Friday, February 26, 2010

Everyday Rob People

It's amazing that it takes a witty taxi-driver to interpret the ERP as Everyday Rob People. How this amusing taxi-driver's witticism strikes a chord with motorists depends on whether they are affluent who regard ERP charges as peanuts or they belong to the less afflluent who feel the pinch of the ERP charges. Of course, the government ministers are a class of their own as they either travel in official cars or do not give any thought to ERP charges as they are affluent enough with their obscene salaries to regard such charges as peanuts.

In June, 2008 there was a bright spark of a minister who was also the general secretary of the NTUC. He regaled an audience in a two-hour dialogue with what he thought was his ingenious driving experience of getting car beeps four to five times a day from the ERP gantries which he passed through on his way to and from work and thought nothing of it. What the audience did not realise was that he was a minister drawing a fat obscene pay and the car beeps charges probably did not come out of his pocket. The audience's laughter probably gave him a false sense of security that the audience, or for that matter the public, did not think that he was a joker.

Is the ERP system a boon or a bane? The Transport Minister, who represents the government, swears to it that it smoothens the flow of traffic where gantries have been set up. But does it? You still find traffic snarls in places like Braddell and Thomson Road gantry in front of Media Corp during peak hours. Then there is the so-called double whammy. For example, if one leaves Selegie Road and enters Orchard Road there is a 50-cent charge. But when the same person returns to Selegie Road from Bras Basah Road he incurs a $1.50 charge.

Whether the system is a boon or a bane is a moot point depending on whether it is from the government's point of view or from the motorists' point of view. Of course, It enhances the government's coffers, hence the ERP is called by some people "Everyday Rob People". It is quite widespread and not just the taxi-driver's interpretation. As to the Transport Minister's assertion that it smoothens traffic, he should listen to the uncomplimentary remarks of irate motorists.

Well, no system is perfect. So there is obviously a need for the beleaguered Transport Minister and his ebullient Land Transport Authority (LTA) to straighten out the unevenness of the ERP system. It is likely that the LTA staff have exhausted their ideas and there is nothing humiliating to invite innovative ideas from the public, with monetary incentives if necessary.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The insensitive indiscretion of Senior Paster Rony Tan

There is in fact no tenable defence for the inordinate indiscretion of Senior Pastor Rony Tan of the Lighthouse Evangelism church for his denigration of Buddhism and Taoism in his "miracle service". The pastor is in fact a charming and rational personality normally and exudes charisma in conducting his miracle and Sunday services at the Lighthouse Evangelism church. Attendees at the church were invariably mesmerised by his sermons which were delivered with his inimitable splendor. His genial disposition endears him to his parishioners. He has given so much of his life to the salvation of the seriously-ill who flocked to his miracle services for miracle cures. And this is a phenomenon which has to be witnessed to be believed. Even doctors who had been invited to attend such services were amazed at the "miracles".

Many people were stunned when they witnessed the incredible performance of Senior Pastor Rony Tan on online video clips when he ridiculed Buddhism in his disparaging comments about the religion. There was no doubt that these were insensitive comments which horrified and outraged the Buddhists. There was extensive public clamour for drastic action to be taken against Pastor Tan including detention under the ISA. The outburst of outrages was something to be expected considering the sensitivity of the issue. But it was up to the government security organisation, in this case the Internal Security Department (ISD), to assess the situation and take a rational view as to the type of action to be taken. In their professional assessment, they considered it adequate just be calling up Pastor Tan for a dressing down for his insensitive comments about Buddhism and a stern advice not to run down other religions in his preaching and proselytising.

Pastor Rony Tan should thank his God to be let off so lightly. He has posted an apology on the church's website, promising to respect other faiths and "not ridicule them in any way, shape and fashion". But some diehard Buddhists have maintained that posting an apology on the church's website is a lukewarm effort with its limited readership. It transpires now that TV Singapore has given quite comprehensive news reporting in all four languages of Pastor Rony Tan's apology and this should satisfy any lingering doubts as to the pastor's sincerity. Even DPM Wong Kan Seng has expressed his satisfaction with the final development.

Both the Singapore Buddhist Federation and the Singapore Taoist Federation have shown magnanimity in their response to this issue. This unfortunate polemic should now be considered closed.