Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Jobs Aplenty; Seize the Opportunity: Article on Happy TV

Do check out my article on the above matter, folks.
Raymond Anthony Fernando

There has been some unhappiness among Singaporeans that jobs are being given to foreigners. So, it is welcoming news for Singaporeans as the government is indeed listening to feedback and is creating jobs for our own citizens, as I read the report in The Straits Times today, Friday 21st October 2016 “Many jobs on offer despite slow down.”


Acting Minister for Education (Higher education and skills), Ong Ye Kung gave this welcoming assurance at a Straits Times future economy forum on Thursday 20th October 2016.  The minister encouraged Singaporeans to upgrade themselves with new skills, a call that has been repeated by several other cabinet ministers.


With global competition and rapid advancement in technology, it is wise to heed the call of the government by upgrading our skills.  In particular, Minister Ong said that retrenched workers find it hard to find jobs as they lack the required skills.  I agree with him.


The Minister then cited several jobs that are coming on-stream and they include


• 30,000 IT professionals needed by 2017;

• 3,000 more jobs for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in precision engineering by 2020;

• Demand for 1,000 rail engineers;

At least 1,200 professionals needed in finance, mostly in IT and compliance; and

• 4,000 more early childhood educators needed in the coming years.


Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in another event gave more encouraging news: Mr. Gan mentioned that the government, in planning for an aging population, his ministry will require 30,000 more healthcare workers in five years, to add to the current pool of 70,000.  Among the job vacancies that are being opened to our citizens will be in nursing homes, community hospitals and polyclinics.


To encourage our elderly Singaporeans to obtain key social support, I urge the Government to hire those who are 55 and above as many of those in this group are facing social isolation. It is always so meaningful to work in the healthcare industry because the job gives us the golden opportunity to help the sick in their recovery – directly or indirectly.  And when we meet someone who is well again, we have done some form of community service and we will be blessed –in more ways than one.


There should also be options for seniors to work shorter hours and this is where part-time work can prove useful.


Every worker will want to find his/her dream job, but in this day and age when there is so much competition for jobs, we have to be realistic and lower our expectations.


It is also prudent to have the foresight to expect the unexpected. So I always advise my audience when I give motivational talks at events to find pipelines when they still have a full-time job. For example, writing poems, stories, press letters, and articles have always been my passion.  I engaged in this activity while I was working in the media industry. If one has good writing and communication skills, job opportunities can come our way.


It was from here that I was able to produce my own books and in the process helped my wife as well to produce her works.  That said, I encourage workers to take up writing and communication courses, which could include Public Relations and event management courses.


Raymond Anthony Fernando



Monday, November 28, 2016

PERSONAL MOBILITY DEVICES ON TRAINS ; Have PMD-free areas on trains, buses

My letter on the above matter gets published in The New Paper on Monday 28th November 2016


I refer to reports that from next month, commuters will be able to take foldable bicycles and other personal mobility devices (PMDs) on buses and trains all day, provided their measurements are within specific limits, as part of a six-month trial.


This is part of the Government’s effort to promote a car-lite Singapore in which alternative transport options will become more attractive and convenient.


Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan was earlier quoted as saying that those who carry PMDs and other commuters will need to adopt a give-and-take attitude and to be considerate to one another. 


While all this is laudable, the reality is that there are bound to be issues between the two groups.


Buses and trains are often crowded, and during peak periods, passengers can hardly move about freely.


If we allow PMDs, even with the size limits, the safety of passengers will be a major concern. 


We are not a very gracious society and there will always be those who push and shove, making the situation worse, especially for seniors and other vulnerable passengers.


As the trial is about to start, I propose that one part of trains and buses be set apart for this purpose so that commuters outside of this area will not be affected.



Specific Area on Public Transport for foldable bikes and PMDs : Article on HAPPY TV by Raymond Anthony Fernando:

During the Walk Cycle Ride SG Symposium on Wednesday 20th July this year, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan announced that foldable bikes and personal mobility devices (PMDs) will soon be allowed on public transport all day as part of a six-month pilot trial.

This is part of the government’s effort to promote a car-lite Singapore in which alternative transport options will become attractive and convenient. Well and good, but let’s analyze and examine what will come about with this implementation. In solving one issue, managing the car population, will there be multiple problems that will surface following the car-lite project?

Mr. Khaw hopes that public transport commuters and those who bring their bicycles and PMDs on the buses and trains will adopt a give-and-take attitude and to be considerate to one another. Though this is sound advice, the reality is that not all commuters are gracious and there are bound to be issues that will arise. To ensure the safety of all passengers, there must be a clear think through before its implementation.

Firstly, buses and especially trains are overcrowded for the most part of the day. During peak periods passengers on board trains are packed like sardines and can hardly move about freely. For the elderly and the sick, breathing becomes an issue. Then on top of that, the authorities want to allow foldable bikes and PMDs on board public transport without considering the safety of all its passengers. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) needs to understand that overcrowding of trains can prove disastrous. This was clearly the case in October this year when an overcrowded train in Cameroon derailed, killing more than 70 people and injuring 600 passengers.

Secondly, there are still frequent train breakdowns and buses get involved in accidents.  When this occurs, commuters get agitated as they scramble to contact their loved ones.  During such a scenario, tempers will flare and arguments with fellow passengers and MRT staff/bus captains are not uncommon.  MRT staff and bus captains who are the frontline staff will then be on the receiving end of commuters’ frustration and it has happened.

Thirdly, we are not a very gracious society as there will always be people who shove and push when they move up and down the escalator, disregarding the safety of our seniors.  Lifts that should be given priority to those with special needs are often used by able-bodied men and women. To this end, the authorities ought to consider building an additional lift strictly for use for those with special needs at new MRT stations.

However, if the LTA is still keen to allow such equipment to take off the ground, then I propose that one area in the trains or buses be reserved for this purpose so that there will not be a mad scramble to rush when an accident or a breakdown takes place.  There must also be no bottlenecks during the ride as arguments can so easily take place when there is limited space.

Public education through the public address systems on buses and trains has to be on-going – and more so if and when the car-lite project gets on the way.  A clearly marked area “CAR-LITE SECTION” with an advisory message in the 4 languages will guide commuters to place their foldable bikes and PMDs in the assigned place.  Needless to say, public transport staff must on hand to give guidance, and once all these proposed measures are put in place, I have every confidence that there will be minimum disruption; and this car-lite project might just be successful.

Let us build a social mission culture here in Singapore where everyone looks out for one another, ensuring that we all live, work, play and travel in a safe and pleasant environment. This social mission culture may be a tall order, but if we put our hearts and minds to it, I have every confidence that it can be done.  At the end of the day, helping our Government to come up with constructive, workable and practical suggestions on various matters can make this a great country!  


Raymond Anthony Fernando




Sunday, November 27, 2016

Letter to The Sunday Times: Explore joint project with JB to meet eldercare needs

My letter on the above matter is published in The Sunday Times on Sunday 27th November 2012.

Many elderly citizens here have valid concerns about their ageing issues (“Growing old: Should you be worried”; Nov 6).

During his tenure as health minister, Mr Khaw Boon Wan suggested that Singaporeans could have the option of placing their elderly sick parents in nursing homes in Johor Baru.

It may be necessary to revisit his idea as Singapore races against time to build more nursing homes in our land-scarce nation to meet the needs of the more than 900,000 people aged 65
and above expected by 2030.

There are Singaporeans who, to save on costs, have placed their parents in nursing homes in Johor Baru The services there are quite good, I am told. With an MRT extension to link Singapore and Johor Baru being planned, it would be a breeze to reach either side.

Thus, the use of nursing homes in Johor Baru is a contingency plan which the Ministry of Health may want to consider.

There are mutual benefits, including economic ones. Tourism will surely get a big boost.


It would be prudent to have an ageing-lifestyle joint project with our immediate neighbour.

With such a tie-up, elderly Singaporeans can also buy affordable retirement homes in Johor Baru.

Raymond Anthony Fernando



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Take tough stand on student bullying

 My letter on the above matter is published today, Wed 23 Nov 2016 in Mediacorp's TODAY newspaper

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, and their tactics are acts of a real or perceived power imbalance, occurring in the workplace and in schools. They must be identified so that their victims need not suffer in silence.
So I am glad that netizens have condemned the students who had attacked another (“Police probe alleged student bullying after video of attack goes viral”; Nov 12).

St Andrew’s Secondary School principal Lucy Toh has confirmed that some of the students were from her school. It would hearten me if she takes a tough stand on this matter.
There is no place in society for bullies. After the students involved have been clearly identified, and admit to their rash act, they must be caned. They must feel pain when they inflict it on others.

Raymond Anthony Fernando


Raymond 's letter to The Straits Times: Form focus groups with citizen input to combat terrorism


My letter on the above matter is published in The Straits Times today, Wednesday 23rd November 2016


With terrorists causing havoc and killing innocent people in so many cities worldwide, there is an urgent need for everyone to heed the words of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and constantly stay vigilant (“People must know how to react to an attack: DPM Teo”; Oct 19)

Our grassroots leaders play an active role in supporting the Government’s efforts to build a united Singapore.

Active citizens who have useful suggestions and ideas can contribute to a safer environment and help our leaders to find workable solutions to issues that may crop up from time to time.

I propose that the Government, through the support of MPs, form focus groups within residents’ communities and invite active citizens to participate in making Singapore a resilient and harmonious city that will be able to tackle any threat that surfaces. 

Raymond Anthony Fernando


Monday, November 21, 2016

Social Problems in the Philippines Need Support

I was deeply moved and uplifted by the compassion and kindness shown to the Filipinos when 10 volunteers from Singapore spent a week in central Philippines helping the citizens there gain access to quality drinking water in the article, “Helping islanders get clean water” that was published in The Catholic News”, November 17, 2016.

Organized by CHARIS – the overseas humanitarian arm of the Singapore church, and acts29, a Singapore church youth organization involved in evangelism through mission and dialogue, the Oct 23-30 mission reached out to the residents in the typhoon-hit Romblon.


Some information on CHARIS:

Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore (CHARIS) is the umbrella body for overseas humanitarian aid by the Archdiocese of Singapore. CHARIS is a member of Caritas Singapore and was launched on 20 August 2010 by the former Archbishop, His Grace, Archbishop Nicholas Chia.

Humanitarian situations cover natural disasters and other adverse circumstances faced by the poor and needy, especially in developing countries in the region. Aid provided by CHARIS includes funding, medical aid and volunteers for immediate relief as well as the long-term support of those displaced and in need.


Some information on CARITAS:

Caritas Singapore was set up in November 2006 as the social and charitable arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore. It provides coordination, direction and leadership to 23 Catholic social mission groups carrying out work for the poor and the community.

The Catholic social mission groups under its umbrella serve a wide array of constituencies of need that includes the poor and destitute families, youth and children, prisoners, persons with HIV/AIDS and terminal illnesses, people with physical and mental challenges, migrant workers, overseas needy as well as those with legal and medical needs.

Caritas Singapore provides core programs to further its social mission work. It mobilizes funds, resources and other support from the Catholic community to fulfil the Church’s charitable tasks. It runs formation programs to communicate and educate the broader Catholic community on the Church’s Social teachings. Caritas Singapore also works with its Catholic social mission groups to help the broader community become more aware of the causes and plights faced by the poor and marginalized in the community in its advocacy efforts.

During their trip, the Singapore team helped train the Filipino youths under acts29’s scholarship programme, staff of Romblon diocese’s social action organization, local Caritas scholars and the local community in building a bio-sand water filtration system.  

Over several years, rising sea levels and typhoons all year around have destroyed many island communities, leaving many Filipinos without electricity for days when homes are badly damaged.  Many of them have to struggle with poverty.

It was a magnanimous gesture on the part of CHARIS to co-fund the building of an evacuation centre on Rombolon island.   This centre is now able to provide shelter for some 200 people during a typhoon.

Given that there are typhoons that hit many provinces in the Philippines, I hope in time to come, CHARIS along with her supportive partners can build more such shelters in all the other provinces so that all Filipinos will not be filled with anxiety and be assured of a safe environment throughout the year.

Duterte’s war on drugs and crime; his soft side 

With 3 million drug addicts in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has got his hands full.  I often listen to many of his speeches and find it most interesting and very down-to-earth.  He has said in many times: “I hate drugs.”   In one of his speeches, he mentioned that when he took office mid-term, already half the government budget was used up.

He added that rehabilitation of drug addicts is good, and he would want to take that route, but said that it is costly to build rehab centres and provide on-going treatment.

With many countries criticizing Duterte for failure to observe human rights, I wonder if they, in collaboration with some of their rich citizens, can lend a helping hand and fund rehab centres to enable drug addicts in the Philippines to have adequate treatment so that they can re-build their lives and be reunited with their families – instead of either losing their lives by being shot at by the police or army or end up in cramped prisons with an uncertain future.

The no-nonsense Philippines leader, though will spare no effort to get rid of drug pushers and those who break the law has also got a soft side.  Showing compassion, Duterte granted an absolute pardon to Actor Robin Padilla following their meeting at MalacaƱang Palace on Tuesday 15th November 2016.  Padilla was convicted of illegal possession of firearms in 1994, then released after being granted conditional pardon by former President Fidel Ramos three years later

In this article, this pardon by the President restores Padilla's civil and political rights, which may enabled the handsome actor to get a US visa so he can be with his wife and new-born child.

Mental health issues, another social problem affecting many Filipinos

Like many other countries, the Philippines has its fair share of citizens who are grappling with mental health issues, including suicides.

In 2012, everyday 7 Filipinos committed suicide and I am dead sure that figure has risen over the years.

As a staunch mental health, I want to reach out to as many people as I can, not just here in Singapore but overseas as well. And when I come across influential people who are passionate about mental health issues as I am, then I will make every effort to share my commitment and, expertise and experience with them in this area.

And that was how I got to find out the excellent work undertaken by Senator Risa Senator Risa Hontiveros. This dynamic lady filed the Mental Health Act of 2016 or Senate Bill No. 1190 so that support can be given to her people who are trying to cope with mental illness. Senator Risa was grateful that the Department of Health established HOPELINE where distressed people can call this phone line to share their mental health issues or related problems

I have shared my journey in taking care of my late wife, Doris who battled schizophrenia for 4 decades, my advocacy efforts and awareness programmes   with the Senator and hope that through her support, I will one day be able to give motivation talks in the Philippines and inspire the Filipinos over there with my love story.

It would also be useful if CHARIS or CARITAS supports mental health programmes in the Philippines and walk alongside me in my untiring efforts to bring light to those in live in darkness.

I had advocated for our Catholic organizations to provide support for the mentally ill and I was so uplifted when CLARITY was formed in 2010. 

Clarity Singapore Limited is a mental health charity endorsed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, and is a member organisation of Caritas Singapore and National Council of Social Service (NCSS).

Their focus is responding to mental health needs through community-based mental health care services and social integration programmes. Working with the Church and the Ministry of Health, Clarity Singapore is able to provide care right in the heartlands through counselling services and workshops that are based in your neighbourhood. 

Perhaps, such a related organization can be set up in the Philippines – more so when many of their citizens are Catholics. To this end, it would be helpful if CHARIS or CARITAS could give guidance on this – if the authorities in the Philippines are keen to set up a similar mental health charity. 

Pope Francis has repeatedly called on the Catholic Church to reach out to the mentally ill and their caregivers, so I hope that as Christians, we can all heed the compassion of his Holiness and give unflagging support to our needy brothers and sisters in Christ who are going through challenging times.