Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Let speakers market their books - Raymond writes to the press regarding an NLB outdated policy

My letter to The New Paper is published today, Wed 31st August 2011 on page 17

Our libraries invite local writers to speak on various topics, but the management does not allow the invited speakers to market their books at any presentation. This policy is outdated and needs to be reviewed.

I have on several occasions been invited to speak at libraries on mental health issues and although the books I produce relate very much to the same subject, my requests to market these books to the invited audience have been rejected time and again by the National Library managers. No reason has been given.

Local writers can contribute much to the literary culture here and Singapore should not have such policies that hinder their development.


P.S: After my letter was published, the NLB decided to allow speakers to sell their books. The letter from its Senior Director , published in TNP on 14 Sept 2011 confirms this.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Noise pollution in Singapore getting out of hand

I'm having a real tough time trying to get the HDB & Town Council to work together to reduce noise pollution in my estate. Wrote a reply to the HDB's Senior Ex. and copied it to the MND Minister & also the Prime Minister.  Read on...

I am really disturbed that I don't seem to be getting through to you & the rest of your colleagues in the HDB & Town Council. What a sad state of affairs!

I am copying this to the Prime Minister & your MND Minister (the former Health who himself should understand more about the dreaded schizophrenia) so that once and for all, this noise pollution will come to an end. Residents must have peace and mind to live in their homes. After all, the PM says that he wants to make Singapore the best home to live in. My wife and I cannot be like nomads or gypsies running from place to place just because there is little or no consideration for the elderly sick and those with special needs.

The bottom line is that there is clearly a lack of understanding of mental illness or for those with special needs.

So instead of cutting to the chase, let me explain myself all over again. I hope after reading this, the message will “sink in”.

First of all, I am fully aware that contractors can carry out renovation works in HDB flats during prescribed hours. I also understand that there will be, on occasions, people moving in and out, selling their flats and others coming in to buy their flats - of which there will be some unbearable noise. I accept that. What I cannot accept is the breakdown in communication.

What I am asking for you to do is a simple task - COMMUNICATE- effectively. This is what irks Singaporeans when they are dealing with Govt. agencies. All that is needed is to keep the residents posted when hacking of floors and walls are carried out. Communicate that effectively to all of us.
This will well position me to seek out alternative accommodation for my wife and get her away from the excessive noise as this is one of the trigger factors that will cause her to suffer a relapse of her schizophrenia. It has taken me decades to manage her mental illness. I do not want to see her land in hospital year in and year out simply because Govt. agencies do not have empathy or compassion and welfare for these marginalised citizens. And the mentally ill are the most neglected in our society.

You claim that the contractor only told the residents on the 3rd floor about the hacking as my flat was on the 5th floor and as such the noise is further away. Why don't you come over and heard the unbearable noise that going on at my flat and beyond my flat and hear it for yourself? Is there any attempt by the HDB to check when renovation works are carried out so that it does not disrupt the environment and that noise is minimized?
On top of her mental condition, my wife is also at the advanced stage of arthritis- leaving her mobility severely impaired. Meaning she can hardly walk. She is on heavy medication- 44 tablets a day. I have been her caregiver for 37 solid years. Where is the support from the Govt?

Throughout the months, there is noise pollution coming from:

(a) These Clans associations – every month this is going on-chanting of prayers in the wee hours of the night, lion dancing, flags hung all around the blocks? What is the meaning of this? What happens if the Muslims, Hindus and Christians do it?

(b) Contractors using the leaf blowers to blow away the cut grass and the noise is most irritating. It can heard 400 metres way. Can't they just sweep the cut grass way, instead of spoiling the only time we can get some rest- on weekends?

(c ) Never ending renovation works

( d) Occasional wakes carried right under the void deck.
With this noise pollution all the year around, how does anyone get any rest? You tell me?

Instead of placing the emergency telephone numbers for lift breakdowns INSIDE the lifts, it is placed OUTSIDE the lifts. If you are trapped inside the lifts, how do you call the emergency number when it is not within sight?

I would therefore urge you to look into these issues and learn to provide a better service for the residents, bearing in mind those with special needs and keep us posted of any future renovation works. I am also appalled that the Town Councils and HDB cannot work as a team. "This is not my area, this is the HDB's job, this is not the Town Council's job, this the HDB 's job?" This I have heard up teem times. Can you all just work as a team in the interests of all Singaporeans/residents.?

I await your reply- hopefully it will be a more positive one, this time around.

In closing, may I take you back in time and draw your attention to another letter that I wrote to the press on noise polution. I would have thought that something would have been done, but nothing came out of it. Then what is the use of giving feedback to the Govt?

Thank you,


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Catholics can become a collective voice for our marginalised communities

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
- Mark Twain -

The captioned words above of Mark Twain had long ago set me thinking as to whether I should take the road less travelled and become a voice for the thousands out there who are struggling with the stresses of life.

I brushed away this thought, only to see it resurrected again during my journey as a caregiver to my wife, Doris who has to struggle with mental illness amongst other health ailments.

I am so encouraged and uplifted by our Archbishop's National Day message 2011 in which he has called upon Catholics to raise our voices on behalf on those who are unable to correct injustices in our society. I have prayed so hard for this day to come.

Russian-born American writer Elie Wiesel, the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, once said: “The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.” For more than 35 years, I have witnessed the blatant discrimination that sufferers of mental illness face everyday in their lonely lives.

The citizens that could certainly do with more support and a bigger voice are our marginalised communities who include the handicapped, the elderly sick and the mentally ill; to name a few.

In any country, activists served an important role and in many instances they provide a community service because Governments may not necessary be aware of what is happening on the ground. This where advocacy can help to bring about change. As Catholics, we have a duty to speak out for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are isolated and suffering day in and day out.

Many people in society, even educated ones, are still indifferent to the mentally ill. A large number of people choose to remain indifferent because of fear. Their fear and lack of understanding of mental illness often leave the afflicted shunned and discriminated against. This fear, when left unchecked, will continue to obstruct moves toward a more compassionate society, in which we care more humanely for the mentally ill within our community.

Singapore has done well in meeting the basic needs of its citizens such as a good education system, health and housing needs, and a safe and clean environment. However, there is still an urgent and dire need to facilitate the inclusion of marginalised communities who do not have the same sense of belonging in a society that is bent on economic excellence.

As our country celebrates its 46th birthday and journeys towards becoming an inclusive society and caring nation, it must bear in mind that there will always be people who may need more help and support. And undoubtedly, the mentally challenged, the lonely elderly, the handicapped and their families are some of those who need a great deal of help.

Raymond Anthony Fernando
Singapore 560601

PM 's National Day Rally speech reactions: Check brutal online chatter more closely

My letter on the above subject is published in The New Paper Today, Friday 19 August 2011, page 26.

Governments all over the world are realising that terrorists are becoming more and more dangerous.

They seek to destroy lives and create havoc in the world.

As technology advances, there emerges another group of people who seem to want to destroy lives - anonymous online users who make insensitive and hurtful comments that hurt innocent people.

During his National Day Rally speech last Sunday the Prime Minister (Lee Hsien Loong), though acknowledging the importance of healthy debate, was also concerned about insensitive comments made anonymously that could divide society.

 An article, Online Readers Need A Chance To Comment, But Not To Abuse, in the Washington Post, last April, still applies.

The paper's ombudsman Andrew Alexander wrote that while online chatter has been typically “rowdy” , postings that are “brutal.. can be unexpected and devastating.

Such insensitive and hurtful comments are also alive on Singapore's discussion boards and blogs .

There is no easy way to stop or confront the person behind these malicious attacks simply because the commenter choose to remain anonymous.

To help stamp out online venom and prevent rowdy commentators from “shooting from the hip”, I suggest the following:

. All discussion boards must be moderated more closely. Harmful or insensitive postings must be rejected.

. Administrators of all online discussion boards should make it a requirement that users register their full name and identity card number before they are allowed to engage in discussions or debates.

. Netizens must also sign a declaration that they will not pass any insensitive, malicious comments or personal attacks on any individual or company.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Coming your way- Raymond's new book "You by my side - How to stay happy in a marriage & how to value relationships "

I am currently working on a new book, entitled, "You by my side - How to stay happy in a marriage and how to value relationships" , the front cover of which is shown above.
Synopsis of " You by my side- How to stay happy in a marriage and how to value relationships"
All couples on their wedding day are confident that their marriage would last forever. They are all filled with hope when they say the magic words, “ I do” to their partner. But the harsh reality is that divorce rates are getting higher. Living in a fast paced society has led to more and more couples throwing in the towel when they can no longer live harmoniously together. Many married couples go through life without really understanding the key elements that make their relationships succeed or fail.
Courting couples have all the time in the world to make time for each other. There is a lot of patience when couples date one another. But when they live with each other - day in and day out - it's a totally different scenario. Couples, because of the stresses of life tend to get on each others’ nerves.
Troubled by the increasing number of divorce cases in Singapore, Raymond Anthony Fernando has decided to share his secrets on his successful married life in this book. Aptly titled, “You by my side - How to stay happy in a marriage and how to value relationships", this book is a must read not only for married couples but also for anyone who values human relationships.
Raymond, having been married blissfully for 37 years counting, will touch on why marriages fail, the sanctity of marriage and share useful tips on how to strengthen the marriage bonds. If you are already married, You by my side -How to stay happy in a marriage and how to value relationships" will help uplift you when you face adversity, because all marriages are like roller coaster rides – with ups and downs. Couples who are planning to get married will find this book most encouraging, as it will reveal the strong emotional support that is crucial in keeping relationships alive.
The book is expected to cost between $18- $20.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Letter to The New Paper: Better subsidy for the disabled, please

My letter on the above matter is published in The New Paper today, Friday 5 August 2011.

Going by what has been aired in the media – online, the airwaves and in print, there is clearly much unhappiness about the impending fare hike in public transport fares.

People with disabilities face huge roadblocks in their lives and the lack of support makes it difficult for these marginalised citizens to move on in life.

Family members who are the backbone for such needy citizens could certainly do with financial support, improved access to support and services in their communities.

I am disappointed that the National Council of Social Services' taxi subsidies for disabled people apply only to the trips made in work or school.

Why are subsidies not extended for trips to hospitals and clinics? Perhaps, even to recreational trips which are crucial in helping the disabled reintegrate into society?

For people who have to make many trips to various clinics and hospitals, like my wife, cab fare can be about $160 per month, not counting peak-hour surcharges.

I hope the Government can look into this area. If Singapore is moving towards becoming an inclusive society, it is only logical to show compassion, understanding and support for these needy citizens.