Saturday, April 25, 2009


Reader Raymond Anthony Fernando responds to the AWARE SAGA.

This letter was published in the New paper on Saturday 25 April 2009.

The on-going row that has turned ugly between the old guard and the new exco is giving Aware a very bad image.

Shouting matches, microphone-snatching and emotional outbursts among Aware members from the old and new team in the presence of the media did not do the women's organisation any good.

If office politics that can lower productivity and affect staff morale, creeps into an organisation like Aware, then members will lose focus and not be able to carry on the tasks at hand successfully.

However, if the old guard and the new guard can come to a compromise, say with the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports playing mediator, then I am sure, the road ahead will be much smoother for Aware. Certainly such a turn-around will benefit all women in Singapore.

Building relations with media

To stay relevant, the new Aware exco must first of all build healthy relations with the media, who can play a crucial role in helping to raise awareness of issues that the new team intends to focus on.

Secondly, employers should encourage, rather than discourage their staff from doing voluntary work, especially if it helps in nation building.

If the new president, Ms Josie Lau is able to take Aware to greater heights, then I am sure that her employer will be more receptive to her heading the organisation.

I wish Ms Josie Lau and her team all the very best in their efforts to build a better life for all women in Singapore. Voluntary work and advocacy can sometimes be viewed as a seemingly thankless task, but somebody has got to have the courage and conviction to do it.

Those who feel discouraged or disheartened should take note of what I believe, Sir Winston Churchill once said: “ You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


My letter was published in the New Paper on Wednesday 15th April 2009, Page 27.

Recently the NTUC FairPrice Foundation gave $300,000 to the Archdiocesan Commission for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People whichl benefits foreign workers.

Such charitable acts helps to promote kindness and compassion. Indeed, the magnanimous gesture on the part of the FairPrice Foundation is commendable, but it should also be extended to reach out to Singaporeans who are in dire need of help.

It is estimated that about 135,000 people here suffer from depression. People can fall into depression if they lose their jobs and face financial problems. It is happening overseas and it is happening here.

In Singapore, funds are raised on a national level for many types of physical illnesses, but not for for mental illness.

Even though psychiatric patients and family members are struggling to cope, no one has found it in their hearts to spare a thought for these forgotten citizens.

I therefore urge the FairPrice Foundation to consider giving a similar donation to benefit psychiatric patients and their caregivers as their welfare also needs to be looked into.

Such a donation can help kick-start a drive to raise funds on a national level for this group of citizens who have been left out in the cold for far too long.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This letter was published in the Catholic News on Sunday April 12, 2009

I refer to the article, “Giving Hope – every Catholic's vocation” (CN, Mar 29).

Many of the stories highlighted in the new booklet, Giving Hope touched me. But as I read the booklet, I was deeply disappointed to note that there is not a single ministry or programme that provides concrete support for the mentally and their caregivers. Yet there are thousands out there who are shrouded in shame and suffering in silence.

Over the last two years suicide, anger and emotional behaviour among the locals have been increasing. Practically every week, I read of newspapers reports touching on mental patients. It paints a gloomy picture of those struggling with the “demons in their minds”. The March 27 New Paper report,“Don't let these ticking time bombs go off ” highlighted stories of neighbours being harassed by mental patients who live all alone.

With society still not ready to accept people with mental illness, psychiatric patients will be further isolated if quick remedial action is not taken to help them and their caregivers.

There are many Catholics nurses, doctors, social workers and counsellors who can provide the much-needed support for these marginalised citizen. Some of them work in the mental health industry. Yet nothing is being done to ease the plight of the mentally ill and their families. Why?

It is therefore crucial that all Catholic churches start a pastoral care ministry, if they have not already done so, and for Caritas to quickly set up a psychiatric ministry to look into the welfare of these people who have been left out in the cold for far too long.

Remember, “The mark of a civilized society is the way it treats its least privileged.” And the mentally ill are certainly the least privileged.

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Singapore 560601

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Letter to the Press: Her love's admirable; govt agencies should act

Letter to the press: Her love's admirable; govt agencies should act
My letter was published in the New Paper on Thursday 2 April 2009, Page 19
Reader RAYMOND ANTHONY FERNANDO responds to these reports
I refer to the New Paper reports, “Wife visits him in prison daily for 9 months” ( 25 Mar).
And “Don't let these ticking time bombs go off ” (27 Mar).
Although she almost lost her life at the hands of her drunken and depressed husband, Mrs Pimchanok Porteous has not chosen to abandon him. This is the beauty of a woman who is able to love, forgive, live and let live.
Clearly Mrs Porteous is able to understands that her once loving husband's violent behaviour only came about following his battle with a major depressive disorder and chronic alcoholism.
Unfortunately many people who are highly stressed will turn to the bottle to drown their sorrows. But they must remember that substance abuse, such as consuming too much alcohol, will destroy lives as it can induce depression.
Mrs Porteous should not be disheartened by friends who scold or distance themselves from her. The healing power of love is therapeutic and can work wonders.
So, continue your journey with your husband, Mrs Porteous and stand by your man!
The second report shows that mental illnesses such as schizophrenia can be extremely difficult to manage.
Family members know this only too well, and those who no longer have the patience and perseverance will keep their distance or, worse abandon their stricken ones.
Generally, people suffering from mental illness are not violent. But one of the symptoms of schizophrenia is fear; and when fear overpowers them, patients who default on their medications may believe that people are trying to harm them, and thus become defensive.
There is a long waiting list for psychiatric patients to be admitted in some homes where residential care is offered. But although it is unhealthy to institutionalise psychiatric patients, what choice do these marginalised citizens have when they are isolated from family members, friends and the community?
It can be very frustrating for neighbours to be sent on a merry-go-round when they are faced with issues of the mentally ill.
Therefore, it will be prudent for all government agencies to work closely together and find quick solutions to these issues.