Monday, June 24, 2019

Engineer's deceit in PIE viaduct collapse case could have caused unimaginable number of casualties, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Engineer's deceit in PIE viaduct collapse case could have caused unimaginable number of casualties, Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Engineer's deceit in PIE viaduct collapse case could have caused unimaginable number of casualties

SINGAPORE - Permanent structures used in the construction of a Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) viaduct near Upper Changi were so inadequate, they could have collapsed under the weight of a full traffic load and caused an unimaginable number of casualties.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Yang Ziliang told the court on Monday (June 24) that 61-year-old engineer Leong Sow Hon, who was appointed by the Land Transport Authority as an accredited checker, had failed to go through the detailed plans and design calculations for permanent corbels or support structures.

Permanent corbels are reinforced concrete structures, critical in the stability of a viaduct. They allow the load on a flyover to be transferred to columns.

Leong's deceit could have resulted in "high potential harm", said DPP Yang.

"Investigations have revealed that the permanent corbels were inadequately designed... Out of the 10 permanent corbels, eight of them were inadequately designed for the total load, including traffic, upon completion of the viaduct."

Of the eight, five of the corbels were unable to support the weight they were supposed to be designed for. The remaining three, said DPP Yang, would have shown significant cracks with a full traffic load, leading to a collapse.

"If the viaduct collapsed after it had been constructed and opened to traffic, the casualties caused would be unimaginable," the DPP added.

Leong, the managing director of Calibre Consulting Singapore, pleaded guilty on Monday to failing to check the detailed structural plans and design calculations of the viaduct building works in accordance with regulations under the Building Control Act.

One count of falsely certifying that he had carried out the required checks will be taken into consideration during sentencing.

Leong is so far the only person involved in the case to plead guilty.

His crime was discovered only after temporary structures at the incomplete viaduct gave way on July 14, 2017.

The collapse resulted in the death of 31-year-old Chinese worker Chen Yinchuan. Ten other workers were injured in the incident.

As the final checker, Leong's job was to go through the detailed plans and design calculations for the permanent corbels.

But he admitted to not evaluating, analysing or reviewing the structural design in the plans and failing to perform original calculations for all permanent corbels.

Although he had initially claimed he had performed the original calculations for the corbels and found them to be adequate, Leong was unable to provide evidence.

In fact, no calculations were performed for both permanent and temporary corbels during the submissions stage of building works.

The cases involving the main contractor, Or Kim Peow Contractors, and four other men allegedly linked to the incident are still pending.

They are: the qualified person from subcontractor CPG Consultants, Robert Arianto Tjandra, 46; project engineer Wong Kiew Hai, 31; and project director Allen Yee, 49 - both from Or Kim Peow Contractors - as well as its group managing director Or Toh Wat, 51.

On Monday, DPP Yang urged District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim to sentence Leong to at least nine months' jail. 

He added: "The seriousness of the harm risked, the likelihood of that harm arising, and the number of people likely to be exposed to the risk of that harm, are all high."

Defence lawyer, Lim Lian Kee pleaded for his client to be fined $25,000, adding that a jail sentence was "not justified".
Mr Lim also told the judge that the collapse in 2017 was caused by the temporary corbels, not the permanent ones.

Or Kim Peow Contractors has been replaced by Hwa Seng Builder, which clinched the deal to complete the stalled project for $95.6 million last year. 

The viaduct was supposed to be completed by the first quarter of next year, but is now expected to be ready by the first half of 2022.

Leong's case has been adjourned to July 5.



Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, June 22, 2019

One year after Thai cave rescue, grieving wife of dead diver struggles to move on - CNA

One year after Thai cave rescue, grieving wife of dead diver struggles to move on - CNA

One year after Thai cave rescue, grieving wife of dead diver struggles to move on

Asia
Saman's wife
"I want back the happiest embrace," Valepon Gunan, 37, the wife of the late Thai diver Saman Gunan, wrote on her Instagram following his death. Saman lost his life during the Tham Luang cave complex rescue operation on Jul 6, 2018. (Photo: Valepon Gunan)
(Updated: )

Bookmark

BANGKOK: Precisely one year ago, 12 schoolboys and their football coach went missing in a Thai cave. Like the rest of the country and much of the rest of the world, Valepon Gunan was gripped by the fear and uncertainty of the rescue operation unfolding in northern Thailand

She did not expect that it would soon be her own husband who would be lost in the darkness as he tried to save the lives of the boys. His death - 13 days into the rescue operation - was a crushing blow that Valepon has struggled to recover from.

READ: Thai cave rescue: From despair to delight - and new concerns about the boys

INTERACTIVE SPECIAL: A closer look at the unprecedented rescue operation

Saman 'Sam' Gunan - a former Thai Navy SEAL and avid triathlete - lost his life trying to save 13 people he had never met from the flooded cave complex in Chiang Rai. 

The volunteer diver was on his way back from supplying air tanks along the rescue route when his breathing device fell from his mouth. The water was freezing. The visibility was nearly zero. Saman could not find his equipment in the cold, murky darkness and ran out of air.

Saman Gunan Thai seal
Saman Gunan was one of some 10,000 people who took part in a multinational rescue operation at the Tham Luang cave complex. (Photo: Thai Navy SEAL)

He has been gone for nearly a year now, and life has become a constant struggle for his widowed wife. She knows he will never come home, but total surrender to that reality makes the pain too much to bear. So Valepon tries to find some consolation to protect her broken heart.

"I feel he has never left. We just can't talk to each other, that's all. He's with me all the time," she said in tears.

Whenever I see his photos at work, I'll smile at him. I tell myself it's all right, we come to work together and go home together in the evening. It's good that he always comes to work with me, everywhere I go.

Saman's death keeps her on the verge of emotional collapse. A look at his Instagram photos, old Facebook posts or his favourite food often brings her a moment of joy before the realisation kicks in and drags her back to sorrow. Every day she fights to move on, distracting herself with hard work, a master's degree course and a language class.

Her job with the Airports of Thailand takes up 9-15 hours a day. In the evening, more hours are spent on learning English. At weekends, she goes to the University of Rangsit for a course in innovation and entrepreneurship.

By the time she gets home, Valepon is burnt out. Exhaustion is what needs, she says, to stop herself from rekindling happy memories of Saman and drifting back into a pool of lost love and inconsolable grief.

"That's why I study a lot. I won't be able to keep my head on straight if I'm at home," she told CNA. "So I use society and work to rid myself of free time. But whenever I'm alone, I still miss him."

Valepon Gunan
"I feel he has never left," said Valepon Gunan, the wife of volunteer diver Saman Gunan who lost his life during the Tham Luang cave complex rescue operation.

THE FINAL MOMENTS

Valepon first met her husband in Nakhon Phanom, where her family lives. The young navy officer came to compete in a triathlon before chancing on 23-year-old Valepon at a local park. He asked for her number, and love began to blossom. The couple got married after Saman took a job with the Airports of Thailand in Bangkok.

READ: 'You'll always be with me': Thai cave diver's widow mourns death on social media

READ: 'We won't let his life be in vain': Tributes pour in for Thai diver who died trying to save boys in cave

Their life went on smoothly until June 23, 2018. Twelve boys aged 11 to 16 and their 25-year-old football coach from the Wild Boar Academy went on an expedition that took a disastrous turn

After a rehearsal match, the group biked to the Tham Luang cave complex in Mae Sai district near Myanmar. They parked their bicycles at the entrance, left their mobile phones and football boots, and went in to explore the 7km cave complex without knowing a heavy monsoon rain would fall.

By the time they wanted to leave, water had filled the chambers and blocked their exit. Their disappearance triggered a search and rescue operation that snowballed into one of the most complex multinational missions the world has ever witnessed.

It involved more than 10,000 officers from the Thai Army, Navy and Air Force, police personnel, medics, cave diving experts, engineers, geologists, volunteers and many more - both from Thailand and abroad. One of them was retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Saman Gunan.

Portrait of a former Thai navy diver, Samarn Kunan, who died during the rescue mission for the 12 b
Portrait of a former Thai navy diver, Saman Gunan, who died during the rescue mission for the Wild Boar Academy football team at the Tham Luang cave complex, is seen in the funeral in Chiang Rai. (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

On June 30, 2018, Saman flew to Chiang Rai. He told his wife he would deliver something at the Tham Luang cave complex. Not much information was given, and Valepon thought he would return the next day.

"See you this evening in Chiang Rai. May luck be on our side and bring the boys home," Saman said in a video he shot with his mobile phone before departure. He was seen wearing sunglasses and standing in front of a military plane on the runway. On his left hand he wore his wedding ring.

Valepon told CNA she had no idea her husband would volunteer to dive in the dark, water-clogged cavern, whose complex network of winding passages and underground chambers made the world's most experienced cave divers uneasy. Still, she was worried. There was a feeling of dread he was up to something dangerous.

READ: 'It's a miracle': Thai boys relive ordeal in broadcast

READ: Grit, daring and beating terror: Stories of how Thailand's cave boys were rescued

"He was stubborn. I asked him every single day when he would come home and he would tell me there was no flight or asked to spend one more night with his brothers. On the day he arrived there, he said they had to race against time because it was raining, damp and wet," she said.

Saman was an active social media user. From the day he arrived at the Tham Luang caves, he shared many photographs and videos with friends and family on various platforms. After finishing work on the rescue efforts - usually in the early hours - he would reply to his wife's messages, telling her what he was up to, where he was going and when he might be able to see her.

Tham Luang caves
Pitch black, cold and dangerous, a photo taken from inside the Tham Luang cave complex, where a junior football team was trapped. (Photo: Thai Navy SEAL)

On Jul 5, Saman sent her a photo of wild boars he had spotted and jokingly said, "Here they are! The 'Wild Boars' have been found!" Then he went quiet.

Valephon knew he had entered the caves but did not realise her husband was swimming for the last time. He did not answer her calls or reply to her messages. When she checked her phone the next morning, her questions were still unread: 

What are you doing? Why didn't you answer the phone? Have you left already? Where are you?

Saman died at about 2am that day. A lack of oxygen made him fall unconscious. His diving partner tried to revive him but did not succeed. He was brought to one of the chambers where first aid was administered. He was then rescued from the caves and taken to hospital, but nothing could be done. 

Valepon would see her husband one last time - but just his body in a coffin. She managed to say just a few words to the man she loved.

"Come home."

A FALLEN HERO

The news of Saman's death circulated quickly. People around the world joined Thais in their grief for the fallen hero. Outside the caves, Thai Navy SEAL commander Apakorn Yookongkaew was emotional in a press conference where he told reporters the herculean mission they had to complete.

"We're planning to carry oxygen through a pipe to the children and their coach. To reach them, however, it takes us five to six hours, and about the same amount of time on our way back. So, in total, we have to remain submerged for 12 hours," he said. "We've never experienced anything like this before."

But we won't let our colleague die for nothing. We will soldier on.

Rescuers worked through the night to try to reach a young football team and their coach who have
Rescuers worked round the clock to try to reach a young football team and their coach who were trapped inside a Thai cave. AFP/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA

Not long after Saman died, the Wild Boar footballers were rescued. Dozens of cave divers from around the world spent three days extracting them from the flooded caves. The operation was highly risky. All of the boys were sedated and fitted with a full-face mask before being carried out by cave divers. Every one of them made it to safety.

Upon learning about Saman's death, the Tham Luang survivors wept inside the hospital ward where they were recovering. They wrote farewell messages on his portrait, thanked him and promised to be good persons.

"It's like we get to live a new life. We're healthy, getting better each day, and back in the embrace of our families again. It's like a miracle. This miracle would never have happened without the determination and sacrifice of many people, and an important person in this mission is 'Brother Sam'," the team said in a statement.

Brother Sam has left us forever but his kindness towards us and our families will forever remain in our hearts. We would like to thank you for your dedication, sacrifice, will and determination that helped us. May your soul rest in heaven forever.

The global response to the incredible rescue was overwhelming. Since they were released from hospital, the boys and their coach have appeared in talk shows and events around the world. They were offered scholarships and, for the previously stateless team members, granted Thai citizenship. Netflix is currently working with them to produce a miniseries.

For Valepon, she was given a permanent job with the Airports of Thailand, where she replaced her husband. She also received a number of trophies and certificates in honour of his sacrifice.

In life or in death, Saman is her pillar of strength. Whenever she feels like giving in, Valepon speaks to his photographs. Her mobile phone is full of them, precious memories held close to her heart.

"I'm fine looking at his photos, but whenever I write something about them, I always cry," she told CNA.

"I smile when I'm with other people. But when I get home, I'm a mess. So, I have to build the strength for myself and distract myself by doing many things. When I don't have free time, I can't think about it over and over again."

Saman Gunan SEAL
"Saman, your intention and determination will always remain in our hearts, your fellow divers. Rest in peace. We'll accomplish this mission as you wished. Hooyah! Hooya! Hooyah!" said Thai SEAL in its message to the late diver. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Besides work and studies, Valepon also tells herself that Saman died for a great cause. He died to save 13 lives. The rescue to which he gave his life has transformed the backwater district of Mae Sai, which now sees throngs of tourists visit from around the world.

"He made me proud," she said. 

"I believe he'll be remembered. History has already been written. I don't think people will forget him."



Sent from my iPhone

Friday, June 21, 2019

1 dead, 2 injured in fire at LPG facility in Jurong, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

1 dead, 2 injured in fire at LPG facility in Jurong, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

1 dead, 2 injured in fire at LPG facility in Jurong

SINGAPORE - A massive fire in a Jurong industrial area raged for more than two hours and triggered loud explosions on Friday (June 21), killing one and leaving two people injured.

The fire at 43 Jalan Buroh, which involved hundreds of highly flammable liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders of various sizes, was described by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) as the largest LPG fire it had to combat.

The fire spread rapidly across the facility which was about the size of two football fields, triggering loud explosions. It took around 120 firefighters, who were alerted just after 5pm, to bring the blaze under control by 7.30pm and ensure that it did not spread to larger LPG storage tanks nearby. 

The facility is occupied by Summit Gas Systems, a subsidiary of Union Energy Corporation, which distributes LPG cylinders to residential and commercial customers. 

Colonel Anthony Toh, commander of the 4th SCDF Division, described the blaze as "raging and intense" when SCDF arrived. 

"Our priority when we arrived was to contain the fire and prevent further spread, and to protect the two long LPG bullet tanks, each about 60 tonnes in size," Col Toh said. 

Thirty-five emergency vehicles were deployed and, at the height of the firefighting operations, seven water jets, including an unmanned firefighting machine, were put into operation.

According to the SCDF, a man was found and pronounced dead at the scene by a paramedic. He was 43, police said. Two other men, aged 29 and 45, were conscious when taken to Singapore General Hospital. Both had burn injuries. 

The cause of the fire is being investigated. When contacted, Union Energy declined to comment. 

The scene at 43 Jalan Buroh at around 7.30pm on June 21, 2019. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

SGSecure mobile app users within the immediate vicinity of the fire would have received an advisory message urging them to stay away, said SCDF.

Boon Lay resident Linda Cheng, who is unemployed, told The Straits Times that she heard several loud explosions from her home around 5.20pm.

The 29-year-old took several videos of the area from which the sounds were heard, which showed thick smoke coming from a building in the distance.

There was also a strong burning smell in the area, she said.

"We thought the loud explosions were thunder, until we saw the thick smoke," Ms Cheng said.

The scene at 43 Jalan Buroh at around 8pm on June 21, 2019. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Mr Anthony Tai, who works in the logistics sector, said he was at home in Yuan Ching Road, about 4km away, when he heard multiple loud explosions shortly after 5pm. "I could see large, dark smoke from my window on the 10th floor," said the 63-year-old. 

A reader, who declined to be named, took several videos of the fire from 47 Jalan Buroh, which is located across the road.

There were people running out of the warehouse building when the fire started, he said.

Another eyewitness, who only wanted to be known as Mr Poh, told ST that he noticed the fire around 5pm.

"I heard about 10 to 20 loud explosions," he said, adding that the explosions stopped after a while.

The fire involved hundreds of highly flammable liquified petroleum gas cylinders of various sizes in an LPG facility. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY
The scene at 43 Jalan Buroh at 10.20pm on June 21, 2019. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

Photos circulating online showed the smoke could be seen from as far away as Jurong East, about 7km away.

Additional reporting by Zhaki Abdullah and Shintaro Tay

Unlock more articles at just $0.99/month

Subscribe to read all the stories you want today. Only $0.99/month for the first 6 months*.



Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Lawyer allegedly linked to missing $33 million had stolen Malaysian passport , Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Lawyer allegedly linked to missing $33 million had stolen Malaysian passport , Courts & Crime News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Lawyer allegedly linked to missing $33 million had stolen Malaysian passport

SINGAPORE - The lawyer who vanished after more than $33 million parked at his firm went missing had left Singapore for Malaysia in a private-hire car on May 13, a district court heard on Thursday (June 20).

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo said police investigations also showed that Jeffrey Ong Su Aun, the managing partner of law firm JLC Advisors, also disposed of his Singapore mobile phone when he reached Malaysia.

The 41-year-old Singaporean lawyer was later found with a stolen Malaysian passport which had been actually issued to a 43-year-old man whose photograph bore some resemblance to Ong.

The lawyer was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation as to why he had the passport with him. As such, police believe he has the knowledge and means to abscond, said DPP Khoo.

On Thursday, defence lawyer Jennifer Sia asked the court to release Ong on bail, stressing that he has a young son. Ong is currently in remand.

However, DPP Khoo highlighted the police findings and urged District Judge Luke Tan to not grant Ong bail as he poses a "high flight risk". The judge agreed with the DPP and Ong was not offered one.

The Straits Times had earlier reported that the monies, which was held in escrow by JLC Advisors for its client Allied Technologies, went missing last month. Ong became uncontactable soon after.

Escrow is an essential service in capital markets that supports transactions such as mergers and acquisitions.

Police investigations showed Ong had left for Malaysia after he was pressed into accounting for unauthorised withdrawals of clients' monies by the partners in his law firm.

Ong then left Singapore in a private-hire car after making arrangements with a friend known only as Nicholas. Apart from his wife, Ong did not inform anyone else of his plans to travel to Malaysia, the court heard.

In Malaysia, he met with one Dennis, a friend of Nicholas. Dennis initially brought Ong to his office and the lawyer stayed there for two or three days, police investigations revealed. 

The accused then moved to a hotel in Cheras, Vivatel Kuala Lumpur. Ong became uncontactable on May 16 after he got rid of his mobile phone and asked Dennis to provide him with another.

Police found that Ong then inserted a China SIM card into the phone Dennis gave him and used it for telecommunications while he was in Malaysia.

The court heard that Ong stayed at the hotel until officers from the Royal Malaysia Police arrested him on May 29. Ong was found to be in possession of the stolen Malaysian passport which he had obtained from another friend known only as Calvin. The lawyer was brought back to Singapore on May 30.

He was charged with eight counts of forgery and one count of cheating earlier this month. Ong was in court on Thursday to face 13 more charges of forgery for the purpose of cheating.

He is now accused of creating false documents on March 27 to dupe one Chan Yi Zhang into believing that more than US$4.8million (about S$6.5million) held in escrow by JLC Advisors were present and unused in its bank account.

The lawyer is said to have fraudulently created bank statements for most months between October 2017 to February this year.

According to court documents, the money was linked to a settlement involving two firms – trading company Airtrust Singapore and Wrangwell. A search on the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) website revealed that Airtrust Singapore is a 'live' company based in Raffles Quay. Nothing was found on Wrangwell on the Acra portal.

Court documents did not reveal how or if Airtrust Singapore and Wrangwell were linked to Allied Technologies. Ong's case has been adjourned to July 11.

Offenders convicted of forgery for the purpose of cheating can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each charge.

Following the incident, the Law Society said it may consider introducing rules and guidelines for operating escrow accounts after it completes its probe into JLC Advisors.

Unlock more articles at just $0.99/month

Subscribe to read all the stories you want today. Only $0.99/month for the first 6 months*.



Sent from my iPhone

Ride on time: 10,000 recycled bikes from Singapore, Malaysia get Myanmar kids to school - CNA

Ride on time: 10,000 recycled bikes from Singapore, Malaysia get Myanmar kids to school - CNA

Ride on time: 10,000 recycled bikes from Singapore, Malaysia get Myanmar kids to school

Asia
Children aged 13-16 living more than two kilometres from school will be at the front of the queue
Children aged 13-16 living more than two kilometres from school will be at the front of the queue for donated bikes. (Photo: AFP/Ye Aung THU)
(Updated: )

Bookmark

YANGON: When bike-sharing firms oBike, Ofo and Mobike pulled out of Singapore and Malaysia, they left behind thousands of perfectly-usable bikes in "graveyards".

Tech investor Mike Than Tun Win saw it as an opportunity to improve the lives of children in his home country of Myanmar. Buying up 10,000 bikes earlier this year, he shipped them home to be handed out to children, in hopes of giving them easier access to education.

One of the first 200 children to benefit from the scheme - called Lesswalk - was Thae Su Wai, who will no longer need to trudge 10km for two hours to and from lessons, she told AFP.

"I'll have more time to study and play with friends," the 11-year-old said, as she excitedly wheeled away her new bicycle at Nhaw Kone Village school near Yangon.

The aim is to keep up momentum and hand out a total of 100,000 bikes over five years
The aim is to keep up momentum and hand out a total of 100,000 bikes over five years. (Photo: AFP/Ye Aung THU)

Mike grew up and was educated in Singapore before returning home eight years ago with a business degree.

"I saw students walking for many hours to get to school and I felt really sorry for them," the 33-year-old said.

UNICEF estimates 55 per cent of children in Myanmar live in poverty, while half of 17-year-olds enter adulthood with little or no education.

UNICEF estimates 55 percent of children in Myanmar live in poverty, while half of 17-year-olds enter
UNICEF estimates 55 per cent of children in Myanmar live in poverty, while half of 17-year-olds enter adulthood with little or no education. (Photo: AFP/Ye Aung THU)

READ: Wheel woes: The rise and fall of Singapore's bike-sharing industry

READ: Commentary: The curious case of slick start-ups that tout billion-dollar valuations then rapidly collapse

He hopes the bikes will help keep more kids in school for longer, giving them an education so they can "escape from poverty".

Each cycle cost him just US$35, including shipping and distribution, and he footed half the bill, with the other half coming from sponsors.

After exchanging the bike-share lock for a seat on the back, he is now starting to hand out the bright orange and yellow cycles to more children.

Lesswalk hopes the bikes will help keep more kids in school for longer, giving them an education so
Lesswalk hopes the bikes will help keep more kids in school for longer, giving them an education so they can escape from poverty. (Photo: AFP/Ye Aung THU)

Yangon is Lesswalk's first stop before Mike rolls out the scheme in Mandalay and Sagaing regions later this month.

Children aged 13-16 living more than two kilometres from school will be at the front of the queue.

"Most parents here are poor," says Ni Ni Win, 55, headteacher of Thae Su Wai's school.

"Many children don't even have umbrellas - they just use pieces of plastic to cover them when it rains."

Mandalay entrepreneur Mike Than Tun Win bought up cycles from bike-sharing companies who had pulled
Mandalay entrepreneur Mike Than Tun Win bought up cycles from bike-sharing companies who had pulled out of Singapore and Malaysia. (Photo: AFP/Ye Aung THU)

Mike says this is just the start - the aim is to keep up the momentum and hand out a total of 100,000 bikes over five years.

"They might not be worth anything in Singapore, but they're valuable in a poorer country," he said.



Sent from my iPhone

Monday, June 17, 2019

Jay Chou, X Japan drummer Yoshiki slammed for socialising with Jackie Chan, Entertainment News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Jay Chou, X Japan drummer Yoshiki slammed for socialising with Jackie Chan, Entertainment News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Jay Chou, X Japan drummer Yoshiki slammed for socialising with Jackie Chan

It is not safe now for celebrities to post photographs of themselves having drinks with Jackie Chan.

Two artists - Taiwan Mandopop king Jay Chou and Yoshiki, drummer of Japanese iconic rock band X Japan - have been criticised by netizens for socialising with the gongfu star.

Their ire came in the wake of protests in Hong Kong against having an extradition treaty which could send dissenters to mainland China for trials.

Chan is seen as pro-Beijing, appearing in a recent video that featured him, among others, singing the Chinese national anthem.

When he was asked about the outcry in Hong Kong, Chan, who was in Taipei to promote his new album I Am Jackie Chan, his first pop album in 16 years, said: "I just found out only yesterday that there was a big parade. I don't know anything about it."

That bland response did not go down well with some netizens, who felt that Chan, 65, should have used his star power to at least ask for calm from the protesters and authorities in tackling the issue.

Chou, 40, who captioned his photo with Chan that was put up on Wednesday (June 12), said: "Wishing Big Brother big sales for his new album."

The album has input from Chou.

According to Taiwan News, that sentiment infuriated netizens, who called Chou out for being insensitive, given that the atmosphere in Hong Kong was still tense then.

Other netizens asked Chou to drop ties with Chan, whose fling with Hong Kong beauty queen Elaine Ng back in 1999 is still not entirely forgiven by Taiwanese, given that he was married to Taiwanese sweetheart Lin Feng-jiao, a former actress.

Yoshiki, 53, also found himself in the firing line when he posted a picture on June 12, captioning it: "Wonderful dinner with #JackieChan."

According to portal SoraNews24, one netizen wrote: "I am sorry, X and you are very important to me and I love you very much, but your photo with this guy made me cry."

But some fans tried to drum up support for the musician, with one posting: "You guys should keep your politics and personal hatred out of Yoshiki's page. Have some respect."

Yoshiki, meanwhile, has offered an olive branch.

"My dear fans, if any of my posts made you feel like... I'm not considering any situation, I deeply apologise. I really care about all my fans and friends," he tweeted on June 14.

Meanwhile, there is talk that Chan's management would now have a hard time getting other celebrities to help plug his album, raising fears over its sales prospects.

Unlock more articles at just $0.99/month

Subscribe to read all the stories you want today. Only $0.99/month for the first 6 months*.



Sent from my iPhone

Friday, June 14, 2019

Muslims in Singapore a model for those in other countries: Masagos, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Muslims in Singapore a model for those in other countries: Masagos, Singapore News & Top Stories - The Straits Times

Muslims in Singapore a model for those in other countries: Masagos

SINGAPORE - Muslim communities globally find themselves in challenging times, but Muslims in Singapore are far more happily placed, and can be a model for those in other countries, Mr Masagos Zulkifli said on Friday (June 14).

The system and model that has enabled them to do so should be shared with others, the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs noted, in announcing plans to hold a conference on this theme next year.

It will "discuss the development and application of religious guidance for Muslim minorities who wish to live as dignified and contributing citizens in their societies", Mr Masagos said at an annual Hari Raya get-together for community and religious leaders.

Mr Masagos, who is Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said that unlike in other countries, Muslims in Singapore are not viewed with suspicion because of the acts of terrorists.

While the community here has not been spared from the influence of extremist ideologies, "what differentiates us is that our community condemns such ideologies", he said.

"Our vigilance against extremism and our cooperation with the authorities to curb problems earn us the trust of others. This also demonstrates our desire to live harmoniously in a plural society," he said.

Emphasising this difference, he added: "We need not be apologetic for terrorism, nor do we need to see ourselves as victims. We are not liabilities, rather, we contribute to the nation and the economy, and we solve our own problems. We have the trust and respect of society."

Also present at the event at the Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel were Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat; Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean; Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu; and Malay/Muslim MPs.

Speaking in English and Malay, Mr Masagos outlined how the Muslim community has achieved various successes, and excelled in three key areas: character, competence and citizenry.

On character, he cited how 400 religious teachers, or asatizah, and professionals have stepped up to help in various M3 initiatives since the programme was launched last year. M3 is a collaboration between three community institutions - the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), self-help group Mendaki and the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council (Mesra) - to better help the less well-off uplift themselves.

Another example is how the community has come forward to help the needy.

Last year, Muslims gave $43 million in zakat to help vulnerable families, and another $18 million to build mosques. Total contributions to mosque building, since 1975, exceed $250 million - excluding donations made directly to mosques on a daily basis.

He also pointed out that the community's wakaf (charitable endowment) assets stood at more than $940 million as of last year.

"We were able to raise these funds not because there are many high-income earners or millionaires among us, but because of our values," he said, noting the high volunteerism rate among Malay/Muslims.

Mr Masagos also underscored the importance of being competent, and cited three examples of individuals who have uplifted themselves.

One of them is tech professional Arif Rahman, who had to leave school after his N levels, and worked odd jobs like as a private-hire driver. But he had a keen interest in the IT sector, so he signed up for a placement programme, and today works in an international blockchain start-up.

Mr Masagos highlighted two goals for the community: ensure that all Malay/Muslim students can at the very least enrol and graduate from the Institute of Technical Education, and get as many students as possible into university.

As for citizenry, he noted that many Muslims elsewhere cling to religious rituals and don't see how they can be both good Muslims and good citizens.

"We may pride ourselves on the religious and social values we hold as a Muslim community, but such values can only be appreciated when they are brought to life through initiatives that benefit everyone," he said.

He urged Singapore's 4,500 asatizah to work with the Office of the Mufti and other community leaders to develop a school of thought for the Singapore Muslim community, so that Muslims here can go about their religious practice with confidence.

"We do not have to worry if it is a religious problem to attend milestone celebrations or life events of friends or even family members of a different faith. In fact, we should wish them well during their festivals," he said.

Rounding off his speech, Mr Masagos said the Muslim community is not one of problems, but one that solves them.

"We have a lot to be proud of," he said.

"Life will always bring challenges. For Singapore, we cannot forge ahead if we have no confidence in ourselves. If we start feeling less than others, we will certainly fail," he added. "We must remember that we are a community with the strength of character, with the competence to contribute and with a strong sense of citizenry. We are a community of success."

Unlock more articles at just $0.99/month

Subscribe to read all the stories you want today. Only $0.99/month for the first 6 months*.



Sent from my iPhone