Defending the Lion City

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) was formed after the British pulled out of Singapore in December 1971. A career military force of 20,000 is supplemented by 55,000 men on active National Service for a term of 2 to 2½ years depending on educational level and assigned military vocation. Service is compulsory for all able-bodied young men who has reached 17½ years of age. Another 225,000 reservists who have completed active National Service and are placed on a 13 years stand-by period. These reservists, also known as NSMen, are liable for up to 40 days of active service every work year. The SAF engages in joint training with all the ASEAN nations and with the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of China (Taiwan), and India.

As a Singaporean, I was expected to do my part in National Serivce. I was conscripted into the air force and served with operations. It was pretty exciting and I got deployed to Australia for 3 months. I also got to help out with a UN mission.

For the SAF experience:
Ministry of Defense website

Check out this cool video:

Visit Deborah's Blog:
Debbie's blog


The powers that be

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Singapore is a republic with a parliamentary system of government. This means that all cabinet members must be elected members of Parliament. (An analogy with the American model would mean that all of the US President's cabinet secretaries would be congressional representatives.)

The Constitution provides for a President who is the Head of State. The Presidential position is more a figurehead, just as the Queen of England; he does not have any real decision-making power. The elected President holds office for a fixed term of six years. He is empowered to veto government budgets and appointments to public office. He can also examine the government’s exercise of its powers under the Internal Security Act and religious harmony laws, and in investigations of corruption.

The Cabinet is led by the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President, as the Member of Parliament who commands the confidence of the majority of the Members of Parliament. On the advice of the Prime Minister, the President appoints other ministers from among the Members of Parliament to form the Cabinet.

The Cabinet is responsible for all government policies and for administering the affairs of state. It is responsible collectively to Parliament, and comprises the Prime Minister and the ministers in charge of the ministries of Communications, Community Development, Defence, Education, the Environment, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Health, Home Affairs, Information and the Arts, Labour, Law, National Development, and Trade and Industry.

The Singapore political system is largely based on the British model due to its colonial past. Hence, people in the United States would be unfamiliar with the way things work.

For government guidance:
Government of Singapore website

Visit Brenda's Hong Kong Blog:
Brenda's blog


Singish - the local accent

Due to its multiracial makeup, Singapore recognises four official languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. Singaporeans also speak a peculiar brand of English called "Singlish". This local concoction mixes English with common phrases in the Chinese dialects (mostly Hokkien) and some Malay. Singlish is one of the elements that gives Singaporeans their distinctive identity.

Aiyah: Term used to signify exasperation.
e.g Aiyah, I'm fed up with waiting.
Angmo: Hokkien for "red-haired". Used to refer to Caucasians.
eg The angmo ordered beer at the coffeeshop.
Bo cheng hu: Hokkien for "no government". Used to describe a state of lawlessness where anything goes.
eg That place, really bo cheng hu, how to do business there?
Chiak chua: Hokkien for "eat snake". Loafing on the job.
eg That fella, whole day only know how to chiak chua.
Kiasu: Hokkien for "afraid to lose".
eg Kiasu Singaporeans will camp overnight for free concert tickets.
Makan: Malay for "meal".
eg Let's go makan. -- Have you had your makan?
Sala: Malay for "wrong".
eg You sala, you should take the other road.
Shiok: Something that gives a kick.
eg Inside steam room very shiok.
Talk Cock: Slang for speaking nonsense
eg Don't talk cock lah, where got such thing.

Song Bo(Are you happy?), the above is pretty difficult for a foreigner to understand.

Visit, Singapore's premier Satirical Humour Website to learn more Singlish:

Listen to Shaun talk cock about Singapore & Indonesia
Shaun's blog


Forget about buying a car in Singapore

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Be warned: it is very expensive to own and drive a car in Singapore. Wary of the fact that uncontrolled growth in the number of vehicles will result in traffic jams in land and road scarce Singapore, the government has implemented a range of measures to manage car ownership and usage. These include the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), Vehicle Quota System (VQS), road taxes and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP).

Anyone wishing to buy a car or motorcycle has to bid for a Certificate of Entitlement (COE). Each month, a certain number of COE's are released for bidding and if successful, the vehicle entitlement is valid for 10 years from the date of registration of the vehicle.The catch? COE's have become so expensive that it is costly to own a car.

All motor vehicles imported into Singapore are slapped with a customs duty of 41 per cent ad valorem. There is also a Registration Fee to be paid. The fee is $1,000 for private vehicles and $5,000 for company vehicles. In addition, when a car is first registered, an Additional Registration Fee (ARF) of 150 per cent of the car's Open Market Value is payable. All these make the price of cars here artificially inflated compared to those in the States. The amount paid to buy a Toyota Corolla in Singapore can be used to buy a Porsche Boxster in the United States!

Electronic Road Pricing is Singapore's latest attempt at tackling traffic jams during peak hours. ERP is based on a pay-per-use principle that is intended to reflect the true cost of driving. ERP has been extended to choke-points on other expressways and major roads in order to alleviate congestion, especially at the dreaded 8.30am-9.00am timeslot where charges and traffic alike are at their highest. It is so effective that numerous foreign governments has tried to replicate it e.g. London.

To take a look at the latest COE prices:
The Automobile Association of Singapore

Visit Michelle's blog on Hong Kong"


Unique Customs in Singapore

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Being a multi-racial country, Singapore has numerous local customs that are unique to each ethnic group. For example, different ethnic groups have different naming systems and adopt different ways of addressing others. The Chinese use family surnames that precede their given names, while the Malays and Indians do not have surnames but are referred to as son, or daughter, of their father.

Cash gifts in red packets known as ang pow are given during auspicious occasions by the Chinese. The amount of money must be in even numbers and only unmarried individuals receive red packets during the Chinese New Year.

As a religious prohibition, Malays refrain from eating pork. Avoid giving or serving any food to Malay-Muslims which contains pork or which is not marked "halal". alcohol is also not acceptable. Some Malay-Muslim women wear a headscarf.

Indians consider the cow a sacred animal and do not eat beef. Indians who are Hindu are mostly vegetarian. Leather gifts are taboo items and the use of the left hand when eating is inappropriate in Indian tradition.

Althought some customs seem to be amusing while others are perceived to be out-dated, they bring color to local society and aid in preserving our heritage.

Key Statistics of Singapore:

Take a second look at Shaun's Indo-Sin blog


Singapore - My Home

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Lying almost on the equator, Singapore is a thriving city-state that has overcome its dearth of natural resources to become one of the juggernaut economies of Asia.
The Republic of Singapore is made up of the main island of Singapore and 60 other smaller islands.

With a total area of 253 square miles (655 square kilometers), the main island resides a population of 3.87 million. Singapore measures a maximum 26 miles (42 kilometers) from East to West and 14 miles (23 kilometers) from North to South.Thats smaller than Michigan!

Singapore has a relatively uniform temperature ranging from 250C to 320C (770F to 89.60F) throughout the whole year. Humidity ranges from an average of 66%.
Boy, it can get really hot. A common joke is that there are only 3 seasons in Singapore : Hot, Hotter & Hottest.

To find my island in the world:
Map of Singapore

View Deborah's blog on home:


Monday, November 15, 2004

Andy Tai

I am a student at The University of Michigan.

Andy Tai,

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