Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Raymond ‘s article on Happy TV: Life-long learning has many benefits, including rebuilding and saving lives

Chinese people may be thrifty most of the time, but they seem pretty generous in their spending habits during their traditional festivals. For example, they buy everyone in their family new clothes for the Lunar New Year festival, whether they need it or not.  Nice to see such kindness evolve in families.


Then there will be others who not just give love to their own families, but go the extra mile by showing care and concern to those outside their own families and this was so apparent when I read the report in The Straits Times (ST) of a gusto kind-hearted 71-year-old woman in Madam Lucy Ying  who did not hesitate to spring into action when she witnessed 64-year-old Mr Tang Siew Loon  suffer a heart attack at an event in Eunos last October (“Great-granny’s ‘kiss of life’ saves man”, Saturday 28 January 2017, The ST).


When she saw first-hand Mr Tang’s face turn purple and his fists clenched with his wife shouting his name and crying hysterically, Madam Ying administered the kiss of life techniques, not bothered if she was a woman who had to carry out the technique to a man. Her only concern was that a life had to be saved.


Madam Ying is a very special citizen and has virtues which we can all emulate.  At the age of 71 she still believes in life-long learning. She watches television not just to entertain herself, but to learn new things. For example, she mentioned in the press report that she watches a lot of dramas on TV to equip herself with new skills that can save lives. She also goes on Facebook to understand how resuscitation can revive a person who has a life-threatening experience.


It was indeed a blessing in disguise for Mr Tang when Madam Ying saved him.  After his admission at the hospital, doctors discovered that the 64-yer-old has five blocked arteries, including three major ones. Mr Tang revealed he had to undergo an angioplasty, with stents inserted into two of his arteries.


For her civic mindedness, Madam Lucy Ying was presented with a certificate for “extraordinary personal action” by the Eunos Senior Citizens’ Executive Committee Chairman Tan Jun Hong.  This positive attitude of constantly looking out for one another needs to be promoted at all levels.


To this end, perhaps, the Community Centre (CC) or Residents’ Committee (RC) where she resides can take it one step further by inviting her to share her ‘kiss of life’ techniques to the residents which will enable more lives to be reclaimed and saved if such a scenario ever takes place. SCDF staff could also be on hand to add value to this life -saving education.


In addition, all CCs or RCs island-wide could include such education during their on-going events, stressing the importance of life-long learning that brings a whole range of benefits.


What are the benefits of Life-long learning?

(a) Lifelong learning helps keep our minds sharp.


(b)  An active mind through lifelong learning can stimulate physical activity and keep our spirits high.


( c ) Lifelong learning is like a health club for our brain.


(d) Lifelong learning creates a curious, hungry mind


(e) Lifelong learning helps us make new friends and establish valuable relationships.


 (f) Lifelong learning leads to an enriching life of self-fulfillment


With an ageing population facing us, it is vital for all our citizens to embrace lifelong learning so that we will be able, as one nation, to overcome any of the challenges coming on-stream.






Thursday, January 26, 2017

Tributes to MrsJuanita Melson for Staying Connected to her Listeners

Dear readers,

Let us all honour all those who brought about Singapore many success stories, one of whom is Mrs Junita Melson– and as one who champions the plight of our elderly and the marginalised, it would not have been right if I had not written these 2 tributes.


Happy Reading!



Raymond Anthony Fernando


(2) Bouquets to Juanita Melson for Staying Connected to her Listeners


My second tribute to Mrs Junita Melson, this time here on Happy TV. Enjoy!

Singapore has lost one of her best loved radio announcers in Junita Melson who passed away last Thursday (Jan 19) after losing the battle to cancer.  Juanita was 72 years old when she died.

Not many of the younger generation travelling on the MRT trains may easily recognise that the crispy clear voice of some of the MRT announcements belongs to Juanita who was one of our local radio veterans. But most of our elderly radio listeners who also commute on the trains will relate well to her as the English Programme Manager of the then-Redifussion Singapore which was Singapore’s only cable radio station.

Like many of our pioneer radio listeners and the radio DJs whom she trained so well, I am deeply saddened to read of the passing of this iconic radio veteran.  

My late wife and I had been a subscriber to Rediffusion for more than 30 years and the early morning radio requests that allowed its listeners to dedicate songs most certainly brought sunshine into our lives at the start of a brand-new day. I still recall that signature melodious greeting when the broadcast came on air at 6am each day after our national anthem was played: Rediffusion… Good morning…”

Despite her busy schedule in managing the English Silver channel, Juanita would often squeeze in time to perform DJ duties as she had this passion of staying connected to her listeners. Through songs requests and dedications which Junita and her lovely DJs arranged, it paved the way for cordial friendships to be developed among the Rediffusion listeners who chose to regard the station as ‘another family member.’ 

During her stint at Rediffusion, Juanita had often invited world famous singers like Pat Boone, Lobo, Skeeter Davis and Engelbert Humberdinck into the studios and it was so interesting, informative and entertaining listening to these interviews on the airwaves. Golden classics by these singers were some of the iconic broadcaster’s favourite tunes and together with her DJs went the extra mile by sourcing for complimentary tickets to give to their loyal listeners during quiz segments when these celebrities performed at concerts here in Singapore. My wife and I were privileged to attend concerts by Skeeter Davis and Engelbert Humperdinck where we met another fan of Rediffusion in Mrs Pereira. 

In addition, Juanita teamed up with the handsome dude John Klass to give listeners the opportunity to win Rediware households products on Wednesday mornings. Some of these products like Tupperware and kitchen knives that I was lucky to win years ago, still last me a long time and so does my friendship for Juanita. 

Juanita set the direction for some of our local DJ to chart their own career paths and they included Chris Ho, Brian Richmond of Mediacorp’s popular Gold 90.5 radio station, John Klass who went on to become a popular singer with his band KICK and Mel Ferdinands who together with his brothers became equally successful with their band GYPSY.

Given that Juanita had, to some extent, helped Brian Richmond to kick start his DJ career, it would be a nice gesture if he could pay a fitting tribute to Juanita on his weekly Sunday morning Gold 90.5 vintage show.

You may have left us, Juanita Melson.  but as we listen to the golden oldies on the radio or on our CD players and while travelling on the MRT, we will always remember the fond memories you gave us.




(1) Press letter to TODAY Newspaper

Radio veteran Melson stayed connected with listeners

Like many of our pioneer radio listeners and the deejays she trained well, I am saddened by radio veteran Juanita Melson’s death (“Radio DJs pay tribute to voice of MRT announcements”; Jan 24).


My late wife and I had subscribed to Rediffusion for more than 30 years, and the morning requests show, which allowed its listeners to dedicate songs, brought sunshine into our lives at the start of the day.


Despite her busy schedule as a programme manager, Mrs Melson would squeeze in time to perform DJ duties, as she had a passion for staying connected with her listeners.


Through these song requests and dedications, friendships were developed among listeners who regarded the station as another family member.


During her Rediffusion stint, Mrs Melson invited the likes of Pat Boone, Lobo, Skeeter Davis and Engelbert Humperdinck into the studios, and it was interesting to listen to these interviews on the airwaves.

These singers’ classics were some of the broadcaster’s favourite tunes, and Rediffusion DJs went the extra mile to source complimentary tickets to give to their listeners during quiz segments when these celebrities had concerts here.


Mrs Melson may have left us, but as we listen to classic songs on the radio or our compact disc players and also as we travel on the MRT, we will remember her.





Monday, January 23, 2017

Protection Against Suicides: By Raymond Anthony Fernando

Protection Against Suicides: By Raymond Anthony Fernando


It is so heartbreaking to read the report of a young soldier who had lost in his life in such a cruel manner as described in the report “Coroner: SAF regular shot himself while on guard duty” (The New Paper, Jan 20).

Make no mistake about it – Depression is a silent killer and if not properly managed, can lead to suicide; and this was sadly the case of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regular, Pravinraj Selvaraj, 20, who shot himself in the head while on guard duty at Sembawang Camp on Nov 21, 2015.  

At the Coroner's Inquiry on 19th January this year, State Coroner Marvin Bay ruled that Pravinraj's death was a deliberate act of suicide.  He had been seeking treatment at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) since 2011 when he was 16.

At the inquiry, it was revealed that Selvaraj had a history of depression and suicidal tendencies. In a farewell message before taking his life, he wrote that he didn't want his family involved after his death as they had abandoned him when he was 15 and he had been in pain for five years because he was all alone.

It was also revealed that Selvaraj was feeling stressed and frustrated by his parents' divorce and slept at staircases as he had a strained relationship with his family.

This tragedy is bound to have an adverse effect on those who was close to the soldier, one of whom is his girlfriend.  Tears welled from my eyes when the full-time soldier spoke of his love for his girlfriend. Most certainly, she needs help to prevent her from falling into depression – for grief can take months, and even years to overcome.

Unfortunately, when patients are overwhelmed with family problems, they will mistakenly believe that there is no hope for them and in the worst-case scenario, will want to end their lives.

You do it once, you do it twice

It has been documented that those who attempt suicide are likely to do it again, and thus it is vital for caregivers, employers, friends, religious groups and the community at large to rally around those trying to cope with mental disorders.

But to be able to receive support, the sufferers must first of all come to terms with their condition and not be in denial. He/she must be willing to open up freely about their condition otherwise, it is impossible to secure help.

Even though the Ministry of Health (MOH) and her partners are doing their part to encourage people who have mental disorders to seek treatment, many patients do not do so due to the stigma which remains the biggest obstacle in getting the much-needed help.

Let us examine why people grappling with mental illness do not want to seek treatment.

(1) Is it fear or shameful?

In practically all cases, if a person has a mental illness and opens up, he is often labeled as ‘mad’, ‘crazy’, ‘trouble maker’ and ‘unproductive’. Such discriminatory labeling will have a negative impact as the sufferers fear that their career, education and life goals will be jeopardized. In the case of workers, they fear that whenever there is a retrenchment exercise, they will be the first to be axed.

(2) Lack of understanding of the illness

Patients, caregivers, and employers must have an understanding of mental disorders – at least some basic knowledge.  But the more knowledge they possess, the better the condition can be managed. With life-long learning being encouraged by the Government, let us embrace mental health education as yet another step towards learning new things.   Never dismiss or minimize mental illness as “No big deal, everyone of us gets stressed out” or “the condition is not that bad.” There is absolutely no harm getting professional advice.

(3) Distrust

It is often a mammoth task revealing personal details to a doctor or counselor, because of these professionals, in the eyes of the patient, are complete strangers. Added to this, what assurance has the patient got that the information given will be kept confidential.

(4) When all hope seems lost

There will be people grappling with depression or other more serious mental disorders who wrongly assume that there is no way out of their conditions and that nothing or no one can help them. In their troubled minds, they believe that they will ‘never get better.’

(5) Unable to find resources

The help schemes must be widely publicized and even though the press does from time to time publish the helpline phone numbers and the organizations where assistance can be provided, patients may not see them as not everyone can afford to buy the newspapers or they may be too depressed with their conditions that they lose interests in anything and everything.

(6) Payment for treatment

In some cases, though patients may want to get treated, they do not do so as they may not be able to afford to pay for their treatment and transport costs to commute between the clinics and their home.  There are schemes in place to help them, but how many know about it?

Suggestions to help patients with their mental illness conditions

Our soldiers and men in blue protect Singapore and keep this country safe and free from crime. Parents must feel comfortable to know that the SAF and the police will take good care of their sons during national service.  

(a) Declaration of mental illness under oath

When any servicemen join the army or police – either for national service or to sign up as a regular, to protect themselves, their peers and the community, the treating psychiatrist must send a full report to MINDEF or the police. This is not done to stigmatize any patient, but rather to ensure that treatment continues and supporting measures are put in place.  It must be clearly made known to the affected servicemen and women that the authorities are there to help them cope with their illness.

To ensure that those called up for National Service(NS) do not feign mental illness to escape from doing NS, a detailed report from the treating doctor should be re-affirmed by the police or army doctors.

(b) Intensify public education on mental illness in all camps

On-going efforts to reduce or even eradicate stigma and discrimination are essential to send a very clear message that it’s perfectly ok to talk openly about mental health issues

Government agencies and the community at large need to have a clear understanding of mental health issues and given the tendency for those battling depressions to take the suicide route to put an end to the stresses in their lives, there must, first of all, be a staunch supporting system in place.  

To this end, MINDEF and the police should encourage public education on mental illness by inviting speakers to give talks to all their servicemen and women at their centers/camps by adopting a holistic approach to these conditions.

A holistic approach means providing a comprehensive treatment plan that includes not just doctors prescribing medications, but also the necessary psychological and social support.  For example, recovered patients can share their recovery while resilient caregivers and suicide survivors can talk about real life experiences. These efforts can motivate and inspire anyone who has a mental illness condition to readily come forward for treatment. People must see the recovery in its full glory and then only will seeking treatment be an easier option.

(c) Support groups vital in the recovery journey

This means that caregivers, as well as patients, must have support groups to take them through their journey and to a full recovery.

In the case of the army, MINDEF or the Police, with the assistance of their counselors can coordinate with the IMH, Silver Ribbon Singapore and the Singapore Association for Mental Health and other community mental health providers to encourage their servicemen or women who have mental illness to join such groups. Most of the meetings are held after office hours, but if it is held during office hours, all of them ought to be given time off to attend these useful sessions.

Another option is for MINDEF or the Police to form their own support groups within their camps with guidance from the experts.

With the formation of support groups within MINDEF or the police, the counselors can make periodic visits to the camps at specific periods to ensure that their servicemen and women are getting all the help they need.

(d) Dangerous to allow servicemen with mental illness to carry arms and perform guard duties

In the case of those in army or police, it is unwise to allow them to carry weapons and ammunition as they can not only harm themselves but others as well.  Even policemen have killed themselves by using a revolver.

In addition, the effects of the psychiatric medications may make the patients feel drowsy so it would be far better if such soldiers/policemen are exempted from guard duty temporary as they try to cope with their mental illness.

( e )  Allow temporary accommodation in camps for servicemen with family problems

Having a good 8 hours’ rest is important for all of us to energize ourselves. Lack of sleep due to a poor environment is unhealthy and the wellness of the body and mind can be badly affected. 

As Selvaraj had lots of family problems and due to disagreements, he chose to sleep at the staircase.

In such instances, servicemen like him could be offered temporary accommodation in the barracks until such time when their family issues are resolved.  


It is understood that the proposed suggestions will entail more resources, time and effort, but I fervently believe that implementing the ideas is a good investment that will eventually help to alleviate further tragedies.



Mental Health Advocate  



Article on Happy TV: Chinese New Year Bank Hours : By: Raymond Anthony Fernando


With increased competition, worldwide in the face of global challenges, all businesses, including banks, have got to pay much more attention to satisfying customers, by providing not just strong customer service, but ‘delightful’ customer service.

For banks to win new customers and retain older ones, both product and service delivery must be adequately aligned with customer expectations: achieving customer satisfaction and loyalty is essential for long-term survival.  In achieving this goal, it is vital for banks to form a close working relationship with her clients

Ultimately, customers should feel valued, wanted and loved. This is not just about how you handled a transaction. It's also about building and enhancing a relationship with people who are an essential part of everything you do.  Every customer must walk away after a transaction saying: “I love that WOW service!”

It has always been a tradition for those celebrating the Lunar New Year to change new notes to give Ang Pows (red packets filled with money) to loved ones and friends during visits. 

DBS has seen the importance of this tradition. Effective 11 January this year, DBS has come up with a novel idea of introducing the Pop-Up ATMs at 41 POSB locations island-wide that will allow their customers to secure new notes for the Ang Pows.

A key benefit to customers is that most of the ATMs are fully operational round-the-clock and in the last two years, more than 40% of pop-up ATM users withdrew CNY new notes outside branch opening hours. This year, all pop-up ATMs are conveniently accessible to customers 24 hours daily with the exception of the ones located at Chong Pang and Toa Payoh West which will be available from 9 am to 10 pm daily. POSB ambassadors will also be on hand to guide customers at the various pop-up ATM locations from January 11 to 27, 9 am to 9 pm.

I have noticed that large numbers of customers are turning up at DBS branches to change notes as they still prefer face-to-face transactions and most of them are the elderly who are not that well versed in the latest technology.  However, the look on their faces shows they are unhappy in having to wait hours on end.  I hear grumbles.

We can do more for these citizens by extending the operating hours at all branches before the Lunar New Year and also after the holidays as a large number will visit the branches to deposit money, which is also another yearly tradition.

Instead of opening the branches at 8.30am, start counter services at 8 am and instead of closing at 4.30pm on weekdays, extend the service to either 5.30pm or 6 pm.

Next, where branches do not allow for cash transactions such as the branch in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, exercise some flexibility and open up the counters to provide this notes exchanges during the Lunar New Year period.

Singapore Post in very much into ‘customer delight’ service and they extend their operating hours on certain days. For instance, on Wednesdays, the SingPost branch at Upper Thompson Road extends it service two hours longer so instead of closing at 6 pm on all weekdays, they operate from 9.30am to 8 pm on Wednesdays. In addition, the branch at Ang Mo Kio central operates from 8.30am to 8 pm on all weekdays and up to 4 pm on Saturdays.  Such a service also makes good business sense.

If the proposed suggestions can’t be implemented this year, for whatever reasons, DBS management could consider doing so next year.

Raymond Anthony Fernando



Monday, January 16, 2017

Patients with Mental Conditions need Clearance to Drive

Every single day, our roads are used by thousands of motorists and pedestrians from all walks of life, and in different age groups.  Due to aging issues, the elderly is the most vulnerable group in meeting with accidents, whether it is crossing the roads, climbing up escalators/overhead bridges or driving vehicles.
With e-bikes and E-scooters now being allowed on our busy roads, coupled with tipper trucks that do rush jobs to earn more money, driving on the roads means all road users have to stay alert all the time. You may be a motorist with excellent driving skills, but if the driver next to you or behind you is reckless, accidents can so easily take place. It has happened time and again and sadly, some have lost their lives in the cruelest way.
Driving is a complex skill that requires adequate information processing, sustained attention or vigilance, concentration, and a good memory of the roads and what was taught by driving instructors. Drivers must have control over impulse and risk-taking, and their judgment should be mature and unimpaired, with the ability to anticipate the actions of other road users.
Don’t be surprised that on our busy roads there are motorists who have mental health issues that are either not treated or given follow-up treatment.  With Singapore being such a stressful place, it is not surprising that there are people walking about or driving around with depression or other more serious mental disorders.  I still recall what Mr. Khaw Boon Wan once said during his tenure as Health Minister: “All of us have some mental health issues, the question is to what degree?”
I have read reports of males and even females going nude in public places that includes on buses and on our roads. No one in his/her right frame of mind will demean themselves in such a manner.  In some cases, it was discovered that they were grappling with some mental health issues.
At times those who resort to reckless driving may have mental health issues as they are not in the right frame of mind.  Moreover, if they are on medication, they could feel drowsy from the effects of the medications.  That in itself can pose a danger when they drive.
Those found guilty of causing the death of another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road recklessly, or at a speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years.
Now if such a driver is guilty of such an offense and who is found to be suffering from a mental disorder, there is bound to be further stigmatization of mental illness.  
So how can we make our roads safe and sound from those with mental health issues who drive?
To begin with, patients who are being treated for a mental disorder – mild or serious, either by a government or private psychiatrist has to declare if he/she drives a vehicle upon the first consultation but it has to be done subtly and professionally.    
Next up, to ensure the safety of such drivers as well as the other road users, it will be prudent to allow these drivers with such conditions to hold a ‘Restricted’ driving license, subject to medical review by a panel of psychiatrists or the treating psychiatrist at appropriate intervals. This restricted license will apply to most people who have a severe, but stable mental disorder.  Once the doctor/s give the all clear signal, the patient/s can be allowed to drive on our roads. As an added precaution, a driving re-test has to be carried out.
Finally, to ensure that such patients keep themselves in a good frame of mind, it is crucial for the hospital or clinics to make it a must for all to follow up on their treatment.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Improvements at Malaysian Immigration Check-points: By: Raymond Anthony Fernando

I always find it so appealing and inspiring to listen to Our Gentle Warrior giving her views on a whole range of topics. Indeed, Ivy Singh has some pretty good ideas up her sleeve, and I am glad that she welcomes views from her audience. Which is why I have written this article. 

A gusto lady who has the courage and conviction to speak her mind, Ivy, in my view, will be a good representative in Parliament – either as a full-time Member of Parliament or as a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament.   

Gentle Warrior in her video “Singapore -KL High-Speed Rail” gave some suggestions on how travel options to our neighbor can be made easier and it includes removing the causeway that was built by the British. She fervently believes that by doing away with the causeway, it will allow the waters to flow naturally again where we can build fish farms and make the coastline beautiful. She also feels that it is much easier for passengers to travel by ferry. These are some of her ideas that can draw the tourists’ dollar.

I agree with Ivy that having more fish farms is an idea that ought to be explored by the authorities. Why? Because it will help create more jobs for Singaporeans and we will not have to be heavily dependent on buying such fresh seafood from abroad. 

I also second her idea of beautifying our coastlines as it will not only be a great tourists’ attraction, but it will also allow for some nice recreation for our own citizens who need to relax in a more conducive environment, instead of being ‘choked’ by a ‘concreate jungle.’  Research has found that 'blue space' including sea, rivers, lakes and even urban water features can have a positive impact on the well-being of human beings. Undoubtedly, the calming effect of a walk by the river or along a beach. Victorian doctors used to prescribe the "sea air" as a cure for an assortment of ages and ailments.

A little background on the causeway:  After 4 years of construction, the Johore-Singapore Causeway was completed in 1923. This causeway was partially severed in 1942 during the Second World War, to prevent the Japanese army from invading Singapore. However, it was rebuilt once the Japanese had captured Singapore. During the 1964 race riots, the causeway had to be closed from 22 to 26 July 1964.

The Johore-Singapore Causeway is the first land link between Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. The second, called the Malaysia-Singapore Second Link, was completed in 1998.

Like Ivy, I too treasure the good ole’ days where life was more relaxed and flowed at a much slower pace. True to every sense of the word, neighbors must be good friends, but there is bound to friction once a while. That’s human nature.  Hiccups left unmanaged can so easily sour relationships. It happens everywhere, in neighborhoods, at the workplace and even in families. Thus, a give-and-take attitude must prevail at all times.

Bombing the causeway? That’s the $500 question!

In retrospect, Ivy’s suggestion of tearing down the causeway, may not be feasible or practical at this point in time for a number of reasons.

Firstly, leaders on both sides are aware of the sensitivity of removing the causeway. It was reported that the proposals on replacing the old causeway with a new bridge had resulted in a political rift between Singapore and Malaysia as far back as the early 2000s’. The Malaysian government envisioned that disagreement by Singapore to participate in the project would result in a crooked bridge above Malaysian waters with half the causeway remaining on the Singapore side. However, Singapore has hinted that it might agree to a bridge if it’s air force is allowed to use part of Johor's airspace. Malaysia refused the offer and negotiation are said to be still ongoing.

Secondly, to tear down the causeway is going to cost a lot of money as it could run into millions of dollars. Then there will also be much inconvenience during the removal of the causeway.

Who is going to bear the costs?  And how much will each side have to foot out?  If it is carried out, will some of the costs be borne through taxes which will be a financial burden on citizens on both sides?

Thirdly, huge sums of money will have to be invested in the upcoming Singapore -Malaysia Rail link.

To me, the crux of traveling to our neighbor is the perpetual delays at the Johore immigration check-points. Therein lies the root of the problem: Manpower shortage, especially doing peak periods.

I have spoken to a fair number of Malaysians who work here in Singapore, and they include those who drive our public buses, SMRT and SBS. Most of them can’t afford to rent a room or a flat in Singapore, so they travel every day to their homes in Johor and back to Singapore on their motorcycles in the wee hours of the morning or after 4pm, when their morning shift ends. They all echo the same concern: In the wee hours of the morning, 3 or 4am, the immigration clearance at Johor and Singapore is smooth, but from 4pm onwards, it takes at least 2 hours for immigration clearance at the Johore check-point.

The Malaysian government is mindful of the thousands of their citizens who travel to Singapore for work, and they include many of our bus drivers. In an effort to strengthen transport connectivity between Singapore and Johore, officials from both sides discussed the new automated system when they met in Singapore on Tuesday for the 12th Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee Meeting for Iskandar Malaysia.  This was described in The Straits Time report on March 8, 2016, “Malaysia to implement automated immigration clearance for motorcycles at JB checkpoints

Although no time frame has been set for its implementation, the automated system will have 100 M-BIKE lanes at the Causeway and 50 lanes at the Second Link for bikers and pillion riders to scan their passports making it much easier and convenient for motorcyclists entering and exiting Johore Bahru.

You would think that building a second link in Tuas would speed up immigration clearance at Johore. Think again. You’ll get stuck in the jam for as long as 2 solid hours.  On eve of public holidays or festive seasons, the situation is even worse. A friend of mine who drives up periodically to Johore and was frustrated in having to wait so long asked the immigration officer why there was such a long delay. The answer given by the immigration officer put him off: “Don’t you know, this is very common?”

I am told that there are 8 lanes at this check-point, but why are there only two lanes opened up during such busy periods?  

I cannot imagine the massive jam ups which will take place if the situation does not improve when the rail link from the two countries is built in 20206.

Perhaps, the PS21 program (Public Service in the 21st Century) ought to be introduced by our Head of our Civil Service to his counterpart in Malaysia and this can be done through the Malaysia-Singapore annual sports games.  In this well-developed program, public sector employees are encouraged to give suggestions and ideas both as individuals or in groups (Work Improvement Teams or WITS) in the civil service to improve services to the public – and they get rewards if their ideas are practical and workable.

If immigration clearance can improve, both sides will benefit tremendously not just in terms of dollars and cents, but also in renewing close ties with our neighbors and paving the way for new friendships to blossom.

Once the rail link between the two countries becomes economically viable, then perhaps Ivy’s suggestion of doing away with the causeway can be re-visited.




Thursday, January 5, 2017

A tribute to Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher: By Raymond Anthony Fernando

A ‘broken heart syndrome’ can have damaging health effects on those who lose those their loved ones.  According to Dr. Sunil Shah, who helped lead the research at St George’s, University of London, the devastation felt by a surviving partner can make them overlook their own health issues.


“There is evidence, from other studies, that the bereavement and grief lead to a range of adverse physiological responses including changes in blood clotting, blood pressure, stress hormone levels and heart rate control,” said Dr. Shah.


According to cardiologists, emotions such as sadness, anger, and fear can trigger the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and in access, this can temporarily ‘stun’ the heart muscle.


When you have grown to become so attached to a loved one, it can rip you apart and make you feel defeated when the person you cherish so much is suddenly taken away.  Undoubtedly, grief is a natural response to loss. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be.

From my own personal experience, this ‘broken heart syndrome’ is so true for when I lost my wife so suddenly, I sank into months of situational depression that led me to battle insomnia for a whole year.  It was only my faith in God that helped me survive this extremely painful period in my life which pushed me to seek help from a psychologist.


This ‘broken heart syndrome’ was clearly felt by Debbie Reynolds when she struggled to come to terms with the passing of her daughter.

84-year-old Debbie Reynolds died on Wednesday night, 28th December 2016, shortly after her daughter, Carrie Fisher suffered a fatal heart attack.


Both Reynolds and Fisher were extremely talented in their own ways. Though Fisher struggled for years with a bipolar disorder, the author of Postcards from the edge did not allow her condition to pull her down.  Instead, she educated the public about the condition as if she were on a mission – and went on to become a dynamic mental health advocate, earning the respect of millions all over the world.


Reynolds contributed so much to the entertainment industry both as a gifted actress and singer.   She was Hollywood’s royalty, leaving a long and glittery legacy in the cinema. Her talent shone brightly: She could dance, sing, act and stomp her way through decades with musical hits such as Tammy and the Bachelor and The Unsinkable Molly Brown, for which she scored an Oscar nomination.


Many world-famous singers like Jim Reeves, Engelbert Humperdinck have recorded the popular song Am I that easy to forget, but to me, the best rendition was done by Debbie Reynolds, a tune I listen to almost every day of the week.  I have every confidence that if copies of her song are reproduced, it will sell like hot cakes as Reynolds was everybody’s darling.    


In the words sung so beautiful by the late Nat King Cole’s smash hit Unforgettable, Debbie Reynolds, both you and your daughter Carrie Fisher will remain unforgettable and live in our hearts forever – not just for your creativity and talent, but for teaching us the virtue of giving love to one another I such an immaculate manner.  For the strong bond between mother and daughter are virtues which we can all learn from and emulate. Their passing certainly reminds us to stay closely knit as a family.


For those who grief, support from the community can play an important role in helping the bereaved cope with loneliness and despair so that they can ride out of the storm.


Often those who experience pain and suffering will be in a better position to show empathy to others in a similar condition.  One elderly lady who was singled out by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his 2017 New Year message for rendering support to those who grief is Mrs. Satyabhama Karunakaran who, after losing her husband through a heart attack, has gone on to undertake volunteer work in lending senior citizens some strength and a listening year as described in The Straits Time report Times (“PM Lee lauds everyday heroes in New Year message”, Sunday, January 1, 2017).


Yes, let’s embrace the virtue of kindness, and take the cue from what popular  TV host, comedian and actress Ellen DeGeneres advice when she ends her TV show: “Be kind to one another”.