It’s been such a super full-on week for me work-wise. There’s plenty of news too, so I hope you’re sitting comfortably: there’s lots to get through.
This issue is out later than previous ones—I usually schedule them for 8am—because I wrote a story for Asia Times that fits in with what I’ve summed up in this newsletter, and I wanted to wait for it to be published so I can add the link to this issue! Hehe.
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It was the 10th Pink Dot last Saturday, a bash that left my ears ringing. This year, they included 10 powerful declarations before the light-up; watch the highlights video here. Also check out the photos and 360˚ videos that we published on New Naratif. I’m in love with the GIF below—we should tweet, tag and email it to our elected officials every day. So I decided to email my MPs, as well as the Cabinet; feel free to use my letter as a template to write your own.
That SingHealth cyberattack
Were you affected by the SingHealth cyberattack? I was, and so are a lot of people I know. *sigh*
There’s been plenty of talk about it, so I’m going to round it up for you. A Committee of Inquiry has been appointed; they have to report back by the end of the year. The Personal Data Protection Commission will also be investigating the incident, since SingHealth and the Integrated Health Information Systems are corporate entities that fall under the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). (Speaking of the PDPA, there was a public consultation and review under way, but I’m not sure how it’s going. Among the proposals was mandatory reporting of personal data breaches to those affected, as soon as they’re discovered, which seems especially relevant now.)
Of course, it’s only to be expected that this massive data breach has pushed doctors to once again bring up their reservations about the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR). The government is planning to enact the Healthcare Services Bill in the later half of this year to make it compulsory for private healthcare providers to contribute patient records to the database—if Singaporeans don’t want their health records to be contributed, then we’ll have to take steps to opt out. Minister for Health has said that the NEHR will “have to take a pause” for now while they look into strengthening the cybersecurity system.
While that’s going on, SingHealth, National Healthcare Group and National University Health System have implemented internet separation, and medical workers are saying that it’s disrupting their work. Also, not everyone thinks delinking is the best idea.
(If you would like to learn more about our PDPA and see how it matches up to the EU’s very comprehensive GDPR, I found this article. I’m still trying to get through it myself! While you’re at it, read this New Naratif piece about Singapore’s flawed data privacy regime.)
Why that SJI vice-principal so liddat
This really got my goat this week. As reported in the last issue, a representative of the Inter-University LGBT Network was disinvited from speaking at TEDxYouth@SJI. Leonard Tan, one of St Joseph’s Institution’s (four!) vice-principals spoke to his students after the news broke, and he had some choice things to say about activism (plus word salad about discrimination and LGBT issues). It’s all very infuriating and disheartening that an educator is saying this, but it’s not really that surprising: here’s my story for Asia Times on how Singaporean schools have long struggled to deal with LGBT issues (often by not dealing with it very well).
The Auditor-General’s report
This was meant to go into last week’s newsletter—I even saved the links and everything!—and I totally forgot to put it in. But it’s too important to let slide so I’m adding it this week. The Report of the Auditor-General for the Financial Year of 2017/2018 is out, and several government ministries and agencies have been pinged for lapses. The People’s Association has been flagged for lapses in procurement, including a PA officer making reimbursement claims of dubious authenticity. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was also caught “creating and backdating documents furnished for audit”.
And that makes for a useful segue into updates about the SCDF. Five officers who were were involved in the ragging incident that led to Corporal Kok Yuen Chin’s death in May have been arrested and charged in court. Another eight officers are still being investigated.
A former National Library Board manager has been hauled to court for a whopping 56 counts of corruption. He’s been accused of receiving nearly S$600,000 in bribes from the company director (also being charged with 56 counts).
A former air force officer has been jailed for failing to disclose that he was involved in the companies he recommended to the air force for contracts, cheating them out of over S$1.8 million.
Eh all of you please don’t anyhow.
Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung said some words about “lifelong learning”, “meritocracy” and multiple paths to success. Yahoo! Singapore has this nice story about an inclusive preschool that provides early intervention to children with different needs, which reminded me of this story that I worked on for Esquire Singapore in 2016 about education in Singapore (still one of my favourite pieces to have worked on). This mother’s account of the difficulties she and her son went through for his education is worth looking at too, and thinking about how well (or not) Singapore caters to children with different needs.
How much do we pay our carers?
A new study by philanthropy group Lien Foundation found that “[a]lthough Singapore has the second-highest (S$4,000) post-tax national median monthly wage among the five territories [Singapore + Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia] surveyed and the highest GDP per capita (S$71,000), its long term care workers are the lowest paid. The disparity in wages of LTC workers in Singapore vis-a-vis its four APAC peers is especially wide among support care workers, such as nursing aides and healthcare assistants who make up the bulk of the care work force.”
And now for an audio break…
I’ve been listening to the Broadway cast recording of Anastasia (partly based on the 1997 animated film) for the past few days, and this beautifully haunting song has been on repeat the most.
Events coming up
It’s a lean one this week, with the listed events actually taking place farther in the future than this week. Not sure if it’s because not much is happening this week, or because I was just too busy to really search for things and note them down!
This Is What Inequality Looks Like
If you haven’t read Teo You Yenn’s This Is What Inequality Looks Like, you really should. There’ll be a discussion session on 5 August with a special deep dive session (sign up for this separately).
If you missed PinkFest, no worries—there are more LGBT-related events! IndigNation is back in the month of August with a queer conference on 18–19 August. I’ll be speaking on two panels; see you there!
A shameless plug…
I haven’t done this in previous issues but I’m really proud of all the stories we’ve published on New Naratif this past week. We have a longform piece on US-Indonesian ties during the Asian Financial Crisis (also in Bahasa Indonesia), a look at anti-LGBT “science” in Malaysia, the Vietnamese translation of our story on #MeToo in Vietnam, and two stories from Cambodia ahead of their general election tomorrow—one on Cambodia’s status under the EU’s Everything But Arms scheme, another (completely illustrated!) shining a light on how an ordinary Cambodian woman feels about this farcical election. It’s such an immense privilege for New Naratif to be able to publish these stories. If you like them as much as I do, please consider supporting our work!