Man jailed 6 months for slapping and punching MSF officer
SINGAPORE: Angered by a Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) officer's questions over his financial situation, Tan Seng Choon slapped and punched the 34-year-old woman 11 times on her face and neck.
The 56-year-old was sentenced to six months jail on Monday (Feb 29), for his "lawless and senseless act of defiance".
Tan assaulted the officer while she was interviewing him as part of his application for financial aid. While going through Tan's financial statements, the officer realised large withdrawals had been made from his accounts.
When she asked Tan to explain these withdrawals, he "became agitated and started to gesticulate forcefully" and told her that he had lent the money to his friends. However, he was unable to produce any documents to support his claim.
Angered that the officer would not believe him, Tan reached across the table and slapped the woman's face. He walked over to her side of the table and began to punch the officer on her face and neck. By this time, the woman had backed into a corner in an attempt to ward off Tan's punches, and was screaming in pain.
The officer's colleagues heard her screams and rushed to her aid. Tan was arrested at the scene, and the woman was taken to hospital. The attack was captured on the CCTV camera in the interview room of the Social Service Office at Toa Payoh HDB Hub.
In court on Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ruth Teng said the assault was an "unprovoked, vicious attack" on a frontline officer who had just been doing her job. A clear signal needs to be sent that "wanton attacks on frontline staff" will not be tolerated, DPP Teng said, adding that the attack was a "lawless and senseless act of defiance".
Tan's lawyer Leon Koh, who took on the case as part of the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, pointed out that the assault was not premeditated, and that Tan had "acted on the spur of the moment … out of anger". While he conceded that the attack was "vicious", Mr Koh noted that the officer did not sustain any bleeding or serious injuries.
The lawyer also noted that Tan had been suffering from schizoaffective disorder since the 1970s. But a psychiatric report dated January 2016 from the Institute of Mental Health clarified that Tan had in fact been aware of his actions, and deemed him fit to plead.
In sentencing Tan to six months' jail, District Judge John Ng said Tan "must realise the seriousness of his offence". Judge Ng told Tan that while he may not have appreciated the questions the officer had to ask him, she had to do her job, and his attack on her was "disproportionate and terrifying".
For causing hurt to a public servant, Tan could have been jailed up to seven years and fined.
Two ministers will address Parliament on Monday on the death of a 14-year-old schoolboy who was being investigated by police, which made headlines in recent weeks.
Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam is scheduled to make a ministerial statement on the case, while Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng will speak on the issue of students under investigation.
Secondary 3 student Benjamin was found dead at the foot of his HDB block in Yishun on Jan 26. Earlier that day, he had been picked up from his school by police officers and taken to the Ang Mo Kio Police Division for questioning over the alleged molestation of an 11-year-old girl. He had been identified through closed-circuit television records.
He was later released on bail and went home with his mother.
The case has sparked public debate and drawn much speculation on social media about the police's conduct and the circumstances leading up to Benjamin's death.
Police have said they are reviewing their procedures when young persons are interviewed, including the issue of allowing an appropriate adult to be present.
Seven MPs have filed questions for Mr Shanmugam and Mr Ng on the measures police and schools take to safeguard the interests of young persons who are investigated or arrested.
Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) wants the Home Affairs Ministry to give an update on the police review.
Mr Ng, who looks after the area where Benjamin lived, told The Straits Times he had attended the boy's wake and met his father and the police, as well as his school principal, and hoped there would be some answers on what happened.
Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) and Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) also want to know if the Home Affairs Ministry could have addressed the speculation on social media about the case in a more timely manner.
MPs have also asked questions about measures to protect Singaporeans against the Zika virus and the proposed alignments of the Cross Island Line.
Several green groups are calling for the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to rethink possible plans to build an MRT tunnel under the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, the country's largest nature reserve.
This comes after the LTA released an environmental impact assessment report earlier this month, which stated "moderate" impact to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve when work on preliminary soil tests for the train line starts in the third quarter of the year.
The Nature Society has suggested an alternative route where the line loops around the southern edges of the reserve. But this means that some land may be acquired and affected residents will have to move.
Mr Louis Ng wants to know if the Transport Ministry will consider the alternative route, while Non- Constituency MP Leon Perera wants to know how the National Development Ministry will mitigate the environmental impact if the train line does run under the nature reserve.
Associate Professor Daniel Goh of the Workers' Party will also be sworn in as the third NCMP on Monday, filling the seat given up by Ms Lee Li Lian, who contested Punggol East SMC in the last election.
Mobile crane that crashed into Woodlands POSB branch removed
SINGAPORE - Work to remove the mobile crane that crashed into a Housing Board block in Woodlands Town Centre was finally completed by 3am on Thursday (Feb 25) morning.
It took just minutes for the crane to be hoisted off the ground and moved away from the wall.
Preparation works began around midnight, when the roads were closed for two rescue cranes to move into the site.
They were there to extract the crane which had fallen on its side and become stuck in the side of a POSB bank branch at 7am on Wednesday morning.
The crane had skidded off the road and fallen onto its side while making a turn at the junction of Admiralty Road and Woodlands Centre Road.
No one was injured in the incident, which left a hole around 2m wide in the side of the POSB branch.
On Thursday morning, construction workers in hardhats were seen entering the large hole which the arm of the fallen crane had punched into the side of Block 2A Woodlands Centre Road.
Other workers fastened thick cables from the two rescue cranes around the fallen machine, as curious onlookers gathered behind a police cordon.
Part of the northbound side of Woodlands Centre Road was closed for the operation.
Among the bystanders was taxi driver Mohd Anuar Kasim, 59, who was driving the night shift.
"I was going to get a coffee so I wanted to see what was happening," he said.
Watching the operation from the third-floor common corridor of the neighbouring Block 1A was resident Mohamed Noor Abdullah, 57. The road closure began around midnight and the two cranes were in position by 1am, he said.
They spent a while removing debris from the site before work began on the fallen crane.
At around 2.20am, the two cranes began to lift the fallen crane and manoeuvre it out of the building. With loud bangs and crashes, the crane arm started to emerge.
With its arm freed, the suspended crane was pulled slowly away from the building and hoisted into the air.
The two cranes slowly manoeuvred the fallen crane towards the road, snapping a few branches off a nearby tree in the process.
By 2.30am, the fallen crane was being held aloft in the middle of the junction of Admiralty Road and Woodlands Centre Road.
The crane, still on its side, was lowered into the bed of a waiting trailer.
Removing the crane from the building took barely 10 minutes, but it was not until 3am that the fallen crane was fastened to the trailer and the two rescue cranes could relinquish their load.
At around 3.05am, the trailer and its cargo finally set off along Admiralty Road.
Earlier in the day, engineers from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) had assessed the damage. Part of an adjoining linkway structure was also damaged.
According to a BCA spokesman, the structural integrity of the building was not affected by the crash.
While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Feb 21 edition
Huge cyclone leaves trail of destruction in Fiji
Fijian officials were assessing the damage on Sunday after one of the most powerful storms recorded in the southern hemisphere tore through the archipelago, with early reports of widespread disruption and one confirmed death.
Reports from the ground said entire villages had been wiped out by Cyclone Winston, a Category 5 tropical cyclone that packed winds of 230kmh, with gusts of up to 325kmh.
The storm hit Fiji late on Saturday, having changed direction at the last minute to spare the capital Suva the full force of its winds.
Indonesia arrests 'dozens of suspected Islamic radicals'
Indonesian police have arrested dozens of suspected Islamic extremists on Java island, most of whom were allegedly carrying out military-style training on a remote mountain, police and reports said Saturday.
Around 30 were reportedly detained late on Friday on Mount Sumbing as they took part in the training, while another five were arrested the same day in raids in the city of Malang.
It was not clear whether they were linked to the gun and suicide attacks in Jakarta last month which left four civilians and four assailants dead, and were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.
Football: West Brom star Brunt pelted with coins by own fans after FA Cup defeat
West Bromwich Albion defender Chris Brunt was pelted with coins by his own club's fans after their surprise FA Cup fifth-round defeat at Reading on Saturday in an incident described as 'barbaric' by his manager.
Brunt had gone over to applaud Albion's travelling fans following their 3-1 loss to the second-tier side, but the mood turned sour and he went down clutching his face as coins rained down from angry supporters.
Northern Ireland international Brunt then confronted a group of Albion fans before being led away by captain Darren Fletcher after giving his shirt to a supporter.
Refugees documentary Fire At Sea wins Berlin fest top prize
Italian director Gianfranco Rosi's Fire At Sea, a harrowing documentary about Europe's refugee crisis, clinched the Berlin film festival's Golden Bear top prize on Saturday from a jury led by Meryl Streep.
As Europe grapples with its biggest migrant influx since World War II, the picture offers an unflinching look at life on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, where thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East have arrived trying to reach the European Union over the last two decades.
Streep said "the jury was swept away" by Fire At Sea, which she called "urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking".
Check out the worst passwords of 2015 - is yours on the list?
Weak passwords, using the same one for different websites and unsafe surfing habits can make Singaporeans easy targets for cyber criminals looking to steal private data, cyber security experts here say.
James Sim Guan Liang, 39, made tens of thousands of attempts to guess them when he realised some people used their NRIC number as their SingPass password - which also happened to be their username.
Such targeted attacks are only possible if people choose a word linked to their personal information, which may include things that they share through social media.
"Sometimes the answers to security questions for resetting passwords can easily be retrieved from an individual's personal data," said Mr Vicky Ray, a threat intelligence analyst from network security firm Palo Alto Networks.
"This could be responses to questions like: Where did one go to school? Such information can easily be retrieved from LinkedIn or Facebook."
Five password errors that make it easy for hackers to access users' private information
1. Using personal information that can be found on social media or commonly used words as passwords
2. Not using complex passwords that include a combination of lowercase letters, uppercase letters, digits and symbols.
3. Using short passwords that are fewer than nine characters in length.
4. Using one password for multiple websites or accounts.
5. Not changing passwords regularly.
LIST COMPILED BY VICKY RAY, A THREAT INTELLIGENCE ANALYST FROM NETWORK SECURITY FIRM PALOALTO NETWORKS.
It is one of the many ways passwords are cracked by dedicated hackers. Another is by using a weak or common password, like one on the "world's worst password" list.
This was published last week by password management firm SplashData, which analysed more than 20 million passwords globally that were leaked over the last year.
The list was topped by "123456", "password" and "qwerty" - the first five letters on the top row of a regular keyboard. New entries on the list, now in its fifth year, include pop culture references like "star wars", "solo", and "princess", following the release of the latest Star Wars movie.
Weak passwords are bypassed with software using a "brute force" approach to guessing them.
"With common, widely available cyber security tools, the average six- character, all-lowercase password takes less than 10 minutes to be cracked," said Mr David Siah, country general manager of security software firm Trend Micro Singapore. "Adding just one capital letter and an asterisk increases the cracking time for an eight-letter password from 2.4 days to 2.1 centuries."
Users may also be tricked into giving up their passwords when they surf the Internet.
"Most stolen passwords are 'lost' through phishing, where the victim is tricked into voluntarily giving up his credentials to a fake website made to look like the real site," said senior research fellow Nick FitzGerald from security software maker ESET Asia Pacific.
But Mr Charles Lim, a senior industry analyst for digital transformation at research firm Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific, stressed that it is also important for organisations to have strong database security.
Their password database can be hacked into, and the information sold to criminals, he said.
To boost security, passwords should be eight characters or more and include a combination of lower and uppercase letters, digits and symbols. Users should also change passwords often, not use the same password on different sites or use personal information or common words as passwords.
SMU student who deleted exam scripts for fear of doing badly sentenced to 2 months' jail
SINGAPORE - A Singapore Management University (SMU) Juris Doctor programme student deleted his and 18 fellow students' examination scripts when he realised that he would not do very well , a court heard on Feb 4.
Georgy Kotsaga, 32, thought that by deleting the scripts, he would get a chance to take the examination again.
But SMU's IT system makes real-time back-ups. So, all the examination scripts were recovered.
On Tuesday (Feb 16), the Russian was jailed for two months after he admitted to unauthorised access to computer material and unauthorised modification of computer material last November.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo said Kotsaga and 18 others took the final examination for a Law of Property module at SMU in Victoria Street, through the eLearn system, on Nov 24.
The offences came to light when a student e-mailed the university to say that the system showed that she had not completed the examination.
Checks found that there were no scripts whereas the database history showed 19 scripts. Investigation showed that the account "hwtang'', belonging to Professor Tang Hang Wu, had deleted the 19 scripts on Nov 24.
The device used to delete them was traced to Kotsaga's account. The "hwtang'' account was also used to access the account of another law professor, Professor Zhang Wei.
DPP Khoo said Kotsaga was worried that his Grade Point Average (GPA) at 3.09 would fall below 3.0 after the examination. So he decided to get the account credentials of the two law professors conducting the subject modules he was weak in.
He bought a USB hardware keylogger from Sim Lim Square, plugged it into the common desktop computers in the professors' respective classrooms and managed to capture their user ids and passwords.
On Nov 24, when he and 18 others were taking the final examination for the Law of Property module, he had difficulties answering the questions.
He went to the toilet and used his iPhone to access the eLearn Instructor account of Prof Tang and viewed the scripts of the other students taking the examination hoping to find useful information.
After the examination that day, he accessed the account of "hwtang'' again to view the examination script of another student for the module. He realised that he would not do very well and deleted all 19 examination scripts.
He could have been fined up to $5,000 and jailed for up to two years for unauthorised access, and fined up to $10,000 and jailed for up to three years for unauthorised modification.
Ask my almost-10-year-old son, and he will vouch that my timing has always been terrible.
Take, for instance, that time I decided to read him and his younger brother, 6½, a book about puberty while they were having breakfast. Flipping through It's Perfectly Normal, Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley's classic text on growing up and sexual health, I read aloud bullet points on how their bodies change as they become young men.
"Body sweats more," I intoned seriously.
"Eww," said the almost-10-year- old, his spoonful of Coco Pops in mid-air.
"Hair grows in the armpits," I went on, undeterred. He rolled his eyes.
"Hair grows on chest," I finished, triumphantly.
"Mummy!" he protested. Next to him, his younger brother's shoulders shook with silent giggles at the idea of a hirsute chest figuring in his future. The Supportive Spouse told me to wind it up or they'd be late for school.
"Okay," I said. "But don't forget to ask your father any questions you'd rather not ask me."
While some may think that I am nuts for talking to my children about puberty and sex so early, I believe in preparing them ahead, in appropriate increments, for the so-called facts of life.
One wouldn't dream of dumping six years' worth of maths syllabus on children when they turn 11 or 12, so why wait until then to educate them about something as fundamental and important as their bodies and sexual identity?
In the old days, it was pretty straightforward. Parents either declined to speak to their kids about sexual matters entirely, leaving their offspring to seek the knowledge from friends or other, more dubious, channels; or they very unsubtly left copies of sex-ed texts around the house. I still have my copy of Dr Nalla Tan's You Need To Know, with its dark pink cover. My mother gave it to me when I turned 10 and told me to read it. I did, and it was certainly useful.
While some may think that I am nuts for talking to my children about puberty and sex so early, I believe in preparing them ahead, in appropriate increments, for the so-called facts of life. One wouldn't dream of dumping six years' worth of maths syllabus on children when they turn 11 or 12, so why wait until then to educate them about something as fundamental and important as their bodies and sexual identity? Clara Chow
These days, however, sexuality has morphed into more gnarly terrain to navigate. Online sexual predators, sexual grooming and abuse are just a few of the digital age's threats against our children.
In 2014, then British Education Minister David Laws said that age-appropriate sex education should be taught in schools to seven-year-olds and up.
Writing shortly after to argue the case for this in The Independent in London, columnist Chloe Hamilton pointed out that sex education is as much to do with teaching children about their bodies as it is to do with foreplay and sexually-transmitted diseases: "Now, more than ever, it is important that children are taught from a young age to recognise inappropriate sexual behaviour and to beware the dangers that lurk in the deepest, darkest corners of the Internet."
Indeed, I'm not leaving it to chance that my 6½-year-old knows which parts of the body are private and what kinds of touching are inappropriate. But more than as a safety precaution, I aim to inform my kids early about human biology, so as not to make it taboo.
Your body - its strange lumps and humps, and embarrassing noises and smells - is nothing to be ashamed about, I want to tell them. It behaves the way nature intends.
In adolescence, your body leads your mind where it should know better not to go. How much less confusing it would be, if my sons have the scientific explanations for why such things are happening. If they know that they are not the only ones having to deal with these age-old phenomena, the living organism's valiant struggle not to fall extinct, they might be better equipped to understand themselves and others.
Hopefully, they will know that such things are, as the book puts it, "perfectly normal".
The idea is to build on discussions of sex gradually, instead of giving that one-off, awkward lecture about "the birds and the bees" to a fidgeting teen who is already tuning you out.
But wait too long to broach the subject and the whole exercise might become excruciating for both parent and child. Already, my tween son hazards a few impatient eye-rolls when I initiate conversation about things he deems uncool. In a couple of years, I think, the chance of him wanting to discuss his male bits with me would be zero.
In 2012, a Health Promotion Board-sponsored poll - of 1,169 Singapore households with children aged 10 to 17 - found that less than 50 per cent of parents actually talk to their children about sex. This, despite 80 per cent responding that it is crucial to address issues such as premarital sex and contraception.
Currently, the Ministry of Education has a Growing Years programme for Primary 5 and 6 pupils that deals with, among other things, the harmfulness of pornography, identifying healthy friendships, physical changes and coping with infatuation.
Individuals develop at a different pace and I wonder if P5 might be too late for my old soul of a 10-year-old. Better to lay the foundation of frank discussion at home, in a way that I can control and calibrate.
In contrast, Ms Debra Hauser, president of American non-profit organisation Advocates for Youth, wrote in 2013 in The New York Times that "quality sex education should start in kindergarten".
Similarly, Canadian non-profit paediatric healthcare website AboutKidsHealth offers a rough guide to what children should learn about sex at what age. It suggests that from ages two to five, children should be taught the very basics of human reproduction and from ages five to eight, they should continue that understanding. This may include telling them about the role of sexual intercourse.
I try, as far as possible, to explain everything clinically and accurately to my children - excising a few advanced details here and there. Admittedly, this approach can backfire.
Last year, when my six-year-old asked me where babies came from, I told him that the mother produces an egg and the father provides the sperm. The meeting of sperm and egg creates an embryo, which grows into a baby. My boy nodded, quietly absorbing the information.
The next day, displaying timing almost as bad as mine (or perhaps impeccable), he turned to me as we were walking to school and asked, in a voice loud enough to carry up several floors of the neighbouring blocks: "Does Papa have sperm now?"
I almost died.
Then again: To be curious? It's perfectly normal.
•Clara Chow is a full-time writer and co-founder of art and literary journal WeAreAWebsite.com
Who's afraid of 'chao ah beng'? Overseas universities use Singaporean literature to teach
In a classroom in the mediaeval city of York, northern England, university students discuss the use of Singlish terms such as "chao ah beng" and Singapore's history and socio-political context.
They are studying poet-playwright Alfian Sa'at's poem, Singapore You Are Not My Country, which has been taught in a global literatures module at the University of York for the past three years.
From Britain to the United States and India, more texts by Singaporean writers like Boey Kim Cheng, Arthur Yap, Edwin Thumboo and Stella Kon are being taught at universities across the world, at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
On the reading lists
NYU Sydney (New York University)
• Balli Kaur Jaswal: Inheritance (2013)
• Boey Kim Cheng: Between Stations (2009)
• Edwin Thumboo, Arthur Yap: selected poems
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
• Stella Kon: Emily Of Emerald Hill (1989)
• Alfian Sa'at: sex.violence.blood.gore (1999, with Chong Tze Chien), Malay Sketches (2012) - selected short stories
The University of York
• Alfian Sa'at: Singapore You Are Not My Country (1998)
University of Calgary
• Arthur Yap: selected poems
University of Mysore & University of Kerala
• Edwin Thumboo: Ulysses By The Merlion (1977)
The New College, Chennai
• Edwin Thumboo: The Exile (1977)
Sardar Patel University
• Kirpal Singh: To A Visitor To Singapore (1997), Change (2000)
Community College of City University
• Edwin Thumboo: selected works
West Virginia University
• Alfian Sa'at, Arthur Yap and Wong May: selected poems
CAMBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL EXAMINATIONS O-LEVELS/IGCSE
Literature in English syllabus
• Boey Kim Cheng: Reservist (1992), The Planners (1992)
• Amanda Chong: lion heart (2006)
World literature syllabus
• Jean Tay: Boom (2009)
At least 10 universities have introduced Singaporean texts in recent years, often in global literature courses.
Dr Claire Chambers, 40, a lecturer in global literatures at the University of York, said Alfian's poem is the first South-east Asian text that she has used in the module, which has an enrolment of 250 students.
The poem, introduced to her by a British student, is taught alongside works by Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe and Booker Prize-winning British Indian author Salman Rushdie in a class on how English became the world's lingua franca.
Dr Chambers said the text was chosen because of its "witty, innovative and hybrid language usage".
"(Alfian) Sa'at introduces non-Anglophone words and concepts, and puts together words in an expressive portmanteau style," she said.
Mr Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang, 32, a doctoral candidate at the English department of West Virginia University in the US, saw parallels in Singapore texts and literary work from his native Ghana, which he included for a module on non-Western literature last year. "(Singapore's founding prime minister) Lee Kuan Yew had a connection with Ghana around the time of our independence... with Ghana's first president Kwame Nkrumah talking about a letter of solidarity he received from him after our first coup in one of his books. Since we were both colonised, there was a lot of cultural and historical similarity," said Mr Opoku-Agyemang, who was introduced to poems by Arthur Yap, Alfian Sa'at and Wong May by a Singaporean colleague.
A number of works by Singaporean authors have also been included in the international O-level Literature in English syllabus and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) syllabus in recent years. Boey's poem The Planners has been tested from 2013 to 2015, and will be used in 2017 and 2018. Another poem, Reservist, will be examined from 2017 to 2019. Lawyer Amanda Chong's poem lion heart will be tested from this year till 2019.
Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) administers both exams. A CIE spokesman said the texts are usually chosen based on suggestions by teachers at Cambridge schools worldwide, and that the Singapore texts were picked for the "quality of writing and potential appeal to students internationally".
Catherine Lim's Or Else, The Lightning God And Other Stories, used in 1989 and 1990, was the first Singapore book to be selected for the exams. Students from 10,000 schools in 160 countries take the CIE.
Australia-based Boey, 50, said Singaporean literature has become more visible due to the mobility of Singapore writers and frequency of reading tours overseas.
"As to how books travel, and how Singapore voices are being heard in remote places, I like to think that there is an element of serendipity, something fortuitous in the way a reader picks up a book (and) is so struck by it that he/she makes it a mission to pass the news."
However, Singaporean writer Koh Jee Leong, 45, who runs the biennial Singapore Literature Festival in New York, where he is based, lamented the paucity of interest in local literature in Singapore.
He said: "I think it's a shame that Singaporean literature is increasingly being read, even studied, abroad, but that Singaporeans themselves have been so reluctant to embrace our own writers."