After all that, there was Love.

That is

after a birthday lunch and a karaoke session filled with hits from the 1980s, screeched at top volume, fuelled by a smuggled bottle of apple vodka, tipped liberally into soft drinks and hot mugs of coffee;

Dragonboat racing. Singapore River Regatta 2016
Dragonboat racing. Singapore River Regatta 2016after a few heart-stopped moments under a weepy sky, cheering on dragonboating friends at the Singapore River Regatta 2016 (organised by the Singapore Dragon Boat Association), and giggling at the frustrated linestarter attempting to get all his boats in a row before sounding the starting horn;

Singapore Writers Festival 2016, The Arts House, Singapore
Singapore Writers Festival 2016, The Arts House, Singapore
after browsing the mass of local writers at Singapore Writers Festival‘s Select Bookroom,

an international cast of writers read their work about love. Or they were meant to.

Singapore Writers Festival 2016, The Arts House, Singapore
Singapore’s Alfian Sa’at did his usual turn, alluding to the oppression of a minority race and religion, while sneering at the ironic selfishness of a believer;

Japan’s Ryoichi Wago’s heartfelt delivery was sadly marred by the untranslatable onomatopoeic device (we thought but might be wrong) in his poems;

Iceland’s Gerður Kristný’s jokes were like pointed icicles (“the shortest way to a man’s heart goes through his chest”);

Taiwan’s Wu Huai-Chen 吴怀晨 was a surfer dude philosopher and poet who saw the world as a book;

Sri Lanka’s Shobasakthi (ha, he said, they say I’m from Sri Lanka but I haven’t been back for 23 years) read a haunting story about a man, a corpse, and a horse;

Ghana’s Mamle Kabu came closest to the idea of sayang with a wistful piece about her daughter growing up and not wanting to colour with her anymore;

Singapore’s grand dame of poetry, Anne Lee Tzu Pheng, spoke about all human creation coming from love in a generic sense, words and music in poetry, and tried to sound a Tibetan singing bowl.

It was a pleasantly disparate crew, and I idly wondered if the staggering truths in Gerald Bray’s God Is Love could possibly be squeezed into poem form.

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Happy Halloween at Woodgrove Estate, Woodlands, Singapore

I have happy (candy) memories of trick-or-treating as a kid. We canvassed neighbours in The Arcadia with our high-pitched half-hearted threats, then retreated to exchange our sweet haul.

Now, the festivities in Singapore have been ramped up at the American expat neighbourhood of Woodgrove Estate in Woodlands.

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

There are 6 main ways you can dress for the task:

  • scary
  • sexy
  • cute (anything furry, or see below*)
  • pop culture referencing (Superman, Spiderman, Ironman; a Pokemon; Harry Potter character; Sesame Street character)
  • dress-up trope (“Red Indian”, policeman, fireman, military personnel, pirate, witch, wizard)
  • nerdy (Minecraft character)

*But if you’re below the age of 2 years, you’ll end up in the third category, no matter how hard you try:

Little Halloween Witch Fairies. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

At Woodgrove, a housing agent was seizing the opportunity to dole out free orange balloons (with their name and contact details of course), fresh popcorn, pink candy floss. Little wizards, witches, ninja turtles, boys with knives through their heads were patiently queuing for these treats:

free popcorn. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

free popcorn. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Thus fortified, the hordes then continued on to open homes. At some, the owners or their children handed out the treats themselves. Other households had maids or even hired men doing the work while they sat and watched the proceedings:
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

a tub of sweets. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
bet you didn't see the pontianak until it was too late! Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore<
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

These were the best dressed hosts I thought – a man with his head in a box and his bloodied zombie bride:
man with his head in a box and his bloodied bride. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
The Woodgrove households have been kind and rather generous in inviting all and sundry to partake of the festivities. They probably wouldn’t want to lay down rules, but with the crowds almost reaching the thousands, a few pointers wouldn’t go amiss – because where the free stuff is, the Ugly Singaporean Person isn’t far behind:

  • dress up! Even if you’re there to chaperone a kid. I heard one frustrated host refuse to give candy to someone in t-shirt and shorts, saying,”At least try to make an effort!” Each individual makes up the crowd. Each person contributes to the fun atmosphere, so don’t just turn up in normal clothes. Rise to the occasion!
  • be polite! Greet each host (“Trick or Treat!” “Happy Halloween!”) and commend them on their costume or house decor. Say thank you. Don’t grab sweets from their tub unless they ask you to. It’s not a free-for-all buffet. Throw sweet wrappers and other rubbish in the many bins around.
  • give way! There were at least two people on wheelchairs who couldn’t seem to get through the crowds. Don’t be kiasu lah, just give way to them. There were lots of older kids lazing in prams though, which was a little unfortunate since they could walk. This led to a lot of people’s feet being run over and generally hampered traffic flow.

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Speaking of costumes, this fox was fantastic. Everyone simultaneously loved this kid and worried about him/her overheating in the Singapore heat:
Fantastic Mr. Fox. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Fantastic Mr. Fox. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

We don’t know if the Gryffindor troupe ever saw Snape hanging out with Professor McGonagall:
Gryffindor. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Professor McGonagall with Snape. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

I’m sure I saw you in a meme, horse-head and inflatable T-Rex:
horse. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
inflatable T-Rex. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Minecraft in pixelated glory (see instructions here). Boxy head also useful for containing the night’s haul:
Minecraft. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Minecraft head. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Cool people-riding-things costumes:

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

princess riding a unicorn. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
witch riding a dinosaur. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Other snapshots from a jaunt around the estate. Loads of fun!

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
lantern fish? Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Harley Quinn. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

But how can a Christian celebrate Halloween, someone might ask.

Well, of all people, a Christian can best celebrate Halloween with a light heart, without superstition or fear! In its Singaporean form, the dead are not honoured nor prayed for at Halloween, nor is Satan or any demon worshipped.

If anything, dressing up as pretend-scary people, or getting splattered with fake blood, or paying good money (for charity, of course) to enter a haunted house thumbs the nose at the powers of darkness and death.

Haunted House. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
skulls hanging from a frangipani tree. Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

A child of God isn’t afraid of the powers of darkness, because the Son of God has triumphed over them when he died on the cross. The prince of darkness, the Devil, has no hold over us.

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

15 He disarmed the [demonic] rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:15)

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. (Romans 16:20)

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

And though the Christian still dies, he/she does not approach death with morbid fear, because the Christian is assured that his/her Lord has gone before him/her. And will, on the Last Day defeat death, so that all who trust in Jesus will rise again to new and eternal life.

24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”(1 Corinthians 15:24-27)

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore
Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

This does not mean that Christians dismiss the Devil as myth though. Rather, we understand that Satan works not in a sweaty sweet-hording festival but in every day life; in tempting us to sin against God and by encouraging us not to acknowledge God as God, or submit to his Son as Lord.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:8-9)

Halloween 2016 at Woodgrove, Woodlands, Singapore

Singapore Design Week 2016 – National Design Centre: Design and Make Fair

Singapore Design Week 2016 at the National Design Centre. This was the site of one of NAFA’s former campuses – I have fond memories of the place in its previous incarnation and the promising smell of watercolour paint that used permeate the place.

Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design Centre

Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design Centre

Design and Make Fair
The Design and Make Fair, said the official non-committal blurb,

is an introduction to the lively, growing community of designers and makers in Singapore, many of whom are small business entrepreneurs that produce delightful creations. It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone and everyone to get started on the creative process of making, and appreciate design embedded in everyday living.

It was certainly more middle-class design-focused than Maker Faire (facebook), Supermama’s Trunk Show featured:

what was advertised as maki-e painting, but turned out to be another way of getting designed lacquerware – by painting layers of naturally-dyed lacquer onto a pair of chopsticks and then sanding off sections to produce a pattern. The originally-advertised maki-e, it was explained, would have taken too many days to do:

Design and Make Fair. Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design Centre

Design and Make Fair. Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design Centre
Design and Make Fair. Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design Centre
For S$30, you could sand down a pair of lacquerware chopsticks for yourself.

In the foyer, you could make an abacus under the watchful eye of another Japanese craftsman (Mr Hidetaka Miyanaga?) for, I think, S$30 as well.

Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design Centre

Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design CentrePrepared as we were to be educated and wowed by these Japanese master craftsmen, the lack of knowledge of the salesgirls, the regretable inability of the craftsmen themselves to converse in fluent English, resulted in little communication at all about the intricacies of each trade. Instead, the constant refrain to pay up for a go a chopsticks-sanding etc. just left us feeling a little vulgar.

  1. Why the push to vapid consumerism?
  2. And surely even vapid consumerism requires some hardsell? Ask any of the pasar malam salesmen with their sweaty portable microphones.

What a lost opportunity to really showcase the artisans Supermama (facebook) had taken the pains to find and partner with.

How far this was from the appreciation shown by Richard Sennett to craftsmen (in The Craftsman), whom, he says, glory in the basic human impulse to do a job well for its own sake; good craftsmanship involving hardship and struggle, developing skills. Not for them are those tedious superficial signs of self-promotion (“artisanal”, “atelier”).

On the ground floor though, the lack of aspirational figures in the One Maker Group‘s Make! Prototyping Lab space did not diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd. How could they get access to the 3D printer? When were the woodworking classes?, eager mothers-with-precocious children wanted to know.

Make! Prototyping Lab. Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design Centre

Make! Prototyping Lab. Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design Centre
Make! Prototyping Lab. Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design CentreLeather making (Atelier Lodge, The General Company, Stone for Gold, Lucky Apron Studio), woodworking, laser-cutting (Steammetry (facebook)), electronics, 3D printing classes abound in Singapore. If the maker movement really takes off locally so that amateur attempts mature into something more masterful (currently watching: Jeremiah Ang of J. Myers), and if making is thinking (qua Richard Sennett), then it will be very interesting to observe the relationship between Singapore society and artisanal products (qualitatively so, not just branding) in 10, 20 years.

Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design Centre

Singapore Design Week (March 2016), National Design Centre
Would there be a general shift from passive consumption? Will we reach beyond quirky merchandisation? What mindset shifts would occur? How will values change?

Farewell Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre, Orchard Road, Singapore

A photo essay.

If your parents are as old school as mine, you would have grown up on ox-tail stew Wednesdays and have borscht (with a big dollop of sour cream of course) running through your veins.

You would have gone to Shashlik Restaurant (Level 6 Far East Shopping Centre, 545 Orchard Road) properly dressed, wearing covered footwear, and have been on your best behaviour under the watchful eyes of stern Hainanese waiters who served both cabinet ministers and little children with impeccable manners, disdaining the garish fawning that now passes for “good service”.

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

There was a sizeable queue waiting to have their last meal at this retro institution, with its somewhat tired decor.

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

We didn’t really need the menu:
Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

After giving a waitress our order, we settled in for the long wait, smiling as the sole remaining old waiter made his rounds, as serious as ever:

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

To start, borscht soup with soft warm bread (on the side plate with a proper butter knife):
borscht soup, Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

complimentary bread roll. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

or a tray of escargot:
escargot. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Then on to the main course: beef shashlik, optimally medium-rare, brought to the table in skewers, on a serving trolley, and set a-sizzle on hot plates:
beef shashlik. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

or chicken a la kiev:
chicken a la kiev (imperial), Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

And to end, the famous baked alaska:
baked alaska. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

baked alaska. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

and a cherry jubilee, flambéed with butter, brandy, and cream, and served with vanilla ice-cream:
cherry jubilee, flambéed with butter, brandy and cream . Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

and a peach melba with vanilla ice-cream:
peach melba. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

After paying for the meal, I tried to express how sad it was to bid farewell to another tangible reminder of childhood. But “goodbye” was all I could croak to the old cashier. By then, she had already turned to process the next bill.

Life, she seemed to say, goes on.
Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

business card. Shashlik Restaurant, Far East Shopping Centre

The Past Weekend – Genesis Cliffhanger, Daniel’s Non-Nightmare, Psalm 119 – word!, Fat Boy’s Burger Bar, 3D Latte Art

Where did the weekend go?, you wonder tritely as you arrive rudely at Monday with a raccoon nest on your head, last Thursday’s dust still on your shoulders.

Let’s see:

Friday was spent reading the first bit of Genesis (Genesis 1-11) with M. In Genesis 1-2, the world is perfect and Adam and Eve live in perfect relationship with God and each other and the rest of the world. Far too quickly, they rebel against God and suffer the consequences of their sin (Genesis 3) – broken relationship with God and each other and the rest of the world, and death. In the next few chapters (Genesis 4-5), the wonderful proliferation of mankind in the world (their creational mandate) unfortunately means the proliferation of sin: violence and more rebellion against God.

Ah Genesis 6:1 – 9:17. Erroneously famous for the animals lining up in pairs to get into Noah’s ark. If any one ever thought this world’s multitude of problems could be solved by destroying it all, and leaving one righteous man (en familia) to start it all again, well, they have another think coming. Noah the righteous man was given a clean world to do his best, but before anyone could say “fermented grape juice”, sin entered again (Genesis 9:18-29).

More humans populated the world from Noah’s progeny, but t’was the same old story – mass rebellion against God culminating in the building of the Tower of Babel to usurp God (Genesis 10-11).

What a cliffhanger…what would God do now? Wipe out the whole of humankind after giving one chance too many?

————-

Shovelled down a bit of lunch before legging it to a thankless Thanksgiving Service which started badly when the speaker declined a Bible, and proceeded to speak for the next hour about how God had blessed and disciplined him, rather than focusing on the glories of God himself.

————-

Arrived late for the Friday Bible Study, where Daniel 9 was the passage being discussed. Both Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon and most of the known world then) and Daniel had had dreams before about the rising and falling of nations, and the persecution of God’s people, but ending with God’s king ruling over God’s everlasting kingdom. Daniel had always gotten an adverse reaction to his night visions, but seemed much less agitated with Gab’s message this time. Not because God’s people were now going to be saved from suffering, but perhaps because there was the promise that would be a finishing of transgression, an end to sin, an atonement for inquity (Daniel 9:24). But how would this happen?

A continuing cliffhanger…if one did not sneak a look at the Gospels…

Got home past midnight.

Psalm 119 at Artease, Serangoon CentralWoke up with some semblance of the sun on my face on Saturday, with half an hour to spare before meeting S at Artease Serangoon (facebook. Blk 261 Serangoon Central. Salted caramel ) to start a read-through of Psalm 119. How does this fit into the book context of Psalms, I wanted to know. Why all the rich vocabulary for God’s word (precepts, laws, decrees, commandments etc), S wanted to know.

Then hurried a few roads away for a study on Revelation 12-14 that was not to be because one person had taken ill at home and another was stuck in a planning meeting for Christmas. G and I had a good chat about present struggles and found comfort depending on God in prayer.

Fat Boys Burger, Far East Plaza, Singapo re Fat Boys Burger, Far East Plaza, Singapore

Fat Boys Burger, Far East Plaza, Singapore Fat Boys Burger, Far East Plaza, Singapore

Full of joy for the day well-spent but relieved to get a little alone time at Fat Boy’s The Burger Bar (facebook. Far East Plaza). A fantastic gobstopper. The fresh buns were buttered and grilled – so tasty on their own. I usually like my patties with a little more bite, but could not fault this well-seasoned charred-edge wagyu-beef-texture tender meat piece. And the whole handful of happiness (with pickles and cheese and bacon) worked together – well-assembled so you wouldn’t be distracted from your meal by being made far too aware of the individual parts of each bite.

————–

Stumbled into church on Sunday, chatted some, and stayed on for prayer meet. This month, we were praying for Wycliffe Bible translators’ precious work in getting God’s word into the hands of different language groups all around the world.

Your Prayers Help People Get the Bible from Wycliffe USA on Vimeo.

Does correlation always mean causation, asked a group member. Indeed not, but we pray knowing that we will be heard by a good and loving God, and also knowing that the solely sovereign God does whatever he wants.

More chatting into the afternoon, then a light dinner with the usual dinner gang at Changi Village food centre without the morose brother we’d asked to join us.

Latte Foam Art, Chock Full of Beans, Changi Village
Latte Foam Art, Chock Full of Beans, Changi Village
Latte Foam Art, Chock Full of Beans, Changi VillageOh, what childish joy was wrought by this simple 3D latte art (sculpture?) creation at Chock Full of Beans (facebook. Blk 4 Changi Village Road). A nice end to the weekend.

Haig Road Market Putu Piring and Letter from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to PAP MPs on Rules of Prudence

This made me forget I was eating very tasty Haig Road Market putu piring. (Oh, but how tasty. Not chewy in texture like Tan’s Kueh Tu Tu, but slightly delicately crumbly like idli. With melty coconut sugar in the middle. Festooned with sweet-salty shredded coconut. 5 for S$2.)

Haig Road Market Putu PiringNow Christian leaders are no strangers to the concept of servant leadership, and the idea that one must not just be godly but also must be seen to be godly so as not to stumble the flock. It was a pleasant surprise to see these things reflected in PM Lee Hsien Loong’s letter to the PAP MPs.

Surely common grace means that the sort of biblical wisdom found in the Old Testament isn’t just advantageous to Christians, but because God made all things, it is also the best way to live in this world.

Also, Isaac Watts!

PM Lee’s letter reproduced from here:

Letter from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to PAP MPs on Rules of Prudence

All PAP MPs

RULES OF PRUDENCE

BEYOND SG50

It is a tradition for the Prime Minister to send a letter on “Rules of Prudence” to all the PAP MPs after an election.  The context each time may be different but the subject remains constant, because integrity, honesty and incorruptibility are fundamental to our Party.  We must never tire of reminding ourselves of their importance.

2.        Our Party has won 83 out of 89 seats in the just concluded General Election, with all seats contested. Overall, the PAP won 69.9% of the votes.

3.        The people have endorsed what we have done in the previous term, and given us a clear mandate to take Singapore forward beyond SG50.  Now we must fulfil what we have promised to do in our manifesto. We must never break faith with the people, but must always carry out our duties to them responsibly, address their worries and advance their interests.

4.        Be humble in victory. As MPs, always remember we are servants of the people, not masters. Do not mistake the strong election result to mean that our efforts have succeeded, and that we can afford to slacken. Much work remains to be done tackling issues which concern Singaporeans, and finding new ways to improve people’s lives. Listen hard to voter concerns, help them to tackle pressing needs, and convey their worries and aspirations to the Government. Persuade them to support policies which are in their own long term benefit, while helping the Government to formulate good policies and stay in close touch with the people.

UPHOLDING OUR REPUTATION AND INTEGRITY

5.        One vital factor that has enabled the PAP to retain the trust of Singaporeans all these years is honesty and integrity. The PAP’s reputation for clean, incorruptible government is one of our most precious assets. As PAP MPs, your personal standing reflects this high standing of the Party as a whole. I cannot stress strongly enough that every MP must uphold the rigorous standards that we have set for ourselves, and do nothing to compromise them. Never give cause for allegations that you are misusing your position, especially your access to Ministers.  That would discredit both you and the Party.

6.        As MPs, you will come across many different sorts of people. Many altruistic, public spirited individuals will help you without wanting anything in return, spending time and money to get community projects going and to serve residents. But a few will cultivate you to obtain benefits for them-selves or their companies, to gain respectability by association with you, or to get you to influence ministries and statutory boards to make decisions in their favour. Gift hampers on festive occasions, entertainment, and personal favours big and small are just a few of countless social lubricants which such people use to ingratiate themselves to MPs and make you obligated to them.

7.        You must distinguish between these two groups of people, and be shrewd in assessing the motives of those who seek to get close to you. At all times be seen to be beyond the influence of gifts or favours.

8.        Be scrupulously proper in your contacts with government departments or public officers.  Do not lobby any ministry or statutory board on behalf of anyone who is not your constituent or grassroots activist.  Do not raise matters with public officers on behalf of friends, clients, contractors, employers, or financiers to advance their business interests.  Conduct business with government agencies in writing and avoid making telephone requests.  If you have to speak, follow up in writing to put your requests on record.

9.        MPs are often approached by friends, grassroots leaders or proprietors and businessmen to officiate at the openings of their new shops or other business events. They usually offer a gesture, such as a donation to a charity or constituency welfare fund. Though it may be awkward to refuse such requests, once you accept one, you will be hard-pressed to draw a line. As a rule, you should decline invitations to such business events. If you feel you should attend, please obtain prior approval from the Whip.

SEPARATING BUSINESS AND POLITICS

10.      Separate your public political position from your private, professional or business interests.  MPs who are in business, who occupy senior management positions in companies, or who sit on company boards should be especially vigilant.  You must not exploit your public position as Government MPs, your close contacts with the Ministers, or your access to government departments and civil servants, for your personal interest or the benefit of your employers.  Your conduct must always be above board.

11.      MPs who are employed by companies or industry associations may at times have to make public statements on behalf of their company or industry association.  If you have to do so, make it clear that you are not speaking as an MP, but in your private, professional or business capacity.

12.      Do not use Parliamentary questions as a means to lobby the Government on behalf of your businesses or clients. When you raise questions in Parliament related to your own businesses or your clients, be careful to first declare your pecuniary interest in the issue.

13.      You may, however, speak freely to Cabinet Ministers, who are your Parliamentary colleagues.  Ministers will listen carefully to arguments on principles, especially when they relate to the general policy of their Ministries.  But Ministers will not exercise their discretion to change individual decisions without very good reasons which they can justify publicly.  Parliamentary Secretaries and Ministers of State who intervene in their Ministries to reverse or alter decisions should promptly report the matter to their Ministers to protect themselves against possible accusations of misconduct.  The Government must always base decisions on the merits of the issues, and cannot yield to pressure from interested parties.

DIRECTORSHIPS

14.      MPs are often invited to serve on the Boards of private and publicly listed companies.  This is a sign that the private sector values PAP MPs’ integrity and experience, and reflects the high standing of the Party and of PAP MPs in general.  The Party permits MPs to serve as directors, provided you keep your private and public responsibilities rigorously separate, and your private appointments do not compromise your duties and performance as an MP.

15.      The public will closely scrutinise your involvement in companies, because you are a PAP MP.  Conduct your business activities so as to bring credit to yourself and to the Party.  Adverse publicity on your performance as a director, or lapses in the companies you are associated with, will tarnish your reputation as an MP and lower the public’s regard for the Party.

16.      You should not solicit for Directorships in any companies, lest you appear to be exploiting your political position to benefit yourself.

17.      You should not accept directorships where your role is just to dress up the board with a PAP MP or two, in order to make the company look more respectable.

18.      Some grassroots leaders are businessmen who own or manage companies.  You should not sit on any boards of companies owned or chaired by grassroots leaders appointed by you, so as to avoid the perception that you are obligated to them or advancing their business interests.

19.      If you are offered a Directorship, you have to decide for yourself whether to accept.  The Party is not in a position to vet or approve such decisions.

20.      Before accepting, consider the possible impact of the Directorship on your political life.  Ensure that the company understands that you are doing so strictly in your private capacity, and will not use your public position to champion the interests of the company, or lobby the government on its behalf.

21.      Make every effort to familiarise yourself with the business, track record and background of the key promoters of the company.  Satisfy yourself that the company is reputable, and that you are able to make a meaningful contribution.  Specifically, just like anyone else contemplating a Directorship, you should ask yourself:

a.         How well do you know the company, its business strategy, financial status, shareholding structure and the underlying industry?

b.        Do you know your fellow directors, the way the Board and its committees fulfil their responsibilities, the reporting structure between Board and Management and the relationship between shareholders and the company?

c.         Do you have sufficient industry, financial or professional expertise to fulfil your expected role and responsibilities as a Director?  Do you understand your obligations under the law and the Code of Corporate Governance?  Will you be able to discharge your fiduciary duties properly and without fear or favour?

d.        Will you face any conflicts of interest, and if so can you manage them? If in any doubt, you should decline.

22.      Once you have decided to take up a Directorship, please inform the Whip. Detailed reporting requirements are listed in the Annex.

PARLIAMENT

23.      MPs are expected to attend all sittings of Parliament.  If you have to be absent from any sitting, seek permission from the Government Whip.  Please inform the Whip if you have to leave the Parliament premises while a sitting is on.

24.      If you travel abroad, or need to be absent from Parliament for any reason, you must apply to the Speaker for leave, with copies to the Leader of the House and the Government Whip.  You should also inform the Whip where you can be reached while abroad.

25.      I have asked the Speaker to give all MPs, particularly new MPs, ample opportunity and latitude to speak in Parliament.  Your first opportunity will be during the debate on the President’s Address at the opening of Parliament in January 2016.  Following that, at the Budget Debate, all MPs should speak up.  Script your speeches or put your key points in note form to structure your presentation and help the media.

26.      The public expects PAP MPs to express their views frankly, whether for or against Government policies. During debates, speak freely and with conviction.  Press your points vigorously, and do not shy away from robust debate.  However, please exercise judgement when putting your points across, and do not get carried away playing to the gallery.

27.      Bring out questions and issues that Singaporeans and your constituents have concerns about, and grapevine talk for the Government to rebut, but avoid unwittingly lending credence to baseless gossip. This will show that you and the Party are in touch with the ground, and speaking up for Singaporeans. Bringing up pertinent issues and questions in a timely manner helps ministers to put across the facts, explain the reasons for policies and decisions, and maintain public confidence in the openness and integrity of our actions.

28.      Your honest, informed views are an important political input to Ministers when they formulate and review policies. Ministers will accept valid, constructive suggestions, but they have to challenge inaccurate or mistaken views. Over time, the public will see that PAP backbenchers are as effective as opposition MPs, if not better, at holding ministers to account, getting issues fully debated, and influencing policies for the better.

IMPORTANT PUBLIC OCCASIONS

29.      On certain occasions, like the National Day Parade and the Investiture Ceremony for National Day Awards, the whole Establishment, i.e. the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, will be there.  Those who cannot attend must have very good reasons.  Those who have accepted the invitation must attend, otherwise they leave empty seats, which does no credit to them or to the Party.

30.      At all public functions and constituency events, punctuality is of paramount importance.

GIFTS

31.      You should not accept gifts which might place you under obligations which conflict with your public duties. If you receive any gifts other than from close personal friends or relatives, you must declare them to the Clerk of Parliament who will have the gifts valued.  If you wish to keep the gifts, you must pay the Government for them at the valuation price.

FUND-RAISING

32.      Party Branches should not raise funds on their own without permission, for example by soliciting advertisements for a souvenir magazine or a carnival.  If you intend to raise funds, please clear it beforehand with the Organising Secretary.  When your branch embarks on a collective fund-raising activity, e.g. a Family Day or Walk-A-Jog, you must follow the rules strictly.

FINANCIAL PRUDENCE

33.      As MPs, you should manage your personal financial affairs prudently. Do not over-extend yourself or become financially embarrassed. This would be not only a potential source of personal embarrassment, but also a weakness which may expose you to pressure or blackmail.

34.      In particular, be careful about making major financial commitments assuming that you will continue to receive your MP’s allowance.  While MPs typically serve several terms, you cannot assume that you will automatically be fielded in future General Elections, or that if fielded you will definitely be re-elected.  There is neither tenure nor job security in politics.

DECLARATION OF INCOME

35.      For your own protection, every MP should disclose to me, in confidence, your business and professional interests, your present employment and monthly pay, all retainers and fees that you are receiving, and whether your job requires you to get in touch with officers of Government Ministries or statutory boards on behalf of employers or clients.  Office holders need not do so because you will be subject to the reporting requirements of the Code of Conduct for ministers. This should be done by 31 October 2015.

GENERAL BEHAVIOUR

36.      The PAP has held our position in successive elections because our integrity has never been in doubt, and because we are sensitive to the views and attitudes of the people we represent.  MPs must always uphold the high standards of the Party and not have lifestyles or personal conduct which will embarrass themselves and the Party.  Any slackening of standards, or show of arrogance or indifference by any MP, will erode confidence in him, and ultimately in the Party and Government.  New MPs can pick up the dos and don’ts from older MPs.  You should conduct yourselves always with modesty, decorum and dignity, particularly in the media. You must win respect, not popularity, to stay the course.

MEDIA PUBLICITY

37.      I am releasing a copy of this letter to the media so that the public knows the high standards we demand of our MPs.

LEE HSIEN LOONG

cc: Government Whip

Nasi Ambeng, Ambeng Cafe by Ummi Abdullah

nasi ambeng, Ambeng Cafe by Ummi Abdullah, 430 Upper Changi Road, East Village

nasi ambeng, Ambeng Cafe by Ummi Abdullah, 430 Upper Changi Road, East Village

nasi ambeng, Ambeng Cafe by Ummi Abdullah, 430 Upper Changi Road, East Villagebonding; uniting

fellowship; friendship

redemption; adoption

Nasi ambeng, the celebratory dish of weddings and religious festivals; an occasion for sharing and bonding and talking about our week and the week ahead while shovelling in beef rendang, sambal sotong, sambal goreng, paru (cow lungs), begedil, ikan sambal bali, urap kencur, telur belado, ikan kering, ayam kalio with loads of nasi (rice). And chendol – with proper gula melaka.

Comfort food.

Ambeng Cafe by Ummi Abdullah (facebook, 430 Upper Changi Road, East Village)