everyone, and we and infection control protocols at work. Those in high-risk areas don the PPEs and are not differentiated hospital-laundered scrubs rather than our own uniform. On top of practising safe by our race, religion, distancing at work, we too go through a thorough disinfection routine before gender or nationality. heading home after our shift. Once I end my shift, I will take a shower immediately Regardless of our before leaving the ward and will change job, we are all back to my home clothes. I will wash my uniforms separately from my family contributing to members’ clothes too. We take more precautions to protect our family members society, no matter and those we encounter,” Nazri said. big or small, “Secondly, there are views that we are doing it just so that we can be recognised especially during as healthcare heroes. However, our commitment to care for patients who are this challenging ill and in need of help goes beyond this pandemic period. We are here to care time and we should for all patients because we sincerely care for them,” Nazri added. maintain our mutual The Karyawan team asked what has kept respect for one them going, despite the discrimination another. Everyone they face. has a part to play “The main thing that keeps me going is the support and understanding from in this battle. Let’s my family. fight together, Without their support, I may not even have the motivation to leave home for not each other.” duty in the first place. Secondly, it is the to 2,000, and another three days for it to top 3,000 as the number infected at the dormitories shot up.
THE STRAITS TIMES. STIGMATISATION OF CORONAVIRUS FRONT-LINE HEALTH WORKERS APPALLING: INQUIRER. 2020, APRIL 10. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/ASIA/STIGMATISATION-OF-FRONTLINE-HEALTH-WORKERS-APPALLING-INQUIRER CNA. TWO WEEKS AND A 70-FOLD INCREASE: A LOOK INTO THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK IN SINGAPORE'S FOREIGN WORKER DORMITORIES. 2020, APRIL 17. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.CHANNELNEWSASIA.COM/NEWS/SINGAPORE/COVID-19-SINGAPORE-FOREIGN-WORKER-DORM-OUTBREAK-INCREASE-12649472
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strong support from the hospital – from the upper management down to my colleagues. We support one another through our ups and downs, and we are always there for each other, be it when we are struggling with our work or our personal lives. Lastly, the patients who need our care. They are sick and unwell. I believe that anyone can be qualified to do the job of a nurse. But what makes a great nurse is the passion in caring for others,” Nazri said. “The thought of getting rid of the virus to keep my parents and kids safe is what keeps me going,” Farhan shared. CELEBRATING THE FRONTLINE WORKERS As the government, health agencies and local officials work hard to contain the pandemic and its effects, we also see the community coming together in support of each other, especially for the frontline workers who are sacrificing the most. Amid the instances of discrimination and ingratitude, there are many Singaporeans who have made it a point to honour our medical workers. At 8pm on 30 March 2020 for instance, the sound of applause burst out from windows and balconies across Singapore. The ovation was part of Clap For #SGUnited, a campaign to get the public to show their appreciation for those on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic10. Messages of hope and encouragement are also sent to medical workers through food and sweet treats. Home-grown bakeries have had baked goods sent to medical workers, either as their own initiative or from individuals wanting to show their support for frontline workers11 .
why some are feeling a creeping feeling of panic. Even with frontline workers working tirelessly around the clock, it seems as if the virus is outrunning us. Yet, it's not just the virus itself that is causing global harm; there is something else that is adding even more to the pandemic: misapprehension and misinformation.
Nabilah Mohammad is a Senior Research Analyst at the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affa irs (RIMA). She holds a Bachelor of Scie nce in Psychology and a Specialist Diplom a in Statistics and Data Mining.
“It is often forgotten that healthcare workers who are on the frontlines battling against COVID-19 are humans too, just like you and me. We eat, breathe, and bleed the same way as everyone, and we are not differentiated by our race, religion, gender or nationality. Regardless of our job, we are all contributing to society, no matter big or small, especially during this challenging time and we should maintain our mutual respect for one another. Everyone has a part to play in this battle. Let’s fight together, not each other,” Nazri shared. “Please stay at home whenever possible and maintain social distancing. This virus is no laughing matter and we need everyone’s cooperation to get this over and done with so that we can go back to our family,” Farhan shared. Indeed, the sweeping impact of the coronavirus is unprecedented in this lifetime and we are nowhere near knowing when the pandemic will end or how bad things will get. In fact, the world may never be the same again. These are sensitive times, with a deadly virus coupled with a plethora of misconception and discriminatory attitudes. Yet, with the hard work of the frontline workers, growing knowledge of the virus, and support from the society, the storm will soon pass, and sunnier days will come.
A NOTE FROM THE FRONTLINE WORKERS With COVID-19 cases having reached staggering numbers in a relatively short time globally, it is easy to understand
THE STRAITS TIMES. SINGAPORE GIVES THOSE ON CORONAVIRUS FRONT LINES A ROUND OF APPLAUSE. 2020, MARCH 30. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/SINGAPORE/SINGAPORE-GIVES-CORONAVIRUS-FRONTLINERS-A-ROUND-OF-APPLAUSE THE STRAITS TIMES. CORONAVIRUS: BAKERIES, INDIVIDUALS OFFER SWEET TREATS TO MEDICAL WORKERS. 2020, APRIL 3. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/LIFESTYLE/CORONAVIRUS-BAKERIES-INDIVIDUALS-OFFER-SWEET-TREATS-TO-MEDICAL-WORKERS
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Clearing the Misconceptions about Vaccination BY DR ZURAIMI MOHAMED DAHLAN
The practice of immunisation dates back hundreds of years. Buddhist monks drank snake venom to confer immunity to snake bites and variolation (smearing of a skin tear with cowpox to confer immunity to smallpox) was practised in 17th century China. Edward Jenner was considered the founder of vaccinology in the West in 1796 when he inoculated a 13-year-old-boy with cowpox and demonstrated immunity to smallpox. Thereafter the cholera, anthrax, plague, tetanus, polio, and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines were discovered by various scientists in the West. Despite the evidence of health gains from immunisation programmes, there has always been resistance to vaccines in some groups. In the late 1970s and 1980s, increasing litigation and decreased profitability for vaccine manufacture led to a decline in the number of companies producing vaccines. The decline was
2 3 4 5
arrested in part by the implementation of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation programme in the US in 1986. The legacy of this era lives on to the present day in supply crises and continued media efforts by a growing anti-vaccination lobby.
of multiple vaccines weakening the immune system.
So does the MMR vaccine really damage the intestinal lining? Studies have shown that the vaccine does not cause intestinal inflammatory responses2. In fact, in Canada, researchers found an increase “Vaccination causes autism.” in autism rates with the decrease in A paper published in The Lancet in 1998 MMR vaccination rates3. In Sweden and that described eight children developing Denmark, from 1990 till 2000, there was a steady increase in incidence of autism symptoms of autism within one month of receiving the MMR vaccine was found despite the removal of thimerosal from vaccines in 19924 . A cohort study of to be unsupported by any evidence1. It was hypothesised that the MMR vaccine 100,572 children born in the UK from 1988 to 1997 showed no relationship causes autism via damage to intestinal between thimerosal exposure and lining permitting entrance of harmful autism5. Multiple vaccines given together proteins, which may damage nerve do not overwhelm the immune system cells in the brain. It was postulated as the infant immune system is capable that perhaps it was due to thimerosal, of responding to thousands of vaccines a mercury containing preservative, or perhaps the simultaneous administration simultaneously6. Furthermore, autism
WAKEFIELD AJ, MURCH SH, ANTHONY A, LINNELL J, CASSON DM, MALIK M, BERELOWITZ M, DHILLON AP, THOMSON MA, HARVEY P, VALENTINE A, DAVIES SE, AND WALKER-SMITH JA. ILEAL-LYMPHOID-NODULAR HYPERPLASIA, NON-SPECIFIC COLITIS, AND PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER IN CHILDREN. THE LANCET. 1998, FEBRUARY 28. 351(9103):637–41. THJODLEIFSSON B, DAVÍDSDÓTTIR K, AGNARSSON U, SIGTHÓRSSON G, KJELD M, AND BJARNASON I. EFFECT OF PENTAVAC AND MEASLES-MUMPS-RUBELLA (MMR) VACCINATION ON THE INTESTINE. GUT. 2002. 51(6):816–817. FOMBONNE E, ZAKARIAN R, BENNETT A, MENG L, AND MCLEAN-HEYWOOD D. PERVASIVE DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS IN MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA: PREVALENCE AND LINKS WITH IMMUNIZATIONS. PEDIATRICS. 2006. 118:E139–50. HVIID A, STELLFELD M, WOHLFAHRT J, AND MELBYE M. ASSOCIATION BETWEEN THIMEROSAL-CONTAINING VACCINE AND AUTISM. JAMA. 2003. 290:1763–6. ANDREWS N, MILLER E, GRANT A, STOWE J, OSBORNE V, AND TAYLOR B. THIMEROSAL EXPOSURE IN INFANTS AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS: A RETROSPECTIVE COHORT STUDY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM DOES NOT SUPPORT A CAUSAL ASSOCIATION. PEDIATRICS. 2004. 114:584–91. OFFIT PA, QUARLES J, GERBER MA, HACKETT CJ, MARCUSE EK, KOLLMAN TR, GELLIN BG, AND LANDRY S. ADDRESSING PARENTS' CONCERNS: DO MULTIPLE VACCINES OVERWHELM OR WEAKEN THE INFANT'S IMMUNE SYSTEM? PEDIATRICS. 2002 JANUARY. 109(1):124-9.
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is not an immune-mediated disease7. Autism is found to be due to genetic variation in neuronal circuitry affecting nerve ending development 8 .
use of pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine in 1974 out of the fear of neurological side effects, resulting in a dramatic rise in pertussis infections and deaths by 1978. Sweden followed suit in 1981 resulting “Giving a child multiple vaccinations in 700 cases of pertussis in 1981 to 3,200 in 1985. Russia had 839 cases of pertussis for different diseases at the same in 1989. Due to the decision to cut back time increases the risk of harmful on the pertussis vaccine, the number side effects and can overload the of those infected by it jumped to 50,000 immune system.” cases and 1,700 deaths in 1994 in the New In reality, we are exposed to many foreign Independent States of the former Soviet antigens everyday – from the food we Union. These show that diseases would eat, the air we breathe, and the cuts in not disappear without vaccination and our skin and our mouth. The barrage of if we stop vaccinating altogether, they antigens introduced daily is a lot more would come back. than the multiple 6-in-1 vaccinations that children receive. A strep throat for Currently, we are facing a global pandemic example introduces 25 to 50 antigens due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing simultaneously. COVID-19 infections. What originated from Wuhan, China is now felt in every Studies have shown that simultaneous country. China experienced a second wave vaccination with multiple vaccines has of infections as overseas Chinese returned no adverse effect on a normal childhood to the country and brought the virus home. immune system9. Other studies have The world’s economy has come to almost shown that the recommended vaccines a grinding halt as countries impose strict are as effective given individually or in rules on travelling affecting tourism combination. However, multiple vaccines and commercial aviation, and even oil in one dose help children get immunised prices have crashed. Until a vaccine is earlier and reduce the number of clinic widely introduced, our travel plans will visits to get the shots. be limited as we need to practise social distancing, wearing of masks and avoid “Diseases had already begun to non-essential travel. disappear before vaccines were introduced because of better “The majority of people who get hygiene and sanitation.” diseases have been vaccinated.”
measles because they were not immunised. However, had the whole cohort not been immunised, we would have ended up with a total of 1,000 measles cases. “There are “hot lots” of vaccines that have been associated with more adverse events and deaths than others. Parents should find the numbers of these lots and not allow their children to receive vaccines from them.” The public is led to believe that certain vaccine lots are more dangerous than others. This is misleading. Reports of minor adverse reactions to vaccination are temporary and common, but evidence linking permanent health problems or death is very rare. The adverse reaction may not have been due to the vaccination. Consecutive lots of the same vaccine may produce slightly different side effects, but this has no implication on the relative risks of the two lots. “Vaccines may produce many harmful side effects, illnesses, and even death. Not to mention possible long-term effects that we are not aware of.”
Vaccines are very safe but many antivaccine publications imply otherwise. Most side effects are minor and temporary such as soreness over the injected site or mild fever which can be easily controlled. Most adverse side effects occur rarely in It is a fact that those vaccinated can still 1/1,000 to 1/1,000,000 doses. Some are so Better nutrition, development of get the disease, and that the absolute rare that risks cannot be fully assessed. antibiotics and other treatment have Very few deaths can be attributed to helped increase our life expectancy. Less number of those who are vaccinated but crowded living conditions have reduced still contract the disease may be more than vaccines so it is hard to assess the risk those who are not vaccinated. However, statistically. disease transmission. This is evident this is largely due to the manipulation in the rampant increase of COVID-19 transmission among foreign workers due or selective interpretation of numbers. The myth that sudden infant death to congested living conditions in foreign Vaccines confer about 98 percent coverage. syndrome (SIDS) is caused by the three Let’s say we have 1,000 students, where worker dormitories in Singapore. diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) 995 are vaccinated against measles and vaccine shots given at 3, 4, and 5 months are fully immunised except for 5 students. of age came about because most SIDS cases Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) When a measles outbreak occurs, 2 percent occur within this age group. However, was prevalent until the mid-1990s when of the 995 students may get measles conjugate vaccines that can be used for SIDS is a common phenomenon among because of the 98 percent coverage, which this age group despite the DTP vaccination. infants were introduced, resulting in a results in 20 vaccinated students getting drastic drop in Hib infections in infants. It may have been due to allowing infants measles as compared to 5 students who get to sleep in a prone face-down position, Great Britain and Japan cut back in the
7 MCCORMICK MC. IMMUNIZATION SAFETY REVIEW: VACCINES AND AUTISM. INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE; WASHINGTON, DC: 2004. MORROW EM, YOO SY, FLAVELL SW, KIM TK, LIN Y, HILL RS, MUKADDES NM, BALKHY S, GASCON G, HASHMI A, AL-SAAD S, WARE J, JOSEPH RM, GREENBLATT R, GLEASON D, ERTELT JA, APSE KA, BODELL A, PARTLOW JN, BARRY B, YAO H, MARKIANOS K, FERLAND RJ, GREENBERG ME, AND WALSH CA. IDENTIFYING AUTISM LOCI AND GENES BY TRACING RECENT SHARED ANCESTRY. SCIENCE. 2008, JULY 11. 321(5886):218-23. 9 OFFIT PA, QUARLES J, GERBER MA, HACKETT CJ, MARCUSE EK, KOLLMAN TR, GELLIN BG, AND LANDRY S. ADDRESSING PARENTS' CONCERNS: DO MULTIPLE VACCINES OVERWHELM OR WEAKEN THE INFANT'S IMMUNE SYSTEM? PEDIATRICS. 2002 JANUARY. 109(1):124-9.
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The past two decades have seen the application of molecular genetics and its increased insights into immunology. Microbiology and genomics applied to vaccinology is setting a bright future for the science including the development of new vaccine delivery systems, new adjuvants, more effective vaccines and therapeutic vaccines for allergies, autoimmune diseases and addictions.
Likewise, the Hepatitis B (Hep B) virus has been associated with liver cancer14. Individuals with Hep B infection are called carriers of Hep B, and their numbers are substantial in the population globally, between 2 and 7 percent. Hep B infection can be transmitted via kissing, sexual contact, vertical transmission (mother to child during childbirth), blood product transfusion or sharing of contaminated needles. Getting the three doses during childhood may not be enough for some individuals who do not mount an immune response. Checking Hep B antigen levels every five to ten years helps us understand whether we require further immunisation to boost our Hep B immunity. This is especially critical to those with Hep B carrier partners.
As physicians, we are guided by evidencebased medicine when recommending if countries had access to COVID-19 which can potentially kink or even the best options for our patients. vaccination. Populations without obstruct the airway leading to SIDS10. In Communicate openly with your COVID-19 vaccination would witness fact, in several of the studies, children physician with regard to your concerns the trends in China, US, Italy, Spain, and who had recently received a DTP shot about vaccination in order to alleviate so on. Unfortunately, we are still at the were less likely to get SIDS. The Institute any misconceptions and clear any doubts. pre-vaccine stage for COVID-19. of Medicine reported that all controlled We live in exciting times. The past two studies that have compared immunised decades have seen the application of Another concept is herd immunity, where molecular genetics and its increased versus non-immunised children have found either no association or a decreased a small number of individuals cannot be insights into immunology. Microbiology risk of SIDS among immunised children11. vaccinated because of various reasons and genomics applied to vaccinology is like allergy to vaccine components. These setting a bright future for the science “Vaccine-preventable diseases have people are susceptible to diseases. If the including the development of new population surrounding these individuals vaccine delivery systems, new adjuvants, been virtually eliminated from my are immune to the disease, the virus country, so there is no need for my more effective vaccines and therapeutic finds it hard to infect a host resulting in child to be vaccinated.” vaccines for allergies, autoimmune it dying a natural death. Transmission is diseases and addictions. greatly reduced and the non-immunised It is true that we have eradicated vaccine-preventable smallpox and reduced is protected from the infection12. most vaccine-preventable diseases such VACCINES AND CANCER PREVENTION as polio to very low levels in many The human papilloma virus (HPV), which countries. In other parts of the world, Dr Zuraimi Mohamed Dah lan is a Family Physician at banyan clin is known to cause cervical cancer, is these diseases may still be prevalent and ic @ jw. He is also President of the Muslim transmissible through sexual contact13. travellers from this country may bring Healthcare Professionals Association (MHPA), and a Though the virus may take decades to the disease into any country. A good certified provider for Exe rcise is Medicine turn into cancer, it is nevertheless still example is the transmission of polio in Singapore (EIMS). a risk. Having the three primary HPV 2005 and meningococcal in 1999 during vaccine doses prior to starting sexual the Hajj pilgrimage. A vaccine-naive life ensures protection for the individual population means that the disease female from cervical cancer as we cannot could spread quickly throughout the assume our partner is free of HPV. population causing an epidemic, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Imagine
12 13 14
TASK FORCE ON INFANT SLEEP POSITION AND SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME. CHANGING CONCEPTS OF SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME: IMPLICATIONS FOR INFANT SLEEPING ENVIRONMENT AND SLEEP POSITION. PEDIATRICS. MARCH 2000. 105 (3) 650-656; AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://PEDIATRICS.AAPPUBLICATIONS.ORG/CONTENT/105/3/650#:~:TEXT=THE%20AMERICAN%20ACADEMY%20OF%20PEDIATRICS,HAS%20DECREASED%20BY%20%3E40%25. GRIFFIN, MR, RAY, WA, LIVENGOOD, JR, AND SCHAFFNER, W. RISK OF SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME AFTER IMMUNIZATION WITH THE DIPHTHERIA-TETANUS-PERTUSSIS VACCINE. THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE. 1988, SEPTEMBER 8. 319(10):618-23. DOI: 10.1056/NEJM198809083191006. TAE, HK, JOHNSTONE, J, AND LOEB, M. VACCINE HERD EFFECT. SCANDINAVIAN JOURNAL OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES. SEPTEMBER 2011. 43(9): 683–689. MUÑOZ N. HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS AND CANCER: THE EPIDEMIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE. JOURNAL OF CLINICAL VIROLOGY. OCTOBER 2000. 19(1-2):1-5. WONG CH, AND GOH KL. CHRONIC HEPATITIS B INFECTION AND LIVER CANCER. BIOMED IMAGING INTERV J. 2006 JULY-SEPTEMBER. 2(3): E7.
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TAKING CHARGE OF
OUR HEALTH BY ZARINA YUSOF
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Several years ago, when I was in working in the healthcare sector, I was struck by a set of statistics that were attributed to the Malay community. According to findings from the National Health Survey that was conducted in 2010, obesity is most prominent among the Malays here. The data showed an increase from 11 per cent in 1992 to 24 per cent in 20101. Malays also account for a whopping 24.4 per cent of Singapore’s overall dialysis patients – this despite making up only about 14 per cent of the total population. In 2014, BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care Centre published a paper with a forecast that the obesity prevalence in Singapore will quadruple from 4.3 per cent in 1990 to 15.9 per cent in 2050.
I have to take care of my body and not harm it. Perhaps, this mindset was influenced by my background. As a child growing up, I was surrounded by dumbbells, barbells and iron rods. Our small flat was littered with exercise equipment and my dad woud be doing his lifts, push-ups and triceps dips in one corner. I came from a humble background, with my dad working two jobs to make ends meet. But he never used that as an excuse not to exercise. Sometimes, he’d spend half an hour lifting weights before rushing off to his second job. This made me wonder – if he could do it, what is my excuse?
However, I grew up in the 80s, when technology such as Google wasn’t readily available, so information on the benefits It also suggested that the prevalence of of exercise was not easily accessible type-2 diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed) unlike today. However, I knew then that among Singapore adults aged 18 to 69 will when I’m in my 50s, I wanted to look as double from 7.3 per cent in 1990 to 15 per good as my dad did when he was that age. cent in 2050. According to the study, ethnic Malays and Indians will make up a So, vanity became a reason why I started large part of those patients, and that the running and hitting the gym. I told myself number of diabetics in the workforce will that I want to look years younger than my grow noticeably2. age, and still be able to fit into clothes bought decades before. Years later, exercising has become second nature to There is an ongoing study – the National me. My mind would often convince me to Population Health Survey – jointly exercise over doing something sedentary conducted by the Ministry of Health and like binge-watching TV. Health Promotion Board. The survey, which started in July 2019 and expected to end in the middle of 2020, aims to obtain I also take inspiration from others around key health statistics from a sample size of me, like my friend, W, who’s in her 50s. Although she suffers from a long-term at least 16,000 random households in slipped disc problem, she is an avid Singapore. marathoner. W is petite and spunky. While her problematic back constantly My hope is that results from this survey gives her pains and aches, she has completed will prove that after all these years of all the big six marathon legs – Tokyo, providing better access to healthier food and encouraging a healthier lifestyle, the Berlin, Chicago, London, New York and Boston. She is a great source of motivation Malay community is finally bucking the for me whenever I lack the drive to trend. exercise. Nevertheless, existing data raises the question of why do health statistics on the Budget is also a reason why I choose to exercise. Instead of spending money on Malay community often look so bleak. new clothes because I can no longer fit into my old ones, I’d rather exercise and Personally, I grew up holding on to the save the money for travelling instead. principle that our body is an amanah Some retailers also make you pay more for (trust) that Allah has bestowed upon us, bigger-sized outfits. “For the extra and that our ‘spare parts’ cannot be replaced or overhauled like cars. As such, material used,” they say. 1 2
In 2014, BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care Centre published a paper with a forecast that the obesity prevalence in Singapore will quadruple from 4.3 per cent in 1990 to 15.9 per cent in 2050. It also suggested that the prevalence of type-2 diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed) among Singapore adults aged 18 to 69 will double from 7.3 per cent in 1990 to 15 per cent in 2050. According to the study, ethnic Malays and Indians will make up a large part of those patients, and that the number of diabetics in the workforce will grow noticeably.
THE STRAITS TIMES. PROMOTING BETTER HEALTH AMONG MALAYS. PUBLISHED DECEMBER 30, 2014. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/OPINION/PROMOTING-BETTER-HEALTH-AMONG-MALAYS PHAN, T, ALKEMA, L, TAI, ES, TAN, K, YANG, Q, LIM, WY & TEO, Y, CHENG, CY, WANG, X, WONG, TY, CHIA, K, AND COOK, A. (2014). FORECASTING THE BURDEN OF TYPE 2 DIABETES IN SINGAPORE USING A DEMOGRAPHIC EPIDEMIOLOGICAL MODEL OF SINGAPORE. BMJ OPEN DIABETES RESEARCH & CARE. 2. E000012.10.1136/BMJDRC-2013-000012
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Most importantly, I want to enjoy good quality of life. My boys are 18 and 15 years old, and I want to be able to do a lot of outdoor and physical activities with them. We often cycle and hike together. We find these cathartic and it brings us closer as a family. In fact, we often pack in physical or outdoor activities even during our travels: scuba diving in Sabah, caving and abseiling in Vietnam and snow sledging in Switzerland. I want to be able to do these (and more) with them for as long as I can. As I inch towards my 50s, I realise that my knees have begun to hurt, my lower back has started aching, and my muscles take a longer time to recover from my runs. But I can’t stop exercising. My body would let me know that I need an adrenaline rush. They come in many forms, one of which is my lack of focus. I find it difficult to focus when I lay off exercise for too long. As I reflect on these signs, I realise that my body is able to send me those messages because of the habit of exercising that I have cultivated for decades now. I cannot go without exercising, because for one, it gives me reasons to feel grateful for being healthy, mobile and alive. The human body can in fact do many wonderful things. I started small – from 2.4km runs to 10km races to 18.5km crawls and a 35km struggle through tarmac and forested areas. My yoga and high intensity interval classes also give me reasons to smile these days. But I started small and slow. So, start small. Start slow. You are not competing with anybody. Pick a sport or an exercise that you are curious about. Learn it. Master it. Enjoy it. And then, do it better, stronger, faster today than yesterday. Listen to your favourite beats on Spotify. Foresight beats hindsight anytime and with mounting evidence, let’s have the foresight to take charge of our health before anything untoward happens. I may still contract an illness after all this exercising but I will tell myself that, at least, I have tried everything I can to prevent it. So, let’s not add on to a bleak statistic. Be the difference.
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Zarina Yusof is the Acting Executive Director of AMP Singapore. She has over two decades of experience in the pub lic, broadcast, education and healthcare sectors.
OKLETSNO: Misogyny and the Malay/ Muslim Man BY AHMAD ABDULLAH
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While you may not have been aware of OKLETSGO (OLG) in the first year or so of its existence, in June 2020, the popular local podcast channel would have been impossible to ignore. Started in February last year, OLG is the brainchild of three former local Malay radio DJs – Dzar Ismail, Dyn Norahim and Raja Razie. It quickly earned a high profile for its irreverent takes on issues affecting the Singapore Malay community, as well as a willingness to take on topics still considered controversial in the community, such as apostasy and transgenderism.
rushed to its defence, claiming any sexist banter was just in the name of entertainment and echoing the hosts’ claims that this was in the name of differentiating OLG from tame, hamstrung mainstream media.
This is evident in the toxic comments by some of the podcast’s fans – that misogyny is so deeply ingrained in some that they would go out of their way to defend it against criticism, to the point of insulting or even threatening others.
In the worst cases, OLG fans even insulted, slut-shamed and threatened critics, to the extent of doxxing them and finding out where they lived.
This is not unique to the Malay community or even to Singapore, as shown by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault from a few years back.
The saga eventually drew the attention of no less than President Halimah Yacob – herself a Malay/Muslim woman – who issued a statement on her Facebook page on June 15 calling on OLG to “sincerely and humbly apologise to all women for This allowed it to become the number one their offensive, humiliating and misogynispodcast on Spotify’s Singapore charts, tic remarks on their podcasts about pulling in more than 100,000 listeners per women”. episode and attracting guests ranging from Papa Rock Ramli Sarip to Deputy Prime Noting how COVID-19 lockdowns in Minister Heng Swee Keat. countries around the world had resulted in increased instances of domestic violence Then on June 9, 2020, Twitter user against women, Madam Halimah said: @anygalien posted the following: “If we continue to perpetuate the image of I dislike OLG because they remind me women being inferior, existing only for the of the Malay men in my life and purpose of male sexual gratification, then environment who casually dehumanise we have to be held responsible for being and sexualise women and brush it off one of the perpetrators of violence against as jokes. Having that normalised and women.” aired to the Malay masses does enable/shape the current and next That same day, OLG said on their social generation of Malay men. media accounts: “We apologize for the objectification of women and will be more The tweet went viral, with others careful in the way we portray matters commenting on their own discomfort moving forward.” with the show’s content and giving examples of misogynistic content from the The hosts said they did not “condone show’s hosts. misogyny in any way” and called on fans not to make personal attacks against These included referring to women as critics, noting that “we have always been daging fresh and daging basi (fresh meat and about being real, and being real now stale meat), degrading references to the means taking responsibility for our female anatomy as well as descriptions of actions”. their own sexual experiences with their wives. While this perhaps draws the OLG controversy to a close, the issue of The show eventually issued a statement misogyny within the Malay/Muslim in response to the growing controversy, community is far from over. which said the hosts “recognize the need for improvements”, but which stopped MISOGYNY IS ALIVE AND WELL short of an actual apology for offensive As already noted by others, OLG was not so content. much an instigator as it was a product of rampant sexism, existing in day-to-day Meanwhile the show’s fans – inexplicably interactions and popular culture among referred to as ‘Bloods’ (no reference to the Malay/Muslims as well as the wider American street gang, it would seem) – community. 26 T H E K A R Y A W A N © ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.
Anecdotally, many women say they have encountered sexual harassment of some kind at some point in their lives. In a response to the controversy, Twitter user @anygalien – whose tweet helped kick off the entire debacle – penned a piece for online media outfit Coconuts entitled, ‘The Insidious Problem of Casual Sexism and Why I Called Out OKLETSGO’ under the name Nuri Jazuli. The podcast’s banter reminded her “too much of the experiences (she) had almost daily, involving casual sexism,” she wrote. “It is normal for my sister and I to be catcalled by older Malay men while on our way to get groceries. It is normal for male colleagues to talk about a woman’s body in explicit detail, in my presence. It is normal for male relatives to lounge around during festivities while their female counterparts are hard at work. It is normal that I do not know a single woman in my life who have not had an encounter with sexual assault in some form.” She was not surprised when her tweet received backlash from both men and women in the Malay community. She said. “It seemed perfectly natural for people to be offended because, what I am questioning and attacking, is after all, a normal way of life, isn’t it?” A 2018 survey by United States-based nonprofit organisation, Stop Street Harassment, suggests that as many as 81 per cent of all women have faced sexual harassment. The numbers are sobering – the survey found 51 per cent of respondents saying they had encountered unwanted sexual touching, with 27 per cent having gone
through sexual assault and 41 per cent encountering sexual harassment online. The argument can be made that one can listen or watch sexually lewd or crude media and not sexually harass or assault others, just as watching violent movies or playing video games does not necessarily make one violent. I doubt the vast majority of OLG listeners will turn out to be molesters, for example. Yet it cannot be doubted that what we listen to, read and watch shape how we think. In the June 22 episode, OLG host Dzar Ismail himself acknowledges their show was meant to emulate the provocative, no-holds-barred approach of American radio and podcast hosts such as Howard Stern and Joe Rogan, whom he listened to. Former NBA star, Charles Barkley, famously said in an early 1990s television for sports brand Nike that he – and thus, other athletes – were not paid to be role models.
magazine Juice, appropriately titled, ‘Everything Wrong with Malay Dramas That’s Deteriorating Our Society’. And this is on top of the everyday instances of casual sexism many women might encounter regularly in their day-to-day lives. There are of course no easy answers, and despite our best efforts, the reality of things is that – as is the case with other massive challenges like war, poverty and hunger – we are unlikely to ever see sexism completely eliminated.
Perhaps the takeaway here is that all men should understand the social and moral responsibility they have to address misogyny in themselves, and in their spheres of influence.
Ahmad Abdullah holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Goldsmiths , University of London. He is a part-time write r.
So what can we do? For men, perhaps the simplest way is to start with ourselves, by recognising our own prejudices and preconceptions regarding women and how we treat them, see where we are lacking, and try to correct our own behaviour. This includes recognising misogyny and sexism in the media for what they are.
OLG can and should continue to take an “open-minded approach” by featuring those Yet it is inevitable that people, especially on the margins, though, as noted in the impressionable children, emulate those we statement by Crit Talk, Beyond the Hijab and see in the media, whether consciously or Penawar, they should ensure “taboo or not. difficult subjects must be approached and facilitated with care and responsibility”. Social learning theory, a term coined by Canadian-American psychologist Albert For Muslim men in particular, this means Bandura, posits that children and even going back to the example of the Prophet adults learn and imitate behaviour Muhammad, peace be upon him, who said observed in others including sexism and the best of men are those who are the best aggression. to their wives, and who in his last sermon said: As noted by others, misogyny – explicit or otherwise – is unfortunately common in “O People, it is true that you have popular culture, even in ostensibly certain rights with regard to your conservative Malay culture. women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken A popular local Malay television drama them as your wives only under a trust featured a wayward daughter whose from God and with His permission.” ‘punishment’ was getting raped not once, but twice over the course of two seasons. To their credit, the hosts of OLG said in an episode released on June 22 that they had The popular 2011 movie, Ombak Rindu, spoken to women’s rights groups, as well featured a protagonist who not only was as counsellors and victims of domestic raped, but begged to get married off to her abuse in an attempt to improve themselves rapist, eventually falling in love with him. and the show, and that they now understood the “social and moral Such examples of misogyny in popular responsibility” that came with their Malay culture are summed up nicely in a popularity. 2018 article on the website of pop culture
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STORIES AND THE
BY ADIB KOSNAN 28 T H E K A R Y A W A N Â© ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS. PERMISSION IF REQUIRED FOR REPRODUCTION.
When I was growing up, stories were avenues of exploration and escape. The dystopian futures of comic books were scary but that was all they were at the time – stories. Imagining living a life as a superhero trying to right the wrongs of society, while at the same time stopping the world from destroying itself, occupied many of my evenings after homework was claimed to be done.
That made me realise that I could tell stories and if I made them compelling enough, or if I was effective in how I presented it, these stories would be told and reside in the minds of the audience. They would take away their own reflections from it of course, but I could at least start a conversation and say the things I wanted to say. Every one of us involved in putting something on stage has a say in it. From how it looks to how it I would spend afternoons after school at sounds, to what words are being said and my late grandmother’s home in Ang Mo how they’re being said – this was what Kio, watching Indonesian-dubbed episodes made me fall in love with theatre. of Kamen Rider and pretending I could turn into him by using the walkway Theatre has given me the platform and through the kitchen as a portal. During opportunity to tell stories like the ones PE lessons and in after-school football I grew up with. It has given me an avenue sessions at the void deck, I would imagine to interact and socialise with like-minded scoring the last-minute winner for colleagues and try to live in the shoes of Singapore as they lifted the Malaysia Cup characters I have never met before. It has with my footballing heroes clamouring to given me a chance to tell stories that have congratulate me. become important to me and to the world that we continue to live in. “An active imagination” – those were words more than one form teacher used One of the most common misconceptions to describe me back then. For me, it was people seem to have about putting up a as normal as brushing your teeth. In fact, play is that it does not take much time. even while doing that, I could probably I mean, for a one-and-a-half-hour play, escape to some planet and pretend to be a how much time does it actually need monster attacking spacemen while right? It approximately equates to an hour frothing at the mouth. for every two and a half pages of script. So, a typical three-act play can be anywhere I did not know it then but using my between 70 and 100 pages. That is the imagination and pretending to be other minimum amount of time you would people ended up being a big part of my spend in a rehearsal room. life’s work. Many young children grow up using role-playing and pretending to be The rehearsal room thus is such a special characters from stories they are exposed place. It is where words and ideas come to to, in books, movies or cartoons. I just life, sometimes in the most unexpected happened to continue doing so and am ways. The time I spend with my fellow lucky enough to make a career out of it. collaborators is one that I really cherish because all of us are giving a piece of our TELLING STORIES FOR A LIVING creative selves to come up with a new I first entered the world of theatre in experience for the benefit of those who primary school. It was a creative story will eventually watch the play. The telling competition and I was forced to discoveries and conversations that take join; the teacher thought it would be a place in this space are often enlightening perfect outlet for me. I loved every minute and encouraging. It makes us feel seen of it, pretending to be someone else, and heard, and there is an implicit showing all these emotions (some I have acknowledgement that we are all part of never felt before) and having everyone a covenant of sorts. An amanah (trust) to listen to me for those few moments before put the story out there for people to see, and after my character spoke or did hear and leave with their thoughts about it. something. People listen to you when you are on stage. Maybe they would not It all culminates in the performance itself continue listening if you don’t capture – where the audience and the performers their imagination or if they’re not come together and experience something interested in the topic, but for that few live, together. A piece of work, which has moments, you have their attention. been developed in a few months or even
years depending on when the playwright began penning down the first words to the story, is a culmination of a collaboration between producers, designers, directors, crew members and actors. The final piece of the collaboration puzzle is the audience who enters the space at the final stretch of the process: show time. As a theatre maker, I feel anxious in those moments just before the audience enters. Will the story resonate? Will my performance move them? Will they leave the theatre with their thoughts provoked or would they dismiss the experience as a waste of time? These questions usually fade away into the background as soon as the show begins as the focus shifts towards ensuring the story is told. More often than not, you can feel the connection the audience has to a story and it reinvigorates and nourishes the performer on stage. You hear people understanding the struggles of the character, resonating with the stories in real time through their breaths, laughter and reaction and that is something that is unique to a theatre performance – you get real-time feedback, good or bad. You cannot replicate that. No amount of rehearsal can prepare you for it either. THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THEATRE This brings us to our current situation. While the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped people from creating and expressing themselves, it has changed a fundamental aspect of performances: the interaction between the audience and the people on stage. How do you, as a performer, get the connection from a live audience when there isn’t one? It is a problem that is at the forefront of the minds of any theatre performer in this current climate. As with any other industry, we have adapted in a few ways. Many have put our past works online so that people can revisit or catch them for the first time. This has its limitations as most videos taken of performances were for archival purposes and thus may lack the dynamism of a live performance. The video sometimes doesn’t do justice to the work as it is not meant to be experienced in that way. Others have held live readings of new or past works to an audience who can see us on their
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Against the backdrop of an upheaval occurring around the world where people are fighting not only the pandemic but also for their rights to be seen and heard, stories become even more sacred. The ability to share these stories become more urgent despite the difficulties and obstacles that currently stand in front of us.
computer screens. While such sessions may not be as ‘full’ as a performance in the theatre, it gives us an opportunity to stay connected somewhat, and be reminded of the people in our community, colleagues or audience. Safe or social distancing for the theatre scene hits us on several fronts. We miss the social interactions with our fellow collaborators in the rehearsal space. We miss the real-time interactions with our audience during show time. For some of us, the stage is a place of refuge. For all of my colleagues, it is our source of livelihoods and the current situation means a lot of us don’t know where our next paycheck is coming from. Against the backdrop of an upheaval occurring around the world where people are fighting not only the pandemic but also for their rights to be seen and heard, stories become even more sacred. The ability to share these stories become more urgent despite the difficulties and obstacles that currently stand in front of us. The world will evolve, the future will become the new reality, and we will find ways to continue sharing what is dear to us. As I’ve grappled with these thoughts and issues as a theatre maker, I also am confronted with my personal hopes and fears as a son, husband and father. I do not have the answers on how to deal with them effectively, and I don’t think I ever will. But when the time and space allow me to, I will attempt to speak about them through the only way I know how: in the rehearsal space and in the theatre, through the words and actions of my characters, illuminated and supported by my collaborators. For now, I find myself spending time with my son and daughter, pretending to be characters from their favourite cartoon series, Teen Titans, and having conversations, in character, about the people and the world we live in. It is a familiarity that I cherish and it is a cycle that repeats itself, but it’s one that allows me to connect with them. Until we step on the stage again, I’ll take this for now. Stories, after all, are all that we have.
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and practitioner is a theatre Best ed m na Adib Kosnan ly nt e was rece Awards educator. H Life Theatre Actor at the d Noor an id Sa Supporting h kat’ by Nabila 2020 for ‘Ang . Adib is especially m hi ra Ib y nd Effe n and forum improvisatio s and g awarenes interested in tin ea ols for cr theatre as to n. io mmunicat enhancing co
Classical Malay Texts: Of Relevance and Reverence
BY MUHAMMAD FARIS ALFIQ MOHD AFANDI
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William Shakespeare – a figure so far away from us here in Singapore, and yet we are well familiar with his works: Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, as well as A Midsummer Night's Dream, to name a few. Similarly, Islamic scholar Imam Al-Ghazali, though not a literary figure, has produced works that are so renowned, such as Ihya Ulumud-Din, Tahafut al-Falasifah, and Al-Kimiya’ as-Sa’adah or more commonly known as The Alchemy of Happiness, that they are often referred to as authoritative religious texts for Muslims around the world. There have been many classical texts produced in lands so far from this island that have managed to make their way here and become prominent among the community. But what about texts from the region? Were there no local scholars or literati within the Nusantara? Or were their works eclipsed by other more noteworthy texts? The absence of classical Malay texts in mainstream discourse does not mean that there was no intellectual fervour in this region. Rather, the region saw a slew of texts, but these texts were sidelined and marginalised in favour of others from different parts of the world. This article highlights the relevance of Malay classical texts in examining or studying the world today. HISTORICAL EVIDENCE When Singapore celebrated the Singapore Bicentennial last year, marking the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles 200 years ago, there were many debates surrounding the historical roots of Singapore and the lack of acknowledgement of the island’s civilisational past other than it being a ‘fishing village’1. If we were to take into consideration classical Malay texts in examining this narrative, it is myopic to claim that Singapore was indeed a sleepy fishing village in the 1800s. Sulalatus Salatin (Genealogy of Kings) written by Tun Sri Lanang in the 16th century painted a rather
The Malay Annals, as pointed out by several scholars, showed that Singapore was well-connected to the region. It was a cosmopolitan society and had relations with other parts of the world, such as the Majapahit Kingdom (which eventually led to the downfall of Singapore and the opening of Malacca), Kingdom of Siam and even China2. With the inputs from the Malay Annals in the larger discourse on the history of pre-colonial Singapore, it gives a more balanced approach and a richer perspective. Though there are already works which acknowledge the presence of Singapore from the earlier period3, it is ever important to raise classical Malay texts not only as a form of historical evidence but as responses to the developments in history. One of such texts which can be used to analyse the responses of the local community to colonialism back then is a collection of syair (traditional Malay poetry) by an individual known as Tuan Simi. The responses towards colonialism in Singapore were captured in Tuan Simi’s Syair Potong Gaji, which described the working conditions under colonial capitalism. In the syair, Tuan Simi narrated4: Gaji yang dipotong kerja-kerja ditambah tempat pekerjaan ditukar dipindah di manakah hati sekalian tak gundah kerja yang bertiga seorang sudah
The pay is cut but the workload is increased the workplaces keep changing how can the heart not be sad? work that is meant for three is now done by one
Sampai hatinya sungguh perintah sekarang memberi kecewa pada sekalian orang berlainan sekali dulu dan sekarang
How could they, the elites of today causing disappointment to everyone how different (things are) then and now *Translated by author
The grievances laid out by Tuan Simi were not something unusual or far-fetched. In fact, the working conditions under colonial capitalism were deplorable and had an ever-lasting impact on the colonised for generations to come5. From these two works alone, one can easily point out the importance of classical Malay texts in understanding the dynamics of Singapore’s history. First, to debunk the notion of Singapore being a “fishing village”. The study of classical texts such as Sejarah Melayu fosters the idea that Singapore was cosmopolitan and in a well-connected position in the region prior to Raffles’ arrival. Secondly, syair such as Tuan Simi’s documented the voices of dissent against the colonial authority. However, the use of classical Malay texts is not just limited to the study of history. These texts are also useful in the study and understanding of religious ideas and political development in the region. GOVERNANCE, ETHICS AND MORALITY While classical Malay texts may provide a glimpse into the historical window in this region, it is equally important to note that their relevance is not just within the domains of history. Classical Malay texts, too, contain ethical and moral reminders that are applicable in today’s context.
1 EUAN, G. SINGAPORE AT 50: TIME'S UP ON THE 'FISHING VILLAGE' NARRATIVE. THE INTERPRETER. FEBRUARY 27, 2017. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.LOWYINSTITUTE.ORG/THE-INTERPRETER/SINGAPORE-50-TIMES-FISHING-VILLAGE-NARRATIVE LANANG, TS, AND MUHAMMAD, HS. SULALAT AL-SALATIN: YA'NI PERTETURUN SEGALA RAJA-RAJA (SEJARAH MELAYU). KUALA LUMPUR: DEWAN BAHASA DAN PUSTAKA AND YAYASAN KARYAWAN. 2009 3 SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. MURDER, CIVIL WAR, FREE TRADE: THE MAKING OF SINGAPORE. JULY 5, 2019. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.SCMP.COM/LIFESTYLE/ARTS-CULTURE/ARTICLE/3017222/HISTORY-SINGAPORE-OVER-700-YEARS-SHOWS-CITY-STATES-UPS-AND. 4 RABBISYFINA, U. SUARA-SUARA PRIBUMI MELAYU 'DITINDAS' SEBELUM 1867 DIRUNGKAI DALAM PAMERAN. BERITA MEDIACORP. NOVEMBER 11, 2019. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://BERITA.MEDIACORP.SG/MOBILEM/SINGAPURA/SUARA-SUARA-PRIBUMI-MELAYU-DITINDAS-SEBELUM-1867-DIRUNGKAI-DALAM/4362200.HTML ALATAS, H. THE MYTH OF THE LAZY NATIVE: A STUDY OF THE IMAGE OF THE MALAYS, FILIPINOS AND JAVANESE FROM THE 16TH TO THE 20TH CENTURY AND ITS FUNCTION IN THE IDEOLOGY OF COLONIAL CAPITALISM. ROUTLEDGE, 1977. 2
different picture of Singapore during pre-colonial times, at the earliest.
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“Malay rulers not only sought to preclude their subjects from acquiring wealth independently of the court, they emphasized the importance of A good example of a text that is filled with ethical and moral principles for the ruling lineage and the possession of sacred regalia to elite is Tajus Salatin, or the Crown of Kings, written in 1603 in the Sultanate of Aceh by royal legitimacy. The creation and promulgaBukhari al-Jauhari6. tion of court texts was essential to this latter process, expounding the ruler’s claims and The manuscript contained a total of 24 chapters surrounding the ways of governance becoming themselves sacred, legitimizing that are filled with stories and advice. The chapters go from the call for man to know possessions.”10 himself (Peri manusia mengenal dirinya supaya mengetahui ia mulanya itu daripada ada dan adanya itu betapa), and then to knowing God (Peri mengenal tuhan yang ia menjadikan alam Hence, not only were these texts integral dan Adam dan lain daripada itu) . It even covers the specific roles of different individuals in understanding the moral, ethical, and within the court circle (Peri pekerjaan segala penyurat itu, peri pekerjaan segala penyuruh itu, political principles held by rulers (and by peri pekerjaan segala pegawai raja itu) and the relations with the citizens (rakyat), Muslim some extent the rakyat) at that time, they or non-Muslim (Peri segala rakyat yang kafir dengan raja Islam itu)7. are also important as a sign of power and legitimacy. It is evident that Tajus Salatin concerns itself with matters of governance and ethical principles. Nonetheless, when appreciating these texts, either from a historical standpoint or Syed Farid Alatas mentioned that the text was filled with Malay humanistic values that from a political, ethical, and moral was long in existent even before the Western conception of human rights was devised8. perspective, it is important not to glorify Hence, Tajus Salatin gives a localised perspective on governance and rights, that can be the texts wholly without looking at its complemented by studies from other parts of the world, giving it life and relevance in social conditions. today’s context. THE TYRANNY OF ROMANTICISED According to Azizuddin, he commented that classical texts including Tajus Salatin WRITINGS “preach good government and attack royal injustice. They urge the rulers to govern with While it is important to highlight the the advice of their ministers and to care for the welfare of their subjects. They uphold intellectual achievement of the Malays in the rights of their subjects to resist oppression, corruption and injustice.”9 the past, it is equally important to pick and choose the relevant ideas that should be Much closer to home, Raja Ali Haji of Pulau Penyengat of the Riau Archipelago, wrote celebrated, or even emulated, in the Gurindam Dua Belas, or the Twelve Aphorisms, in explaining the ethical principles and current world today. moral standards of a Sultan. Take for example Fasal Dua Belas of the Gurindam which mentioned: Shaharuddin Maaruf, in his book, Concept of Hero in the Malay Society, elaborated at Ruler working together with the minister, length on the feudal elements that exist Raja muafakat dengan menteri, Like a garden protected by thorns. Seperti kebun berpagarkan duri. within the writings of classical Malay texts, Intentions are in line with the ruler, Betul hati kepada raja, which are currently reflected in the A sign for matters to run smoothly. Tanda jadi sebarang kerja. Malay(sian) society11. Just laws enacted onto the citizens, Hukum ‘adil atas rakyat, A sign that the ruler is bestowed with Tanda raja beroleh ‘inayat. These feudal traits, as Alatas cited kindness. Shaharuddin, include: These moral and ethical reminders are in the form of rules, principles and stories pertaining to governance and the relationship between the ruler and the subjects.
This portion of the text shows the relationship between the ruler and minister. In this “(1) a servile attitude towards authority and the instance, Raja Ali Haji pointed out the traits needed of each of these individuals – a just acceptance of arbitrary notions of power; (2) ruler to ensure his or her mandate is supported by the people, and a minister who has a the undermining of the positive aspects of symbiotic relationship with him. individualism and, therefore, a lack of respect for the human personality; (3) a lack of respect These texts are not from the West. These texts are not considered to be ‘scientific’ in any for the rule of law; (4) no distinction between manner. However, it is important to note that these texts presented a form of political the public domain and personal domains of life; theory but in the context of the region. Moreover, the very existence of these texts shows (5) an emphasis on grandeur and an opulent a form of legitimacy to the ruler’s power as Walker notes: lifestyle; (6) indifference to social justice; (7) acceptance of unfair privileges for those in
TAN, H. TALES OF THE MALAY WORLD: MANUSCRIPTS AND EARLY BOOKS. BIBLIOASIA. NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARD SINGAPORE, JULY 14, 2017. AVAILABLE AT: HTTP://WWW.NLB.GOV.SG/BIBLIOASIA/2017/07/14/TALES-OF-THE-MALAY-WORLD-MANUSCRIPTS-AND-EARLY-BOOKS/ HUSSAIN, HKM. TAJ US-SALATIN. KUALA LUMPUR: DEWAN BAHASA DAN PUSTAKA, 1992. ALATAS, SF. ANTI-FEUDAL ELEMENTS IN CLASSICAL MALAY POLITICAL THEORY: THE TAJ AL-SALATIN. JOURNAL OF THE MALAYSIAN BRANCH OF THE ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY, 91, NO. 1 (2018): PP 29–39. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.1353/RAS.2018.0002 SANI, MAM. FREE SPEECH IN MALAYSIA: FROM FEUDAL AND COLONIAL PERIODS TO THE PRESENT. THE ROUND TABLE. 100, NO. 416 (2011): PP 531–46. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.1080/00358533.2011.609694 WALKER, JH. AUTONOMY, DIVERSITY, AND DISSENT: CONCEPTIONS OF POWER AND SOURCES OF ACTION IN THE SEJARAH MELAYU (RAFFLES MS 18). THEORY AND SOCIETY. 33, NO. 2 (2004): PP 213–55. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.1023/B:RYSO.0000023412.88260.C2 MAARUF, S. CONCEPT OF A HERO IN MALAY SOCIETY. PETALING JAYA, SELANGOR: STRATEGIC INFORMATION AND RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT CENTRE (SIRD). 2014.
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position and power; (8) an obsession with power, authority and privilege for their own sake; (9) an undervaluing of rationalism and the philosophical spirit, and encouragement of myths that serve the interests of those in power; and (10) an emphasis on leisure and indulgence of the senses and the simultaneous undervaluing of work.”12 If the study of classical Malay texts is to just exacerbate these traits spelled out by Shaharuddin, then it defeats the purpose of studying these texts for the future. In his writings, Shaharuddin pointed towards the salient features of feudalism espoused in the classical texts to the working of politics in the Malay world today. From his reading of the political climate in Malaysia, the traits feudalism is entrenched – the unquestioning loyalty to the political elites, mimicking Hang Tuah’s undying support for the Sultan13. It can then be assumed that these are the features that are highly regarded within the community.
classical texts remain key barriers for these texts to be widely used in mainstream discourse, what is more important is the effects of historical amnesia among the Malay community. According to Azhar Ibrahim, historical amnesia is “the result of the obliteration, relegation and denigration of historical memory and consciousness”14. The effects of this historical amnesia will then generate a society which has “a general disinterest in history; the relegation or undervaluing of history; and the mutilation or underdeveloped historical discourse in the academia or the dominant discourse”15.
This is the reason why classical Malay texts need to be appreciated and used in mainstream social, historical, and even political discourse. With these texts taking a backseat and disappearing from the social imagination of the community, the community will eventually lose a sense of identity, belonging and be historically unaware of the context we are Certainly, these ideas are existent in Malay currently in. texts and the onus is upon us to sieve through and pick the humanistic ideas that lead to progress in the community. CLASSICAL TEXTS OF THE FUTURE As we can see, the classical Malay texts presented in this article are just the tip of the iceberg. Now we see the relevance of classical Malay texts in the current context. As a refresher, Malay texts did not only show the pompous nature of the Sultans, or myths and legends that are out of this world, but it also carried stories of the lived realities, frustrations of the people, as well as the rules and ethics of governance.
Muhammad Faris Alfiq Mohd Afand i is a Research Analyst at the Centre for Research on Islam ic and Malay Affair s (RIMA). He special ises in the discours e on Islam in Singapo re, Malaysia and Indonesia, sociolog y of Islamic law, and political Islam. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Malay Studies from the Nationa l University of Singa pore (NUS).
Thus, with the rich historical, social, and religious values, the question is, how then do we normalise the use of classical Malay texts in studying or analysing the society today? While language and accessibility to
ALATAS, SF. ANTI-FEUDAL ELEMENTS IN CLASSICAL MALAY POLITICAL THEORY: THE TAJ AL-SALATIN. JOURNAL OF THE MALAYSIAN BRANCH OF THE ROYAL ASIATIC SOCIETY. 91, NO. 1 (2018): PP 29–39. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.1353/RAS.2018.0002 13 MAARUF, S. CONCEPT OF A HERO IN MALAY SOCIETY. PETALING JAYA, SELANGOR: STRATEGIC INFORMATION AND RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT CENTRE (SIRD). 2014. 14 IBRAHIM, A. NARRATING PRESENCE: AWAKENING FROM CULTURE AMNESIA. SINGAPORE: THE MALAY HERITAGE FOUNDATION. 2014. 15 IBID.
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IN THE VALLEY OF DREAMS WITH ZANNATH BEE BY NUR DIYANA JALIL JULY 2020
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Silicon Valley is the centre for innovative technology and home to more than 2,000 tech companies. High-valued tech companies such as Google, Apple, eBay and PayPal, among others, have greatly contributed to America’s reputation as a global leader in technology innovation and in making the industry the fourth largest of the US economy.
Q: When did you start working in the US and what work did you do then?
Zannath: I started with PayPal Pte Ltd (Singapore) in February 2011 before relocating to the Bay Area, California in September 2015. I was a technical portfolio manager for PayPal’s Risk and Compliance team. As a portfolio manager, I worked with various stakeholders from the The US has also one of the highest number Business Unit, Product, Engineering and Programme Management teams. Partnering of overseas Singaporeans. With at least the Technology team, my primary role was 1,200 Singaporeans working in Silicon to prioritise, manage and oversee the Valley1, the Bay Area has the largest community of Singaporeans as compared execution and delivery of our risk and compliance roadmap. to the other regions in the US. As labour mobility is considered a norm in this age When the opportunity arose for me to of globalisation, there will still be an move to the PayPal corporate headquarters upward trend of Singaporeans venturing in San Jose, I jumped on it for a couple of abroad, especially to places that can offer reasons - a chance to work at the mother them good opportunities and prospects2. ship and being close to all the action, and For Zannath Bee, 41, she took the opportu- more importantly, the prospect of vast career opportunities to explore both nity given by her employer to transfer to within PayPal Inc. and in the US. their US headquarters in 2015 to explore the vast career opportunities the country Q: What does your job entail and what is has to offer. Against the backdrop of an your typical work day like? ongoing pandemic, how does she cope with being more than 13,000km away Zannath: I switched to a business from her family in Singapore? operations role in July 2018 where my job scope spans across headcount and budget She shares her experiences with the management, creating and managing Karyawan team. executive scorecard metrics, implementQ: Could you tell us more about yourself ing communication strategies, and employee engagement which includes and your family? event planning. Zannath: I come from a very big family. My parents have 15 children and I am the A typical day starts at 9am and ends at 7pm for me. There is a lot of flexibility for third youngest child in the family. My me to juggle my working hours as required. hobbies include taking long walks in For example, if I had the occasional night nature, travelling around the world to meeting with my colleagues in the Asia experience different cultures, culinary flavours and sceneries, or just lounging on Pacific region, I would start off my day a the sofa watching my all-time favorite TV little later the next day. I engage a lot with my peers and the leadership team on a shows like Friends and Frasier. daily basis, so I am usually in meetings or discussions during the day or running I started my first job 20 years ago in around planning an event. customer service and since then, I have held multiple and varied roles in sales Q: Did you face any culture shock when administration, project and portfolio you first moved there? What are some management as well as business of the major differences between operations. Americans and Singaporeans? Zannath: Honestly, not as much. I have been to the PayPal headquarters in San
Jose multiple times on business trips prior to my move, and as such, I was familiar with the culture here. Learning and understanding the way things work in the US, setting my expectations, being flexible and having the ability to adapt, as well as having a support group consisting of family, friends and colleagues have greatly helped me adjust to my new environment quickly. The one thing that I have not yet adjusted to is the obligatory tipping culture here in the US. I still find myself taking out my phone calculator or doing quick mental calculations when the bill arrives after dining. There are two major differences between Americans and Singaporeans. First, personal space is very important to Americans and they will not hesitate to tell you off if you are encroaching into their space. Second is the concept of working from home. American employers are supportive of this policy, whereas the concept is still quite foreign in Singapore based on my experience. Q: What would you say is your biggest challenge at work and in your day-today life in the US that one would probably not experience in Singapore? Zannath: Having full attendance or participation in meetings between the hours of 4pm and 7pm. A lot of employees leave the office early to pick up their kids from school due to their very strict pick-up rules and the distance they have to travel to beat the crazy traffic in the Bay Area. As such, you would need to plan for meetings earlier during the day or later in the evenings. Night meetings or calls were never a thing for me when I was working in the Singapore office. Q: We hear stories about Muslims and Asians living in the US facing racial or religious discrimination. Have you faced any such challenges while living and working there? Zannath: Alhamdulillah, so far I have not been subjected to any racial or religious discrimination. The Bay Area has a diverse ethnic population, and racial and religious tolerance is pretty good here. Most companies are equal opportunity
1 NIRMAL, G. SINGAPOREANS IN SILICON VALLEY URGED TO CONSIDER GROWING OPPORTUNITIES AT HOME. THE STRAITS TIMES. 2019, APRIL 20. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/WORLD/UNITED-STATES/SINGAPOREANS-IN-SILICON-VALLEY-URGED-TO-CONSIDER-GROWING-OPPORTUNITIES-AT-HOME AMELIA, T. RISING NUMBER OF SINGAPOREANS BORN OVERSEAS. THE STRAITS TIMES. 2020, JANUARY 2. AVAILABLE AT: HTTPS://WWW.STRAITSTIMES.COM/SINGAPORE/RISING-NUMBER-OF-SPOREANS-BORN-OVERSEAS
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Q: How do you cope with being away from family and adapting to a new environment on your own? Zannath: I miss my family all the time, especially during birthdays, Ramadan and Hari Raya. I stay in touch with family and friends in Singapore through regular video calls and chat messages, and I make yearly visits back to Singapore. Having a support system here in the US is very important. Thus, I have made new, close friends who are now my “family”.
your family and friends. Fully explore what the country has to offer in terms of job opportunities, beautiful landscapes, and a myriad of ethnicities, cultures and traditions. Q: What are your future plans? Do you intend to continue staying in the US or are you planning to return to Singapore?
Zannath: I see myself being in the US for the next ten years at least. There is still a lot that I have not explored, be it for work Apart from keeping myself busy with or leisure. Insya’Allah, I will return to my work, I make the time to distract myself family someday as I still consider with new hobbies and interests. In the last Singapore my home. four years, I have picked up a love for gardening – I am growing my own herbs and vegetables – travelled to more countries, and visited more places of Nur Diyana Jalil is curren tly an Executive at interest. the Centre for Resear ZANNATH (EXTREME RIGHT) AND HER COLLEAGUES
employers and have a zero tolerance policy towards discrimination. Currently in the US, bias and discrimination are more rampant towards the Black community. The situation has recently escalated prompting the Black Lives Matter movement and protests around the world.
Q: With the current COVID-19 situation in the US, how badly affected are you by the pandemic?
ch on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA) who manages its social media, events and pub lication. She loves to read, travel and write occ asionally.
Zannath: Shelter-in-place order in California started in early March and since then, I have been working from home. Being indoors practically most of the time, sans the once-a-month grocery trip to the store and daily walks around the Q: What are the common misconceptions neighbourhood, I do miss hanging out that Americans have of Muslims? How with my friends and being outdoors. I am have you had to overcome them? staying positive and cannot really complain as I am very thankful to still have a job Zannath: A common misconception is considering there are millions in the US that Muslims are very conservative and who have been affected and are out of jobs. close-minded. In my first year, there were countless times where I had to remind Q: What have been the highlights of some of my colleagues that I am a Muslim, your career or life in the US so far? just because I do not don the hijab and socialise freely. Americans are generally Zannath: Taking on bigger and more very accommodating and will take the leadership roles at work, being an time to understand you if you explain and independent and more responsible person help them learn about things they are as I learn to fix things around my unfamiliar with. apartment by myself, and going for long road trips after I learnt to drive in 2016. Some time back, while getting lunch at our office cafeteria, my colleague asked Q: Do you have any advice for me if I knew what halal food tastes like. Malay/Muslim youths who want to There was a sign beside some of the dishes pursue a career in the US? indicating they were ‘halal’ and she thought that it was a flavour! She had Zannath: My advice for them is to be ready never had a Muslim acquaintance before. to work hard. Do your homework and be realistic with your expectations. Be So after that incident, I made an effort to flexible and adapt to the society and educate her about halal food and answer her questions about Islam. environment around you, but never lose your identity. Always touch base with
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AirConditioned Nation Revisited
It is June 2020. As the country battles a global pandemic, along with the ugliest sides of society it has uncovered, the government speaks about holding elections. “The sooner the better,” they say, to rally Singaporeans together to tide through uncertain times. I remain unconvinced by this argument. How does having an election unite the country? What motivates – or scares – our political leaders so much that they deem an election essential during such a precarious time? For some answers, Cherian George’s book is a good start and could not have arrived at a better time.
Air-Conditioned Nation Revisited is an anthology of 37 essays on Singapore politics, drawing upon George’s earlier books, Singapore: The Air-Conditioned Nation (2000) on the country’s politics of comfort and control, and Singapore, Incomplete BY NURSHEILA MUEZ (2017) on its underdeveloped democracy. The collection also includes two new essays on Singapore’s fourth-generation (4G) leadership and the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA). The essays are divided into seven sections. ‘The Singapore Model’ outlines what makes Singapore politics uniquely Singaporean; ‘Palace Intrigues’ revolves around Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy in the PAP, as well as the role of the president in the country; ‘Electoral Politics’ discusses the opposition in Singapore; ‘Upgrading the PAP’ talks about the party’s aversion to internal reform; ‘Controlling the Message’ reveals the inner workings of governmentmedia relations; ‘National Identity’ deals with how we deal with diversity; and ‘Disciplining Dissent’ highlights the discriminatory treatment of different types of activism and activists. The book is not exactly Singapore Politics 101. It does not delve into specific historical events or policies in great detail (we have our Social Studies textbooks for that). Rather, the incidents that George cites, like the Catherine Lim controversy in 1994, the Oxley Road saga, and the Reserved Presidential Election in 2017 (one of the few watershed political events), to name a few, are used to illuminate the context in which political decisions were made and policies formulated. George even includes a personal account, in the chapter ‘Experiential Learning’, of what happens when you even unintentionally ruffle the feathers of the powers-that-be.
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In this sense, the book reads more like a collection of reflection pieces than academic essays. This should encourage the average Singaporean who claims that politics is not their cup of teh (or kopi) to pick up the book to understand the system we are operating in. Further, George’s writing does not alienate or intimidate. The book is not unnecessarily peppered with academic jargon. Instead, there is the occasional reference to pop culture (the late Lee Kuan Yew being more like Marvel’s Dr Strange with an array of tools at his disposal to wield more power than Iron Man) and of course, everyday items, like the metaphor of the “air-conditioned nation”.
designed for the very purpose of providing material comforts for its inhabitants. Moreover, in a precarious and volatile world today, having central control does not only benefit its people but is proving to be the more effective system as opposed to decentralised governance. It seems like we have it good.
George introduced the metaphor two decades ago and the fact that it can still be applied today is testament to the enduring relevance of his scholarship. It also shows that the political culture in Singapore has not gone through any serious reform.
“Singapore’s tragedy is not the total absence of idealism, but that it systematically rewards the individualistic majority and discourages the socially conscious minority.”
“Think of Singapore instead as the Air-Conditioned Nation — a society with a unique blend of comfort and central control, where people have mastered their environment, but at the cost of individual autonomy, and at the risk of unsustainability.”
But that does not mean we have it all. There are trade-offs to an air-conditioned nation that is centrally controlled: individual autonomy, structural inequality, and ultimately, a system so rigid that it might find itself struggling to keep up with new global developments that will have local impacts.
– from the chapter, Next, Air-Conditioned Underwear?
What I appreciate most about this book is that it offers a more sophisticated understanding of what makes Singapore exceptional. We are all too familiar with the state’s narrative of the Singapore story: – from the chapter, Air-Conditioned despite being small, vulnerable, resourceNation scarce, and ethnically and religiously diverse, Singapore is able to punch above In an air-conditioned nation, comfort and its weight, maintain a buoyant economy, control are not contradictory. Rather, and avoid riots all thanks to a strong and comfort is precisely achieved through stable government implementing sound control. For some of us who love or need policies. Undeniably, while Singapore’s air-conditioning in our lives, we can even successes are commendable and can be understand how we may even willingly attributed to the People Action Party’s give up certain freedom or rights for the (PAP) good governance over the past five sake of comfort. I, for one, would at times decades, George highlights other factors refuse to step out of my air-conditioned that set Singapore apart from other office into the unforgiving heat during democracies and authoritarian regimes. lunchtime, and would rather order food These include a highly cohesive elite, and eat at my desk. Other times, my office internally in the PAP, as well as across might be freezing but I have grown government-linked corporations, accustomed to it and would only throw on state-owned companies, and statutory a sweater. In sweltering Singapore, the boards; the use of calibrated coercion ability to stay and move around in instead of brutal repression; and the clever temperatures below 25 degrees is a use of politico-legal strategies. All these blessing. It was no wonder that the late Lee factors ensure that the government retains Kuan Yew named the air-conditioner as its dominance and “creates the sense that the most influential invention of the Singapore’s stability is due to a strong millennium. consensus”. Similarly, the air-conditioned nation, George argues, is first and foremost
understand the nuances and alternative voices in our political discourse, since we are always talked to as if we do not and cannot know any better. This book is a much-welcomed view than being constantly told that only the government knows best and they can do no wrong. I echo George’s sentiments when he says that he wants “leaders who believe they know best—but are equally certain that they don’t know it all”. “Today, First World Singapore is a middle-aged republic with a mature economy but a political system that treats us like children: too many decisions are made for us that should be ours to make; we are told what’s good for us and we are ticked off if we answer back. Older generations have lacked either the desire or the strength to resist. A new generation of Singaporeans will have to decide for themselves if they are ready to grow up.” – from the chapter, Singapore, Incomplete Ultimately, it is clear throughout the book that George’s criticisms of the government come from a place of love. He says, “I see no contradiction between feeling fortunate for having been born Singaporean, and a persistently critical stance towards my country.” Neither do I nor, I suspect, the many of us who continue to hope for a Singapore that we can be proud of beyond its material achievements.
After reading politi cs as an undergr aduate, Nursheila Muez cu rrently works as a research analyst in a gover nment think tank. She is also the founder and co -editor of AKAR, an independent maga zine that features stories and histories of Singa pore and Southea st Asia.
It is also refreshing to be treated like we are mature enough to appreciate and
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