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The Raffles Institution Alumni Magazine



The Raffles Institution Alumni Magazine

JUNE 2010

02 i s s ue

EDITORIAL TEAM Lim Lai Cheng S. Magendiran Kenneth Kwok Aaron Maniam Peggy Pao Sabina Ahmed Zakir Hussain Dominic Chua CONTRIBUTORS Chia Kee Seng Davin Chor Chua Choong Tze Farid Abdul Hamid Yian Huang Serene Khoo-Sut Dennis Phua Daren Shiau Suzanne Teo Lionel Yeo ART DIRECTION & DESIGN Egg Creatives Pte Ltd PHOTOGRAPHY Teck, Lumina Photography Andrew Ang To contribute an opinion or suggestion, please contact the editorial team at COPYRIGHT & REPRINTS: All material printed in ONE is protected under the copyright act. All rights reserved. No material may be reproduced in part or in whole without the prior written consent of the publisher and copyright holder. Permission may be requested through the Singapore office. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in ONE are not necessarily the views of the publisher.




A Bridge Between Worlds

Coming Full Circle


RI Then And Now

Mr Hoong Bee Lok chats with his sons Rilong and Rixing about the school they’ve called home at different times.

Stanley Tan tells us about how he went from heading the RJC sailing team to competing at the Olympic Games.


Farid Hamid lives to build bridges between different cultural worlds. He talks to ONE about the groundbreaking work he does as a diversity trainer.


Thoughts about Theatre

Emma Yong and Noor Effendy Ibrahim share their experiences of being at the frontlines of Singaporean theatre.


A word from the Principal.

Lim Lai Cheng Principal, Raffles Institution

As a school, RI’s well-known for producing cohort after cohort of public servants and community-minded activists. What was topmost on our minds in putting together this second issue of ONE, however, was the question: ‘Who gives to the giver?’ We wanted to draw attention to those hidden heroes who, perceiving the need to sow the seeds for the school’s future growth, have given back to it quietly and selflessly – whether in terms of their time, ideas, or finances. In these pages, you’ll meet the indefatigable Chua Wah Ann, Chairman of the Raffles Parents' Association. There’s Rajoo Armudalingam, a sports enthusiast who recently set up the Raffles Rugby Union so as to keep Raffles rugby great, and Aaron Maniam and our national debaters, who gave impetus to the newly-formed Raffles Debate Academy. Stepping back further in time, we look at Christopher Ng’s selfless contribution toward the scouting movement in Singapore – Christopher was Assistant Scout Master of 02 Scouts when Senior Minister Goh, Prof Tommy Koh and Dr. Tan Cheng Bock were junior scouts. We also honour the memory of the late Mr and Mrs Tan Teck Chwee, whose legacy transcends generations. The other thread that runs through this issue, is that Rafflesian propensity to gravitate toward the untested and untried. Chia Kee Seng enriches us by sharing the findings from his latest research on diabetes. Dennis Foo, kingpin of Singaporean nightlife, was one of the earliest advocates for the integrated resorts that have today become a Singaporean reality. Yian Huang’s wanderlust led him from the relative safety of being a management consultant to snapping photographs in the Gaza Strip. Farid Hamid’s work as a diversity trainer as well as his personal search for wisdom has taken him to Bhutan, Guyana, Pamplona, and Phnom Penh. And months shy of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, in August, we speak to Stanley Tan, captain of the pioneer batch of RJC sailors and two-time Olympian. For sure, community-mindedness, altruistic giving and being on the leading edge of things continue to be enduring themes in the life of the school. We invite you to have a look at what your seniors and juniors have given and done, and to consider how you might want to be involved in the life of your alma mater.


School SCENE 2010: The Year so far









Year 1-4 Highlights 1 Year 1 Orientation Camp and Junior Rafflesian Investiture Ceremony / 5-8 January 2010 / The Year 1 batch started life in RI on a high note, with an Orientation Camp themed Zelos, or Spirit. Besides activities that pushed each boy to his limit, the camp also created opportunities for Year 1s to bond with their classes and cohort mates. The week was capped off with the JRIC, where the Year 1 boys received their school badges from their form teachers, with the jubilant support of their parents in attendance. It ended with the boys bellowing their newly-learnt school cheers, which shook the school hall. 2 Year 2-4 Welcome-Back Events / 4-8 January 2010 / The Year 2s headed off to a cohort picnic at MacRitchie Reservoir Park on 4 Jan to kick off their school year. Tasked to take photographs of specific venues along the way, they took the opportunity to snap pictures with class and cohort mates as well. On the same day, Year 3s headed off to OBS on Pulau Ubin for a week, where they braved the kayaking, trekking and high-rope challenges, and ended the week with a campfire and a night filled with songs and school cheers. In a similar vein, on 8 Jan, the entire Year 4 cohort enjoyed themselves at East Coast Park in an afternoon of constructive creativity. As part of the Castles Can Fly programme, the cohort created sand buildings of various shapes and sizes to reflect their dreams of a futuristic RI campus. 3 Inaugural Singapore Young Physicists’ Tournament (SYPT) / 23, 30 January 2010 / RI organized the inaugural SYPT, a thrilling Physics competition held over two Saturdays, in which the very best students around Singapore locked horns in scientific debates, and vigorously defended their experimental processes and data analyses. These students were competing for places on the national team, which will travel to Vienna in July 2010 to compete at the International Young Physicists’ Tournament (IYPT). RI’s teams took the top 2 positions in both Categories A and B, for Integrated Programme years 3-4 and 3-6 respectively.

4 Swimming Carnival / 26 February 2010 / The annual inter-house competition was held at the RI Swimming Pool, with the fastest swimmers from each house pitted against each other, some returning twice or even thrice to compete in multiple events. Spectators cheered their hearts out, with Moor House eventually emerging victorious. 5 Year 1& 2 National Education (NE) Talks / 26 & 27 February 2010 / The Year 1 NE talk, entitled 'Success’, was given by Mr Yong Teck Meng. The following day, MAJ Dean Tan, a Branch Head with the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s Air Intelligence Department, addressed the Year 2s. Both speakers were Old Boys. 6 Prefects’ Investiture, CEC Investiture / 2 & 9 March 2010 / This years’ Prefects’ Investiture had the theme 'InDeed – Outdo Your Limits.’ It was a day of celebration and pride for the elected prefects who were formally inducted into the board. This was followed a week later by the annual Class Executive Committee (CEC) investiture that highlighted the important contribution of the CEC to the life of the school. 7 International Student Visits / January – March 2010 / Student groups from Indonesia and Taiwan visited RI as part of the school’s Human Element Overseas Immersion Programme. They were attached to Rafflesians, and joined their RI counterparts for academic lessons and CCA sessions.

Year 1-6 Highlights 8 ORA Fiesta / 17 April 2010 / The annual ORA Fiesta, comprising a Walk-a-jogathon and a fun fair, raised over $70,000 for the Singapore Red Cross Society (World Humanitarian Relief Fund) and RI's 1823 Fund (Community Projects).

School SCENE 2010: The Year so far







Year 5-6



Year 5-6 Highlights 9

Year 5-6 Open House / 13 January 2010 / Organised by the 29th Students’ Council, this year’s Open House was attended by over a thousand prospective students and their parents. It had for its theme ‘Raffles Is ___ ‘, with visitors encouraged to supply their own adjectival descriptions of RI.

10 Orientation 2010 – G’alvea / 28 January – 2 February 2010 / Over 1,200 students participated in this year’s Year 5 Orientation, organised around the theme ‘G’alvea’, meaning ‘Dare to Dream’. Invoking the values of the Youth Olympic Games, participants were encouraged to become ‘Citius-Altius-Fortius’, or ‘swifter, higher, and stronger.’ 11 Take5 SANDsation! - Today Is The Day To Play / 12 February 2010 / Take5 commemorates Total Defence Day, Chinese New Year, and Friendship Day. Rafflesians gathered at Sentosa to frolic in the sun, with land and sea games organised for students and staff alike. 12 Release of A-Level Results / 5 March 2010 A total of 1,285 Rafflesians took the A-Levels in 2009, and posted another strong showing. This was the first cohort of students who went through the full six-year Raffles Programme. 13 Launch of Place-Based Education Seminar / 17 March 2010 / The Raffles Institute of Experiential Learning (RIEL) launched the first Place-Based Education (PBE) seminar in Singapore. Over 150 participants attended, the large majority of whom were educators, with Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State for Education and National Development, gracing the event as its guest-of-honour. PBE is an experiential pedagogy that emphasises hands-on, real-world experiences to create deep and meaningful connections between students, the wider community, and the environment.




Year 1-6 Sports Bulletin RI has been having a stellar run this year so far in the school sports season. Our gold medal tally at the time of printing is:

A DIVISION SPORTS • Track & Field (Double Gold) • Water-Polo (Double Gold) • Cross-Country (Double Gold) • Table-Tennis (Double Gold) • Judo (Double Gold) • Swimming (Double Gold) • Squash (Double Gold) • Golf - Boys • Sailing – Girls

B & C DIVISION SPORTS • B Div Softball • B Div Sailing • B Div Tennis • C Div Cricket • C Div Badminton • C Div Sailing • C Div Judo


School SCENE Raffles Debate Academy

It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it. – French essayist Joseph Joubert (1754-1824)

Voice and Verve: Raffles Debate Academy by Aaron Maniam


afflesian debating is almost as old as RI itself. Established in 1886, Raffles Debaters is among the oldest cocurricular activities in the school. The spirit of discourse and deliberation described by Joseph Joubert is also a hallmark of Rafflesian education, where the classroom becomes a site for intellectual exploration and rigorous, respectful argumentation. It was in this spirit that a group of alumni first mooted the idea of establishing a Raffles Debate Academy, to build on the school’s prior success at both national and international competitions (see accompanying boxes), and to widen the reach of debating both within and outside Raffles.

The Academy aims to ensure that debating permeates as much as of the Rafflesian experience as possible, such that after six years at Raffles, even a non-competition-debater will have had some experience with public speaking and the quick thinking-on-thefeet that accompanies it. A complementary aim is to harness the Rafflesian debating tradition to benefit the wider Singapore debating community by sharing our experiences in competition training, coaching, adjudication, sustaining a debating club and other related issues. To meet this aim, we will work together where possible with other key stakeholders like the Ministry of Education and Debate

Association (Singapore), as well as counterpart organisations in other countries that may be able to send guest judges, coaches and workshop facilitators to Singapore. The Academy was launched on 12 March 2010 by its Patron, Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh. Prof Koh is himself no stranger to the cut-and-thrust of debating in real life circumstances, having served as President of the third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Chairman of the Main Committee of the UN Conference on Environment and Development, and one of the key players on the legal team representing Singapore in the Pedra Branca dispute with Malaysia. In his speech at the launch, Ambassador Koh expressed the hope that the Academy would interpret its mission

widely and reach out to as many Rafflesians as possible outside the competition teams. His speech was followed by an exhibition debate between mixed teams, comprising alumni Nicholas Fang, Darryl David, Aaron Maniam and Lee Jia Wei, Raffles staff member David Sowden (who was assigned as teacher in-charge of Raffles Debaters when he first joined RJC in 1996) and schools debaters Nicholas Quah, Ng Li Ki and Nettie Choo. The audience of almost 300 was treated to often humorous arguments, delivered in a variety of speaking styles, on the motion 'Sport is the highest form of Art'. The Academy is currently finalising its workplan for 2010/2011. Major upcoming events include training camps for the wider Rafflesian community, coaching workshops for Singapore teachers, a regional Asia Pacific competition in early 2011, and workshops by international judges. Further information on the Academy can be found at:

School SCENE Raffles Debate Academy


RAFFLESIAN DEBATERS ON THE SINGAPORE NATIONAL SCHOOLS TEAM (competing at the annual World Schools Debating Championships) 1997

Lisa Gan, Aaron Maniam (Semi Finalists)

1998 Cheryl Chan, Michelle Quah, Ida Siow (Quarter Finalists) 1999 Chan Yu Ping, Nicholas Tan (Quarter Finalists) 2000 Liu Feng-Yuan, Jolene Tan (Quarter Finalists) 2001 Natalie Morris, Peggy Pao, Jonathan Pflug (Semi Finalists) * Natalie was ranked 7th individually, Peggy 4th and Jonathan 1st. 2002 Wong Shi Ming (Quarter Finalist) 2003 Li Sheng Wu (Grand Finalist) 2004 Sheila Kaye Pakir, Timothy Yap (Quarter Finalists) 2005 Tan Yi-Xun, Jonathan Yap (Octo Finalists) 2006 Suhas Malhotra, Chere See (Semi Finalists) 2007 Jonathan Auyong (Grand Finalist) 2008 Anish Kumar Hazra, Lee Jia Wei, Teoh Ren Jie (Octo Finalists) 2009 Anish Kumar Hazra, Lee Jia Wei, Benjamin Mak, Teoh Ren Jie (Semi Finalists) * Jia Wei was ranked 9th individually, Anish 5th and Ren Jie 4th. 2010 Ashish Xiangyi Kumar, Benjamin Mak, Adil Hakim bin Md Rafee, Teoh Ren Jie (Semi Finalists) RAFFLESIANS AT THE WORLD UNIVERSITIES DEBATING CHAMPIONSHIPS 2002 Tan Wu-Meng (Raffles Institution/Cambridge University) was named Top Individual Speaker. 2010 Li Sheng Wu (Raffles Institution/Raffles Junior College/Oxford University) was named Top Individual Speaker.



A Driving Force by Serene Khoo-Sut

When Chua Wah Ann’s elder son Andy was posted to RI in 2000, Chua walked straight up to the management committee of Raffles Parent’ Association (RPA) and volunteered his time and services. Ten years on, Chua is a second-term chairman of RPA and he has no shortage of energy or ideas on how to take the association forward. Over the years he has also served as a committee member, treasurer and vice-chairman, before he became chairman in 2009.

By profession, Chua runs his own company Geoscan Pte Ltd, which provides geotechnical services in the field of civil engineering and is now in its 21st year of business. As managing director, Chua has a bird’s eye-view in the management of his business. This is something he extends also to the running of RPA. In his first year as chairman of RPA, Chua worked with a core group of parent volunteers to host a record number of activities in a single year. Some of these activities were: the Old Rafflesians’ Association (ORA) Jogathon and Family Day, Hosting of Overseas Scholars, Lunar New Year for the Elderly, RI Open House, Principal’s Lunch, Racial Harmony Day Celebration, RPA-ORA Golf Tournament, RI Teachers’ Day Lunch, Principal’s Breakfast with RI Parents (Year 5 and 6), A-Level Exams Preparation Dinners, Career

and Parenting Talks for RPA members, Bowling Tournament, Charity Dinner and RPA Town Hall Meeting. Chua’s maxim in life is: ‘Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do – just do it.’ As an RPA volunteer, even if that meant he had to shift tables and chairs to get a meeting room ready, he did it. As a primary school pupil, he used to collect used crockery and cutlery for the tuckshop vendors and also took food orders for teachers in the staff room during recess time. Although Chua is not a Christian, he embraces the biblical principle of ‘give, and thou shalt receive’. He believes that giving changes one’s destiny. Describing himself as a ‘giver’, Chua devotes pockets of free time on weekdays to RPA work and is frequently seen on RI campus, even when there are no RPA activities scheduled. He believes in being present to help, and he does not believe that a parenting association exists for mere food receptions and line-dancing. Moreover, he recognises that in keeping with the rising expectations of both the education system and parents, RPA must do more than organise niche club activities or providing chaperones for student events. It should serve as an effective platform for exchanges with the principal, educators and the school management. In line with this objective, RPA convened its 1st RPA Town Hall Meeting

in November 2009 for discussions with members of RI school management, and parents who attended gave very positive feedback. Another new initiative by RPA was the seting up of a Parent-Network for Year 1 Parents. Additionally, through Chua’s leadership, RPA has undertaken ambitious fund-raising activities to facilitate achieving the objectives of the 1823 Fund. The Fund provides financial aid to needy students, as well as supports pioneer projects with a strong community impact. RPA succeeded in raising $75,000 for the 1823 Fund at its 2009 Charity Dinner on 15 August 2009 – $45,000 above its target – and Chua is unfazed now that the goal is set at $750,000 for this year’s Charity Dinner. RPA will also be holding the RI Fiesta (a fun fair), slated for March 2011, with an even more ambitious fund-raising goal: $1 million. RPA has already begun groundwork discussions for this project and the months ahead will be busy but exciting indeed. Exuding quiet confidence and strength, Chua does what he loves to do at RPA, while working steadily to reach the targets that have been set. Although this is his final term of service, as it is his younger son Danfer’s final year in RI, Chua hopes that RPA will press on and play an active and effective role in working closely with the school for the benefit of sons and daughters of the RI family.



Electric Youth:

The Old Rafflesians' Association Gets Young by Dennis Phua

At the ORA 85th anniversary dinner two years ago, Kelly Choo (RI, 1997) glanced at the guest list and was surprised by a lack of alumni who have recently graduated from Raffles. As the Business Development Director of Brandtology today, Kelly guides specialist teams of consultants in monitoring brand conversations on the Internet. He finds that young people are increasingly inclined to voice their views and to participate in the changes which they feel are necessary. 'The basic needs of our generation have been covered to a large extent, and youths want to know more about their world and how they can bring change to the causes and the communities they are interested in.' 'Every organisation has to be constantly revitalized with new blood, and it is even more important for an established alumni association like the ORA.' Members of the ORA recently voiced their desire to reach a wider group of alumni at the annual general meeting, and attendees of the meeting also discussed the prospects for dual contributions towards both the growth of the association and the schools. Presently in its infancy, an upcoming youth chapter aims to attract alumni aged between 19 and 35 to catch up with fellow alumni and to return to the schools. With the support of the ORA, there are plans for young members to converse with fellow alumni on specific and general platforms and to exchange valuable insights and guidance. These connections would be augmented by a revamped membership database.

On another hand, many young Rafflesians are based overseas for their studies and careers, and other alumni also frequently travel abroad for working or recreational purposes. With the establishment of chapter networks, they could be advised by local representatives on accommodation and travel plans. Currently studying at Tsinghua University, Yeong Li Qian (RI, 2006 & RJC, 2008) also hopes that the young alumni would be ready to return and to meaningfully guide current students. He believes that many still remain connected to the school through our memories and shared experiences. 'Some find a sense of connection when they return to chat with their former teachers, while others find it when they meet their batch-mates for a game of soccer at the school field or sit around the campus reminiscing about the good old school days. The current students would benefit from more interactions with the alumni, and Rafflesians who have left the school will know that we can rely on this network.' Claire Lye, a Year Five student, feels that the alumni could play the role of a mentor to her schoolmates. 'They have been there and done that, and it might be a good idea for them to share their experiences with us. It will be easier for us to communicate because they have previously been in our shoes. We face

similar struggles, and their successes will inspire us, or conversely, may offer hard lessons to be learned.' 'With the alumni, there is less of the formality of a school context. Hopefully, the students will look up to the alumni as seniors, and openly share any obstacles they might have encountered.' Interested alumni may contact youth@ for more details on membership and participation. DENNIS PHUA (RJC, 2003) invests in early stage technologies and businesses.

and Raffles Institution is different now? ONE finds out more from old Rafflesians, Mr Hoong Bee Lok who graduated in the 70s, and his sons, Rilong and Rixing.


Raffles Agenda RI THEN AND NOW


hen Mr Hoong Bee Lok (RI, 1970 & 1972) entered RI as a Secondary 1 student, all he knew was that it was a good school, a bigger school than what he had known before, and a school with a long tradition, where he could become part of something bigger than himself. By the time Hoong’s sons Rilong (RI, 2004 & RJC, 2006) and Rixing (a Year 5 student) entered RI, the school had not only become a household name in Singapore but was also highly regarded around the world. For Rilong and Rixing, the family connection was part of what attracted them to RI, but for many other young men and women, it’s the promise of a sterling education unlike that offered at other schools that draws them in. Rilong remembers that when he attended an open house at RI as a Primary 6 student, it was his first-hand contact with RI students who were confident, visibly proud of the school and could speak well that left a vivid impression on him. ‘There was a sense of grandeur, if you’ll excuse the hyperbole,’ he says. ‘I just knew that I really wanted to go there.’ ‘Grandeur’ is not a word his father would have used to describe the RI of his time. Hoong studied at both the Bras Basah and Grange Road campuses, and remembers classrooms that were poorly

lit with a single lightbulb and shaped in such a way that students sitting in the last row could barely see what the teacher wrote on the blackboard. ‘Sometimes there was even a pillar in the middle of the classroom and a poor student might be stuck sitting behind the pillar,’ he recalls with a laugh. Campus facilities aside, some elements of an RI education have also changed significantly. When Hoong was a student, there were 300-400 students in his batch, many of whom he spent the better part of six years together. ‘We used to know quite a lot of people because you don’t stick to being in the same class,’ he says. For his sons, the size of each RI cohort is now about 450 for Years 1-4 and Rilong remembers the ‘culture shock’ of entering RJC in 2005, when the size of his cohort ballooned to 1,200. He was also part of the first JC1 batch at the new junior college campus at Bishan. ‘RJC felt like a really big school and going there from RI felt like a big change, even though it was right next door,’ he reflects. One thing Hoong and his sons have in common is their involvement in school sports, albeit in different forms. ‘In my junior years in the afternoon sessions, I played football every day before school started. Then after school, we would play till dark, till we couldn’t see the ball,’ Hoong remembers with

glee. The football itself was such a prized possession for him and his friends that they used it in these games until it became totally bald and worn out. Students also came back on Saturdays, just to kick a ball around or play other games such as sepak takraw or the humble game of bottlecaps. ‘Sports back then was about doing what you like to do,

Judo. The elder son, Rilong, was assigned to the team as a Secondary 1 student and although it was not his firstchoice sport, he grew to love it after several years. Today he attributes his closest friends and fondest memories of RI to his time in the Raffles Judo and still goes back to train with the team during his vacations if he is home

‘Grandeur’ is not a word his father would have used to describe the RI of his time. Hoong studied at both the Bras Basah and Grange Road campuses, and remembers classrooms that were poorly lit with a single lightbulb and shaped in such a way that students sitting in the last row could barely see what the teacher wrote on the blackboard. playing what games you like to play,’ he says. RI was particularly strong in rugby (of course!), table tennis, hockey, soccer and softball, and often emerged as national champions in these sports. Playing sports was also a platform for RI students of different races and age groups to get together. ‘We could play with students of any race, no problem,’ Hoong emphasises. ‘RI is where bonds were built. We didn’t look at social class and didn’t care about others’ background. RI was where I made friends with people of other races.’ Today, Hoong’s sons are both involved in Raffles

from his university studies in Monash University, Australia. His younger brother, Rixing, has followed in his footsteps and joined the team as well. One of the highlights of his judo career was winning the ‘B’ Division national school’s team championship in 2009. ‘Ever since I was in Year 1, I always aspired to win the gold with my team,’ he explains, ‘and that dream was finally realised in Year 4.’ Another common touchstone for Hoong and his elder son was the school newspaper Rafflesian Times. Hoong was its production manager, doing a lot of legwork to ensure that every issue was put together


Raffles Agenda RI THEN AND NOW

Ask Hoong and his sons what they remember and cherish most deeply about their respective times at RI, and the answer is unanimous: the friendships that were forged there. on time. Back then, this meant painstakingly typing articles on the typesetting machine, working into the wee hours of the night at the printing press and making all the final checks for printing. As the chairman of the school’s Photographic Society, Hoong also wound up photographing most school events for the newspaper as well. He remembers having to approach sponsors for support for both school activities – the Rafflesian Times was entirely self-funded and had to cover its own costs for every issue, while the Photographic Society wanted to offer prizes for its inter-school photography competitions. ‘It was a chance to be exposed to a leadership role,’ he reflects. ‘We had to do everything ourselves.’ Rilong also got involved in the Rafflesian Times, joining in Secondary 3 as a sub editor and becoming the vice chairman the following year. ‘I really like writing and I wanted to do something other than judo,’ he mentions. Most of his responsibilities involved editing work, but more importantly

he learned to work in a team outside of sports. He too appreciates the opportunities RI gave him to develop his leadership qualities. 'In Secondary 1, I felt like a small fish in a huge ocean – everyone else seemed to be a top student, better than me. But RI is a special place where people will give you a chance at responsibility as long as you are willing to give it a shot,’ he points out. ‘All the different small leadership positions I held in different CCAs helped to build my confidence and realise that I could achieve something in my life.’ Another aspect of the RI education that Rilong values is that his teachers taught them to think for themselves and stand up for what they believed in. ‘The teachers created an environment in class where students don’t feel self-conscious about asking questions,’ he says. ‘And they wouldn’t forcefeed us information. As we got older, we would really challenge the teachers if we disagreed or had questions, and the teachers never took offence.’

For his father, this type of give-and-take took a different form back in the 1970s. The principal then was Mr Philip Liao, who was a ‘fantastic orator,’ in Hoong’s words, and challenged the students to keep the school flag flying high. But he also controlled the school rather tightly. For example, he closely vetted the articles that were published in Rafflesian Times – but that didn’t stop the students from slipping in the occasional article of disapproval, such as one Hoong remembers that ardently protested the move of the school from Bras Basah to Grange Road. Ask Hoong and his sons what they remember and cherish most deeply about their respective times at RI, and the answer is unanimous: the friendships that were forged there. Hoong and his Pre-U class from 1972 still regularly organise reunions, which are sometimes attended by their teachers as well. He is acutely aware that he and many of his friends came from humble backgrounds. ‘At that time, it was cheap to study in RI, but I was told that today, neighbourhood school students

perceive RI to be an expensive school,’ he highlights. Not wanting potential students to be deprived of an RI education because they feel daunted by this perception, he and his batchmates got together and raised $72,000 to set up a scholarship that supports a student through six years of an education at RI. Hoong also volunteers with RI’s estate subcommittee. An architect who is now the director for campus development at the new Singapore University of Technology and Design, he can offer advice on how the present campus can be further developed to meet the needs of a modern RI education. His sons echo his affection for the school. Rixing will only graduate next year, but already he appreciates ‘the time spent with my friends before lessons, in between lessons and after lessons,’ describing it as a place to get ‘an experience instead of just an education.’ Rilong agrees, adding that it is during these moments that ‘real education took place – where we talked, we had fun, we kind of grew up together.’

Introducing The

1823 Fund by Florence Sim

The 1823 Fund seeks to align our donors’ interests with our five institutional priorities: Scholarships & Bursaries Student-initiated Community Projects Research Programmes & Facilities Sports Excellence Professional Development for Teachers in Gifted Education


he 1823 Fund is named after the year that RI was founded. Set up in August 2009, its singular mission is to support the educational and community service goals of RI and preserve its strong traditions of intellectual endeavour and social empathy beyond our own lifetimes. Recognising the special place that RI has in Singapore as a premier and iconic national institution, the 1823 Fund calls on our alumni, parents and friends to come together to invest in the future of RI and Singapore. Every contribution to RI, whether big or small, represents a wise investment, for the fact that the returns are almost certain to be substantial, if not exponential. RI has always been an active and positive change agent in our education system. The success enjoyed by the school must not be taken for granted. Funded by both public and private funds, we have repeatedly broken new ground with our trail-blazing programmes and have fulfilled our mission in grooming generations of leaders and pioneers with a big heart for service, in whatever his or her chosen field. Like the gryphon central to RI’s iconography, which is part lion and part eagle, the 1823 Fund is a hybrid fund that is part operating fund and part endowment fund. As an operating fund, it enables the school to spring into action when it encounters immediate areas of financial need not met or not fully met by government funding. For example, to open doors for deserving students, or to provide opportunities to students for research in science and medicine, or to support some of the country’s finest academic and co-curricular programmes. As an endowment fund, it has the long-term goal of generating the financial resources needed to ensure the sustainability of the school’s programmes and initiatives. Taking a leaf from educational institutions like Harvard University, we know that sustainability is a key consideration in any initiative, and financial strength is often what makes or break it. Therefore, it is critical that we begin to lay the foundation of philanthropic support for RI in a structured and focused way. This will ensure that RI will continue to remain the school that Rafflesians love and believe in -- an institution which leverages on its tradition of excellence and public service to nurture highly-able students, regardless of their race, creed and economic background, for the good of the community.

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Raffles Institution One Raffles Institution Lane Singapore 575954

First Fold




Raffles Agenda Raffles Rugby union

Rugby and RI:

A Formula for Success


f anyone had trouble describing the rugby DNA of Raffles Institution, he would only have to hang out with Mr Rajoo Amurdalingam (RI, 1977 & 1979) to figure out what it is. A former RI rugby player, his love for the sport and for RI are two sides of the same coin, and he loves reminiscing about playing rugby with his 'band of brothers.' 'My best memories of rugby in RI are winning the ‘A’ division title in 1978 and losing the last ever Kiwi cup (a tournament between RI and Saint Andrews) in the same year,' he remembers fondly. Mr Rajoo continued to play in the Combined Schools team and then for SAFSA after his pre-university days. Today he still plays touch rugby on Saturdays at RI. 'Rugby taught me to take the knocks in life and move on,' Mr Rajoo says. It is well known now how he overcame financial hardship in the late 1990s during the Asian financial crisis. He had just quit his job, and was burdened with a large debt, which forced him to sell his terrace house and car. Despite this, in 1999, he set up his own freight forwarding company with the support of friends and loyal customers, The National Forwarder, which now rakes in $20 million a year. 'Those tough times taught me that I had inner

strength. That you never know, till you try,' he says. Corporate social responsibility comes easy for Mr Rajoo as the desire to give back to society always seems to be at the forefront of his mind. The National Forwarder has funded a variety of causes, from the Downs Syndrome Association to SINDA. The company also employs physically and mentally challenged persons, as well as youths with a troubled past. 'I do feel like I owe society something. In my school days, I played rugby with a borrowed pair of boots. You know, given my background, I’m not supposed to be where I am today. My father was a coolie, and I hung out in a very thuggish environment. My father and brother prevented me from going astray.' This is one of the reasons why Mr Rajoo, a father of four, aged 14-22, thinks sports is an excellent avenue for boys to channel their energies. This belief, coupled with his love for rugby and affiliation to RI, are the reasons he felt driven to start the Raffles Rugby Union, an organisation that will uphold the fine tradition of rugby in RI. CALLING FORMER RUGGERS The Raffles Rugby Union (RRU) was mooted two years ago by Mr Rajoo because he was concerned that RI had fallen

'I do feel like I owe society something. In my school days, I played rugby with a borrowed pair of boots. You know, given my background, I’m not supposed to be where I am today. My father was a coolie, and I hung out in a very thuggish environment. My father and brother prevented me from going astray.' from its ranks in the school rugby scene. As its first President, his desire is to revive rugby as a sport and see RI win titles again. The RRU was set up to bring RI, old boys, parents and supporters together to provide focused and sustained resources and effort in promoting rugby. To date, the RRU has 60 members. Donations collected are parked under the 1823 Fund, earmarked for the development of rugby. Every quarter, the RRU puts up requests to the 1823 Fund for funding, detailing the budget for their proposed programmes. The monies are then disbursed by the 1823 Fund after the budget has been jointly approved by the Principal or VicePrincipal, the RRU President and Treasurer. One such programme is the Rugby Academy, set up to groom Year 1s in rugby fundamentals to prepare them to play competitively in Year 2. This was done because of a need to groom boys to be rugby players earlier. Year 3 students

who need a refresher in rugby basics are also included in the Academy programme. The RRU is also going to focus on promoting the sport and recruiting potential rugby players from primary schools, given that RI does not have the advantage of feeder schools. A Mini Rugby Programme catering to 8-11 year olds will be held at the end of March to promote Raffles Institution as the destination for the best of education and rugby. Those who show a lot of potential will be recommended to enter RI via the Direct School Admission scheme. Mr Rajoo adds that there is one final goal he would like to see happening for the RRU, and that is the issue of leadership renewal. 'If we can recruit at least 2-3 boys from each graduating batch, that would be ideal. Then those who are in their late 40s and 50s should retire and let the next batch take over,' he says. For more information about the Raffles Rugby Union, email Chee Meng at


Raffles Agenda Raffles Rugby union


FEATUREs The Life of Institutions

What makes an institution? by Lionel Yeo

Lionel Yeo shares his thoughts on why RI is an important institution in Singapore's education landscape.


he first thing that struck me about RI when I joined in 1985 was that this was a school with a long and proud tradition of excellence and group achievement. Perhaps it was the honour rolls in the assembly hall. Perhaps it was the array of accomplishments proudly exhibited by each sports team, uniformed group and club. Perhaps it was those school cheers. We were infused with a sense of pride but also a sense of responsibility, because we knew it somehow fell upon us and our cohort to keep up this tradition. How do we explain why RI is regarded as an important institution in the Singapore education landscape? Is it outstanding school leadership and governance? Or superior school policies? What makes it an ‘institution’? As a career civil servant, I have been interested in the question of what makes a government effective. It is very much a part of our internal narrative in the Public Service to say that leadership is key. It seems to be the answer to a lot of things. When foreigners ask how we have tackled issues such as corruption, littering and urban congestion so well, we point to policies, rules and regulations. Sometimes they will say, ‘But we have similar policies, rules and regulations in our country.’ And we might then say, ‘Ah, well, implementation and enforcement are key, aren't they?’ When

probed further, we might fall back on the trusty explanation that leadership is key. I now believe this narrative to be incomplete. We shortchange ourselves, and our potential emulators, if we miss the institutional perspective. Institutions can be thought of as rules of the game, or more formally, ‘humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction’ (Douglass C. North, 1993 Nobel Prize winner for economics). Institutions guide human interaction and reduce uncertainty by providing a structure to everyday life. We can think of formal constraints such as laws, contracts and company rules, as well as informal constraints such as shared values, social norms and codes of behaviour. Organisations can be institutions, particularly if they have over time acquired a capacity to shape human behaviour both inside and outside of the organisation. But not all institutions are organisations. Institutions can be created and destroyed, and they can evolve over time. Suppose you have been pulled over by a traffic cop for speeding on the highway. In some countries the ‘norm’ is to hand some money over to the cop, perhaps with a wink, as you pass him your driver’s license. But if you’re in Singapore, you probably wouldn't dream of doing this. Why is this so? Many countries have similar laws against the bribery of public officials. In

Singapore, we have evolved a behavioural norm that tells motorists it is not wise to bribe yourself out of such a situation. What would it take for this institution to be degraded? Consider also National Service (NS). The legal basis for it in Singapore can be found in laws such as the Enlistment Act. Yet the institution of NS is much more than the pieces of legislation passed by Parliament. After over four decades of NS, most of us have to come to accept, even embrace, NS as a rite of passage for all male Singaporeans. Many mothers, wives and girlfriends proudly support their NSmen. I submit that this kind of behaviour is not natural but has instead been shaped by institutional forces that go beyond the Enlistment Act and the government’s willingness to enforce it. Imagine if we had not had NS all this while and the government decided compulsory conscription had to be introduced today. There might well be a revolt! When one starts to look at things through institutional lenses, one starts to realise how much we have taken for granted. We have over-simplified by only defining good leaders and good policies as explanatory variables. Yes, the success of the Economic Development Board in growing the Singapore economy owes much to good leadership and sound economic policies, but we should not

Resourcing a school is easy. Shaping people’s behaviour and inculcating (the Rafflesian) spirit is far harder, but much more vital work.

discount the instincts honed in generations of EDB officers to fight tenaciously for every project and every initiative. Is leadership key? Yes. The test of a sound institution is whether its normshaping capability is so deeply-ingrained that it can outlive the leader who helped embed that capability in the first place. Is good policy design an important factor in Singapore’s success? Yes. But let us not neglect the painstaking work of building and nurturing institutions that create the enabling conditions for success and provide lasting value. So what makes RI an institution? As a humanly devised constraint that shapes human interaction, it has produced generations of leaders who put the group before the self and who constantly strive for excellence. This set of norms and habits are transmitted as part of a Rafflesian’s school experience and for many of us, it sticks for life. Sir Stamford Raffles got it right when he wrote, ‘Would that I could infuse into the institution a portion of that spirit and soul by which I would have it animated, as easily as I endow it with lands.’ Resourcing a school is easy. Shaping people’s behaviour and inculcating (the Rafflesian) spirit is far harder, but much more vital work. LIONEL YEO (RI, 1988 and RJC, 1990) is the Dean of Singapore’s Civil Service College, and concurrently Deputy Secretary (Development) in the Public Service Division of the Prime Minister’s Office. His previous postings include the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, and the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports.


science Epidemiology of Diabetes

Defeating Diabetes Prof. Chia Kee Seng most recently returned to RI in April 2010 as the Guest-of-Honour at the Year 1-4 Prize-Giving Ceremony. There, he exhorted current students to innovate, noting that 'the key is to continue to learn new things, to be brave to go into new areas.' In the article below, he shares with us some of his latest findings regarding the rapid spread of diabetes.

THE DIABETES EPIDEMIC There are 285 million diabetics in the world today; put more starkly, some 6% of the world’s population suffers from diabetes. It is estimated that in ten years, this will increase to 438 million!1 The commoner form of diabetes is technically known as Type II Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM). Once considered a ‘Western’ disease, today there are 92.4 million diabetics in China alone.2 T2DM is a disease that results in the body being unable to regulate its blood glucose level. In normal subjects, insulin, a pancreatic hormone, regulates the level of blood glucose. After a meal, our blood glucose level rises followed by the level of insulin. This drives the glucose into the cells. With T2DM, the cells are unresponsive to the insulin (insulin resistance) and the glucose remains in the blood. This in turns signals the pancreas to increase insulin secretion and a vicious cycle is thus initiated. Over many years, the pancreas becomes fatigued and ceases to secrete insulin. To make matters worse, a constant high level of blood glucose damages the linings of both large and small blood vessels. Small vessel damage (microangiopathy) results in poor circulation, especially to the skin, eyes and kidneys. The skin of the feet and legs are particularly susceptible. The nerves in the feet become less sensitive, hence wounds occur easily. The poor blood supply results in poor healing and ease of infection – in some cases, this results in amputation of the lower limbs. In the eyes, retinal damage occurs, and leads to the loss of sight. The kidneys fail and renal failure sets in. Long-term damage to the large vessels (macroangiopathy) results in heart attacks and stroke. T2DM is therefore not only a silent killer; more importantly, it is a silent robber that robs us of healthy life-years. OUR GENES ARE NOT THE CAUSE What we’re finding out is that T2DM is not a genetic disease, but a lifestyle disease. Over the last decade, a number of studies compared the genes of thousands of diabetics and non-diabetics. These identified several genes as increasing the risk of T2DM.

SCIENCE Epidemiology of Diabetes

Significantly, these genes only accounted for less than 10% risk of T2DM.3 Furthermore, the increase in T2DM has occurred over a very short period of time. In Singapore, only 1.9% of the population was diagnosed with T2DM in 1975. Fast forward 15 years, and this figure has shot up to 8.6%.4 Our genes couldn’t possibly have altered within that brief timespan. BEING FAT IS THE CAUSE…AND ASIANS HIDE IT WELL! We know for a fact that obese people have increased insulin resistance, and as a result, are at higher risk of developing T2DM. Obesity is simply the net result of excess energy intake over expenditure! The rapid socioeconomic changes in Asia over the last 2-3 decades have been accompanied by a shift towards overnutrition and a sedentary lifestyle. In China, the proportion of energy intake from animal foods increased from 9.3% in 1992 to 13.7% in 2002 and that from fats from 22% to 29.8%.5 In Singapore, only 25% of the population is engaged in regular exercise of more than three 20-minute sessions per week. The top reasons cited sound all too familiar. ‘No time’, ‘too tired’ and ‘too lazy.’ Unfortunately, Asians hide their obesity well. Obesity is commonly measured using the body mass index (BMI) - a BMI range of 25-30 is considered overweight, and obese subjects have a BMI of over 30. An overly-simplified but useful way of thinking about obesity involves separating it into an intra-abdominal and a subcutaneous component. The intraabdominal component correlates strongly with the risk of diabetes, stroke and heart

diseases but is more difficult to measure. BMI correlates better to the subcutaneous component: it measures the ‘skin-deep’ fat. For the same BMI, Asians tend to have higher levels of intra-abdominal fat than Caucasians. Therefore, an Asian with a BMI of 27 is equivalent to a Caucasian with a BMI of 30. We Asians hide our obesity well, but are at risk in spite of our lean looks.6 DIABETES CAN BE DEFEATED In a carefully monitored intervention study, over 3,000 healthy subjects were randomly assigned to three regimes: a diabetic drug, a weight reduction regime of diet and exercise and no intervention. After four years, there was a 30% reduction in diabetes risk in the drug group when compared to those without intervention. Those in the diet and exercise group showed a 60% reduction in risk.7 However, the results are less impressive when implemented at the population level. Population-level interventions require more than just campaigns and legislations. Effecting society-wide changes in behaviour requires multi-disciplinary and multi-sectorial approaches. It requires not only medical and health professionals but socio-behavioural experts, food and beverage industry, city and transport planners, policy and legal experts to work in concert. Singapore’s success in controlling smoking habit is proof that such a comprehensive approach can be implanted. Admittedly, tackling obesity is more challenging. If we are successful, Singapore could well become a model for global mega-cities in the fight to limit and contain T2DM.

International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes Atlas. 3rd ed. Brussels, Belgium: International Diabetes Federation, 2006. “Prevalence of Diabetes among Men and Women in China.“ N Engl J Med 362:1090, March 25, 2010. 3 “Utility of genetic and non-genetic risk factors in prediction of type 2 diabetes: Whitehall II prospective cohort study.” BMJ 2010; 340:b4838. 4 Report on the National Health Survey 2004, Ministry of Health, Singapore. 5 “The trends in obesity and chronic disease in China.” Int J Obes 2007; 31(1): 177-188. 6 Appropriate body-mass index for Asian populations and its implications for policy and intervention strategies.” Lancet 2004; 363: 157–63. 7 “Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin.” N Engl J Med. Feb 7 2002;346(6): 393-403. 1



Type II Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) is… not only a silent killer; more importantly, it is a silent robber that robs us of healthy life-years.

PROF CHIA KEE SENG (RI, 1972 & 1974) is the Head and Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, National University of Singapore and also the Director, Centre for Molecular Epidemiology. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden. He received his medical degree in 1981, Masters of Science in Occupational Medicine in 1985 and Doctor of Medicine in 1995. His current research focus is the molecular epidemiology of chronic diseases. To that end, Prof Chia is setting up cohort studies for translational research to elucidate geneenvironment interactions in chronic disease causation, prevention and therapy. He is driving the Singapore Consortium of Cohort Studies which plans to recruit 250,000 Singaporeans over the next 10 to 20 years.


ECONOMICS What the Global Financial Crisis Taught Us

It’s Back to Basics by Davin Chor


e are still reeling from the aftereffects of the global financial crisis. The direct cause of the crisis was a severe bubble in the US housing market. Easy credit was made available to home-owners who would not have qualified for ordinary mortgages. Banks and financial institutions were all too willing to fuel this bubble because they feared missing the boat as markets and the economy grew. The years leading up to 2007 were a great time for the financial sector, as the industry reaped record profits.

Many of us here in Singapore jumped on this bandwagon too. We were lulled into thinking that the stock market would always be rosy, and uninterrupted economic growth would be the norm. It was almost a fad to hear one’s peers air out their ambition to become an investment banker or hedge fund trader, make a small fortune quickly and then ease into early retirement. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times recently lamented how smart college students in America were lured en masse by get-rich-quick careers in the financial sector, to the detriment of the science and engineering knowledge base of the

country. For a period, many of our brightest young brains too, including straight-A students, were choosing to pursue business degrees, believing this to be the surest and fastest route towards financial security. The bursting of this bubble, with its painful consequences for the world economy, means that it’s time now to get back to basics. If anything, the recent experience has reaffirmed some core principles. First, the law of averages holds, on average. Something that appears abnormally good without a fundamental reason to back it up is probably too good to be true. Don’t be surprised if things fall back and revert to their norms at some point. Second, education should never be viewed as a means to an end. The education process should not just be about acquiring a checklist of paper qualifications. Rather, it should be a valuable gestation period for learning what one’s comparative advantage really is. It should be a time for identifying those unique strengths and

talents that will truly make a person a valuable contributor to the workforce and to society. Perhaps one might figure out that one’s gift is in being an entrepreneur, or perhaps that it lies in being an effective manager in the public service, or perhaps that one’s calling is in being a teacher. Some of us might even realise that we are meant to be bankers and financiers. Above all, whichever endeavours one chooses, we should do so with an eye towards building a meaningful career. These should not be decisions made by jumping on a bandwagon. Certainly, one must seize one’s opportunities when they come, but life should be about more than trying to time the next financial bubble. Instead, building a career out of genuine interest and motivation is probably a better strategy for long-run success and (dare I say) happiness. DAVIN CHOR (RI 1993, RJC 1995) is an Assistant Professor at the School of Economics, Singapore Management University. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 2007. He also completed an AM degree in Statistics and an AB degree in Economics at Harvard University in 2000. His research interests are international trade, political economy, and economic history.

ECONOMICS What the Global Financial Crisis Taught Us


A Call to Arms by Chua Choong Tze


dam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations that the actions of individuals seeking to maximise their own profits will maximise the profits for the community as well, as if guided by an invisible hand. This simple principle is the foundation for today’s free-market capitalist society, where we pretty much let every individual do as he pleases and trust that the greater good is served in the process. However, the greater good is not always served when individuals act in their own self interest. Much has been said and written about the failings of the market system. I would like to touch on one that is especially pertinent to the situation that we face here in Singapore. Imagine an individual holding a stable job who chances upon a business opportunity that on average, is expected to be reasonably profitable, perhaps even a lot more profitable than the wage that he is currently earning. However, that business is not without its risks and the profits are not guaranteed. There is a modest probability that the enterprise will fail and severely impact the state of his personal finances. If everyone in that position decides to stomach the risk and seize the opportunity, the system as a whole will certainly benefit as the successes will, on aggregate, more than compensate for the failures. However, at the individual level many may shy away because their aversion to risk is too high. Adam Smith’s invisible hand fails miserably here and society is worse off as a result. It is not surprising that there may have been many such missed opportunities in Singapore. By and large, parents here still prefer their children to acquire professional degrees and earn good wages rather than to take risks in the entrepreneurial world. Most of my RI and RJC friends went on to become doctors, lawyers, government scholars, bankers, accountants and engineers, drawn by the high and stable wages in these occupations. This practice of renting out our labour has served us remarkably well over the 45 years since Singapore’s independence. We have seen our average standard of living soar and have created a sizable middle class. But this is as far as that strategy can take us. Having moved the masses from unskilled jobs to skilled ones, there is little room to move even further up the value chain. We already have among the world’s best trained, best educated, best behaved and best paid labour force. We now need entrepreneurs and risk-takers, people who can create wealth, not merely earn it. The last time we truly celebrated the success of a home-grown business was when Creative Technology launched its IPO on the NASDAQ – in 1992! The government has done its part in promoting start-ups:

Do not be cowed by your fear of failure and do not be too contented with your monthly pay cheque. Do your part – don’t let your next good idea float away. The economy’s robustness and vibrancy depends on it. facilitating credit provision to small and medium enterprises, making the regulatory and tax regimes simple and favourable, providing more seed capital and incubators, and keeping business costs relatively low in general. As a result, we do see a gradual uptick in youths being more open to the idea of striking out on their own. But we need more, a lot more, both in terms of quantity as well as quality. Singaporeans – especially bright, welleducated and driven Singaporeans – need to step up to the plate. Do not be cowed by your fear of failure and do not be too contented with your monthly pay cheque. Do your part –don’t let your next good idea float away. The economy’s robustness and vibrancy depends on it. CHUA CHOONG TZE (RI 1995, RJC 1997) is Assistant Professor of Finance at Singapore Management University and the managing director of Quantedge Capital.


SOCIETY RI & 100 Years of Scouting in Singapore

Raffles and Scouting by Dennis Phua


ew former scouts epitomise Rafflesian scouting as authoritatively as Christopher Ng Toong Seng, former troop leader and current South Area Unit Development Commissioner with the Singapore Scouts Association. Having joined the thennamed 2nd Scout Troop of Raffles Institution in 1950, Christopher rose quickly up the ranks and became the Assistant Scout Master in 1954. He was also Assistant District Commissioner of the then Stamford District. During his time, such luminaries like Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Prof Tommy Koh, and Dr Tan Cheng Bock were avid members of the troop. 'I remember that we were trekking in Cameron Highlands and Prof Koh and two fellow scouts were lost for a couple of hours. The teacher was so anxious, but fortunately, they came back in one piece at 9pm!' Another expedition regularly attempted by the scouts then was the hikes to the Earth Quarry, from different starting points undertaken by the younger scouts in their patrols.

Christopher remembered a patrol leader, academically brilliant, who was leading his patrol which included one young scout with thick eyeglasses, yet not quite confident with maps and orienteering. 'We were all supposed to meet for lunch at the centre of the quarry, but his patrol had not turned up by noon. It was exciting to send search parties to look for them. Although we failed to locate the patrol, we learned much later that the young scout had slipped into a hog wallow and that he and his patrol-mates were picked up and driven home by his father. The car was a big deal then!' By 1957, Christopher became the inaugural local recipient of the Baden Powell Award, the highest honour for rovers in international scouting. He fondly recalls the metallic badge that he was awarded and which he had since donated to the national association for their new museum. This period also marked the beginning of a national dominance by the 2102 Scout Troop, closely followed by the emergence of the 2101 Scout Troop. Both have since come

SOCIETY RI & 100 Years of Scouting in Singapore

to be known by the names of the 02 Raffles Scout Group and 01 Raffles Scout Troop. Founded in 1922, the 02 Raffles Scout Group is the oldest surviving scout group in Singapore. Known for their fortitude in scouting competitions and active candidacy for the President’s Scout Award, the group most recently won Gold at the National Patrol Camp, with alumni leaders playing a major part in their training and development along with the teachers. The 01 Raffles Scout Group was established later in 1934, and also welcomes old boys to impart their skills and knowledge to the young scouts. At the Singapore Scout Association's 100th Anniversary Dinner held in February, Christopher rallied nine former 2nd Raffles Scouts from the 1950s. The combined Raffles contingent was the best-

represented amongst all the scout units in Singapore, no less in part to the camaraderie of the alumni from both groups. 'Everybody was thrilled when SM Goh, Prof Koh, and Dr Tan led the singing of traditional campfire tunes with their former troop mates on the stage. It was also a sight to see old boys putting on the current Raffles scarves of green, black, and white.' As Guest-of-Honour at the recent 02 Raffles Investiture Ceremony, Christopher was delighted to draw attention to the fact that 2nd Raffles has produced some great and prominent leaders. Scouting develops leadership and comradeship. He expressed his fervent hope that the current generation of scouts will continue to uphold the fine legacy of Rafflesian scouting that has beeen bequeathed to them by their predecessors.

Founded in the year of 1922, the 02 Raffles Scout Group is the oldest surviving scout group in Singapore. Known for their fortitude in scouting competitions and active candidacy for the President’s Scout Award, the group most recently won Gold at the National Patrol Camp, with alumni leaders playing a major part in their training and development along with the teachers.




A Bridge Between Worlds by Farid Abdul Hamid


am truly blessed. Truly blessed to be able to give life and expression to a cause I feel passionately about. Truly blessed to be given opportunities and challenges that help me grow while contributing towards making a little part of this world a little better than before. Truly blessed to be able to marry my passion, my interest and my work – what I choose for a vocation. Truly blessed to work in this field with communities, government agencies and corporations in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, Guyana, Shanghai, Melbourne, Pamplona, the highlands of Tagtaytay in Manila, East Timor, Phnom Penh, the Tiwi Aboriginal communities in Australia and the island of Mu Koh Surin which is home to one of the last communities of sea nomads in Southeast Asia. Truly blessed to work with dedicated, selfless and hardworking professionals and volunteers who strive to make their communities and the environment they exist in a better place to live and thrive.

I work in the field of diversity training and development. It involves opening the eyes, minds and hearts of communities to worlds of differences, while simultaneously exploring commonalities and uniqueness, and celebrating both by developing skills and competencies in cross-cultural communication. Multiple cultural ‘worlds’ come into contact with each other in this very small physical place of Singapore. These worlds could be based on ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, age and different abilities. Each has its own worldview, culture, perceptions, preferred styles of communication and ways of understanding. One of the most interesting places that I work in is Singapore. I work with civil society – volunteers, professionals, educators, religious and community leaders in non-profit and government sectors. Some aren’t even registered as legal entities, yet they do good work, drawing exclusively on resources from their own members.

TRAINING THE BRIDGE BUILDERS Since 2006, I have been working with talented and civicminded residents (Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and other non-PR migrants) to develop skills and platforms for authentic ‘people-to-people dialogue’ in small conversation circles of eight to ten people. Sponsored by the Community Development Councils, Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, National Institute of Education and, the volunteers undergo training and coaching in facilitating ethnicity- or faith-based conversations. Since 2006, some 80 facilitators have been trained in the ‘Explorations in Ethnicity’ programme and 30 facilitators have received training in the ‘Explorations into Faiths’ programme. Over 2,000 people have engaged in these conversation circles and experiential programmes, ranging from three-hour to twoday residential programmes. Many of these volunteer facilitators were participants in prior dialogue sessions. They


Developing these levels of social capital in itself is an art and a science – and it takes time and effort.




come from all walks of life – students, teachers and other professionals, executives in private and public sectors and other professionals. They make the time to undergo training and coaching. They make the time to spend their weekday evenings and weekends facilitating authentic deep dialogue. AUTHENTIC BRIDGES One challenge in facilitating and encouraging authentic dialogue - on what are considered the sensitive issues of ethnicity and faith, is the need to avoid merely quoting or using the slogans and catchphrases that are used ubiquitously in the public sphere. Drawing out what is really felt and needs to be reflected upon, articulated, shared, explored, discussed, clarified, and sometimes negotiated - the facilitators and their dialogue communities put a lot of effort into building mutual trust and support. Developing these levels of social capital in itself is an art and a science – and it takes time and effort. The facilitator has to give a part of himself/herself to the group to model the trust desired. She is as much a participant as she is a facilitator. Trust is also built gradually through experiential and social activities which could include community drumming, adventure activities or service learning experiences - sometimes fun, sometimes serious, almost always challenging. Groups articulate and negotiate

attitudinal and behavorial norms which we call ‘Full Value Commitments’, which they use as basic standards for the group’s subsequent behaviour and attitudes to one another, before they proceed to the ‘substantive’ part of their dialogue. Almost always, the focus starts with the individual – the explorations of one’s own values, perceptions, attitudes, experiences, biases, stereotypes and prejudices. Using the ‘Life-Journey’ - a powerful tool that invites individuals to share their personal stories, dialogue groups enter into a space of personal reflection and sharing. These stories that emerge often involve discrimination, abuse, hurt, misunderstandings, lost love, missed opportunities, failures and successes – such are the realities of living in a diverse world. Members of dialogue groups frequently support one another when emotional release or outbursts are experienced. The sharing bonds the group even closer as they feel they are in a safe and supportive ‘space’. (See inset story ‘Hurt and Healing at EIE’) Facilitators also explore community and international issues. Pedagogy is used to explore notions of ethnicity, race, culture, discrimination, stereotyping, racism, and xenophobia. It also examines how we build identity by the process of `othering’, and delves into frameworks that have been developed to manage diversity – multi-racialism and multi-culturalism.

HURT & HEALING at EIE by Farid Abdul Hamid


s part of their field assignment during the Exploration Into Ethnicity (EIE) Facilitator Training Course, Harith, Azeema and Gurpreet decided to go to a job fair held at one of Singapore’s mega convention centres. Harith and Azeema took the role of observers, while Gurpreet patiently joined the long line to obtain application forms for employment positions at various company booths. Later, during the sharing back at the workshop venue, Gurpreet shared in a voice, shaking with anger –‘Every time it came to my turn, the person at the company booth informed me that the positions were all filled and there were no more forms for distribution. As I turned around and left, I noticed that the same company representative would continue giving out forms to those behind me in the queue. This happened a few times at different booths.’ ‘I was very upset as I also noticed that the people who seemed to be getting the application forms were Chinese. I was the only non-Chinese at that time. The thing is, the representative didn’t even ask me what position or vacancy I was looking for. She didn’t even ask me what my qualifications were! How can this be meritocracy? Feels like discrimination to me!’ Azeema and Harith confirmed Gurpreet’s acount of the events that took place. Responding to this experience was Yvonne, a researcher at a Singapore university and previously a teacher at a junior college. She said, ‘You cannot honestly prove that what you experienced is racial discrimination. All our studies in Singapore on inter-racial relations confirm that these things you experienced do not happen in Singapore. Singaporeans believe in and live ‘meritocracy’. It is good for business and it is good for the country. It is an isolated incident that must have some other explanation.’ Gurpreet broke down and cried. She continued as other EiE trainee facilitators held her hands and put their arms around her shoulders, ‘This is what I was afraid of. Bad enough I had to experience this in Singapore, and this was not the first time. But then to be told that my experiences were not valid, untrue – how can we minorities expect you majority Chinese


All names have been changed to protect the individuals’ privacy.

Singaporeans to empathise with us, to feel what we feel and go through what we go through? And you know what? I speak Mandarin! Not that they cared to ask me.' Geraldine, a senior researcher with a PhD at a national thinktank, supported Gurpreet. 'I would like to share my experiences. I am Chinese, my husband is Indian. We don’t practise Indian culture at home. Our children speak Mandarin and not Tamil. Yet in school, they are constantly being made fun of because they look Chinese but have Indian surnames. My husband’s family regularly reports the experiences Gurpreet has just shared.' That was the longest sharing and facilitation session of the eight EiE Facilitator workshops. It lasted four hours and was emotionally charged. Some facilitators shared stories that unleashed deeply buried emotions of pain and disappointment at being on the receiving end of perceived racial discrimination in Singapore. Other facilitators shared their stereotypes, biases and prejudices. Some shared how they had been discriminatory in their own behaviour. They felt sad and disappointed with themselves. This had to stop, they declared. It has to start with themselves, then with their close family circles, and then working outwards towards other spheres of influence at work and in public. Someone reflected, ‘No society is perfect. There are racists and bigots in Singapore – they exist in other countries too. The point is, what do we do when we encounter them? Do we tacitly smile and shrug? Do we turn and look the other way?’ Another trainee facilitator reached a realisation: ‘You know, to be really honest, perhaps, there is a racist lurking in each one of us. The point is to recognise this part of us and constantly fight to keep it from asserting itself as it tries to rear its ugly head from within us.’ That cool, drizzly evening, a small group of people reached out to each other and held hands. Many were teary-eyed and everyone hugged everyone else. The small group of 15 trainee facilitators experienced empathy, forgiveness and healing together.

INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE, SINGAPORE-STYLE The ‘Explorations into Faiths’ programme has engaged and worked with the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Jain, Muslim, Sikh, Taoist and Zoroastrian faith communities, where community and youth leaders share and participate in the dialogue sessions. In these inter-faith dialogue circles, sessions are based on monthly themes such as ‘Faith and Food’, ‘Faith and International Relations’, ‘Faith and Women’, ‘Faith and the Concept of Evil’, ‘Faith Perspectives on Interfaith Engagement’, and ‘Faith and Life/Death’. The interesting thing about the format is its focus on ‘people-to-people’ dialogue in small discussion groups. Most members are lay persons and they are encouraged to research the topics beforehand. The members share their personal perspectives and it is made clear that no one is speaking on behalf of their religious community. This creates an atmosphere that encourages dialogue, which more than makes up for the absence of the ‘expert’ knowledge of a member of the clergy. As a result of these programmes, Singapore has recently also seen the development of a sustained intra-faith dialogue programme amongst the diverse Muslim communities in Singapore: Sunnis, Shia’s and the different


jurisprudential schools within these – the Ismaili, Dawoodi Bohra, Ja’afari, Syafie, Hanafi and Maliki `mazhabs’. Initiatives like this are very rare in most parts of the world, let alone in Singapore. Facilitating deep, authentic dialogue between Singapore’s different ethnic, cultural and religious worlds has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the work that I do. I am continually inspired and I constantly learn and ‘unlearn’ every time I dialogue and share. Every experience is a unique one. One of the highlights of the experiences is being a part of the inter-generational dialogue – seeing youth engaging with adults and seniors alike, each listening, reflecting and sharing their experiences and opinions. It is truly a magical, inspiring, awesome experience. One could be forgiven for thinking that it is a fairytale, but it is a ‘fairytale’ that has been coming true – in Singapore. FARID ABDUL HAMID (RI, 1981) graduated with an honour’s degree in Law from the National University of Singapore. After a stint as a criminal investigator with the Singapore Police Force and a Deputy Public Prosecutor with the Attorney General’s Chambers, he accepted a position as a Directing Staff in Guyana leading a youth project with Raleigh International. Since then, he has worked in Australia, Brunei, Philippines, Brunei and the ASEAN countries with various organisations such as Outward Bound Singapore, People’s Association, the Brunei Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and the Singapore International Foundation.


FEATUREs Photo Essay

Invisible Witness The Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of Yian Huang.


Construction site of the security wall near the Green Line. West Bank 2005


If you had to choose between the superpowers of flight and invisibility, which you choose? And why?


hen John Hodgeman, the 'I’m a Mac' guy, asked this question on National Public Radio in the U.S., I knew my answer immediately: flight.

Because I already know how to be invisible. As a nerdy, socially awkward RI student, I’ve always been invisible, though not by choice. When I discovered, at age 28, the power of the camera to open doors, I was hooked. I learned that I could ask any stranger, in any city, to let me make a portrait of them in their home; I could ask fishermen, knowing only five sentences in their language, to take me on their boat out to sea for four days. And they would say yes! (As long as I asked with a smile.) They would open their doors and share their lives with me. People always ask how I get so close to my subjects; how I appear to be invisible. How do I take such intimate photos? How do you get illegal immigrants to let you photograph them in their homes?

The day I knew that I had mastered the skill of invisibility was when I photographed some ruffians at the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York City in 2006. They were harassing women walking past, and as I stood in front of them with my camera, one of them exposed himself to a woman, and to my lens. With this skill set, the next question is: what would I like to see? Whose house would I like to get invited into? What is important and what would make a difference if I showed it to the world? I decided to go to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 2004 and 2005 to see the conflict there for myself, to look behind the media curtain, to understand people's motivations for fighting, or at least try to. Once I got there, I found that making photos was the easy part; understanding their reasoning was far harder. This motivated me to obtain a dual Masters at Columbia in International Affairs and Journalism, and I now return home to Singapore with the mission to share what I have learnt.



Photos from left to right: House demolished to allow through passage for the Israeli Defence Force in Balata refugee camp, Nablus. West Bank 2005 Construction site of the security wall near the Green Line. West Bank 2005 Palestinian arrested for throwing stones at a demonstration. West Bank 2005



YIAN HUANG (RI, 1989), a management consultant turned photographer, documented the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2004 and 2005. This led him to pursue a dual Masters in International Affairs and Journalism at Columbia University so as to better understand and convey the conflicts that he photographs. His works have been exhibited at the Palais du Louvre in Paris, the Singapore Art Museum, and in Russia, Italy and the US; and seen on the pages of the Economist, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated. Formerly based in New York for the Newark Star Ledger, and in Paris as an intern at the Magnum Photo Agency, Yian now calls Singapore home, where he continues to photograph and teach photography. He welcomes your emails at



Coming Full Circle:

An Interview with Stanley Tan by Suzanne Teo


tanley Tan (RI 1990, RJC 1992) was the first Singaporean sailor to qualify for the Olympic Games on merit (at the 2004 Athens Olympics), and also happens to be the only Singaporean lawyer to have competed in two Olympic Games (Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004). Tan started out as a swimmer in RI, where his pet event was the breast stroke, and he was vice captain of the ‘B’ Division boys’ team. 'I had great fun with my mates in the swimming team, and we had fantastic teachers-in-charge like Rosie Smith and the late Anna Tan, who were so genuinely enthusiastic and committed to the swimmers. We would do countless laps staring down at those long black lines at the pool at the old Grange Road campus, training hard for the inter-school championships, knowing that we were the underdogs against swimming powerhouses like ACS, but we still fought hard, which looking back now, was seriously impressive attitude from a bunch of teenagers! While my generation of swimmers never did win the top school title, I am glad that the RI swimmers after us have since gone on to achieve that.' When he subsequently went on to RJC, he felt a strong need to move on to a new challenge ('enough of those long black lines!'), and signed up to be a

member of the newly-formed sailing team. Little did he know that this innocuous decision ('I was just looking for a new ECA to join!') would one day change his life in ways he never imagined. Tan was part of the pioneer batch of sailors at RJC, where he captained the boys’ team. Being so new and inexperienced, the team was not expecting much at their first

outing at the inter-school sailing championships. He reminisced, 'None of us sailors were really serious then about winning medals or being competitive, and we were certainly not aiming for the championship title. Sailing was just something new and exciting for all of us, which we looked forward to doing twice a week after class. Ang Gim Seng and Teo Wah Liang were just as enthusiastic

and committed teachers-incharge who taught us all how to sail a boat, and got themselves all sweaty and sun-burnt in doing so!' Tan did not expect to win a silver medal in his first ever sailing race, nor did he expect to spend 15 years of his life involved in the sport of sailing, of which five were devoted to being a full-time national sailor. 'I guess that first sailing achievement must have



Rafflesians are that special breed of individuals who, more often than not, tend to excel academically and are all-rounders in sport and life as well.

sparked off something in my head, and I began to see that this sailing thing was going to be something very special to me. And I guess the message here for the staff at RI (both academic and non-academic) is to never underestimate your role and contribution in nurturing and bringing forth an Olympian, a Nobel Laureate or the next Prime Minister of Singapore.'

Balancing sports and studies was not easy. Tan’s passion for sailing as well as his desire to excel in it meant that he spent time intended for studying on sailing instead. However, a pep talk from Audrey Tan, his civics and GP tutor in RJC, made him realise that he should not be choosing between sailing and studying, but balancing and managing both well. 'I remember her saying, ‘You made the choice to sail, so don’t use that as an excuse’, and that certainly was my first lesson in taking ownership and responsibility for my actions. Till this day, I still remind myself of those words.' Upon graduation from Law school at NUS, Tan put his legal career on hold and commenced his full-time sailing career by relocating to Sydney to prepare for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. While the personal sacrifices and career opportunity costs might have deterred others from pursuing a similar path, Tan felt that his efforts in planning and executing his training and competition program, and achieving his sailing dreams was well worth the effort. Looking back at his sailing achievements and the struggles he had to deal with along the way not only brings back fond memories for Tan, but has helped to define who he is today. While competing and representing Singapore at two Olympic Games is one of the

biggest highlights of Tan’s life thus far, Tan considered the journey to both these Olympics as the true essence of his sailing career, where he grew and developed both as a sailor and as a person. 'Sailing at the Olympic Games will always be a dream come true, and to be an Olympian will always be special to me. But it wasn’t just about the sailing, but a long process of staying focused and motivated through the peaks and troughs, and always believing that I could achieve, and had to, achieve my goals.' Tan is also convinced that the values and all the little lessons in life he learned from his friends and teachers at RI and RJC helped build the foundation for him to not only achieve his sporting goals, but in his present career as corporate counsel with a S & P 500 U.S multinational company. The Singapore sporting scene has changed dramatically from when Tan was a national sailor. There is now greater involvement and support from the Singapore government, which has led to a significant increase in sporting initiatives and events in Singapore, such as the upcoming Youth Olympic Games (YOG). Tan believes that the Singapore YOG team, and Singapore, will deliver not only medals but a memorable first ever Youth Olympic Games to the world. While Tan no longer sails competitively, he continues to stay fit and challenge himself

by competing in triathlons, and has even finished an Ironman triathlon (a 3.8km swim in the sea, followed by a 180km bike ride and finishing off with a full marathon). 'My ‘hard-core’ competitive days are over, but I still make sure that I’m balancing my work life with other challenges. I do sometimes wish I was sailing again, especially on a sunny and windy day. But triathlon is a great sport, full of fun and positive people, and it's so very physically and mentally challenging.' Appointed by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports as a member of the governing board of Anti-Doping Singapore (ADS), Tan has now taken on a new role in the Singapore sporting scene where he will share his experiences and expertise as an athlete and a lawyer in helping the ADS to enhance awareness of anti-doping issues in sport amongst athletes and other stakeholders in Singapore sports. 'My career commitments do not allow me to devote the necessary time and energy in coaching the new generation of sailors, so I see my role as a board member of ADS as one which would allow me to hopefully give something meaningful back to Singapore sport by sharing my perspectives and knowledge.' SUZANNE TEO (RI, 2009) served as the captain for RI (Year 5-6)'s first official Girls' Waterpolo team. She was also part of the swimming team and an MOE Japanese Language Elective Scholar.


PROFILE A Night in The Life

"Who Says We Are Square?"

A Conversation with An (Un)likely RI Boy by Sabina Ahmed


ight-life personality Mr. Dennis Foo (RI, 1973) is well-known as the creator of St James Power Station, the advocate of bar-top dancing, and supporter of the Integrated Resorts, but not many people think or know of him as an old Raffles boy. It’s a question Dennis faces often. ‘People are surprised by it all the time,’ Dennis says, ‘I’m a serious person in an un-serious business.’ If anything, Dennis sees himself as a quintessential RI boy – uncomplicated, not flamboyant, an introvert, motivated to do what he does better than anybody else. He just happens to be that way in a business which is anything but these things. ‘It just happened!’ is how Dennis describes his beginnings as a night-life entrepreneur. Dennis’ first foray into the industry occurred 32 years ago when he converted an old coffeeshop his father left him into a live-music entertainment venue at Changi Point. People came to enjoy the entertainment, in spite of the farflung location. Even at that time, Dennis was way ahead of the curve. That, according to Dennis, is what an entrepreneur is. Somebody who does things that are different from the norm, who creates, and innovates and takes risks. Dennis has a modus operandi that he closely follows: ‘Observe, Absorb, Interpret, Innovate, Create. In that order.' Whether

it was advocating for casinos in 2002, or opening up the largest entertainment venue in a converted power station, Dennis has taken that mantra to heart, never flinching in the face of controversy, even if he doesn’t see himself as controversial. ‘It’s about the power of reasoning. Good reasons can address concerns in positive ways. What you believe in holds true even if it isn’t considered the norm. It’s controversy with substance, not just for the sake of getting attention.’ Besides intention, perspective also counts. ‘Times change. In 2002, nobody would’ve thought that we would have casinos before the decade was out, and they would be seen as important economic multipliers for investment, taxes, jobs, tourist attractions.’ How does Dennis manage to lead such a competitive industry? He enumerates his sources of success: young people, travel, his staff, knowing how to recognise the changes in the market, and when to change the course when the ship is not steering in the right direction. ‘You have to be smart, and not be too stubborn about the decisions you make,’ Dennis muses. ‘When I started Bellini Grande in Clark Quay, I quickly realised that the market wasn’t viable, and the target audience wasn’t being catered to. I paid my dues, and converted it into Shanghai Dolly, and the situation improved vastly.’

Being nimble, understanding numbers, and most of all, having a passion for what he does, is what has kept Dennis going all these years, and propelled him forward. He’s seen the local nightlife industry evolve visibly over the past couple of decades into the world-class entertainment destination it is today. ‘People need to relieve the stress of working in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment like Singapore, where they can look forward to nightlife at the end of a working day and play as hard as they work.’ He makes it sound like a religious vocation, almost. Dennis has become the personality most embodying the future of Singapore nightlife, as his brand has developed around his name and face. So much so that Dennis has to enjoy himself out of town, so as not to rile up the non-Rafflesian competition that he is running circle around. 'I can’t go out incognito in Singapore,' says local nightlife’s most famous man. Incognito – a pretty good name for a future club.

SABINA AHMED (RJC, 2001) studied political science at Yale University, and has worked in the fields of international development and microfinance in East Timor, Washington DC, and India. She now works at a political and security risk consultancy, based out of Singapore.

PROFILE A Night in The Life

You have to be smart, and not be too stubborn about the decisions you make...



CULTURE Thoughts ABOUT Theatre

Thoughts about Theatre by Kenneth Kwok


n the 1950s, the theatre scene in Singapore was composed primarily of traditional ethnic art forms such as Chinese opera, and English-language plays which were being staged by and for the British expatriate community. Over time, however, a distinctly Singaporean voice has emerged on the local stage, one which speaks about Singaporean concerns and aspirations, even as it incorporates multi-cultural and international influences. That local audiences have been sitting up and taking notice is clear. There has been a significant growth in ticket sales over the years and shows like Beauty World, Army Daze and Emily of Emerald Hill have achieved iconic status. International audiences have also taken an interest, and works – both mainstream and avant-garde, and in a variety of languages - by the likes of Kuo Pao Kun, Ong Keng Sen and Haresh Sharma have traveled around the world. The development of the Esplanade and the School of the Arts in recent years points to a growing recognition of the important role the arts play in contemporary Singapore life. There are many Rafflesians contributing to the local theatre scene today including playwrights Alfian Sa’at and Ng Yi-Sheng, and actors Robin Goh and Gene Sha Rudyn. All three Dim Sum Dollies are also alumni - in fact, they once sang the school anthem in three-part harmony for a performance at the Esplanade! In this issue, two arts professionals - one of the Dim Sum Dollies and the current Artistic Director of independent arts centre, The Substation - talk to ONE about their experiences as part of the theatre community in Singapore, and how they feel about the evolution of local theatre over the years.

CULTURE Thoughts ABOUT Theatre


Emma Yong Emma Yong is probably best known for her stage musical roles, especially as one-third of comedy trio, The Dim Sum Dollies. Her credits include Ah Kong’s Birthday Party, Boeing Boeing, Cabaret, Shanghai Blues (for which she won the 2009 Life! Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actress) and lead roles in Christmas pantomimes like Cinderel-LAH! and Beauty & The Beast. What first attracted you to a possible career in theatre? I was very active in the RGS and RJC school choirs, and it was in school that I first performed in musicals. I never saw it as a career though. I loved literature so much that I just thought I'd end up being a writer of some sort. While waiting to go to UCL, however, I started going for auditions and got cast in a few local productions. I continued to perform during university holidays and I eventually realised my passion for acting was greater than my passion for writing. The first major turning point was when I chose to defer my 2nd year of university because I had been cast in a Theatreworks musical. Then in my 3rd year of university I got cast in the 10th anniversary production of 'Beauty World ' which was just before my final exams. I had to fly back to London immediately after the last show to catch the first paper, having had very little time to study for it because of rehearsals. Actually, when I look back at my childhood now, I realise that what I did all the time was to dress up and memorise dialogues from movies or television shows and act them out by myself! How did your family feel about you pursuing such an unconventional part in life? I'm very much ruled by my heart and not my head. Once I knew in my gut that this was what I wanted to do, I threw myself into it without thinking about the practical consequences. I am blessed that my parents advocate doing what you love as long as you do your best. I fought with my father when I wanted to defer my

studies but he relented when he realised how serious I was about performing. With so many respected full-time practitioners in the scene today, I hope more people are beginning to see it as a viable career option. I'm really happy that there is now more focus on arts education in Singapore as well. What motivates you as an artist? My parents have instilled a very strong work ethic in me to always give my best, to keep learning and never be complacent. I feel very fulfilled when I put all of my heart into something and try my best to make sure the performance is truthful and has integrity. Inspiration can be found everywhere - a good book, a brilliant film, Sylvie Guillem dancing, a song...I get motivated by lots of things, but mostly from a deep desire to constantly improve. How do you think the local theatre scene has changed over the years? I think the local theatre scene has forged a very strong Singaporean identity, where the way we think and the way we speak is now represented in our work. I am particularly proud of the Dim Sum Dollies series because it is such a celebration of our culture and everyone enjoys it, locals and foreigners alike. To have a vibrant arts scene, variety is key. Audiences should be able to choose from a spectrum ranging from avant-garde performances and intelligent thoughtprovoking text-based works to unabashedly entertaining comedies and musicals. We also need to grow our audiences so that there is a culture of going to the theatre regularly as a way of life. I think that is happening. I've seen jaw-droppingly brilliant shows in London and New York, but I've also

seen blandly mediocre and downright uninspiring shows there too. If a product is genuinely good it will be enjoyed anywhere and everywhere. I definitely think there have been some local productions which would be enjoyed on a global platform. Wild Rice's productions of Animal Farm and The Importance of Being Earnest, for example, are of international standard. When I was in musical theatre school, my score of Dick Lee's song from the musical Sing To The Dawn was extremely popular. Everyone wanted to photocopy it and use it as an audition song! What are some of your most memorable moments as an actress? When Pam Oei and I had to do wirework for one of the Dim Sum Dollies shows, we flew right smack into each other on opening night and the audience gasped! Luckily we didn't get hurt. Another memorable moment was when the Dollies performed at Hampton Court Palace for Singapore Day. It was just so bizarre to hear Singlish in the castle of Henry VIII ....but also a moment of pride that we'd taken our culture all the way there! What’s next for you professionally? I have a busy year ahead: two musicals, two plays and a year-end pantomime. After my experience with The Blue Mansion I'd also like to do more work in film. It's a totally different medium and it's a personal challenge for myself to learn and become more confident with it. EMMA YONG (RGS, 1991, RJC, 1993) read English Literature at the University College of London and received a postgraduate diploma in Musical Theatre from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts London.


CULTURE Thoughts ABOUT Theatre

Noor Effendy Ibrahim Noor Effendy Ibrahim is a playwright, director, actor and visual artist whose works have been staged in America, Europe and around Asia. Effendy has served as the Artistic Director of Malay theatre company Teater Ekamatra and the chair of Stage Management and Directing & Performance at Republic Polytechnic. He has been a National Arts Council board member and has sat on the advisory panel of festivals such as the Singapore Arts Festival and the Singapore Writers' Festival. For the Life! Theatre Awards in 2009, Effendy was nominated for Best Actor for National Language Class and Bilik Ahmad which he wrote and directed won Best Ensemble. In February this year, he was appointed the Artistic Director of The Substation. When did you first develop a passion for theatre? When I was in pre-primary, I did a lot of art and craft, took up piano lessons - there was always an environment of creating. But when I went to primary school, I decided I wanted to be a nuclear physicist or astronomer. I wanted to be Einstein or Stephen Hawking. In RI, I only took part in one play and that was for Drama Fest - I played an old man in a wheelchair for Moor House. However, when I heard VJC was holding auditions for Theatre Studies, I decided to go for it. The reason? I wanted to kiss girls. Seriously! I came from a boys school! But I didn’t like Theatre Studies as I felt the course was too Western-centric. I loved the Greek tragedies and Richard III but there was no space for local theatre. I rebelled against that and started writing Malay plays. On my own, I entered my first play Haidah for a youth theatre festival organized by a Malay community group. Though it didn’t win, audiences liked it and I got to know people from Teater Kami. After graduation, I started working with them for two or three years before joining Teater Ekamatra. What made you realize that you wanted to pursue theatre as a career? I actually don’t see art-making as a career. It is a very intimate and personal space for me to truly be myself. I make art because there are certain things I want to articulate. I don’t make art to make money. The career part would be more in education where I’ve taught freelance, part-time and full-time from pre-school to tertiary to adult. I do enjoy it but it also brings in a regular income. I don’t like to describe myself as a teacher though. I don’t teach; I provoke. In that

provocation, I hope tensions will be created, questions will be raised, answers will be looked for. These answers should not be an end in themselves but help to open the mind up for larger understanding. I don’t think I could do something as a career unless that work is related to the arts. Like now, as Artistic Director of The Substation, I am very connected to the arts community – practitioners, audiences, administrators, sponsors – and this feeds into my art-making. Did you have support from your family when you decided to work in the arts? I do consider myself very fortunate to grow up in a very supportive family that believed in holistic education and the empowerment of self. My parents were very supportive though, of course, they had their worries. There is greater acceptance of a career in the arts these days but sadly, I still meet many very talented students who face discouragement and even violent resistance from their families to their passion for the arts. How do you think the theatre scene has changed over the years? Things are better now. We have more luxury in terms of funding, space, logistics, actors, discourse but you need to guard against complacency. I actually prefer as an artist to work under constraints. Also, even though the various companies still operate in silos, there is now definitely a greater sense of community in the theatre scene. I see great value in collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas. Theatre itself is communal after all. What are some of the challenges the theatre community is facing? Theatre in Singapore is becoming an industry. It is able to generate income,

there is visibility and sponsorship but by becoming an industry, what happens to the arts community? Market forces come into play and arts groups may become competitive and the theatre scene may fracture. Greater courage by theatre practitioners is needed to resist such pressure. Focusing on income also means that we are not truly, humbly and sincerely engaging with the public. 'Mainstream theatre' is industry-speak. The arts needs to reach out to all communities so that no one is sidelined. We need to offer more choice and accessibility. We can become an industry but one with a strong social slant. I see groups like The Necessary Stage already doing that but I believe we can go even further. In particular, I feel there should be more no-holds barred engagement over race. Let’s not whitewash everything and ignore the fact that there are differences. Let’s address our insecurities, our stereotypes. Let’s acknowledge our differences but then use that knowledge to strengthen our resolve to set out and achieve common goals. Which play have you seen recently that has left the strongest impression on you? I really liked the monologue How Did The Cat Get So Fat? by Zizi Azah. It’s a wonderful play and it is good to see a solitary Malay Muslim woman on stage. There has been a void of strong female voices in Malay theatre and I’m glad to see that there has been a recent resurgence. NOOR EFFENDY IBRAHIM (RI, 1989) graduated from the second batch of the Theatre Studies and Drama course at Victoria Junior College before pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

I don’t teach; I provoke. In that provocation, I hope tensions will be created, questions will be raised, answers will be looked for.



My Life In Books by Daren Shiau

An award-winning author of four books, Daren Shiau (RI 1987, RJC 1989) has been described by The Arts Magazine as 'among the most exciting of the post-1965 generation of writers' and cited by guide Lonely Planet as the author of the 'definitive Singapore novel'. The National Arts Council’s Young Artist of the Year in 2002, he has been invited to read in New York, Boston, London and Sydney. Daren, who is married with a daughter and is a Fulbright scholar, has also served on various national committees and statutory boards, including the Government’s Feedback Unit Supervisory Panel. Do you spend more time reading or writing? I would have to say reading. I believe that a writer should always read more than he writes. It is only by reading that an author understands what he needs to say differently. If many writers have covered the same ground in a similar way, the writer needs to ask himself what he or she seeks to achieve if he does so too. I hardly find time to read nowadays though, which is a pity. It can take me six months to get through a novel. Does being a lawyer help in your writing? (laughs) Quite the contrary! As a lawyer, you are engaged to be precise in your

words and your drafting. There is no margin for error. If a clause is open to more than one interpretation, then you have failed. However, for literary writing, it is often what you do not say which gives a passage or a verse its poignance. Do you recommend books to friends? Yes, if I believe they may enjoy a particular author. I have recently been telling friends about Alain de Botton, a writer who uncannily manages to relate high philosophy to everyday living without being kitschy. I bought a couple of his novels for friends whom I thought might be too lazy to get their own copy.

I also believe in giving books rather than toys to children. As a District Councillor of the Central Singapore CDC, I come across many poor families. One of the managers in my secretariat runs an arts programme, and I am trying to convince her to use the outdoor performance budget on children’s books for the needy children in our district instead.

DAREN SHIAU is also a writer and partner at law firm Allen & Gledhill where he heads its antitrust practice. He currently sits on the Board of Film Censors and is a District Councillor of the Central Singapore CDC.


These are three books which I have enjoyed reading and are special to me for different reasons. The first two are translated works, and the third is a graphic novel.


Favourite Reads


Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami Norwegian Wood is a simple and resonant story of love and loss in the 1960s. I chanced upon it years ago at the Kinokuniya in Liang Court because I was attracted to the twin pocket book format it came in (one green, on red, a replica of the original format in Japan). I liked the novel on the first reading, and grew to like it more over the years. In it, the protagonist Toru Watanabe reminisces about his youthful relationships with two women, Naoko and Midori. At 37 years old, he still searches for meaning and almost finds it. I think of the movie Lost in Translation whenever I reread the book, and reflect on Norwegian Wood as and when I watch the film again. With Norwegian Wood, Murakami traded his quirky and surreal narratives which he was famous for, for a pared-down style which I much prefer.


The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera My uncle lent me this book when I was in the army. I read it after lights out in the bunk one night, and could not put it down. It is a philosophical novel about a man and two women in Eastern Europe following the 1968 invasion by Soviet Union of Czechoslovakia. Kundera challenges Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence (the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum) which he argues imposes a 'heaviness' on our lives, He proposes the alternative that each person has only one life to live, and that each incident shall never occur again, thus the 'lightness' of being. The novel juxtaposes contemporary and historical storylines, and was part of the inspiration for the parallel narratives in my novel, Heartland.


Shortcomings, Adrian Tomine Some might argue that graphic novels are not books. I would disagree. Adrian Tomine, a New-York based illustrator who draws using a signature clean-line style, is an eloquent minimalist storyteller whom I would put on par with literary giant Raymond Carver. In Shortcomings, the main character Ben Tanaka is trying to save a failing relationship with his politically-active girlfriend Miko. Miko’s deep involvement in the Asian-American cultural community in Berkeley is a source of friction for the couple. When Ben eventually develops an interest in Caucasian women, Miko interprets this as Ben’s rejection of their Asian heritage and of herself. She moves to New York at which point things start to fall apart in unexpected ways. As with how Kundera inspired Heartland, Tomine’s bare and poignant style put me in the frame of mind which engendered my microfiction collection, Velouria.

by Daren Shiau


TRIBUTE Raffles Remembers

Mr. & Mrs. Tan Teck Chwee by Florence Sim


ention the name of the late Mr Tan Teck Chwee (RI, 1933), and it would be followed by awed references to his chairmanship of the Public Service Commission (PSC) and Jurong Shipyard. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has described Tan as ‘the best chairman we had’ in the PSC1. The full significance of this accolade would not be lost on anyone who knows of PSC’s world-renowned reputation as the independent custodian of the integrity and meritocracy in Singapore’s Civil Service, and that of MM Lee, a man known for his astute judgment and exacting diction. MM Lee readily acknowledged that the late Tan possessed a gift, sharper than his own, to see into or through a person ‘regardless of what his words are telling you.’2 This gift must have come in handy in Tan’s 16 years of teaching, of which 15 were spent in RI. Subsequently, upon his doctor’s

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advice to leave teaching due to respiratory problems caused by inhaling too much chalk dust, Tan went into business. From as early as 1960, he also began to serve actively as a board member in a number of government-linked bodies, such as the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Public Utilities Board and Post Office Savings Bank (POSB) Advisory Committee. He was lauded as one of the visionary founding members of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation. Mr Bertie Cheng, ex-CEO of POSB, was a student of Tan at RI in the early 1950s. He said that Tan ‘was not only a great teacher, but also a very kind person and a gentleman. I am privileged to be one of his students.’ A fate would have it, their paths crossed again in the 60s when Cheng was asked to transfer the POSB from Kuala Lumpur back to Singapore, following our nation’s

separation from Malaysia. In 1967, Tan was a member of the Savings Bank Committee appointed by the Singapore Government to re-vamp the bank. As a result of Committee’s deliberations, the POSB was eventually transformed into a Statutory Corporation. Following this development, there was no looking back and the Bank continued to make progress in the consumer banking sector. It was in the forefront of the movement to promote thrift amongst all Singaporeans, especially school children. Working closely with Tan in this Committee, Cheng found Tan bubbling with fresh ideas and suggestions, and said he would always remember Tan’s enthusiasm and willingness to share his business experience. In 1975, Tan left the running of his business entirely in the care of his wife, so that he could focus on better serving the people of Singapore. Most notably, he

Han Fook Kwang, et al., Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, 1998) 103. Han 237.

overhauled the PSC, resulting in what former AttorneyGeneral Mr Tan Boon Teik called a ‘much more prestigious public service’. AG Tan knew Tan before he became PSC Chairman, and in his eulogy, he noted that ‘greatness had not changed (Tan).’ Tan also steered Jurong Shipyard towards achieving its aim of transforming Singapore’s economy through industrialisation. Jurong Shipyard was a joint venture between the Japanese and Singapore governments but as a true son of Singapore, the late Tan’s vision was to have it fully helmed by committed Singaporeans. Due to his fast deteriorating health and to ensure a smooth succession, he decided to resign as the chairman and director of Jurong Shipyard with effect from 31 March 1988. His dedication to the company was evident in his resignation letter, dated 3 March 1998, in which he laid out a well-

thought-out succession plan. Sadly, he passed away on 10 April 1988, survived by his wife and six children. Tan’s wife, Mdm Chong Yuet Ngan, although better known as Mrs Tan Teck Chwee, could hold her own in managing both business and domestic affairs. In the words of their youngest son, Mr Tan Soon Hoe (RI, 1978), she ‘helped significantly with the running of my late father’s construction company, Meco Pte Ltd, since 1957 while raising six children.’ He added, ‘Throughout my late parents’ lives, they always did their work in a quiet manner.’ These quiet good deeds were witnessed first-hand by their children. In his lifetime, Tan was most generous towards RI. He had regularly donated to the institution since its Bras Basah days. Mrs Tan understood and supported his decision to give to the school, and never forgot that the school was an institution close to his heart. After his passing, the Tan family continued to support RI, donating S$100 000 in Tan’s name. In recognition of this generous donation, the school named a lecture theatre in the Year 5-6 Wing after Tan. In 2009, Mrs Tan again donated 100 000 CapitaMall shares to RI, in support of its talent development programme, the Raffles Academy. She understood the need to support the school’s enriched programmes which push the boundaries of education, even as she and her husband also had a special

concern for underprivileged RI students. Soon Hoe was inspired by his parents’ act of love for RI. Following in their footsteps, he donated 50 000 CapitaMall shares to the same cause. The combined 150 000 CapitaMall shares were valued at over a quarter of a million. When Mrs Tan passed away on 17 February 2010, RI approached Soon Hoe for permission to commemorate the couple in this space, well aware that it was not in their nature to seek public attention. Thankfully, he agreed as he saw ‘the merit of reminding past and present students of RI that they must give back to society, be it in a small or big way, through public service or monetary support.’ When we met a month later, he patiently walked me through the highlights of his late father’s illustrious career. Underlying his words was a deep sense of love and admiration for his parents, such that at the end of our conversation, I had to ask

him what he remembered most about his parents as parents. Without meaning to, I had hit a soft spot, still raw from mourning the recent passing of a beloved parent. Soon Hoe took a moment to compose himself before saying very quietly, ‘I remember them for being very loving, very kind, but firm when they needed to be.’ The fact that an emphatic ‘very’ did not precede ‘firm’ spoke volumes, and we needed no further elaboration of their legacy. FLORENCE SIM joined RI in 2007 as Head, Corporate Communications & Relations. When RI established the 1823 Fund, she was tasked to set up the Development Office. Her current role involves inviting alumni and stakeholders to invest in the future of RI through the gifts of their time, talent and treasure.


Notes Class Notes

Welcome all Rafflesians! ‘Class Notes’ is a space for you to read about yourselves and your classmates, and see what everybody has been up to. It can however, only be as up to date and complete as your contributions allow it to be, so please direct all information – about jobs, schools, travels, marriages, births, books published, mountains scaled, unicorns tamed – to the Editor at We look forward to hearing from you, and to populating this page as ONE continues to grow and expand.


Shaun Goh, Chan Yu Ping, Jaelle Ang Ker Tjia, Lay Keng Lee, Kevin Siew, Sean Wat, Timothy Ang, Jason Wong, Pamela Seet, Ashraf Safdar, Dawn Ho, Patsian Low, Pamela Lee

Shaun Goh (RI 1996, RJC 1998) and Jeanette Kwek (RGS 1998, RJC 2000) were married on 12 December 2009, and promptly escaped to a well-deserved honeymoon in New Zealand the day after. Next project: figuring out how to keep a household going when both members are out and about most of the week. Chan Yu Ping (RGS 1997, RJC 1999) was married to Steven C. Wu at the end of 2009, and held a celebration lunch on 24 April 2010 in Singapore. RGS and RJC friends attended, as well as tutors Mr. Geoff Purvis and Mr. Dave Sowden. Says Yu Ping: Missing everyone - stay in touch! Attention all Councilors! The Raffles Council 30th Anniversary Dinner is on Saturday July 17 and aims to commemorate 30 years of the Raffles Council. All interested ex-councilors are invited to come back and connect with batch mates, buddies and council teachers. Please contact for more details or look up the Students’ Council Facebook Group. Jaelle Ang Ker Tjia (RGS 1996) started the art school Little Art Bug, based on the philosophy that every child has the right to an art education. Lay Keng Lee (RGS 1996, RJC 1998) joined the initiative in November 2009 and has been managing the art school since then. Following up on our last issue, where we announced batchmates Kevin Siew (RI 1999, RJC 2001), (RI 1999, RJC 2001) Sean Wat and Timothy Ang’s (RI 1999, RJC 2001) marriages, and Kevin and Sean’s upcoming fatherhood, we are pleased to announce the births of Sean and Kevin’s children. Sean's son is called Isaac and was born in Dec 2009, while Kevin’s daughter Bernise was born in Feb 2010. They have both definitely got their hands full at this moment, and we wish them all the best. Not to be left behind though, Tim’s wife Velma is expecting as well, and their baby daughter is due in June! Congratulations all! Jason Wong (RI 1999, RJC 2001) is engaged to Pamela Seet (RGS 2000, RJC 2002), and they will tie the knot in December of this year, with family and friends, many of which will be Rafflesians. Both Jason and Pamela work at MINDEF, and will be a couple to be reckoned with!

Ashraf Safdar (RJC 1998) is juggling the hosting of chat show Singapore Talking with his full-time job at financial services company UBS AG. Singapore Talking is a talkshow which allows viewers and experts to voice their opinions on everyday issues we encounter living in Singapore. Singapore Talking is on Mediacorp Channel 5 at 10.30pm on Sunday nights. Dawn Ho (RGS 1999, RJC 2001) is heading off to sunny LA to study music, specifically the keyboard and bass, at the Musicians Institute. Dawn embarks on her adventure this July, and we wish her the best of luck, and would also like to state that we are tremendously jealous, because it sounds like a lot of fun! Patsian Low (RGS 1990) is an advisor/mentor to, a groundbreaking online initiative that takes fundraising to your virtual doorstep. She hopes that her work with, a homegrown NUS-incubated social enterprise, will help them change the landscape of philanthropy in Singapore. Pamela Lee (RGS 1999) got married in December last year to Benjamin Sun. They are expecting their first child at the end of November, and looking forward to their world being turned upside down! Pam is currently working at the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Benjamin teaches at Anglo-Chinese Junior College.


Haresh Tilani

Haresh Tilani (RI 2000, RJC 2002) is the Chief Operating Officer of YouthBank (, which is a microbusiness incubator targeted at street youth in megacities of the developing world. Their pilot project is running in Lagos, Nigeria, and Haresh visited their center in March 2010 to see the graduation of YouthBank’s first class of Fellows. Plans are in the works to expand in Ghana, Liberia, Cameroon and India. Haresh welcomes all interested volunteers, please get in touch with him at

One Raffles Institution Lane, Singapore 575954 Year 1-4: T: 6353 8830, F: 63538357 Year 5-6: T: 6419 9888, F: 6419 9898


The Raffles Institution Alumni Magazine

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