Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Raymond Anthony Fernando’s letter to MediaCorp’s TODAY Newspaper: Seeking public views vital to success of Projects




My letter to the press on the above subject is published today, Wednesday 22 February 2017.

 

It is a healthy sign that the Government has listened to feedback and decided to rename Syonan Gallery more realistically to “Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies” (“Yaacob apologises for pain that Syonan Gallery name caused”; Feb 18).

 

That many whose family members the Japanese troops had targeted welcome the change is understandable.

 

My mother had told me that a large number of males between the ages of 18 and 50 were summoned to screening centres and that those suspected of being anti-Japanese were executed, some at Changi Beach.

 

She said the Japanese soldiers would check homes frequently, and if people were caught listening to BBC Radio, the soldiers would ram chopsticks into their ears.

 

The late Elizabeth Choy, my former teacher at St Andrew’s School, was a war heroine who had been interrogated and tortured by the Kempeitai, but she never admitted to being a British sympathiser.

 

She was released after enduring 200 days of suffering and threats of execution. In recognition of her bravery, she was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Her students loved her and, until this day, speak fondly of her.

 

The horrors of war are a reminder to us to stay as one united Singapore as we continue to face challenges. There is also the importance of taking National Service seriously.

 

Seeking the public’s views is vital to the successful development and shaping of services, projects and programmes.

 

In the case of sensitive issues with long-term implications, like this war exhibition, consultation is needed before implementation.

For example, the Ministry of Communications and Information could have organised a sponsored contest, with two categories — adults and youths — for citizens to have had the opportunity to give the exhibition a suitable name.

I am confident that corporate sponsors would have stepped forward for such a worthy project, and that it would have attracted wide participation and made more citizens aware of the hardships war brings.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO


 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Raymond’s article on Happy TV: Improve Promotion Systems for Civil Service



The recent move of grouping public sector employees into graduates and non-graduates for promotions is long overdue; and definitely a step in the right direction as it will give opportunities for non-graduates to move up the corporate ladder.

Most certainly, experience on the job should be taken into consideration when assessments are made as loyalty to the organisation is useful to prevent job hopping.  For when resignations are high, disruptions to services are bound to lower productivity. The Japanese value workers who are loyal to the company. 

Surely, we can do the same.

Let’s view worker’s loyalty as a good investment, an asset, instead of seeing them as a liability. No doubt, long serving staff will draw a higher salary as compared to the younger fresh graduates. But that should not be a reason to axe the loyal workers whenever a retrenchment exercise takes place. It is common knowledge – even in this day and age, that whenever retrenchment is on the cards, high on the list of staff who have to go will be those drawing bigger salaries.

Instead of retrenching the loyal and older staff, every effort must be made to retain them, given their wealth of experience acquired over the years and their dedication to the company. With a good work attitude such workers can so easily mentor the young graduates. One way is to review the salaries of long serving employees in consultation with the unions.  If need be, a pay cut can be proposed – especially if the company is not doing too well.

No doubt investing in training, learning new things and upgrading oneself is a must if workers want to secure promotions and pay increases.

2-way staff appraisals

Let us not totally dismiss the remarks made by commentators or netizens who responded to the reports on the policy of grouping graduates and non-graduates for promotions as untrue because there is indeed some truth in what they say. 

How often have we heard this remark when someone who deserves to move up the corporate ladder loses out on promotion/s? “It is not how hard you work, but how smart you work.”

There are concerns that even with these acquired skills, staff can lose out on promotions if bosses or supervisors favour some staff. Bottom line: The staff appraisal must never be used as a ‘weapon’ by supervisors against staff who are out of their good books.

Currently, only supervisors and bosses can rank staff under their charge.  Why not improve on the present ranking system so that there is a fairer system in place? To this end, I propose that all ministries implement a 2-way staff appraisal system in which the staff also have the opportunity to rank their superiors.  

This 2-way appraisal system must be implemented based on a top criterion set by human resource experts so that there is no back-biting, but done so in a tasteful and professional way.

If the public sector takes the lead, then the private sector can do likewise.

Verbal and written expressions

If a worker is equipped with excellent verbal and written expressions, he/she will always be marketable, in demand, both within Singapore and in other parts of the world. I know of graduates who can’t even write a first paragraph, or worse still, cannot even open a sentence, and yet they were promoted.

Thus, public sector officers must be assessed on their verbal as well as their written skills in their staff appraisals.

Added to that, being good at solving problems should give them a higher score.

Participation in volunteer work

With the growing need for voluntary work to support our ageing population and those with special needs, it will be useful for such charitable work to be factored when promotions are being considered.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO


 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Raymond Anthony Fernando’s article for Valentine’s s Day 2017, here on Happy TV: Spread Love, Not Just on Valentine’s Day




Folks, tomorrow I and my twin brother, Roy will be celebrating our 67th birthday which also falls on Valentine’s Day. Enjoy reading my article.

Sincerely,

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Spread Love, Not Just on Valentine’s Day

With Valentine's Day approaching, florists and restaurants will be having a roaring business as men shower their girlfriends or wives with bouquets of roses and fine dining in celebration of one of the most romantic events of the year.

Every February 14, here in Singapore and other places around the world, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But just who is this mysterious saint named St. Valentine? Where and where did these traditions come from?

HISTORY OF ST. VALENTINE

The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.

One story suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly– a romantic figure.

CELEBRATION WITH FAMILY

My twin brother and I are blessed to be born on Valentine’s Day and before we were married, our parents made it a must to buy a big birthday cake and my mother will prepare some lovely mouth-watering dishes to celebrate the occasion. Our favourites – her delicious Eurasian chicken curry, prawn sambal and nasi kuning (Yellow rice).

After we got married, each of us had our individual simple celebrations with our partners.

Love is the most wonderful virtue that anyone can ever experience. Most certainly, love is food for the soul. I used to tease my wife, Doris that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and she gamely obliged. So, throughout the 40 years that we married, Doris would make it a must to cook my favourite meal – curry crab and we spent a quiet but joyful celebration together.

But love can be so painful when you lose the one you loved so dearly – as in my case. Having given the best care and love to Doris who battled schizophrenia for 44 years which was often overwhelming for me as her sole caregiver for 4 decades, I have absolutely no regrets taking her as my life-long partner wife for one simple reason: She taught me about the power of unconditional love. In Doris, I found the courage to love fully and completely.

SIMPLE ACTS OF LOVE

Valentine’s Day has become very commercialised these days, but you don’t need to splurge on flowers, gifts and fine dining to show your appreciation to your partner. You just need to perform acts of kindness and do simple things everyday such as making a cup of hot milo for your partner just before she goes off to bed. You can help with the household chores, and if married with kids, share with child upbringing. A hug and a kiss at the start of the day, coupled with phone calls to keep in touch with one another cements the power of unconditional love.

For me, I don’t need to have 101 friends to be happy after the passing of my wife. All I need is my siblings to keep in touch with me and just a couple of friends to chit chat and have a meal occasionally so that I do not feel all alone.

FRIENDS WHO CARE ENOUGH

To this end, I am heartened that I have some kind-hearted Christians who share a meal with me occasionally, one of whom is my former classmate in St Andrew’s School in Christopher Nair or Sagar Nair as I have known him for more than 40 years. I am looking forward to his Valentine’s Day dinner which he will host me. It is a good time to catch up given that he is one busy man with work and as a caregiver to his lovely wife, Joni.

I am also blessed to have kind Catholic friends in Jeremiah Tan and Michael Png and his caring wife, Josephine. Last Christmas, Michael, Josephine and two friends from the Christ of Risen Choir brought along a guitar, pastries and drinks and we had a great time singing the Christmas carols in my home. This is how the virtue of love reigns high.

In my friend, Jeremiah Tan, I can always count on him to send me to the airport whenever I make a trip overseas, need him as a ‘handy’ man to replace the blown lights in my home, troubleshoot my computer or handphone problems or fetch me to far off places when I am unsure of how to get there.

So, let there be simple gestures of support, love and care for another human being to allow the Valentine spirit to flourish all year round.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO


 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Raymond Anthony Fernando’s Article on Happy TV: Medical Benefits and Other Ways to Recognise NS




It is a good gesture on the part of the government to accord recognition to more than one million of our men who enlisted in NS (National Service).  ­ I am pretty sure all these men – past and present, will look forward to the S$100 voucher that can be used at selected retail and F & B outlets, and the activities that are being planned throughout the year.

All males who have undergone NS have benefited from the rigorous training and it is always a pride and joy to serve the nation

NS changed my life in that I’ve learnt many tools needed to succeed in life and even to build second careers.  The army taught me self-confidence, the value of teamwork, dedication, perseverance, resilience, self-discipline, interpersonal communication, tolerance and determination.  

The first few batches of trainees who served NS would now be in their 60s and 70’s and some of them, due to old age will have health issues. While some of them could secure medical benefits through the pioneer package or even better still if they are on the pension scheme, there will be those who have to struggle with medical costs which does not come cheap these days.

As a gesture of goodwill, perhaps the Ministry of Defence in collaboration with the Ministry of Health could offer some medical benefits to our elderly NS men who do not qualify for the pioneer or the pension scheme.

When the Ministry of Finance gives out GST cash vouchers to Singaporeans to manage inflation, there is a provision for those who do not really need the money to offer it to the needy.

With the S$100 voucher that is being given to our NS men, could there be an option to give these vouchers to any needy person or charitable organisations? Many of our seniors being out of work have little recreation and spending power and hardly can afford to go out for a good meal.  These vouchers could be passed on to those who have done NS or their immediate family members like wives or parents who although did not serve NS, played a supporting role.  We have to bear in mind that when our NS men did their part to protect this nation, it was the wives or parents who spent many lonely days and nights, especially when training was done overseas.

The vouchers that can be transferred can also handed over to the Residents’ Committees or Community Centres and the Grassroots Adviser who is of course the Member of Parliament can decide who the vouchers can be allotted to. If there are many, perhaps a lucky draw can be carried out.

Another way to accord recognition to our NS men is for the MPs to organize a ‘Thank you’ reception for all NS men through either an informal tea session, a lunch or a dinner.

Interviews with NS men can be published in the CC or CDC newsletters through a series.

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO


 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Raymond’s article on Happy TV: Cozy Hawker Centres Promote Bonding




I applaud the Hawker Centre 3.0 Committee for coming up with some fresh ideas to reinvent our hawker centres as was reported in The Straits Times “Hawker centres to get new look and roles” (Saturday, February 4, 2017).

 

Among the ideas that will be implemented are (a) The centralized dishwashing service, (b) a good mix of food, (c) incorporating events and activities (d) child-friendly spaces (e) free WIFI and (f) stalls that where aspiring hawkers can try their hands at the trade.

 

Singapore is a food paradise and tourists just can’t resist many of our local food dishes like chicken rice, laksa, char kway teow, chilli and black pepper crabs, roti prata, mee rebus, lontong and nasi padang, just to name a few of the sumptuous meals that our hawkers painstakingly prepare.

 

Revitalized hawker centres have to be a cozy, with no discomfort and yet be a lively place which will entice family and friends to bond closely. It has to be a treasure trove of cheap and good food, a place to have meaningful interactions with our friends/colleagues/family members along the way. To put it simply – A throwback to the good ole’ days of the early years in Singapore in which the kampung spirit came alive. 

 

INSTALLATION OF WIFI NOT A GOOD IDEA

 

Over reliance on technology has extended to our homes, schools and while taking public transport. The dinner table that was once the stronghold of family discussions has now been invaded by the mobile devices which saturate society.

 

This is why I give the thumbs down to the proposal to install WIFI at the hawker centres. The whole purpose of having meals at hawker centres is for our families and friends to have proper communication. How can parents relate to their kids properly when they are so entrenched in checking out their messages on Facebook, WhatsApp or SMSes?  This can be viewed as rudeness and being disrespectful to the person/s who want to have a friendly discussion.

 

BIRDS INVASION UNHEALTHY

 

Another concern I have of the hawker centres are the pigeons and crows landing on tables to pick food causing much annoyance to diners. This is unhealthy and you have to keep on ducking to avoid the birds banging onto you. This is a common problem at the hawker centres at block 628 in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5, at the coffee shop at Upper Thompson Road and the food centre at Sembawang – 3 places I frequent for some of my meals. I am sure other hawker centres face the same issue.   

 

To help eradicate this nuisance, it may be necessary to place bird scarers at the food centres.  A bird scarer is any one of a number devices designed to scare birds, usually employed by farmers to dissuade birds from eating planted arable crops.  One of the oldest designs of bird scarer is the scarecrow.

 

OCASSIONAL ENTERTAINMENT

 

While the move to include activities and entertainment at hawker centres will liven up the atmosphere, there should not be an overkill as the primary focus at these makan places is for people to spend a quiet and cosy time together without too many distractions.

 

To this end, I suggest that such activities could be confined to the first Friday of the month and on a given Saturday or Sunday. If diners are keen to have this as part of their outing, they have a choice as to when they want to have a meal at the hawker centre.

 

It would be good if famous culinary experts like K F Seetoh of Makansutra fame and Violet Onn could be invited to do a cooking demo.

 

PROMOTE THE ARTS WITH A MINI GALLERY

 

We need to actively promote the arts and the reading culture so why not consider allowing books, handicrafts and other locally produced artworks like pottery to be sold at the hawker centres? A mini art gallery can be included in the design so that after or before a meal, diners can have the opportunity to support our local talent and at the same time bond with them.

 

ALLOW HAWKERS TO SHARE THEIR STALLS

 

Being a hawker is no easy task. It is back-breaking work as it is physically demanding and too long hours at the job can see the health of hawkers take a beating.  We need to take their welfare into consideration.

 

Many of our taxi drivers share the hiring of cabs. So instead of working the full 12-hour shift, a large number of them have a partner so that they don’t get overworked. Some will do the day shift from 7am to 4pm and the night shift will be covered by another driver.

 

This scheme could be extended to our hawkers where the National Environment Agency allows two persons to rent a stall. In some hawker centres, like the ones at Shunfu and in Sembawang food centred, a large number of them only operate up to 2 or 3pm as it is exhausting.

 

If hawkers are allowed to share their stalls, their health can be better managed and diners can have more places to eat and bond. This will also help to keep the trade alive for years to come.

 

RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO

 


 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Raymond’s article on Happy TV: Promote Tolerance through media as population swells




It was most disturbing seeing an impatient man chide, shout and use profanities on the lady who took some time trying to carry out a transaction at the ATM machine as reported in “SG uncle bullies woman at ATM.” 

Speaking with an Ang Moh accent, the man not only blasted her, but even threatened to slap the perplexed woman. Clearly, he lacks patience. He appears to be one angry man!

Not everyone is well versed with these machines and for all you know the woman could have forgotten her pin number. If you have someone who is hounding you all the way, you are sure to lose concentration as you could become frightened. You feel intimidated.

Many who saw the report and the video were upset that the people in the queue did nothing to stop the verbal abuse. But I guess the man’s aggressive behaviour might be the reason they did not want to intervene. The intolerant man could have turned on them as well and seeing his aggressive behaviour, a fight could have broken out.  

Uncontrolled anger as in this case has to be put in check; he needs to be engaged with counsellors on regular basis and in time to come with the right programmes, he can mellow. When people get angry, their heart distance a fair bit. To cover that distance, they must shout at another person so that they can be ‘heard.’

On the other hand, well-managed anger can motivate impatient and angry people to make positive changes.

With Singapore’s population expected to swell to 6.9 million few years down the road, it is even more reason for everyone to exercise patience otherwise we will end up picking quarrels with one another.

Patience is the ability to tolerate waiting, delay, or frustration without becoming agitated or upset. It's the ability to be able to control our emotions or impulses and proceed calmly when faced with difficulties. Needless to say, patience does not come easily for most of us and it's probably harder now to be patient as the pace of life is so much faster.

I have seen leaflets of all kinds of talks being organised by the Thompson Community Centre placed outside the lifts at the hawker centre; and this is a good way to also include talks by anger management specialists – island wide.

In addition, tips on how to manage anger could be published in newsletters that are mailed to residents.

Forums in the media can also help to raised more awareness of anger management.

Through these platforms, it is important to remind everyone that when we are able to control our temper, our stress levels will be significantly reduced. The messages must be clear: Practice patience and you don't get angry, stressed or overwhelmed. This results in you being more in control of your emotions and in a better position to deal with difficult situations with ease and poise. The other benefit is that proper anger management promotes longevity and makes you a happier, healthier person.

Raymond Anthony Fernando


 

 

 

An open Public suggestion to Mr Seah Kian Ping, NTUC FairPrice  Group CEO :  Reward point system for trolley returns

I read with much interest the report on the trolleys on some irresponsible shoppers that grabbed the headlines in Saturday’s Straits Times (“FairPrice rolls out ‘trolley’ enforcement officers’; September 1, 2016).

The management at NTUC FairPrice reported that with the loss of around 1,000 trolleys last year, the supermarket made losses of $150,000 in buying new trolleys.  In addition, the abandoned trolleys left at void decks such as the one in Jurong West can block passage ways in the housing estate; and during a fire can endanger lives and hamper the work of the firefighters. This is not on.

While enforcement may help to reduce the number of abandoned trolleys, NTUC FairPrice could introduce a point reward system in which shoppers who use trolleys and is civic minded enough to return it after use, gets some points placed in their NTUC FairPrice plus card.  The accumulated points can be used by the shopper to reduce the bill on their purchases every month. 

The downside of enforcement is that customers will be driven away and this giant supermarket will lose business.  So a balance has to be struck – a win-win situation for the good of everyone.

Besides benefitting the shopper, the supermarket tends to gain as more shoppers will be enticed to buy from NTUC FairPrice to secure additional points. It brings  tangible as well as intangible benefits and I hope the management is open to this idea.

Another option is to give NTUC FairPrice vouchers of anything between $5-$10 for loyal and dedicated shoppers who make purchases of $100 every month.  To cut to the chase, the bigger the purchases, the higher the payout.

Publicity and marketing of this proposed idea along with educating the public on the proper and responsible use of trolleys in newsletters from the RCs’ and CDCs’ will help reduce cost on purchases of trolleys.

In addition, periodic announcements on the public address system at the supermarkets can instill a sense of responsibility on the part of all shoppers.

Another practical suggestion to solve the problem  of lost trolleys would be, as suggested by Forum Writer Ng Mee Joon,  is for NTUC FairPrice to work with manufacturers to design and produce bigger but lighter and foldable trolleys for sale. (“Innovative solutions needed to solve missing trolleys problem”; Sept 12) http://www.todayonline.com/voices/innovative-solutions-needed-solve-missing-trolleys-problem

It is sad that because the trolleys that are provided by the supermarket comes free of charge, some shoppers do not value or appreciate the service provided. But when these very shoppers have to make use of their own trolleys which they have purchased, you bet they will make sure it is not dumped in one corner and forgotten.

 

Raymond Anthony Fernando