Monday, October 31, 2016

Raymond’s letter to The New Paper: E-BIKE ACCIDENTS - Enforcement, limits needed

Dear readers,

Do read my press letter, despite your busy schedules.  It appears in The New Paper today, Monday 31st Oct 2016. The Ministry of Transport and her partners’ who include the Land Transport Authority needs to tackle this issue quickly; otherwise more deaths will occur on our busy roads, families who lose their loved ones will find it hard to cope with grief, and hospital resources will be overstretched; an obvious chain reaction.

Thank your time.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Raymond’s letter to The New Paper: E-BIKE ACCIDENTS
Enforcement, limits needed

It was another tragedy on the roads that was waiting to happen, with  two young lives lost and families devastated, as described in the report, “ Teen survives but loses his friends” (The New Paper, Oct 28).   

Many people these days, young and old, lack patience and do not seem to exercise proper time management.  A lot of people are in a mad rush and making money or saving it is often the top priority.

For those transporting goods, the faster the delivery, the more money they make.  

As for young people who buy e-bikes, they too may be trying to save time and money.

This leads to senseless tragedies and the authorities need to implement more stringent measures to prevent them.

How about limiting the use of e-bikes to those of a particular age group – say 30 years to 60 years old?

They should be required to pass riding tests and those who cause accidents should be taken off the roads.

While there is speed limit on e-bikes, it appears that enforcement also needs to be tightened.



Thursday, October 27, 2016

Raymond’s press letter to MediaCorp’s TODAY newspaper: Active citizenry can provide solutions for improving lives

I refer to the letter “Allow space for active citizenry to develop on its own” (Oct 24), on the usefulness of active citizens helping the Government and the community to tackle issues Singapore is facing.
As one who is passionate about social problems, I endorse the writer’s views. The Government and policymakers have a lot on their plate and may be unable to see or resolve some of our residents’ problems.
Active citizens who read about social problems in the media can play a role by not only criticising flaws or gaps in systems but also by providing constructive, workable solutions that can improve the lives of people here.
To do this, active citizens must be in touch with the ground, mixing with and talking to citizens and non-citizens from the various strata of society.
They include foreign domestic helpers, cleaners, security guards, persons with mental illness and their families, and professionals such as doctors and lawyers.
Everyone must be valued for their views because we can learn from one another.
There are two kinds of active citizens: One is the group of citizens who continue to contribute to society upon retirement.
They do not believe in retirement and continue with various hobbies or take up volunteer work.
The other is the group of social activists who can be a voice for those who are unable to speak out for one reason or another. Active citizenry can help to bring change, though it may take some time.
When they begin to take action to raise awareness of the causes they are passionate about, they become respected activists in the process.
But more importantly, through active citizenry, society benefits.
Raymond Anthony Fernando


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Merger with Johor may be beneficial for Singapore

Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has much admiration of how Singapore has done well in both its education system as well as in its water management program.  Both the Sultan and his son– the Johor prince hopes that the students can learn English from Singapore.  Sultan Ibrahim has suggested that Johor should make English an important subject in its schools. 

Singapore has an excellent working relationship with Johor and ties are very cordial, with our ministers’ crossing over the causeway enjoying the Hari Raya celebrations with their leaders every year. Our government readily steps forward to give a helping hand when Johor needs assistance; and this was recently demonstrated when our neighbour experienced water shortage.

It is encouraging that the joint project in the Iskandar project will see the economy on both sides grow.  With the MRT being planned to link Singapore and Johor, tourism on both sides will get a big boost. Given the expertise in attracting tourists worldwide, it would be good if the Singapore Tourism Board has regular marketing and sales training programs to support its neighbor. 

Another area where Singapore and Johor can build sound relations is to organize sporting events between MediaCorp and the Johor broadcasting network.  Or such games could be organized between civil servants of Johor and Singapore.  This will sure to take friendship to a much higher level. When we are friends, we tend to me more giving, and will not want to nit-pick on this and that.

But as security is an issue in Johor, it will be useful if more vigilance on the part of the police in Johor is stepped up. There have been so many cases of armed robberies and assaults on Singaporeans going across the causeway for shopping.  Many of the robbers travel on motorbikes to make a quick get-away.  Singaporeans for their part must be cautious and be mindful that by wearing expensive jewelry, they will become prime targets of crimes.

Although the merger between Singapore and Malaysia did not succeed, I am of the view that a Johor-Singapore merger will be beneficial to both states in the long run.

While Singapore has been fiercely independent for 50 long years, times have changed and we need partners to succeed in the next 50 years for various reasons. 

Firstly, in land-scarce Singapore coupled with an ageing population, more affordable nursing homes will be needed to support our silver-haired citizens.

Next, the tourist industry for Singapore and Johor can bring in more revenue in this area.  With Singaporeans enjoying shopping sprees in their neighbouring state, not only with revenue go up for Johor, but the relationship between our citizens and that of Johor will be raised to a much higher level.

With Singaporean affluent in speaking and writing good English, there will be job opportunities for our citizens.

There is also scope for retirement homes to be built in Johor and such joint ventures will be beneficial to our people and that of the Johor citizens.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

* Footnote: Even if the merger is not possible for political, historical  or other reasons, both countries can deeper collaborations. With the MRT lines linking Johor and Singapore in a few years’ times, both countries should seize the opportunity to grow the economy.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Let There be Light, A Deepavali Special

I have always felt that to lift the human spirit for the marginalized in our society, there needs to be a ‘light at the end of the dark tunnel’. A close friend of mine, Gilbert, whom I shared some of my thoughts with, joked cheekily, “There can be light coming out when you are coming out of the dark tunnel, but make sure there is no MRT train coming on in front of you.”

Our Chinese friends recently celebrated the Moon Cake festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival after Chinese New Year. The festival is celebrated when the moon is believed to be at its biggest and fullest and to the Chinese, a full moon is a symbol of prosperity, happiness, and family reunion.

The moon plays quite a big role in not just the Moon Cake Festival, but also in the Hari Raya. Hari Raya is celebrated when the moon is sighted after a month-long fasting period.

Two highlights of the Moon Cake Festival are the lighting of the multi-colored lanterns and the consumption of delicious, mouth-watering mooncakes.  It is such a delight to see children getting all excited as they smile and giggle away when they carry their brightly lit lanterns in the gardens under a starry night.

And before you can say, Jack Robinson, Deepavali will see Hindus in many parts of the world welcome the Festival of lights.  Just like Christmas, Hari Raya and the Lunar New Year, lights are always a common feature in the celebration of all these festivals, and Singapore is unique in that it all races get to celebrate the various festivals together as one nation, one people, one Singapore.

The annual light-up of our four unique festivals at various parts in Singapore is a dedicated commitment by the Government in partnership with The Singapore Tourism Board to actively promote religious and racial harmony.

Deepavali otherwise known as Diwali is a time when Hindus express their happiness and joy by lighting earthen 'diyas' (lamps), sprucing up and decorating the houses, bursting firecrackers and inviting near and dear ones to their households for partaking in a sumptuous feast.  Whenever I visit my Hindu friends during Deepavali, you bet the first pastry I will grab is the crunchy murukku. Then, of course, there is nothing as tasty as the Chicken or mutton biryani, which is to die for.

The lighting of lamps is a way of paying obeisance to God for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, valor and fame.

Just like the other festivals, Deepavali is a time when people have the opportunity to reflect on their life during the past year and ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoings.

To the Hindus, darkness represents ignorance, while light is a metaphor for knowledge. Therefore, lighting a lamp symbolizes the destruction, through knowledge, of all negative forces- wickedness, violence, lust, anger, envy, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, oppression and suffering, etc.

Whenever I see the hardworking Indian nationals at the construction sites or when they clear the rubbish bins at the estates in our neighborhoods, I feel much for them. They leave their homes to earn better wages here and would often share their meals with each other to cut cost at the void decks or along makeshift areas near the sites where they do back-breaking work.

So let us appreciate them and extend a Deepavali greeting and handshake to them when the colorful festival comes around each year.    And let there be light for everyone. 


Raymond Anthony Fernando



Monday, October 24, 2016

Raymond’s letter to The New Paper: WOMEN BEING STALKED: Empower cops to interview stalkers

Dear all,

Do find time to read my letter which appears in The New Paper today, on page 20, as well as my footnote which is at the bottom of my press letter.


Raymond Anthony Fernando  

It is troubling to read of increasing cases of stalking in which the women, who are often the  victims, feel helpless, as described in the report “When love turns into an obsession” (The New Paper; Oct 17).

While love may be a many splendored thing, it can turn really ugly when relationships fail and one party becomes vengeful and vindictive.

As mentioned in the report, the Association of Women for Action and Research has received 150 cases of harassment this year alone, and if more is not done to deter stalkers from frightening and bullying women, I fear the number will keep going up.

And these are only the reported cases.  There are many others that go unreported.

I commend Ann, the young woman whose experience was highlighted in the report, and The New Paper, for raising awareness of this social problem.

It is costly and cumbersome for victims of stalking and harassment to hire lawyers to deal with the issue.

Why put more stress on the victims when they are already going through so much anxiety?  

It will be much better if the police are empowered to act more decisively against stalkers. 

If there is enough evidence from the victims of being harassed or stalked, the police should interview the alleged stalker and caution him.


Footnote: We need to arrest this problem decisively and swiftly otherwise our limited resources will be overstretched and that includes the increased load at the courts, at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) where the healthcare professionals will end up seeing more cases of depression and other mental health disorders with families of victims struggling to cope.  The number of persons suffering from mental disorders is high. Do we want that figure to go up?  

Added to this, the social services will also see an increased load. It is a vicious cycle. If you ask me, MSF and its partners could help by providing free counselling services for these victims & even their immediate families. 

With the Government’s untiring efforts to get couples to marry and reproduce themselves, such incidents left unchecked is going to deter young people to embrace marriage. Think about it.

At the end of the day, let us show empathy and compassion to those who are struggling to cope and that will make us a gracious & a truly inclusive society.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Article on Happy TV: DPM Tharman –Right Choice for PM

There are many Singaporeans who would like to see DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam take over as the new Prime Minister (PM) at the next General Elections, although some are of the view that Singapore is not yet ready to have an Indian Prime Minister. But times have changed and there is a need to move with the times.  

Why can’t we have an Indian PM when there is a move to elect an Executive President of a minority race?  Let’s not practice double standards, shall we?

DPM Tharman has all the qualities that make him the number 1 choice for the top job in the cabinet. Yet, it is troubling that this humble politician does not want the job.  

The traits and values that make up the character of a politician are in a way similar to a good business leader who is able to lead by example– and with a supporting team of ministers can help to grow the economy.  If a Prime Minister is not able to have foresight and vision, and bring in revenue into the country or is corrupted, it is the people who will go through severe hardship. History has shown that many countries have collapsed because of greed and corruption on the part of corrupted leaders.

Why do I say he is the best choice?   To begin with, DPM Tharman is a man of character, honest and has much integrity; in short a man of character.  A leader, whether as a CEO of a company or a country must be able to relate to people at all levels. DPM has those qualities and shows much compassion to the less fortunate in society and they include those with physical and mental disabilities. Moreover, this is a man who often puts in long and draining hours, just so residents can be well taken care of.

A senior executive of the Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) told me that when she brings patients with mental illness for support that includes financial assistance, DPM Tharman will be there past the hour of 11pm to help. The executive from SAMH, Ms. Helen Yong tells me that she is always happy to see DPM Tharman at the Meet-The People’s session because she knows that her clients will benefit from seeing their favorite and caring MP.

I have also read reports of this exceptional politician who calls on employers to provide jobs for those with disabilities. 

I still remember the time when DPM Tharman replied to my email in the wee hours of the morning when all of us are fast asleep. His 3am email to me was encouraging as he tried so hard to offer support to my wife knowing fully well that struggling with a severe mental disorder is not an easy journey – both for the patient and her caregiver.

A good leader must also be cool and level-headed, and one who is able to think through carefully before making decisions, at times taking a tough stand and saying no when the need arises. Isn’t it so true that Mr. Shanmugaratnam possesses those qualities?

Another plus for DPM Tharman: He does not resort to gutter politics and humiliates the opposition candidates at the elections, but will engage them in a gentlemanly debate.

I urge DPM Tharman not to sidestep the role of our future PM but have the courage and conviction to take on this tough job – at least for the period 2020 – 2024/25, during which time a new PM can be groomed amongst the 4th generation of office bearers. 

So go, Tharman, go!                  

Raymond Anthony Fernando






Friday, October 14, 2016

Sharing of stories of loved ones with mental illness will promote caregiving as a noble job

Ms Chan Li Shan wrote an article for The Straits Times that focused on caregiver stories.  

In her article, “When sharing stories of mental illness that are not your own”; Friday 14th Oct 2016,, the writer who is also a mental health advocate, questions whether it is proper to reveal accounts of their loved ones with mental and physical illnesses.  In retrospect, I do not agree with her– at all, and let me explain why.  For it is only proper and professional to provide different perspectives when reports and articles are published.  In short, there are 2 sides to a coin.
Before my wife, Doris Lau Siew Lang died 2 and a half years ago, she authored 8 books – a pretty remarkable feat for someone with a severe mental disorder. And I am damn proud of her!

Caregiving is never an easy journey and unfortunately many people – educated ones included, view caregiving as a burden.  If a caregiver has the unenviable task of looking after a spouse with mental illness, they can be encouraged and motivated to give unconditional love to their partners by fondly remembering the sanctity of marriage which speaks of caring for a spouse “in sickness and in health, for better or worse.” This is exactly how I brought my late wife, who coped with schizophrenia for 44 years, to a full recovery.

In the case of a caregiver looking after a parent or sibling with health conditions, adopt the filial piety concept to walk the journey with conviction – and share their stories.

Caregiving requires understanding, lots of patience and sacrifices – and the willingness to demonstrate empathy – often 24/7.

Caregivers who have the courage and conviction to share their stories will of course have to seek consent from their loved ones before making the revelations – be it through the media, books or talks.  It took a while before my wife was comfortable for me reveal her struggle with schizophrenia, but after some persuasion from me, she gave her blessing.  Doris realized that she should not ‘stay hidden’ just because she has a mental disorder.  It was then that my novel “Loving a Schizophrenic” became a hit, a bestseller, reaching out to 4,000 readers here in Singapore as well overseas – in countries like Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan and even as far as America.  

The success of my novel motivated my wife to share candidly her own journey with the illness, and that too became a hit, with a gentleman from Czechoslovakia wanting to have her novel, “Beautiful memories, precious love”  translated into the Czech language.  

The true and candid sharing of our stories inspired so many people, who included caregivers and patients. They came to our home, contacted me by email and on social media when my wife and I did not shy away from telling it all.  Together, we gave encouragement to caregivers and patients and they all willing went for treatment to manage their mental health conditions.

Such true accounts can inspire other caregivers, especially those who are novices, to embrace caregiving as a noble job; something which I have always advocated for. 

People having to travel the caregiving journey must hear and see success stories to be motivated, just as in marriages.   

So let us be matured enough to open up freely – with the approval of course of the patients who have recovered as it’s an excellent way to not only raise awareness of such conditions, but an opportune way to de-stigmatise mental illness.

In closing, even if resilient caregivers are not recognized for their sacrifices, dedication and commitment and when people who do not understand fully the caregiving journey become so judgemental, Jesus will always be the Silent Listener to every conversation, and the rewards will come slowly, but surely. I have benefited from His love as well as that of my Doris. .
Model Caregiver 2007 , Mental Health Champion 2010 & Singapore's leading Advocate for Mental illness

From a former journalist from The New Paper who just wrote to me: "Hi Raymond, after all these years, I still remember the afternoon I spent with you and Doris at your house when I was a reporter for The New Paper. It was a privilege to be there. I was touched by the love you showed your wife. I remember you mentioned you saying how difficult sometimes for you to bring her to an appointment by taxi, when she resisted. And how you married her even though you knew she was suffering from the condition then. " -Ng Tze Yong -



Thursday, October 13, 2016

HDB Must Strike the Right Balance in Sale of Public Housing

Recently, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong made announcements on the sale of the Built-To-Order (BTO) flats.

The minister noted that the BTO launch in November has seen a good response due to the demand for such flats.  He added with changes in the public housing policy, the raising of the income ceilings allowed for more people to qualify for BTO flats, as well as enhanced grants. With the government’s effort to encourage more Singaporeans to get married, this is a healthy step as having a roof over one’s head is always a top priority for those who want to start a family.

But, despite the grants, the sale of public housing has soared.  How many couples fresh into the workforce will be able to meet the cost of their HDB flats – be it BTO or resale flats.

For example, my 3-room flat in Ang Mo Kio which my late wife and I purchased 30 years ago cost only $18,200.  Now this same flat can so easily be sold for more than $300,000.  And with the MRT system being built some 400 metres from my block, it likely that the flats in my area will fetch an even higher price.  The location is good, the rooms are spacious and with the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) just completed, there are people wanting to buy our homes.  Many property agents are seizing on the HIP and are often placing their flyers on our gates when they are unable to do so with the secured letters boxes which prevent junk mail from getting in.  

With the sale of property in popular areas in big demand that fetches top dollar, many homeowners are now doing away with the hiring of property agents and are taking the initiative to sell their homes by themselves. Normally, a property agent will take an attractive percentage from the sale of the home, with bungalows and condos reaping in larger commissions.   With this move, a sufficient number of property agents who are dependent on property sales to earn a living are likely to find it hard to put food on their table. 

There is talk that to prevent homeowners from profiteering, it is just a matter of time before the HDB acts to prevent owners in making a quick buck. People are worried sick that if they lose their jobs, they will be in dire straits so this could be one reason why they take this route. 

In yet another scenario, those who purchased condos or bigger HDB flats in prime areas may have had the means to do so in the past when they had a well-paying job or with dual incomes in the family. But what happens when they are retrenched or have lost their jobs due to restructuring?

When such residents approach their Member of Parliament (MP), they will be asked to downgrade. Personally, I am of the view that financial assistance could be offered by the MP to those who have lost their jobs rather than asking owners to sell their property because noise pollution becomes a real problem in us having to live in a healthy and peaceful environment. Moreover relocating can be very stressful for those who are suddenly out of work. Why the need to add more stress to families who are struggling to make ends meet?

To this end, it is important for the HDB to strike the right balance taking into consideration the factors on the sale of property, for although there will always be people who want to profit from property, there will also be those who have little or no choice but to sell their property to survive.

Raymond Anthony Fernando




Monday, October 10, 2016

Media – An Important Role in De-stigmatizing Mental Illness

Dear all,

Do find time to read this article, here on Happy TV. It is high time that compassion is shown to those who make huge sacrifices as caregivers to the mentally ill and yet, suffer all alone. Pope Francis has repeatedly called on Catholic Churches all over the world to fully support the mentally ill & their caregivers. Is this being practiced?



Raymond Anthony Fernando

About 5 years ago when my wife was still alive, a lady friend told me that in a game show on a TV program in America, people were asked to name secrets, which they would be too shameful to reveal or talk about.  They were given a list of three secrets to choose from:  Taking drugs on the sly, robbing people and having a mental illness.  Surprisingly, most people chose to have a mental illness as the most shameful thing to reveal.

I have much admiration for people who are willing to speak candidly on mental health issues. One such person is Ms. Sukriti Drabu whose letter to the Straits Times gave insightful peeks into the reality of mental illness (“Raise awareness of realities mental illness sufferers' face”; Wednesday 5th Oct 2016).  I applaud her for her candid views and am in full agreement with her that awareness and open discussions on mental illness are elusive.  This attitude has to change if we want to work towards giving every citizen equal opportunities with a meaningful purpose in life.

It is not just teens who are vulnerable to mental health issues like eating disorders and depression, but the elderly, as well as caregivers of the mentally ill who are often isolated and shunned.  Mental illness must never be viewed as a ‘shameful’ illness, but unfortunately, this is the case because of a lack of understanding and fear are the biggest obstacles to those who have to struggle with mental disorders. Both the sufferers and their caregivers are pleading for acceptance.  Can we not hear their cries for help?

When someone who has been working for decades loses his/her job, they lose key social support and with no fixed monthly income and friends disappearing into thin air, they are likely to fall into depression. This is magnified when they have been caregivers for decades where the risk of suicide is high after they have lost their spouse, for grieving can take years to heal. The reality is that when a depressed person has attempted suicide, he/she is likely to do again if the vital support structure is weak.  I am speaking from real life experiences.

Added to these woes, if a caregiver has chronic illnesses and is unable to receive the much- needed support – be it in terms of financial assistance or home help services when he/she is not able to afford it, they will find life worthless.  This is the grave situation I am in, with cataract formation in both my eyes.

I am not eligible for the pioneer generation package with just 6 months short of receiving its benefits; unable to receive any form of financial assistance from the Silver Support Scheme and the monthly financial assistance scheme from the Catholic Church of the society St Vincent De Paul (SVDP) has been stopped after my wife died. The reason given by the SVDP is that the assistance given to me in the past was because my wife was mentally ill.  But does the SVDP not know that the grief I am enduring for more than 2.6 years has triggered a relapse of my depression? 

In today’s developed societies, the mass media is a powerful tool that can impact public perceptions of mental illness.  Inaccurate or incomplete information in the media on mental illness will lead to false beliefs confusion, conflict, and delays in receiving treatment.

That said, I applaud MediaCorp for producing the TV drama “Left behind” where the reality of depression and the toll it takes on sufferers are highlighted. More such shows should be produced. More awareness can be raised through social networks like HAPPY TV. 

In addition, all mental health providers and government agencies should embrace those who are ever willing to share valuable life experiences through talks and not see it as extra work.

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S – 43.8 million, or 18.5% experiences mental illness in a given year. Must we wait for the figures here to equal that in America before we act – swiftly and decisively?     

As the world celebrates World Mental Health day this October, please spare a thought for those who cries for help go unheard.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Model caregiver 2007 & Mental Health Champion 2010

Footnote:  You might want to read this as well:

More seniors in Singapore taking their lives