Death of a Perm Sec



Death of a perm sec tells of a story that only very few can concoct. It is a story that even fewer publishers would publish. In Wong Souk Yee’s own words,

“Death of a Perm Sec had been searching in vain for several years for a publisher who is risk-prone and has the gumption to defend its publications”

Knowing Souk Yee’s background, it was difficult to identify the line where reality ended and fiction began. That’s perhaps the power of this Epigram Finalist for Fiction in 2015.

The story explores the underbelly of Singapore’s political history in an alternate ‘what-if’ universe, through the death of a perm sec, Chow Tze Min. The family he left behind is left in tail spin without the sole breadwinner/matriarchal stereotype figure as they try to navigate the ISD’s investigation into his death and corruption.

My only issue is Wong’s disdain for government figures and state archetypes is obvious and permeates throughout the entire book. Fortunately, they don’t get in the way of her story.  Death of perm sec was a compelling journey.

Buy from Epigram here.







Cutting through the fog. Who censor who?

So an intelligent but un-popular Hakka woman who has been stoic by any measure has recently put herself in a situation where she’s suddenly become the most popular kid around. If her friend requests is anything to go by, she’s now Facebook friends with the coolest cats online.

The lastest of her friends is hatchet knight, Kenenth Jeyeratnam who rose to her defence by claiming that Janadas was attacking her disability. I’m not sure if he knows what dyslexia means but Merriam Webster suggests:

Definition of Dyslexia: a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.

As you can see, not much to do with intellectual fogs. However, going by Jeyeratnam’s wrongful interpretation of dyslexia, one could perhaps allege that is indeed dyslexic.


So despite the gathering pop-corn gathering crowd’s interest in wanting to see this as an issue of “press freedom”, it really isn’t. Instead of nefarious ideas of Government intervention and censorship on media freedom, Dr Lee Wei Ling’s anger was very much directed at The Straits Time’s front page coverage of a Lee Kuan Yew eraser art exhibit.

What made me write this article was a front page report in The Straits Times (Mar 21). It carried a photo of an outline of Papa’s face made with 4,877 erasers that form an installation which is 2.3 m wide and 3.1 m tall, titled Our Father, Our Country, Our Flag.

Presumably, Dr Lee was angry enough to want ST to publish her rant against their coverage of nationwide commemoration. Predictably ST declined.

“I will no longer write for SPH as the editors there do not allow me freedom of speech. in fact, that was the reason why i posted the article on LKY would not want to be hero-worshipped” 

So correct us if we’re wrong, but in a perverse yet ironic fashion, isn’t Dr Lee’s unhappiness due to ST’s failure to censor edit themselves to her standards?

Sorry Dr. Lee. You mentioned in your eulogy for your father that you “won’t break down” because you are “a Hakka woman”. We’re sorry on the rest of Singapore may not be Hakka like you.

Cover image by Grant Gouldon / Flickr.


Dear Mr Chee, why are you still trying to deny what you did to Mr Chiam

Dear Mr Chee, why are you still trying to deny what you did to Mr Chiam

My question is this, Dr Chee, if you’re so desperate to forget the past and focus on constructive politics of a clean fight, why are you spending so much time at rallies trying to clarify and revise your past.

You deny any wrongdoing to Mr Chiam and repeatedly told us to read up on the legal documents of the case as the media then were out to unfairly demonize you.

I have retrieved the documents and this and this is what I found. [Chiam See Tong v Ling How Doong and others.]

  1. The SDP CEC expelled Mr Chiam See Tong on August 20, 1993. This was through a letter to Mr Chiam telling him that he had been expelled “forthwith”. As if to further confirm this, you also wrote to the Speaker of Parliament to inform of Mr Chiam’s expulsion.
  2. Not only was there a move to expel Mr Chiam, you arguably attempted to ruin his political career by defaming him.

SDP Letter 1

sdp letter 2

The reasons given for Mr Chiam’s expulsion was that he lacked vision for the SDP and was motivated by “a craze for personal political power.” Yet Mr Chiam’s SDP saw SDP send three candidates to parliament. Since he left, SDP has sent none.

So Mr Chee, we implore you to stop denying Mr Chiam’s expulsion or attempts to defame him.

Oh and finally. Guess who became Secretary General of the SDP when Mr Chiam was forced to leave at the end of 1996.

(Top photo from Alive Alive)

GE2015: Strangeways, Strangedays in Uniquely Singaporean Politics

It’s only been four days of campaigning and already I’m jaded and sick of all the GE news.

Essentially, it’s boils down to this. Vote for me because you are doing it for you.

Don’t vote for me to get elected, but vote for me to empower your future.

Don’t vote for me to get elected, but vote for your voice to be heard in parliament.

Strange ways. Strange days.

Election Narratives – Hyberbole

Bless their hearts for finding it in them to participate in politics. It’s not easy – but its not easy to listen to hyperbole either.

You are not voting for us. You are voting for you. You are voting for our future together.

Forgive me for saying this but this reminds me more of the times where insurance agents try to sell me a policy. Sure, his products may be useful one day in the future – but does he really care about my health coverage or the commission he gets from meeting his target?

Election Narratives #1 – Vote us to keep the PAP on their toes

Perhaps the strangest thing I find about the elections is this. Vote for us to keep the PAP on their toes. By our mere presence, the PAP will work harder. Policies and values will stay the same – but your life will somehow be better.

This narrative was used to great effect in 2011 when WP garnered votes for being a credible opposition that will not rock the boat. It must have been effective because SDP seems to have adopted a similar approach this elections.

We won’t take the incumbent power out – but we can help you

As further proof of this – many opposition candidates begin their speeches by saying “Don’t worry. We are not looking form Government”.

Election Narratives #2 – Loves me, loves me not

Hence, it seems that most people (or at least the campaigning opposition) want the PAP to form Government. The PAP Government is thus a fundamental part of their campaign strategy as it forms the platform to build the rest of their campaign.

A PAP Government must exist for us, the opposition to exist. .

Perhaps to demonstrate how their proposed roles would work, candidates will proceed to denounce the many instances where the incumbent government could do better. They call this slapping the co-driver.

Why are we paying so much for fishball noodles! Why are we paying so much for parking! Why are we paying so much for phone bills! Why are we paying so much for air-con!

Vote for me instead of the PAP so that I can ask these questions of the PAP.

Surely one must realize that for every vote that contributes to the existence of an opposition co-driver would diminish the existence of a main driver?

Election Narratives #3 – What am I voting for, really?

In the end, what am I voting for? This is perhaps the reason why I find the campaigning in this election the most perplexing. Take away the fact that none of them intend to form Govt and you’re left behind with a group of people who want to get in to ask questions.

This is probably clearer in larger countries where there’s a clear distinction between the values political parties. The Democrats vs the Republicans. Labour vs Conservatives. Where state votes along to certain ideological lines. (Out of the 50 states in the United States, only 5 were deemed swing states)

Yet, if the narratives laid out in this elections campaign is true, then Singaporeans are all voting amongst similar ideological lines.

We need the economy to do well but want a bit more wellbeing.

Not for change. Not for other values but somehow for; a cheaper and somehow better life.

Watched: 7 Letters

7 Letters, each a heartfelt tribute by 7 Singaporean directors is a wonderful anthology of short films. Each is interwoven with personal memories and experiences, earnestly retold by each of the seven directors.

Each of the seven letters hints of very genuine and un-embellished experiences. It is easy to end up picking a single favorite experience or letter out of the seven but doing so would perhaps undermine the collective stories of love, loss and reconciliation.

Eric Khoo

7 Letters starts of with Eric Khoo’s Cinema, as it gently laments the loss of the golden era of Singapore Cinema. His love for the medium of film extends beyond the silver screens of Shaw and Cathay but the wonderful racial mélange of communities that surrounded that short-lived industry in the 1950s and 1960s.

Jack Neo That Girl

Even Jack Neo resists his usual attempts to dumb down the content of his work by focusing on a story (That Girl) familiar to the typical of hardworking and honest Singaporeans. Neo proudly impresses that while the props and sets may have changed, the core ethic of the typical Singaporean may not have.


In love and duty for the nation, family and self, K Rajagopal’s The Flame retells of the difficult inner struggle to reconcile these.

Royston Tan

Royston Tan’s whimsical story of Bunga Sayang explores a sweetly charming relationship between a young boy and his elderly Malay neighbor. Bunga Sayang ponders about beauty in the spaces of time and imagination that the rest of us have unwittingly lost.

Tan Pin Pin Pineapple

Typically, a documentary film-maker by trade, Tan Pin Pin’s Pineapple Town is instead, a simmering drama about the adoption of a Malaysian child by a Singaporean family. Separated from birth, Pineapple town mirrors the geopolitik of both nations and evokes questions about the losses between the two nations as they further their paths of divergence.


Boo Junfeng’s Parting follows Ismail’s painfully nostalgia trip back from Malaysia via the now defunct Tanjong Pagar Railway Station to find his long lost beau. From a time where interracial relationships were forbidden to 50 years later. Boo’s Parting is a powerful journey about loss and a memory reconstituted in its reconciliation. (Also, Boo seems to have paid a small tribute to his alma mater by featuring Chung Cheng High School)

Kelvin Tong

7 Letters finally ends off strongly with Kelvin Tong’s GPS: Grandma Positioning System. At its heart, GPS is simple narrative mechanic that tells of the differences in the traditions and modernity in the relationship of a typical three-generational Singaporean family unit today. Tong’s use of the same narrative mechanic to first derive laughter then draw tears provokes questions the reconciliation of loss.

Love and loss in a nation gained. How does one reconcile the story of a nation’s 50 years? Perhaps with one heartfelt letter at a time.

Catch 7 Letters before it ends its run at Golden Village on the 26 of August!

We wonder for what purpose the PAP’s camera app was made for

As part of reforming it’s not so internet savvy image, the PAP has decided to get into the . This is after the recent revamp of their website (more photos; less words) .

The app, titled PAP4SG is unfortunately only in it’s beta and thus available only in the Apple app store.

It offers a host of information you can otherwise find online through Ng Eng Hen’s daily election type announcements – such as candidate reveals.

One feature the app included that was didn’t get was the camera app. Vulcan editor, Charlene, had a lot of fun doing this.


Image stolen from Vulcan Post

We decided to take things a step further and imagine what happens when the PAP4SG camera app attempts taking a photo of Worker’s Party Co-Drivers, Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang.

photo149562177726032906 photo149562177726032907

The only reasonable conclusion that we came to was that the PAP thoughtfully prepared the app for their supporters during the week of election rallies. Imagine the usefulness for PAP supporter who might have stumbled upon a Workers Party rally while making their way home from work!

#PAP4SG – Seeing things through the lens of a PAP Camera App



50 Singapore Songs We Grew Up Loving

Didn’t think we could manage it at first but here it is, 50 of our favorite songs by Singaporean bands. Unlike the Mothership compilation here, we didn’t cop out; no NDP songs, no Singapore workout songs and no repeats.

These were songs we grew up with. When BigO was still in circulation at 7-11 stores, when we found out about new local music after trading them over IRC, when the Brit Pop/Rock wave with Suede and Oasis heavily influenced the local music scene.

Ah the nostalgia.

  1. Serenaide – The Girl From Katong

A local band, singing about a the girl from Katong and magical Marine Parade. Growing up was rosy.

  1. Bored Phucks – Zoe Tay

Wayne Thunder Seah [RIP] and the rest of Bored Phucks singing about the original queen of Caldecott Hill. Whats there not to love.

  1. Humpback Oak – Circling Square

Leslie Low has to be one of the most talented local musicians still active on the scene.

  1. Stoned Revivals – Goodil

Makes us want to take a trip to Bali.

  1. Padres – November 91

We want to say that Joe Ng does a really good Brett Anderson impression, but that would be a disservice.

  1. Oddfellows – Unity Song

Patrick Chng’s Oddfellows had several feel good songs. This was our favorite.

  1. Concave Scream – Driven

Sean Lam’s Concave Scream was in our opinion, one of the most progressive rock bands during their time. Set the stage for the wonderful Soundtrack for a Book.

  1. Astreal – Wallflower

They cite MBV, Slowdive and Curve as their influence. We believe them.

  1. My Squared Circle – Alone


  1. Sherene’s Closet – Over

Lovelorn songs from a loverlorn band. Couldn’t find our favorite Sherene’s Closet track online (Infatuation) but this will do just as nicely.

  1. Analog Girl – Tonight Your love

Some people like Time Magazine compare Mei Wong to Bjork. We think she’s more than that <3.

  1. Force Vomit – Siti

It was the first time we’ve ever heard of surf rock. Too damn fun live.

  1. Beverly – No More Tears (Teenage Textbook OST)

Nostalgia overload. We hear she’s singing at MBS now.

  1. Sugarflies – What about

Another one that brings back so much memories. So easy to listen to.

  1. The Observatory – This Sad Song

Another Leslie Low super group made up initially by former members from Concave Scream, Sugarflies and the Padres. Possibly the most productive local band with 5 studio albums. We love what they sounded like before their experimental art rock sensibilities took over.

  1. B Quartet – Beautiful Crash

A massively talented band sadly defunct today.

  1. Obedient Wives Club – Requiem for a lover

Came for the band name, stayed for the music.

  1. Aspidistra Fly –  Moonlight Shadow (April Lee)

We never thought a local band could sound as beautiful as Sigur Ros, Cocteau Twins. Also. we love April Lee.

  1. Zircon Lounge – Chanachai

It’s X’Ho!

  1. Leslie Low – Despair

Give this man a guitar it will gently bleed.

  1. Lunarin – Silverpiece 

Sounds like APC but local! They’ve been around for close to 2 decades.

  1. Ronin – Black Maria

Warning. Earworm.

  1. A Vacant Affair – We Are Not The Same
  1. Plain Sunset – Johari Window

Wake Me Up Music had several bands under their label. Plain Sunset was our favorite.

  1. The Great Spy Experiment – Class A Love Affair

The Great Spy Experiment was initially a little disappointing live but work from their studio? Excellent.

  1. Bored Spies –沙鼠E

We’re not sure if they’re still active but that the B-side on their EP was so good.

  1. That Song on Eating AIR by JULIET PANG

Remember that Faye Wong like vocals in the opening song to Kelvin Tong’s Eating Air? They belong to Juliet Pang.

  1. Lizards Convention – Wooden Heart

Remember when songs used to be simple and lovely?

  1. Livonia – Vengeance is Mine

Okay. They weren’t all simple and lovely.

  1. The Opposition Party

Some say they were our Lion City’s pioneer hardcore band. We’re inclined to believe.

  1. The Ordinary People

When all you had to do was carry a tune.

  1. I am David Sparkle – Jangan 

Signed by Kitty freaking Wu.

  1. Riot in Magenta – Told you so

Really really good to listen to. You can find their records at Hear!

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Sounds like Morcheeba to us – and we love our downtempo so that’s a good thing right?

  1. The Steve McQueens – Walls

Neo-soulfunk. Does anyone else sound like them in Singapore? We think not.

  1. The Fire Fight – Hours

Too much of a boyband for us though.

  1. Hanging up the moon (Sean Lam and Leslie) – Water Under the Bridge  

So the Snakeweed Sessions brought together two frontmen from bands we used to love. Result = magic.

  1. Stompin’ Ground – Divided We Fall 

This is hardcore.

  1. Lilac Saints – Claudia

Unsung heroes.

  1. Weish – In My Sleep

Pedal power.

  1. Watchmen – My One and Only 

Don’t tell Kevin Matthews we prefer Lum May Yee’s version from 12 Storeys.

Lum May Yee

  1. Amatuer Takes Control – Sayonara Supergirl

When your owns are remixed, it must be a good thing right.

  1. Caracal – Welcome the Ironists

If this is anything to go by, local rock is taking a step in the right direction!

  1. Cheating Sons – Honeymoon 

Very good throwback band.

  1. Typewriter – That Deepest Blue 

Interested in what Patrick Chng (Oddfellows), Yee Chang Kang and Desmond Goh have been up to?

  1. Electrico – Runaway

We used to be so annoyed when people started found out about them in the noughties and thought they were the only local band around. Today we’re glad that they aren’t the Sam Willows.

  1. The Suns – Cecelia 

The Boredphucks reformed later as The Suns. Less explicit but still produced catchy hooks and held their tune.

Thank you Wayne, we’ll be just fine.

  1. Return to Fall – Last Swell
  1. Steel City Skies – In a Shadow

That’s about it we think. Did we miss out on anything?