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#6: Sad faces in Jurong as Mahathir dumps the HSR project

Also: Allegations of "hidden hands" and the need for Singapore's 4G leadership to "evolve"

The Shangri-La Dialogue is taking place in Singapore this weekend, but eyes are still mainly on whether that 12 June Trump-Kim summit is really going to go ahead.

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Bye-bye High-Speed Rail project

The Malaysian government doesn’t want the Malaysia-Singapore high-speed rail project. “Oh no!” comes the cries of people who hoped to make money out of Jurong properties. This exchange by two Bloomberg opinion columnists on whether Malaysian needs the HSR is an interesting read on the cost/benefit analysis. Related: a piece I wrote for Lowy Institute about Singapore’s reaction to the Malaysian election.

“Hidden hands”?

The Edge Singapore has produced a 24-page pullout of The Edge group’s 1MDB coverage—you can download it for free. It includes this story, which alleges that The Straits Times was used to discredit The Edge and others’ reporting on 1MDB. ST responded to say that it had not been party to any deals and that the approach had been “standard and professional”. I reported on this for Asia Times: Did The Straits Times get spun on 1MDB? But there’s more! Justo told The Edge that Paul Finnegan, a private detective hired by PetroSaudi, was in the room during the interview with ST.

Evolving the 4G

Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran said that the 4G leadership should be allowed to “evolve naturally” and that we should be "careful in not wanting to hasten things artificially". All this talk about the 4G is because Singapore isn’t used to having such uncertainty over political succession; in 2015, during the last election, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that political succession was an urgent matter. Now he’s saying that while they’re working on leadership renewal, the 3G “…are still largely in good health, touch wood. We can carry on for one more term, at most two.” People are wondering what the hold-up is.

ROM and a voided marriage, part 2

The couple whose marriage was voided by the Registry of Marriages after one partner underwent gender affirming surgery have taken to Reddit with their story. I mentioned their case in a previous issue: they’d applied for a judicial review of ROM’s action, but withdrew the case later. Their Reddit account includes other details, such as a civil servant at the Ministry of National Development writing them a personal letter.

Rebuilding Ubin

This story is behind a paywall, but let me give you the run-down: there’s a project involving NUS, the Singapore Heritage Society, community group Kawan Ubin and other volunteers and organisations to revitalise kampung structures on Pulau Ubin. As a start, NUS architecture students are going to rebuild an 80-year-old Ubin resident’s decrepit drinks stall. The goal is to use kampung-style construction methods, but modern building regulations might need to be adjusted to preserve kampung life on Ubin—the villagers aren’t going to be able to hire costly professional architects and engineers to help build and maintain their houses. Yay community projects! Related: you can learn about Ubin life at this event on 10 June.

Protecting vulnerable adults

Singapore passed the Vulnerable Adults Bill, which provides protection for people over 18 unable to protect themselves from abuse or neglect, earlier this month. The law grants the authorities some pretty intrusive powers, but does it fall short in other areas, such as not covering financial abuse? AWARE had previously recommended that financial abuse be included. The Bill itself can be found here.

Press freedom and “fake news”

If you missed CAN and Function 8’s event on press freedom and “fake news” earlier this month (see an earlier issue of this newsletter for background), CAN has put up videos of the panels for you to catch up.

Youth and child sexual exploitation

Singaporean sex tourists are contributing to the problem of youth and child sexual exploitation in Batam, a 40-minute ferry ride away.

And now for a visual break

“We watch Harry Potter, right? We’re not wizards!” #win


Migrant worker poets
Migrant worker poets are going to be performing their work today!

Movie-making, North Korean style
This isn’t exactly a Singapore civil society thing, but on 6 June the Singapore Film Society is screening The Great North Korean Picture Show, made by Lianain Films (my former employers!)

Budi Kritik
The book launch of Budi Kritik, an English-language anthology of essays on themes relevant to Malay society will take place on 9 June. Register here.

Zero waste!
Also on 9 June we have the launch of the Zero Waste Challenge by EarthLife. They’ll be screening the film Waste Land (followed by a panel discussion), with proceeds going to EarthLife and Earth Fest Singapore.