Surprising Horizons

The Joy of Travel. The Realities of New Experiences.

Month: November 2017

Madame President, I Presume?

Hear ye, hear ye! Singapore has its first female president!

Ireland had its first female president back in 1990 but, you know, some countries have to start somewhere.

But all is not sweetness and roses in Singapore with Mdm Halimah Yacob’s appointment. You see, some Singaporeans feel slighted that Mdm Yacob has walked into the position due to some untimely government….restructuring of nominee procedures. Yes, that’s it.

In September 2016, the government mandated that this year’s president should be of Malay origin. A “reserved election”. The last Malay president was in 1970. The government stipulated if a race has not been president for five terms or 30 years then the “reserved election” for that certain race would be held.

Secondly, this criteria was also mandated:

A qualifying candidate from the private sector should be a senior executive managing a company with at least S$500 million in shareholders’ equity. Previously, such a candidate had to be a chairman or CEO of a company with at least S$100 million in paid-up capital.

These two rulings were seen to be handcuffing or directing the presidential hopefuls into a certain race and/or having a certain professional financial prowess. So, Mdm Yacob being Malay and a public servant (MP and Speaker of the House) didn’t have any limitations whatsoever to her running. The two public sector Malays who wanted to run fell short when it came to the equity in their private professional career. Thus, Mdm Yacob was elected unopposed and un-voted for by the public.

Challenges and Questioning

Some saw this whole process as racial profiling. Taxi drivers tut-tutted; the universal taxi language of quiet disagreement. Some questioned the fact that the Prime Minister had been of Chinese origin since Singapore’s independence, and questioned when other ethnicities would have a chance at PM.

So the presidential “election” process was seen as discrimination…but a positive discrimination in a sense! People arguing that no matter what race you are you should get a place in office regardless of ethnic background. The backlash has not been about Mdm. Yacob who is actually seen as quite a likeable and well respected person for the job. Merely, the machinations that put her in that position.

Are there deeper and more insidious gears and wheels turning in the background behind all the changes to the presidential election framework? I’m afraid I’m too much of an outsider to embellish opinion. I will drop in a few quotes from people who are closer to the wheel-house:


In February this year, Chan Chun Sing, potential next prime minister, stood up in parliament and called Halimah Yacob “Madam President” (video at the bottom). Was it a slip? Maybe. But he did it not once but twice, laughing along with his fellow PAP politicians, having a ball of a time, delighting themselves in their own megalomaniac conceit.

We should think about this carefully and clearly. It is no laughing matter. A full seven months before the election, Halimah’s colleagues were already calling it in her favour. They made a blatant mockery of our democratic process.


No amount of contrived reasoning put forward , ranging from the absolute necessity of the scheme to Ensure multiculturism, to preventing terrorism ( the most absurd reason I have ever heard ) or the uprightness of the PAP in sacrificing political capital to maintain social harmony ( another baloney ) will ever convince Singaporeans of the righteousness of an evil scheme that has laid to waste 52 years of nation building. Everyone knew that this evil scheme was concocted by the Establishment to deprive Dr Tan Cheng Bock of the Presidency . So desperate were they to hold on to this lever of power that they were willing to sacrifice political capital to achieve it .


So, it’s been nearly two months now since Mdm. Halimah has been sworn in. She has moved from her “normal” living in a HDB flat due to increased security concerns (not at all down to her neighbour’s lives being thrown upside down by all the extra commotion!) to the Istana or another landed property, both of which have a few more square feet I’m guessing.
The drama has died down somewhat but even the Straits Times are still opining about race and national identity in the aftermath of it all.

As an expat living here, I wish her all the best in holding the office as President of Singapore. As an expat I also can’t begin to analyse or suggest understanding of the underlying racial and national identity undercurrents that bubble up in Singapore from time to time. It’s there. It’s something that is deemed to be readily and openly discussed and debated upon but there’s an element of reticence and reluctance. The memories of the race riots of 1964 still remain vivid in people’s minds and after a smaller incident in Little India in 2013 the stricter weekend ban on drinking alcohol in areas such as Little India and Geylang soon followed suit with an overall ban on public drinking from 10:30 to 7am islandwide. Fears quashed.

In my own aloof and simperish ex-pat ways, I experienced a certain reverse (at least from my own standpoint) racial profiling recently when looking to rent an apartment and inquiring after my nationality was one of the first demands from the landlord’s agent over SMS. I got the vibe that some nationalities wouldn’t be equally as accepted as other nationalities.

Luckily being Irish hasn’t been seen as a negative thing over here in Asia. Yet…


On Flying

It starts with the journey to the airport. You know you’re about to experience humanity at its worst and you won’t be able to escape it. You ride along in grim determination and simmering resignation to what’s about to unfold.

The terminal. Lost fingers point in different directions. Children with wide eyes follow along because that’s what they do. Check in. Eyes up. Blue screens answer with numbers and letters and it makes sense. Line up.
Too close.
Too slow.
Too far.
Too smelly.
Too loud.
Pay attention, alright?!! The world is happening outside of your bubble of ignorant existence!! How many suitcases can one person check in?! And why are they always in front of me?!
They have a Ming Dynasty vase that needs taken care of. Naturally.
They have a passport from the South Sandwich Islands. Needs to be telegraphed there for proof of citizenship. Naturally.
“Do you have any of the illustrated banned items in your suitcase?”
“No” Hell no.
Not the time for bleating simperish humour directed at an audience of one followed by an audience of heavily armed police.
Checked in.
Line up. Just go. Security. Pockets. Check. Again. Laptop gymnastics. Shoes on or shoes off? How paranoid is this country?! Sidle through the portal through to the other dimension where having all your stuff back in your pockets and bag is a fundamental right of existence.

Waiting. Wait. Waiting. Ignore life. Ignore some more. Delaying the inevitable. Time doesn’t change its gait.
Gate. Time to guess which person is on your flight and sitting in very close proximity to you. With elbows of granite and phlegmy affirmations.
Boarding. Let us all gather en masse and ignore all directions. First class and business class please prance your way through the commoner yokels waving your golden tickets. Just push them out of your way at your leisurrrrre. We’ll wait. We have to. That’s how it is.

Boarding. The initial joy of freedom past the boarding counter dissipates into a line of people who struggle with luggage calisthenics in the aisles. No you probably can’t fit your grand piano in the overhead. But, by all means, block the aisle for 10 minutes trying to do so. And yes, it’s absolutely necessary for you to take your jacket off in the aisle before sitting. Fold it twenty times and place it in the overhead locker for good measure.

Seats. Planes. Hell. Every stitch sewed by satan. Every nut and bolt placed by a maniac. Armrests measured precisely by psychotic cave dwelling bat people. Yes, person in front of me, it IS more pleasurable for you to recline your seat 1 inch into my knees to watch your movie. It’s also pleasurable for me to bang my knees into your reclined seat every 10 seconds.

Food. Prisons in Guatemala have better food than airplanes. Fact. There’s always chicken. And a sprig of broccoli. And some vague sauce. Never fear, there’s always a bucket of fish heads if they run out of options by the time they come to you. Alcohol elevates the taste by making you care less about life and your tastebuds.

Turbulence is the opposite of fun. I used to stare at the sky in wonderment at clouds. Some even look like old cartoon characters. Merely joyous yet duplicitous disguises. Now I know. Now I know. Some clouds are jerks. Some clouds reach up high with their scuffy appendages and roughly tickle passing airplanes for pure enjoyment. Jerks.

Landed. Joy of joyous joys. Yes why don’t you stand up and take your bag out of the overhead whilst the reverse thrusters are still countering Newton’s 3rd Law along the runway. Stuck behind Diana Ross who has 50 suitcases and a chandelier to extract before the whole plane can trundle out of the plane weeping.

“Thank you for travelling with us. See you again.”

“Yes. Yes you will.”

Community Cats of Singapore

Ol' Green Eyes Cat

Ol’ Green Eyes Cat

Wherever you find humans in Singapore you will find cats. Probably quite a few at times. Our old condo had three or four stray cats who hung around and got fed by a couple of neighbours (and us). Yes, we had a “crazy” cat lady too.

It’s a stance that’s been fought since the dawn of mankind. Do you feed stray cats or not? When I did feed our condo’s strays I always felt like I was a second away from been heckled and booed from the surrounding apartment balconies. I always had a response in my back pocket in case of said emergency: “I prefer cats to rats”. BOOM!

Sadly, animal and cat cruelty in particular around Singapore have been in the news more often recently (horrible pics included in this link). So I thought I would present my perspective on the community cats of Singapore.

As you might tell I’m on Team Animal and when I’m wandering the housing estates (HDBs) of Singapore photographing the architecture and people I always, more often than not, bump into some community cats for impromptu photo shoots.. I even have a sure fire way of getting them to look at me, yeah…uh-huh. No cats were harmed in the taking of these photos I assure you.

So, here you go, just some of the stray cats of Singapore that I’ve managed to capture on a memory card.


“What Did I Do Last Night?” Cat


Ol’ Blue Eyes Cat


“Get Outta My Face” Cat


“What?” Cat


Cat, Interrupted


Cat in Black and White


Yawn Cat


Not A Stray Cat


Call of the Wild Cat


Cat in Orange and Brown 1.0


Cat in Orange and Brown 2.0


“Someone Woke Me..” Cat


“Get Lost” Cat


“What da…?” Cat


“Leave Me Alone” Cat


“Pfftttttt!” Cat(s)


“I Spy..” Cat


“I’m Not On Your Car” Cat


Not Evil Black Cat


Domesticated Cat


“Whadduppp?!” Cat


“So Very Tired” Cat


“I See Dead People” Cat


“Seriously?” Cat


“I Don’t Want To Be Awake” Cat


“Who Dares Awake Me?” Cat


Biggest Yawn Award Cat


“I Taste Good” Cat


” Scratching=Good” Cat


Derp Cat


“What is Life?” Cat


“This Is My Town” Cat


Not Dead Cat


Motorbike Cat

You may notice some clipped ears; that is done by a Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage (TNRM) initiative by cat welfare organisations in Singapore. Cats who have been sterilised are then readily noticeable by the organisations and the public at large.

So keep a look out for these friendly felines the next time you are wandering around Singapore. They play a part in the unique communities you see around you.

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