Friday, May 18, 2018

Timely to promote evangelisation and create a brand-new look for The Catholic News: An open proposal to Archbishop William Goh

“Character cannot be developed in peace and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

- Author Helen Keller -
By: Raymond Anthony Fernando

Given that Parish Priests have a heavy responsibility to serve the many needs of our parishioners, I welcome the decision for the Catholic News(CN) to come under the umbrella of the Archbishop’s Communication Office effective 1st July 2018.

CN is a useful platform for the 300,000 strong Catholics to understand the teachings of Christ as well as to get our brothers and sister in Christ to spread the love of God through the power of evangelism.

Jesus Christ is indeed good news and such good news needs to be told and retold.   As Catholics, we need to embrace evangelism and practice God’s love to everyone we meet.

Let’s spread the word of God through evangelism

There is no question that the world is filled with an appalling amount of evil and suffering.

Bitterness.  Anger.  Frustration.  Depression.  These are some of the emotions people who are going through suffering can display.

Many Christians who are plagued with chronic illnesses, financial difficulties, broken marriages or face mounting problems day in and day out have often asked the clergy these questions: “Why is God making me go through so much suffering?  I have done no wrong.  Why must bad things happen to good people?”

There is comfort in suffering because God can use our sufferings to teach us and make us better people.  Suffering can bring out the best in people, it can test their faith, and it can create the opportunity for them to grow spiritually, to change for the better, and to make a difference in the world.

Often it takes suffering to make us realise the brevity of life, and the importance of living for Christ.  God uses suffering to accomplish things in our lives that would otherwise never be achieved.

Even though we may be going through huge challenges in life or undergoing a great deal of suffering, we must always trust in God because He will always be there to lift us up – maybe not immediately, but in due course. 

This is why it is so important for the Neighbourhood Christian Communities (NCCS) to rally around the marginalised, the elderly lonely and the mentally ill and their caregivers.  NCCs play a vital role in uplifting those who are going through adversities.  NCCs too through supporting this group can also be in a position to evangelise by doing God’s work.

Although Christians appear to love evangelism, sadly, not many take it upon themselves to promote the scriptures from the Bible and God’s ever powerful love, as long as someone else is doing the evangelising.  To this end, it is imperative that as Catholics we need to start preaching the good news over and over again.  One way to do this is through the Catholic News where people – locals as well as foreigners can share their faith journeys.

I have always find it heart-warming to listen to the sermons by some of our Catholics Priests – among them, Father Ambrose Richards, Father Andrew Wong, Father Stephen Yim, Father Henry Siew and Father John Bosco Pereira – just to name a few.    As God’s shepherds, they can all certainly guide their ‘sheep’; encouraging them to become ‘Saints’.  

Less foreign articles, more local stories

I read CN every fortnight and have observed that more often than not, overseas articles get published. While such accounts are needed, CN needs to focus more on localised heartfelt stories, and perhaps give lay Catholics the opportunity to write local stories or opinion pieces, where youths and seniors can actively participate as contributors. If need be, pay them a token sum to encourage on-going participation to keep the publication very much alive. 

There are also many social issues facing Catholics here that includes breakdowns in marriages, addiction, family disputes and caregivers finding it a real struggle to care for loved ones with special needs.

As Christians, I fervently believe that we are called to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, to be a voice for the voiceless, the defenceless, and the most vulnerable in the society.

Government can also rally around all Singaporeans

Separately, it is encouraging that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has assured Singaporeans that the 4th generation leaders will make every effort to reach out to all Singaporeans as reported in Channel NewsAsia today, Friday 18th May 2018 (“4G leaders to engage Singaporeans in series of discussions to chart future together: Heng Swee Keat”).

Mr Heng is indeed a compassionate and caring minister, no airs about him and he makes the effort to understand the needs of all our people. He displays magnanimity towards caregivers of the mentally and this I found to be so true during my short discussion with him during the 1st Singapore conversation.

Poignant stories of resilience need to be unfolded

Getting back to the proposed brand-new look for the Catholic News.

There are also in our midst, Catholics who despite carrying a heavy cross have overcome adversities to come out stronger than ever as they place their full trust in the Lord. Indeed, having a faith makes it much easier to carry a cross.  The more poignant the stories are, the more Catholics will embrace the love of God.

Thus, it is timely with a new team in place on 1st July to have a Catholic newspaper for Catholics, by Catholics. 


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Public Suggestion: Government can lead by example by hiring older workers : An open proposal to newly appointed Labour Chief Ng Chee Meng

By: Raymond Anthony Fernando  


It is encouraging that the newly appointed Labour chief Ng Chee Meng has suggested forming a tripartite committee to provide better support for our ageing workforce, and to help mature workers to continue working if they choose to (“Ng Chee Meng pledges to address struggles of low-wage, mature and middle-aged workers, May 15, 2018”, MediaCorp’s Today newspaper).


I believe Chee Meng is a suitable choice as he does make the effort to reply, (once through his executive), when I put forward a useful suggestion to him during his stint at the Education ministry. Another minister who is touch with the ground is Heng Chee How who was at one time my mayor, a kind, humble and down-to-earth man.  That is how ministers and MPs can gain the trust and confidence in the electorate.   


Indeed, the mindset of employers has to be changed if we want to help older Singaporeans lead more meaningful and productive lives. 


When older Singaporeans are unemployed for long periods, for sure they will lose key social support that includes loss in income, little or no recreation and no friends to socialise with.   In the worse-case scenario, depression and serious health issues will surface for this group who are bound to feel isolated and uncared for.


Feedback from bosses and companies have revealed that there is a tendency for young graduates and those fresh on the job to job hop and show insufficient workplace enthusiasm and commitment towards their work.


Yet, this is not the case with many older Singaporeans and those with special needs, who have stayed loyal to the companies that they have worked for.  In addition, with their wealth of experience, older workers are well positioned to mentor the younger ones. By hiring older workers, they can instill in younger workers that deep sense of company loyalty that will reduce cost whenever staff turnover rate becomes a regular affair. 


To lead by example, I propose that the Public Service Division (PSD) starts hiring older Singaporeans. With PSD being the largest employer in Singapore, many displaced older Singaporean workers can once again find employment, purpose in life and contribute to the growth of our economy.


With Education Minister Ong Ye Kung inviting Singaporeans to step forward with ideas and suggestions, some of our experience older workers who have contributed in this area to their companies can nurture younger civil servants to embrace ‘bright’ and ‘bold’ ideas.


Not all graduates in the public sector have the ability to write well, to articulate their replies to the public is a friendly manner, and where there are policies put in place, know how to explain the rationale behind it.  To this end, hiring older retired Singaporeans who have excellent writing skills will be an assist to the government agencies they serve.


PM Lee spoke in Parliament on elitism today, Wednesday 16th May 2018 and I am glad he was surfaced this issue.  Thus, it is vital that all MPs and ministers make the effort to reply to members of the public who take time to drawn up constructive solutions to growing problems. Unfortunately, only a handful of political holders do so. This creates the impression that elitism is still very much alive.


We must encourage active citizenry – for it is PEOPLE and IDEAS that make a nation.

I’d like to add here that the provision of part-time work can be offered to allow older workers more flexibility in their work life as they age.


On all accounts, we should promote the idea to employers who may be skeptical of hiring seniors, that turning away older workers is a waste of human capital. In working towards achieving this goal, we will gain ground as employers realise that discrimination is wrong – not just for legal or moral reasons, but for business reasons as well.


Let’s have enlightened employers who can contribute to making Singapore an inclusive society – where no one is left behind,




Thursday, May 10, 2018

Opinion piece: 4th Generation Prime Minister and ministers need to stay closely connected to the ground

A proposal to the Cabinet of the Singapore Government

I agree with many of the views expressed candidly by Editor-at large Han Fook Kwang in his insightful commentary (What qualities should a PM have; last Sunday, May 6, 2018, The Sunday Times).

Have empathy and compassion

Besides being totally honest and one who has much integrity, a good politician must exercise compassion and empathy to understand the hardships citizens are facing, and then take concreate measure to alleviate the suffering of those in need.  Singapore is blessed because we have corrupt-free leaders.

Stay constantly in touch with the ground

To be able to do this, the next Prime Minister and his team must stay closely connected to the ground, listen carefully to feedback where they are able to not only hear arguments from the people, but to learn what it will take on behalf of all parties involved, including  the various government agencies, to reach a consensus.

Be receptive to useful feedback, ideas and suggestions

This characteristic allows political leaders to recognise setbacks, view constructive criticism positively, and then be willing to accept useful suggestions that can benefit the nation. 

Improved teamwork across all ministries

In relation to Fook Kwang’s observation of each ministry taking care of its own tasks and priorities, it is very true that if every ministry works in silo, then many of the todays’ complex problems that have, and, are coming on-stream will not be resolved.  I remember clearly reading a press report on DPM Teo Chee Hean who is also currently the minister in charge of the civil service echoing what Fook Kwang has rightly pointed out.

To this end, I propose that a high-level Work Improvement Team (WIT) be formed at the Prime Minister’s office or Head of the Civil Service office whereby one or two executives from the 16 ministries together executives from PMO or the head of civil services’ office who can meet monthly or bi-monthly to identify and analyze issues faced by each ministry and then propose constructive solutions. 

With the proposed WIT in place, there will be far better teamwork across the public sector, and Singaporeans will benefit tremendously –bearing in mind that a united civil service paves the way for a united country.  
Promote active citizenry, keep the communication lines open and be humble in victory

Given that technology has enhanced our way of living and is here to stay, it is crucial for our leaders to respond positively to suggestions and feedback, even if it is just an interim reply.

The press must also play a supporting role and publish letters and opinions that are valued-added, and not be skeptical to put out the articles that can help in nation-building or reject them because they may be afraid of incurring the wrath of the authorities.

Active citizenry must be promoted at all levels and at all ages – within the civil service and outside the public sector.    We do not want a situation where active citizens step forward with constructive feedback and useful ideas and no one bothers to reply. Because when such a scenario develops, people will stop contributing.

We must encourage innovation and creativity, not stifle it.  To think creatively, we need to stop thinking, "What it is..." and instead think, "What could it be?"

The 4 G leaders must also heed ESM Goh Chok Tong’s wise words when at one of the press conferences after the PAP won decisively at one of the General Elections, he called on all elected MPs to remain humble in victory.

Today’s society is totally different from that of the early Singapore years.  People are now more vocal and if there is much unhappiness in the nation, we will become a divided country.

Emulate the good work of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew

As a pioneer citizen, I vividly remember how PAP’s founding father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) managed to rally the people of Singapore through his regular walkabouts in 1963, despite having to brave harsh weather conditions and poor conditions in rural areas that lacked in adequate street lighting, direct water and electricity supplies and other essential amenities.


The senior Lee did not limit his outreach to the people to just his Meet-The-People’s session to understand sentiments on the ground and to get the constituents to understand the various government policies but took it one step further by reaching out to the masses through his many walkabouts and that was why the people gave their unflagging support to the PAP.  


LKY also visited my former school in St Andrew’s at Potong Pasir during the 60s to show staunch support for education.


Another important factor that contributed to nation loyalty was that it was not only the old guard that brought about Singapore’s success story, but the hard work of the older generation of ordinary Singaporeans that made a BIG difference.

Leaders who possess this rare quality of always wanting to stay connected with the people inspire others – drawing on a level of trust which sparks the motivation to get others on board and get the job done.


Results of Malaysia General Elections bound to have a ripple effect on Singapore


Undoubtedly, the win which the opposition – led by former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sucessfully secured is bound to have a ripple effect on Singapore.   He is a visionary champion who managed through sheer determination and tenacity managed to get the Malaysians to make change with the long-term goal of improving the lives of the people.   As I read the comments on social media from netizens – both Malaysians and Singaporeans, it is abundantly clear that all of them are pleased with the results.

On all accounts BN's historic downfall in Malaysia after 60 years is a clear and timely signal for the PAP to reach out to the ground and ensure that they will do more to help our citizens.  When my house almost caught fire, I raised this matter to the whole cabinet – including my MP and Mayor, but sadly, none showed any concern whatsoever, and they are fully aware that I am a widower who live all alone.  Are not MPs elected to serve the people?  Must I live in fear all the time?

Given that Dr Mahathir has had several run-ins with Singapore leaders, it is crucial that Singapore’s next PM and the 4th generation leaders possess the dynamic charisma and diplomacy to ensure that bi-lateral relations continue to grow as many of the projects and investments like the rail system are costly.


At the end of the day, both our future leaders and the media must keep the communication lines open, encourage active citizenry and harness that drive to improve the lives of all our people – locals and foreigners alike so that everyone has ‘A Place in the Sun’.  For to do anything less is doing a big disservice to the country.


The choice is there, seize it!

Raymond Anthony Fernando

Friday, May 4, 2018

Most disturbing the lack of support for the mentally ill & their caregivers

Not at all easy to get sponsorship for my books from charitable organisations even though management at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH)IMH endorses and fully supports my request.

Shaw Foundation and Tan Chin Tuan Foundation both rejected my appeal, now going to another charity.

I just can’t believe that Singapore has so many millionaires, but many turn a blind eye to the marginalised in Singapore. What a shame, only $600 was my request to reprint 200 copies of my novel LOVING A SCHIZOPHRENIC, and they refuse to help!

Now a third attempt to secure funding, this time going to a Rotary Club, and hopefully with my submitting two press articles, I will get it, this time around.

How can we ever call ourselves a caring and compassionate society?

Raymond Anthony Fernando