The verdict is out, Pedra Branca is ours, but…

It is interesting to note how the issue was presented by both sides of the media. Over here in Singapore, Straits Times decided that a rosy spin would be nice:

…when Judge Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh concluded his two-hour statement at 6pm, Singaporeans and Malaysians alike applauded the decision.

Over at Malaysia’s National News Agency,, the story wasn’t quite as rosy. Malaysian’s International Trade and Industry Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, said:

I’m rather disappointed with the decision made by the ICJ on Pulau Batu Puteh which was not in favour of Malaysia.

As a subject of Johor, I’m sad because whatever consideration applied by the ICJ under international law, in terms of the historical value, sovereignty and morality, we have lost part of our territory

… Hopefully, Singapore will not be arrogant over the latest decision on Pulau Batu Puteh

The fact that Malaysians probably aren’t applauding now is probably best shown by the call for calm by chairman and chief executive of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Datuk Seri Mohamed Jawhar Hassan:

Don’t be emotional and spread anti-Singapore sentiments which would not bring any benefit to Malaysia or to bilateral relations between the two countries

Yet another one from the New Straits Times, Loss a big blow for fishermen:

The normally quiet fishing community in Sungai Rengit, Pengerang, 65km from here, became highly charged yesterday, as fishermen shook their heads in disbelief over the loss of Pulau Batu Puteh.

The Straits Times conveniently left out all negative references of what the Malaysian government had said, while the… did not bother to include anything the Singapore authorities had said.

I’m not sure which is worse. But actually I should know which is: The Straits Times. Omission is probably less of a crime than distortion. But one thing for sure: patriotism is one thing, responsible journalism is quite another.

The Art and Craft of Saying Sorry

Mr Franco Guo is in the soup for uttering one of the most rascist remarks made by a blogger to date, too uncouth to be republished here, on his blog (see Google’s cache).

Mr Guo has since been arrested, and apologised. Much has been discussed on the blogosphere about his racism, bigotry and what not, so we shall not spend any more time talking about it. Instead, it is interesting to note the way he had apologised:

Sincere Apologies

Dear Readers,

I would like to express my sincere apologies for any misinterpretation to my blog entry [italics added].

I regret having mentioned this entry in my blog which I didn’t expect it to turn out to be like this, I should have been more mindful.

Once again, I am sincerely apologetic for the recent events that had happen.

Your’s sincerely, Franco

Mr Guo may not be the most grammatical or tactful blogger around, but he sure has learnt quite a bit about the art and craft of apologising. It may also be instructive to look at the top three apologies made by our leaders in recent times–which may be the source of Mr Guo’s inspiration.

No. 3, Lee Kuan Yew to Abdullah:

I am sorry that what I said has caused you a great deal of discomfort. After a decade of troubled relations with your predecessor, it is the last thing I wanted.

No. 2, Wong Kan Seng on the escape of Mas Selamat:

This should never have happened. I am sorry that it has.

Holding on to the top spot still has to be Wee Siew Kim on behalf of Wee Shu Min:

… I think if you cut through the insensitivity of the language, her basic point is reasonable, that is, that a well-educated university graduate who works for a multinational company should not be bemoaning about the Government and get on with the challenges in life.

Nonetheless, I have counseled her to learn from it. Some people cannot take the brutal truth and that sort of language, so she ought to learn from it…

Comparing Mr Guo’s apology with these exemplars, one would realise that there are striking similarities between his apology and Wee Siew Kim’s apology. The former is sorry that you, yes you, misguided reader, have misinterpreted his blog; the latter is well, sorry that some people cannot take the “brutal truth”.

Both of them lack the finesse displayed in Lee’s apology–which although did not apologise for what he said, but is sorry that it is causing Abdullah “a great deal of discomfort”.

See, saying sorry is also an art and craft.

Mas Selamat not the pioneer of prison break using toilet break

Eight years ago Oh Chee Kiong had attempted the same feat at the Subordinate Court. One would have thought once bitten, twice shy.

Criminal who used loo break to escape from court jailed

December 31, 2000, by Aletha Lim, Straits Times

OH CHEE Kiong thought he could give the law the slip.

While waiting for a case against him to be heard in the Subordinate Courts, the 27-year-old said he wanted to use the loo.

He answered the call of nature, then took the opportunity to make a quick escape.

But the long arm of the law managed to catch up with Oh and he was back in court again on Friday – without ‘toilet leave’.

He was jailed for six years for a string of convictions such as criminal intimidation and forgery.

On the day of his escape on Oct 23, Oh was in a magistrate’s court to face seven counts of Films Act offences, including having obscene and uncensored films.

When he asked to go to the toilet, a court officer escorted him from the courtroom to the toilet through a holding room.

After he had used the loo, he went to the holding room as instructed by the officer.

While he was there, he realised he was alone and decided to escape.

Making sure that there was no one around in the toilet, he walked out of the room and ran up the stairs through a passageway.

He then left the building in Havelock Square and headed for home in a cab.

Three days later, he was arrested at a house in Upper Serangoon Road for possession and consumption of drugs…

His Biggest Mistake

Former Malaysian Health Minister Chua Soi Lek’s said:

My biggest mistake was to go to the same hotel and the same room, thinking that it would be more convenient

Apparently, his biggest mistake has nothing to do with cheating on his wife.

Can’t understand the Chinese salesperson? Learn Chinese

The Straits Times, in a reaction story on Chinese nationals who do not speak English at front-line jobs, wrote:

There were also calls for Singaporeans to be more tolerant and patient towards China service staff. Several readers urged Singaporeans to brush up on their Mandarin.

Tired of being misunderstood by hawkers and salesmen, Hong Konger Sandy Young, 34, took up a six-month Mandarin course.

Now, the designer is able to order her food in Mandarin and even converse with cabbies.

‘I urge those who do not understand Mandarin to make an effort to learn it; life will be easier,’ she said. (“Readers write in with tales of woe, worries”, December 16, 2007)

Since when did all Singaporeans speak Mandarin?

We do not arrest people who punch others on the street: Police

Punched in the face and slammed twice onto two cars, Singaporean manager Mr Ho was infuriated to find that his American attacker will not be arrested by police here. The Straits Times wrote:

The suspect was taken away by officers from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), a group of [American] law enforcement officers who ‘protect’ members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps

… The police said they questioned the suspect but did not arrest him because the alleged offence – voluntarily causing hurt – is not a seizable one.

A police spokesman said: ‘The complainant was advised to lodge a magistrate’s complaint should he wish to pursue the case against the defendant.’ — Straits Times, “Punched, slammed onto cars by drunk US sailor”, December 16, 2007

According to our police:

The key difference between a seizable and a non-seizable offence is that for seizable offences (such as murder, rape, voluntarily causing grievous hurt or causing hurt with weapons), police officers are legally empowered to arrest without a warrant. For non-seizable offences (such as misappropriation of property and mischief), police require a warrant of arrest or an order from a magistrate to make an arrest. — Asst Director, Police, Audrey Ang, 2006, from

Because Mr Ho was only hurt — but not grievously hurt — by his attacker, he would have to make a complaint with one of this form before any action could be taken against his attacker. While Mr Ho’s case is not strictly one of road bullying, it is worth noting that road bullying is a criminal offence in Singapore and bullies are frequently jailed and caned:

There can be no place on our roads for road bullies. Such persons must be made aware of the severe detestation the law expresses in regard to such crimes. They must not be allowed to go away thinking that they can beat up somebody else on the slightest provocation for the price of a few thousand dollars. If this sort of incidents occur, when they get out of their vehicles and assault others who may have aggravated them by their driving or for any other reason, prison sentences must now follow… — Magistrate Gilbert Low, 2004, from

Whether the lack of action is a result of bureaucracy (such as when our police decided not to do anything when a person was beaten up by a gang of hooligans) or because the offender in question is an American sailor, Singaporeans will sure miss the resolve Singapore had when it decided to continue with the caning of Michael Fay — despite pleas and opposition from then President Bill Clinton.