Skip to content

#7: The Trump-Kim circus rolls into town this week!

Also: What does our education system do to people's mental health? How plainly should our politicians speak?

This week’s been super nuts, with more of the same next week, so apologies if I’ve missed something (I don’t think I have, what with everything getting overwhelmed by summit coverage).

Please share this newsletter with people you think might be interested. If you haven’t subscribed yet, hit the button below to get updates sent to you every Saturday morning.

Subscribe now

Trumpkim Times

The government has gazetted the area around Shangri-La Hotel from 10–14 June. They’ve also gazetted Sentosa, where the summit will be held at Capella Hotel. Like the US, Singapore has also got some commemorative coins. Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has met his North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang. Two South Koreans have been arrested and another two are under investigation after they were reported for criminal trespass at the residence of the North Korean ambassador. Howard X, the Kim Jong Un impersonator, was detained at Changi Airport for two hours on Friday morning; he was told not to go near Sentosa or the Shangri-La Hotel.

Related: I tweeted a little thread to point people’s attention to Sentosa’s history as the place that Chia Thye Poh was forced to live for awhile after his 23 years in detention without trial, and this Newsweek interview with him was flagged: “When I was arrested in 1966 I was 25 years old and now I'm getting old, nearing 58. The best part of my life was taken away just like that, without any charge or trial in a court.”

Education and meritocracy

Please everyone read this on the education system and its impact on Singaporeans into adulthood. The mental health angle is so important. Also: “Once, a fellow middle manager told me (in all seriousness) that she encouraged all her students to write pro-PAP answers in all their Social Studies exams because she fears that the school would get “blacklisted” if students were found to disagree with state-sanctioned views.”

Speaking plainly

Han Fook Kwang wrote an op-ed (paywalled) asking politicians to “use the language of ordinary people” instead of speaking in abstracts like promising an education system with “diverse pathways and multiple peaks of excellence”. He suggested that the Singapore leaders make clear promises, like assuring Singaporeans that if they worked all their lives they would be able to retire well at 65. Doesn’t sound so controversial, right? Well, the Press Secretary to the Minister of Finance hit back (not paywalled) suggesting that Han wasn’t asking for “plain speech”, but “pandering and populism”. Unfortunately the Press Sec also forgets his place as a civil servant and defends the PAP government while taking a swipe at the opposition.

What’s that about the chicken?

There’s been an uproar over one of artist Vincent Leow’s sketches, displayed at the Esplanade as part of an exhibition. The sketch shows the back of a naked man sitting on a chicken; Singaporeans Defending Marriage & Family, a conservative Christian anti-gay pro-Trump Facebook group, claimed that it was “promoting bestiality”. Following complaints, Esplanade at first said they would leave it up, but changed their minds a day later and took it down.

Healthcare and disability

The government has announced that from 2020 on, CareShield will replace ElderShield as a new disability insurance scheme. CareShield will provide monthly payouts for people who are severely disabled. Some have complained about the premiums, while others say it’s a good move. It’s a compulsory scheme; I’ll be among the first batch to be enrolled, so I guess I should probably know more about this. As confused as me? Don’t worry! We’re holding a group discussion session on CareShield and healthcare in Singapore on 13 June—come join us!

Migrant workers

The High Court has ruled that a Bangladeshi worker deployed as a site supervisor is not an executive and is entitled to overtime wages for working on rest days. The Labour Court had previously ruled that he was an executive and therefore to be paid a flat contractual rate.

Isolation and radicalisation

This isn’t exactly Singapore relevant, but over at New Naratif we have a profile on Dian Yulia Novi, who, before she got caught, was meant to be ISIS’ first female Indonesian suicide bomber. She’d been radicalised over social media, and says it began when she was working overseas, in Singapore and Taiwan, as a migrant domestic worker. She’d been isolated in both situations, and had turned to social media to dispel boredom, making her a target for ISIS recruiters.

This is NOT to say that employers should start barring their domestic workers from going on social media or surveilling them—it’s more about pointing out that conditions of alienation and isolation leave people marginalised and vulnerable.

And now for a visual break…

This was going to be last week’s video, but the Pink Dot one was way better, so I bumped it back to this week. “I hope you understand we’re puppets.”


Peace gathering at HLP
There’s going to be a gathering at Hong Lim Park in response to the Trump-Kim summit on 10 June from 4pm–7pm. The organiser tells me that the theme is “Peace and War”. There’ll be some speeches, but it’s meant to be mostly spontaneous.

Conversations with Chinatown
This evening, the Singapore Heritage Society, Drama Box and the Chinatown Heritage Centre have organised “Conversations With Chinatown”, a preamble to Drama Box’s promenade theatre experience Chinatown Crossings. Learn about the heritage and history of Chinatown! Register here.

Healthcare in Singapore
Repeating this once more so you don’t miss it: Confused by this new CareShield thing? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Come join a discussion on healthcare in Singapore on 13 June!