Thursday, May 26, 2016

Raymond's letter to The Straits Times: Live-out proposal a wake-up call for maid employers

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today, Thursday, 26th May 2016.

Every country has a right to protect its citizens from mistreatment.
However, the proposal by the Indonesian government for maids to live separately from their employers will pose challenges (“Indonesia plans to stop sending new live-in maids abroad”; May 18).

For instance, if maids live outside the employers’ homes, such as in a dormitory, they are likely to be exhausted from travelling almost every day.

Given that they will already be tired from the daily household chores, do we want to add further physical strain on them?

On top of that, costs will be sure to go up.

With Myanmar discouraging its citizens from working as maids here, and the new proposal from Indonesia, surely this is a wake-up call for employers here to ensure that their helpers are not overworked and that their welfare is given priority.

A feedback mechanism can be put in place to check whether the maids are happy or unhappy with their employers.

While some employers do not consider the physical and emotional needs of their maids, there are also families that treat their helpers very well – taking them out for meals and giving them a day off on Sundays.

There should be an option for domestic workers who are satisfied with their employers to live in their employers’ homes (“Living with employer cuts costs” by Miss Dumiyati Sidup; yesterday).

In addition, perhaps female retirees here who are considering a second career could be trained as domestic helpers to support families, since the Government is trying to encourage women to get back into the workforce.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Footnote:  During the early days in Singapore when the Kampung spirit was very much alive, couples who procreate could depend on their parents or grandparents to take care of their children. Today that era is gone - with both husband  & wife having to work to meet the rising costs of living.  We have to see the storm coming ahead and plan proactively for what will happen if on day maids whom parents are heavy dependent on to care for their kids, will one day not want to come and work here? Then, career mothers will have to give up their jobs and mind the children. That means we are back to square one, where instead of women joining the workforce, they will leave it. 

 As an active citizen who loves my country, I will continue to come up with pragmatic solutions to help the government coz they will not be able to solve all problems. Whether it is marriage, mental health issues, the elderly, political and other social problems, I have given practical ideas/solutions for the love of my countrymen. So I hope my efforts will be appreciated. 

In one of my press letters, I suggested that to prevent more MRT train breakdowns, the MOT, LTA and the SMRT should trim down the number of services at certain periods at different locations in anticipation that over usage will cripple the whole MRT systems one day. It has now been implemented as I had the courage & conviction to speak out. At least, if suggestions  by the ordinary citizens are workable, credit them. 

"Trains need a break too, as humans do"- Press letter to MediaCorp's  TODAY Newspaper
 by Raymond Anthony Fernando

Monday, May 23, 2016

New medication for diabetes effective, but needs subsidy as it is costly: An appeal to The Ministry of Health , Singapore

It is cause for concern that the number of people who have diabetes has risen to 670,000 today and this figure is expected to climb higher by 2030 (“Diabetes by numbers”, The New Paper, April 26). 

Given the worrying trend that one in nine people here have diabetes, with cost amounting to a staggering one $1 billion annually, it is most helpful that the media, in collaboration with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) and the Ministry of Health is raising more awareness on this chronic illness.

While mixing our white rice with twenty percent brown rice as recommended by the HPB will help to better manage the condition, those who are long term treatment will have little or no choice but to take oral medications.  Then there will be patients who may require insulin injections when they have type 2 diabetes to keep the blood sugar level under control.

There is a new medication that recently came out in the market which can effectively better manage diabetes and it has proven useful for me as I have had this condition for twenty years.  However this medication Januvia 50mg (sitagliptin) is expensive as it is a non-standard drug. Costing $2.75 per tablet, it works out to $82.50 for a month’s supply.  For senior citizens who do not have a monthly income, it is can eat a big hole in their pockets.

With the government’s on-going efforts to provide more support for our elderly folk, I urge the Ministry of Health to rank this medication as standard so that once it is subsided; patients can benefit and be well positioned to contain their diabetes.

This letter has been published in the Malaya Chronicles:


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Raymond's letter to The Sunday Times: Work at keeping marriages alive

My letter to The Sunday Times on the above subject is published today, Sunday 22nd May 2016

It is a worrying trend that some wives, instead of cherishing their marriage vows, are straying and causing unhappiness to their husbands and their children (“Having an affair: Who’s to blame”; last Sunday).

Marriage in itself does not fail. But it is people who do not take responsibility in working hard through the years to make the partnership grow and blossom who fail.

It is not uncommon to hear of people complaining about their marriages. Excessive spending, infidelity, compulsive lying, alcohol abuse, compulsive gambling, commitment problems and wilful neglect make it very difficult to sustain a loving and giving partnership. Money issues, unwillingness to negotiate and unreasonable behaviour are also other factors that can lead to a breakdown in the marriage.

During courtship and in the first few years of marriage, there is usually a lot of affection. However, as the years go by, living with the same partner under the same roof can result in strains in relationships when a spouse does not give the partner the undivided attention that he or she needs.

When a wife feels neglected, stressed out or just plain bored, and needs someone to talk to, and if there is a man who is willing to lend a listening ear or to comfort her, chances are that a relationship can develop.

With women now better educated and financially secure, they are prepared to risk everything for more excitement in their lives.

The key to keeping marriage vows intact is to learn to be forgiving and to listen to each other, seeking understanding when tensions are high.

It is sad that we will listen to our boss, our co-workers, our friends, but when it comes to our own spouse, we turn a deaf ear. When couples take each other for granted and do not know how to value each other, relationships turn sour.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Raymond’s letter to TODAY newspaper: Good to keep praying for Mr Heng and his family

Life can be unpredictable: One moment a person is fine, the next his world comes crashing down, which is why I was saddened to read about Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s stroke.

But I am uplifted to learn that he is responding to treatment at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (“Heng in stable condition, to stay in ICU for some time”; May 14).

Managing Singapore’s finances is no mean feat, more so when the nation must act to revive the economy in the face of global uncertainty. If there were anyone who could do this, it is Mr Heng and his sharp mind.

And he had been handling important projects, which included the SG50 celebrations and the Committee on the Future Economy, besides serving as a Member of Parliament.

It is encouraging that his duties at Tampines Group Representation Constituency is now being shared among his fellow MPs (“Tampines MPs to share Heng’s workload to ensure no disruption to services”; May 14).

Alliances can rally people to a worthy cause, and this is where collaborative prayer, in which Singaporeans pray for Mr Heng and his family, can also prove useful for his recovery. In my experience, nothing beats the power of prayer.




Monday, May 16, 2016

Raymond's 2nd letter on Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's stroke; this time to The New Paper: MINISTER SUFFERS STROKE

Encouraging that many praying for his recover

My letter to The New Paper on the above subject is published today, Monday 16th May 2016.

Like many Singaporeans, I was deeply saddened to read of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat suffering a stroke.

It is no mean feat managing the nation’s finances, especially when Singapore has to revive the economy in the face of global uncertainty.  

And Mr Heng, with his brilliant mind was just the man to take this up.  He has also been handling various important projects, including SG50, the Committee on the Future Economy. And on top of all that, he has to serve as Member of Parliament for his GRC. 

It would seem that there was just too much on his plate and the workload could have taken a toll on his health.  

Given Mr Heng’s sharp mind, he could have so easily been successful in the private sector and led a quiet life with his family. 

Yet, he made sacrifices and put the nation before self. 

Mr Heng also showed a keen interest in the welfare of our citizens with special needs and their caregivers. I know this personally from the Singapore Conversation sessions that he chaired. 

It is encouraging that so many people, including ministers and Members of Parliament, are praying for Mr Heng’s recovery.



Saturday, May 14, 2016

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's stroke: Raymond's letter to The Straits Times: All hoping for full recovery for Heng Swee Keat

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today, Saturday 14th May 2016.

I was shocked to read of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s stroke (“Heng Swee Keat undergoes surgery after stroke”; May 13).

Being in charge of the nation’s finances carries a very heavy responsibility and can be stressful.
Mr Heng could have been successful in the private sector and led a quiet life with his family. Yet, he put the nation before self and was willing to make sacrifices.  Most certainly, that makes this humble politician a very special gentleman.

When he chaired the first Our Singapore Conversation session, Mr Heng, through the secretariat, invited me to give my views on people with special needs.

I was impressed with his deep concern for the well being of caregivers of the mentally ill.  He came across as being totally genuine, showing much empathy, telling me that it was not easy for caregivers to travel this journey.

After hearing my candid sharing, Mr Heng promised to raise my feedback to the Government.

It is encouraging that so many people are praying for Mr Heng’s recovery.  We all hope he makes a full recovery.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Raymond’s letter to The Straits Times: A man of compassion who gave people opportunities in life

My letter to The Straits Times on the above matter is published today, Thursday 12th May 2016.

I am deeply saddened to read of the death of Mr Lee Seng Gee – a gentleman who gave so much of his life in doing charity work ( “Lee Foundation chairman Lee Seng Gee dies, 95”; May 11).

As chairman of Lee Foundation, Mr Lee was instrumental in giving so much to education and even to those with special needs – translating love for mankind to a deep concern for their welfare.

Through the support of the Institute of Mental Health and the Singapore Association for Mental Health, my late wife and I have benefited much from the sponsorship of Lee Foundation for some of the books we wrote.

From Mr Lee’s leadership and generosity, we were able to earn a decent living and chart new directions in life and contribute as useful members of society, thus debunking the myth that people with mental illness are unable to function properly and have no economical value.
In these collaborated efforts, it has been proven that despite disabilities, people with such special needs can have capabilities.

I have every confidence that whoever takes over as the new chairman of Lee Foundation will continue with Mr Lee’s good work to provide that much-needed funding, so that those in need can find a meaningful purpose in life through the arts.

Other charitable organisations and philanthropists should emulate the kindness which Mr Lee displayed, and cast their nets wider to reach out to more people with special needs.

Raymond Anthony Fernando




Monday, May 9, 2016

Raymond's letter to The New Paper: ADDRESSING SUICIDES - Train seniors to help suicidal, depressed neighbours

My letter to the press on the above matter is published today – Monday 9th May 2016

Sometimes, people who are depressed feel that they are unable to cope with life’s challenges, but do not seek help.

Instead, they end up trying to harm themselves as they mistakenly believe that ending their life is the only way out of their problems.

This seems to have been what happened to a 42-year-old man who threatened to jump down from a ninth storey flat in Serangoon North (“Man locks himself in flat, threatens to jump”; The New Paper, April 28).

When depressed people attempt suicide to end their lives, resources get stretched. Besides The Singapore Civil Defence Force and the police having to move in swiftly, the hospital where the suspect gets warded and the courts will also see an increased workload.

A Peer Specialist scheme to help persons trying to cope with depression and other forms of mental illnesses is now in place at the Institute of Mental Health, the Singapore Association for Mental Health and Club Heal. 

I propose that such a Peer Specialist scheme be introduced in housing estates, to help bring down the number of suicides and suicide attempts.

These Peer Specialists can also act as mediation officers to handle disputes among neighbours and, with proper training, can make the neighbourhood more pleasant.

This task will be ideal for seniors who have healthy experiences in mental health and relationship issues and with more time on their hands.