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We gonna clean this whole place up

Issue 96

There’s the Lee family feud, the multi-way feud going on in Malaysia… and then there’s the Zam Zam-Victory feud. The owner of Zam Zam and a business associate have both been found guilty of hiring a hitman to slash the restaurant supervisor of Victory, next door. I am extremely into these quoted comments from the judge, on their business rivalry: “This is not surprising as murtabak is a very popular and tasty food item eaten at all times of the day and night in Singapore.”

Time to get squeaky clean

Singaporean rule: when a problem presents itself, you can almost always launch a new nationwide campaign (with or without mascot, but with is more fun for the family). There doesn’t seem to be a mascot for this particular campaign yet, but you’ll be hearing from me as soon as one emerges.

The government has set up the SG Clean Taskforce to work on the SG Clean campaign to up personal and public hygiene standards in the country. While this is happening during the COVID-19 outbreak, this campaign is positioned to go beyond fighting the coronavirus. The taskforce and campaign is aimed at getting people to adopt better hygiene standards like washing hands more frequently and keeping public toilets clean, and also setting higher standards for places with high public traffic, like schools and hawker centres. There’s also going to be stepped-up inspection and enforcement of penalties for public hygiene offences.

I’ve just had some “primary school principal doing classroom spot-checks” flashbacks.

The climate crisis

I’m so excited about this comic explainer, produced by New Naratif in collaboration with IdeasCity, on the impact of climate change on Singapore. It makes a big issue really digestible, and now no one has the excuse of saying they don’t know what the stakes are. Read and share!

If you’d like to read more about Singapore’s carbon emissions and contribution to climate change, New Naratif also published a piece about this last year.

Some positive steps are being taken, though, because the government has announced that we will be aiming to halve our 2030 peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and to achieve net zero emissions as soon as we can in the second half of this century. This has been described as potentially an “absolute game changer”, but SG Climate Rally reminds us that this really needs to happen faster to really make a difference, and we can do even better.

Meanwhile, Reuters has a story about sand mining again, and how demand in Singapore is affecting communities in Myanmar. While it’s true that there are lots of problems in the source countries that perhaps Singapore can’t directly intervene in, there’s a lot that we can do to reconsider our insatiable demand for sand and land reclamation, and whether that’s something we should move away from.

By the way, SG Climate Rally are looking for people to help them with creating digital collaterals. Calling all designers and artists looking to contribute to climate change advocacy in Singapore!

On labour—quotas and rights

I have a (depressing) theory that if you give most situations long enough someone in Singapore will come up with a shitty opinion about how it can be used to justify more policing of migrant workers. This past week we had an example in the form of a forum letter to the Straits Times urging the restriction of gatherings of domestic workers on their day off, which really got my goat and set me off on a Twitter thread/rant:

In other news, foreign worker quotas—for higher wage workers, as opposed to low-wage ones—are being tightened up. This has been a sore spot for many Singaporeans for quite some time, often manifesting as xenophobia. The foreign worker policy was tightened up post-2011, when people made their displeasure known at the ballot box, so it’s not that surprising they’re putting the screws on again since this year’s likely (probably? possibly?) to be an election year.

Five more bus drivers have joined their eight colleagues in suing SBS Transit for allegedly breaching the Employment Act. They say they’ve been overworked and underpaid.

The government has also said that they’re going to publish an advisory for employers to improve mental health in the workplace. It’s good that mental wellbeing is being acknowledged as something important, but as the case of the bus drivers mentioned above suggests, we can’t just be talking about mental well-being without also talking about things like fair compensation, working hours, and labour protections.

Aiyah, politics

With the coronavirus outbreak it’s kind of up in the air right now when the election might be. I’m still eyeing September, but who knows?

In any case, Michelle Lee, previously of the Singapore Democratic Party, more recently the vice-chairman of the Progress Singapore Party, has resigned. The party says it was cordial, but *sigh*, there goes of their younger members.

We continue looking out for election issues, such as the question of the value of HDB flats—a subject very close to the hearts of many a Singaporean. But it’s likely that COVID-19 will dominate, which would be to the PAP’s benefit, since they can point to the government response—which has been widely praised—as evidence of their competence, and portray themselves as vital to the survival and success of Singapore.

And now, just because I can, Vietnam’s coronavirus song