Thursday, April 29, 2010

Minister Balakrishnan scolds Al Jazeera and bloggers

"The government then made some checks and found a different story. The man in the video had made a tidy sum of over S$220,000 from the sale of three flats. Meanwhile, the woman still owns an HDB resale flat with her ex-husband. She was also getting financial help from the South West Community Development Council. Dr Balakrishnan said: "Despite these circumstances, the social workers and the FSC then offered sheltered housing for this couple. However, the couple rejected the offer and other services offered by MCYS. “This is a clear example where a foreign media has failed to ascertain the facts. Some irresponsible websites have also caused these falsehoods to circulate widely on the internet. Now that the facts are out, let us see whether those who have been propagating these falsehoods have the courage and the honesty to set the record straight. " - CNA, Govt takes Al Jazeera to task for misreporting on homelessness cases

Here is the 'misleading 'video:

You will note that in the video, Al Jazeera explained that they were refused an interview with the esteemed minister. But do watch the video and listen to the Al Jazeera report line by line. Can someone tell me which part is 'misleading'? All Al Jazeera reported was that there are people in Singapore with difficulty getting housing due to various rules and have resorted to camping at the beach.

Perhaps Minister Vivian is saying that Al Jazeera is misleading because it left out a few facts ...facts that only the govt can know about and Al Jazeera has no access to because the esteemed minister refused to be interviewed by them. But really lets look at the facts mentioned by Minister Balakrisnan:

1. "The man in the video has made a tidy sum of over S$220,000 from the sale of three flats". Al Jazeera could never have known that since they have no access to govt records. But is the minister saying because the man had once made money, he should be denied a rental flat? Actually I don't know whether he used the money for drinks, women, business, debts, gambling, medical bills or had it cheated from him. That is not the issue. The real issue is the HDB has a rule that prevents people who have sold a flat from joining the queue for rental flats within a certain period (6 months?) regardless of whether they sold it because their business failed or they had to do it to pay off loan sharks. I like what Ravi Philemon said in the video about giving 2nd chances to people. You can alway examine a person's life to explain how he end up in the state he is in and put the blame on him for his plight (why didn't he do this and that to escape poverty and so on) just like what Minister Balakrisnan did to pull out records to show that the man once had money but giving help is about giving 2nd chances to people so they can better their lives...

2, "The woman still owns an HDB resale flat with her ex-husband". Isn't it obvious this woman has fallen through a crack in the rules? You cannot get a rental flat when you are a co-owner. The logic being that you can stay in the flat you co-own. However, this woman co-owns a flat with her ex-husband and it is obvious that it is impractical for her to stay in the flat although she co-owns it.

It was also mentioned that the couple rejected help for 'sheltered housing' this was to only alternative left for them? ..govt shelters. That only proves Al Jazeera's point that these people can't get homes!!!! Hmm....I wonder what is the reason for them wanting to camp rather than stay in the govt shelters? But what the couple wanted was a home....a shelter is not a home.

We see very few homeless people in Singapore not because everyone can afford a home or can rent one - the rental queue is several years long. Have you ever wonder how is it possible that Singapore has the most costly public housing in the world, the biggest income inequality in the developed world and insufficient rental flats yet you don't see many homeless people. So why are there so few homeless people in Singapore? Because it is illegal to be homeless. If you're found camping without permit, you can get jailed[Link] or forcibly evacuated and taken to a shelter so that the problem can be hidden the homeless cannot afford to be visible out of fear of being caught. There is nothing misleading about the Al Jazeera report. The only thing misleading about the whole situation is the false impression created for visitors that everyone in Singapore has a home and that poverty does not exist here.

Govt takes Al Jazeera to task for misreporting on homelessness cases

By S Ramesh Posted: 27 April 2010 1552 hrs

Govt takes Al Jazeera to task for misreporting on homelessness cases

SINGAPORE: International news agency, Al Jazeera, has been taken to task for not checking its facts in its report on the homeless in Singapore. Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan stressed that homelessness is a complex problem and that the government will continue to enable people to be self-reliant. A video titled "Government Policies Force Some Onto The Streets" was produced by Al Jazeera. It featured a couple camping on the beach, claiming that they had been homeless for nearly two years as a result of divorce proceedings.

The government then made some checks and found a different story. The man in the video had made a tidy sum of over S$220,000 from the sale of three flats. Meanwhile, the woman still owns an HDB resale flat with her ex-husband. She was also getting financial help from the South West Community Development Council. Dr Balakrishnan said: "Despite these circumstances, the social workers and the FSC then offered sheltered housing for this couple. However, the couple rejected the offer and other services offered by MCYS. “This is a clear example where a foreign media has failed to ascertain the facts. Some irresponsible websites have also caused these falsehoods to circulate widely on the internet. Now that the facts are out, let us see whether those who have been propagating these falsehoods have the courage and the honesty to set the record straight. "Homelessness or potential homelessness is a universal threat all over the world.

The question is how best to fix this. “In Singapore, we have given housing, cheap affordable rental housing as well as heavily-subsidised first-time entry into home ownership. “The people we have who insist on staying in beaches and parks are not first timers and not people who have bought their first flat or first rental flat. These are people who have almost always sold their second flat or a third flat, have unfortunately dissipated the subsidies and cashed them and now have run into problems. “Members would have faced this problem which almost become emotional blackmail." Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has ceased to operate its channel on mio TV. This prompted Nominated MP Viswa Sadasivan to ask about the talk that this is linked to the report on the homeless. Acting Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, Lui Tuck Yew, said: “On the speculation that recent critical or negative reports by Al Jazeera were the reason why the channel was taken off mio TV service, this is unfounded. In a report by TODAY, Al Jazeera itself was quoted as saying that "it was a 'mutual' decision between Al Jazeera and SingTel for the broadcaster to drop out of the latter's pay TV service." Mr Lui noted that Al Jazeera's contract with SingTel was coming to an end and was looking into other distribution avenues in view of its low subscriber households. - CNA/vm


TrappedbyHDB said...

My parents and I live in a 3 room HDB rental flat all our lives as my dad'd business was affected in the 80s recession and he became bankrupt. Now, we are forced by the government to buy the house at market price. We have been staying here for 27 years of paying rent and the government is forcing us to buy the house or my parents downgrade to a 1 room rented house. This reason was used as my sister and me have started working and the household income has increased. My mom is malaysian and my dad is almost 75 years old. Yet, there was no concession given. My dad can't buy the house. My mother can co-own it with me or my sis. My mom is a housewife all her life. My sis doesn't want to buy the house as he fears future problems when she gets married and needs to buy a flat of her own family. I feel the same way too. I do not know whether I will be in singapore 5 years from now. I do not want to be bogged down with house payment and would hope to work overseas and eventually leae singapore, if that is possible. I am very saddened and disturbed by this. I can't buy a flat of my own as I am single, male and not 35 yet. The governmnet policy is hurting our lives badly. It could have easily allow us to continue renting the flat at a higher price. And when the future firms up for my sister and me, my parents could then move to a cheap rented 1-room hdb flat. And not tear our family apart when we have not even gotten partners, let alone start a family of our own. I don't know what to do. Now, it seems for these technical implications in the future to owning a flat, ( i dont know if you can simply chnage your name in the future when you are married and want to buy a flat with your own family when you are also co-owning a flat presently with your mother),we are likely to split. My sis would rent a room in another unknown hdb flat. And me too. ANd my parents move to a 1-room rental flat. The govenrment's policy is separating my family and I know they dont care cos my sis spoke to the town council. I really hate PAP very badly now.

Anonymous said...

It seems that Al Jazeera has RE-INVITED the Minister for an interview.

It's going to be a question of whether the Minister will RESPONSIBLY ACCEPT the INVITATION to clarify the HOMELESS SINGAPOREAN ISSUE.


Anonymous said...

As long as the poor are a minority, ie 33% or less, any govt that holds elections will find that it is still OK.

Also as long as they (33% or less) don't take to the streets in protest or camp in public.

Any govt that can achieve this will result in a stable and peaceful country and a lot of foreign talents will even be attracted to come.

Iron Bowl said...

Actually, the poor is not a minority. It is just that the government conditioned people to think that they are rich or middle classed.

Didn't some studies show that the media income $52350? How many people in Singapore makes more than that? Does it include your CPF and other things that you make money from?

I doubt more than 50% really earns about $4500 per month. And HDB resale prices in places that you don't pay so much MRT FARES and ERP is easily 12x your annual salary, if you earn this median income.

Is this still affordable? I don't think HDB housing should be an appreciating asset. (Its a 99 year lease after all) And the primary goal should be affordability. I would not mind leasing a 10 year HDB in Bishan for $60,000, which makes it much more affordable, even though I may get $0 at the end of 10 years.

They still have not resolved the housing problem and they want to sweep it under the carpet.

Anonymous said...

It remind me of an old woman who used to live in my neighborhood. She happened to sell her flat in order to get the money to finance her only son to study oversea. But the son later decided to migrate and dump her here, now without a home. To make matter worst she was retrenched due to her age and now can't afford her rental too and get chase out by her landlord.

And according to her, the TC, HDB and MP all cannot help her much as her record show that she did sell her flat for a profit. So she end up being homeless and living in the street and void deck for around a year before she was finally offerred a rental flat at S$50 a month.

But the rumor from what I heard later from the wet market uncle and aunty back then is that she was offer the flat not because our higher mortal are being overkind or have a change of heart, but that her story finally get reported by some socially irresponsible reporter at that time. Soon after that story, she get the flat. Too bad I can't verify if this is a fact but seem so many uncle and aunty is talking about it, I think there must be some truth.

So an advise to TrappedbyHDB, maybe you should approach the media and have them help to publish your face and your story.

As our higher mortals had said, Sinkapore is so small, once they know your face from the media, they can hunt you down and offer their overkindness to help you with your problem, or to dig out whatever dirt of yours and show the world why you don't deserve help.

Anonymous said...

Hello TrappedbyHDB. Dont expect hardworking and responsible people to pay and finance your wants and fancies. Be realistic and have some personal pride for heaven's sake!

Anonymous said...

""The man in the video has made a tidy sum of over S$220,000 from the sale of three flats". Al Jazeera could never have known that since they have no access to govt records"

They could have known, if the couple here had told them. Don't blame this failure onto the government, as not providing such information is actually what their task is. Some information about the citizens needs to be protected from others.

Anonymous said...

Minister only scolds. If its me, I will give them a big FU ! All you freeloaders out there.......Dont expect hardworking and responsible people to pay for your selfish ways! You guys are not poor but just plain selfish and manipulating the system at taxpayers expense. Shameless!

TrappedbyHDB said...

I took 3 loans for my niversity fees and am currently paying them. So what do you mean we're not hardworking? I come from a poor family. And we have to struggle. But why is the government not allowing us to continue staying in this 27 HDB rented 3 room? They could simply allow us to stay and increase our rent to market rent. But they are forcing us to buy. My father and mother has no CPF. I hope you are not a Singaporean and that you don't get cancer someday. Not everyone singaporean are born with the same standing. Some of us are orphans. Or have parents who died from cancer. Or sick elderlyparents to care. Mind you, my mother suffers from chronic depression.

Anonymous said...

TrappedbyHDB.....I have this to say to you. What if your sister didnt get married? What if you are still in Singapore after 5 years. Your family has benefited from the system which allows you and your sister to grow up, have an education and now earning a reasonable income.It about time you and your sister show some pride and gratitude (to yr parents and the state). There are more deserving cases out there waiting for a rental unit!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Your minister forgets that he earns easily $1M a year. To him, a $300k flat looks dirt cheap. But to the rest of us lesser mortals, a $300k flat is a lifelong investment.

Housing is a key social issue in Singapore. Land is cheap, given that the govt used the Land Acquisition Act to forcibly acquire land from us at rock-bottom prices.

Flats are made of concrete, not gold or diamonds. How can a small flat cost $300k to build??

It is clear that either HDB or the minister is not being honest with us.

Anonymous said...

Hmm a PAP troll and as heartless as his master. Without delving deeper into the family's history and personal problems, judgement has already been passed. Who the f**k are you to tell people off as though it is your personal money.

One thing that Bala could have done was to accept being interviewed and asked Al Jazeera not to air it until he has check the couple's records. By refusing the interview he has lost the opportunity to explain the government's stand. Now to "scold?" Al Jazeera after the contract was not renewed puts the government in a bad light.

Anonymous said...

The man made S$220,000 from the sale of three flats. The minister is implying that the guy is actually rich.

But how much went back into his CPF, payment of stamp duties, resale levy, agent fees, loan interest?

How long ago was this money made? What happened to this money? A serious illness requiring medical treatment, or a period of joblessness could easily wipe this money out.

Also mentioned that the guy is divorced, so he needs to pay alimony and share part of his assets with his ex-wife.

How much of $220,000 is left after going through the above?

Anonymous said...

Excellent! I'm collecting links to bloggers' posts on this issue for my own upcoming blog post, definitely linking you. :)

Anonymous said...

in sg, there are a few ways one can fall into social dependency. one of the way is to live irresponsibly.

if you are running a charitable organization, how far would you help someone who is incorrgible or irresponsible?

even the religious are sly enough to qualify divine promises by saying...god will only help those who help themselves.

our demographic is unlike third world countries where corrupt regimes kept the vast majority of the people poor.

here, it is very much up to you to help yourself.

Anonymous said...

So what we are saying is Al Jazeera covered the story correctly and the words used by the identified "Victims" and the report are not creating a false picture.

If you read that is submitted by everyone, you know everyone here is so bias.

Anyone who watches the coverage will realize that it was develop with a particular slant.

Just because an interview was denied, does not make the govt bad. A true reporter would know how to get the facts as they are not govt secrets. A true reporter would get the facts from both sides before reporting.

I would say that the News coverage is like Fox News from US, bogus lot. Never check the facts, just accept whatever the so called "victim" said.

It fails all levels of journalism standard. Sensational news but not true news.

Anonymous said...

Find me an ITE couple(or equivalent) who can't afford a home in sg, can you?

ps: make sure you scrutinize the couple and don't let vivan/MBT malu you. LOL

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the Falsehoods are according to Bala...

If i am not mistaken, the original big hoo-haa about this homeless issue was the eviction of the campers 1) once they knew of Al Jazeera intention and 2) before Al Jazeera had a chance...
Therefore creating a very wayang picture...

I think Balalalalala while perhaps you are right about ur facts and figures but i think ur missing the point...

Reminds me of MBT and the other obvious PAP supporter in the Talking Point Special... Never ans the question straight on, always try to bullshit talk cock around it...

Starbucks said...

Dear TrappedbyHDB, there's no way HDB can force your parents to buy the rental flat. They can't even force them out if the rent and utility bills has been paid regularly. If I read you correctly, they are forcing your parents to downgrade, or worse, move to the void deck. You sister's logic is right: buying the flat will jeopardise her own future when she has to set up home. Similarly, you should not buy it either, Strongly suggest you send your story to Today, CNA and The Straits Times. If they refuse to print, then proceed to send to Al Jazeera. Dontl forget ot copy you MP and Balakrishnan. You have nothing to lose.

Anonymous said...

TrappedbyHDB, send your story to Temasek Review.

Anonymous said...

who is irresponsible when in the first place they didnt want to accept interview.

after when they feel they have a more advantage stand, then they come out to comment.

What if they found out that the homeless are truely homeless caused by the high cost of living, will they publish an article about the founding ... doubt so. They will silently let the matter rest and hope the public forget as usual.

Beggar said...

hello, all dont buy flat, buy for what and maybe peharps you need to start a family and this is the cheapest alternative. If no money or difficult to afford just DO NOT buy. It is not a right just because you are a Singaporean means I have the right to own a flat. Live your own life and do not get blog down by a place to stay.

As a single and a graduate, I spent all on my car, i change a new car every 2 yrs. At least, a car has utilitarian value and can be driven.

Anonymous said...

I personally am aware of a Man in his 50s. who lost his "home" through a divorce and had to sleep in void decks.

One day MCYS Officers came with two police officers and took him away.

I understand He was put into a "Home" which is ringed by a barbed wire fence and the gate guarded 24hours.

He is not allowed to leave the home unless He is "sponsored and guarnateed" by someone.

In my mind this man is in Prison.

LKYcalledmeDAFT said...

Anon 16:01 said:

"Just because an interview was denied, does not make the govt bad."

Then what does it makes the government appear to be?

Why didn't Straits Times cover the story? They're not 140 in ranking for poor press freedom for nothing. If the government is honest as it claims to be, then it would have clarified the matter. And not let the issue blow over. Why response only now? Was it not only the other day that the PM accuse the netizens of astroturfing? If that is the case, that such info circulating in the net are nothing but worthless astroturfing, why the fuck is Bala jumping the gun? These fucking PAPs are downright liars and hypocrites. Excellent at twisting their words to suit the situation. But at the very least, keep it consistent lah. I know what is the cause of their inconsistent logic but I ain't gonna tell. Otherwise, they'll smarten up. They're digging their grave now.

It only goes to show that what is happening in internet discourses has taken impact. Too many Singaporeans are travelling and working overseas to know that local propaganda is heavily steeped. The only thing so transparent about PAP and the States Times is that they are transparent double-talkers and hypocrites.

Alan Wong said...

The way our PAP Govt was digging out the dirt for all to see without even understanding the full circumstances of the couple's predicament is by itself somehow full of spite.

They don't even see the basic decency at least to emphathise with the couple's unfortunate situation.

It's just another episode of "Get out of our uncaring face!"

Anonymous said...

From the TOC (Online Citizen website)

Good read...

Anonymous said...

Much as I sympathise those homeless ppl and those with difficulty getting a rental flat. I think the authorities have to draw the line somewhere. Having seen and known cases of financial irresponsibilty and live for the day mentality, there will be more of such sob stories. There are genuine hard luck cases, just as there are those who spent their money in Batam/gambling etc.

Anonymous said...

Dr Balakrishnan should explain why he turned down Al Jazeera invitation for an interview - twice.

Anonymous said...

Let us be patient, Minister Vivien like all his PAP Colleagues have never failed to impressed me with their sense of proprieties.

Minister Mah Bow Tan, the Prime Minister himself, his father, Lim Boon Heng, Lim Swee Say, Lee Bee Wah and other Ministers when challenged made sure that they face the people more as they know they are responsible.

Do not just trust my words, ask yourselves, are they not the people that you see most in PAP organized events, the Straits Times and the free newsprints and also on telecasts. They never run away, much less with tails between their legs. Some may have even chhered them at openning ceremonies in the last few months.

At least, they appeared responsible and they never run away from the people.

Anonymous said...

As far as I am concerned, Al Jezeera is a tabloid gossip standard news source. Their videos on YouTube are all one-sided, poorly research attacks on Singapore.

As for those who expect the government to provide for you until you get married and have children, and at the same time think only of your own interests, even if it means having your parents on the streets, I'd say, shame on you.

I have been through worse circumstances than the 'soppy' ones you wrote here. I have been renting a room ever since I started working and finally got my own flat after years of hard work.

As for the 'homeless' couple, it is time for them to get their act together and plan their lives responsibly. Marrying and divorcing multiple times isn't something I'd call responsible. Having children despite not having stability in life adds to it. Having many children is worse. And rejecting no so good offers for help and crying neglect simply takes the cake.

The government is right in setting policies to prevent abuse. There are couples who get married just to get a flat and divorce to split the gains. I wouldn't want to pay taxes to benefit such people. Call me heartless, but it is more heartless to feed the greedy/irresponsible at the expense of truly needy ones.

Anonymous said...

Anon 30/4/10 14:40 - "As far as I am concerned, Al Jezeera is a tabloid gossip standard news source. Their videos on YouTube are all one-sided, poorly research attacks on Singapore.

(trash deleted)

The government is right in setting policies to prevent abuse. There are couples who get married just to get a flat and divorce to split the gains. I wouldn't want to pay taxes to benefit such people. Call me heartless, but it is more heartless to feed the greedy/irresponsible at the expense of truly needy ones."

Biased unthinking pro-PAP sentiments masquerading as false nationalism is doing more harm than good for Singapore and Singaporeans.

Yes, feeding incompetent PAP ministers millions is indeed heartless.

Ombudsman said...

Having also read TOC's account from the couple's perspective, I must say I do not empathise with their situation, which was in large part of their own making. However, I find it thoroughly disgusting and dispicable in the manner vivian and the ministry spokesperson trashed up Al Jazeera and the couple. It is as one forummer puts it, a behaviour that is akin to "Get out of my elite uncaring face."

Anonymous said...

Their error is in making them look bad.

Nothing to do with being right.

At the end of the day, the one with the biggest stick is right.

Anonymous said...

"Biased unthinking pro-PAP sentiments masquerading as false nationalism is doing more harm than good for Singapore and Singaporeans." Blah, blah, blah...

Is this the best you can do? Labeling those who do not agree with a common tag to dismiss their arguments?

This strategy is only for losers dude.

icedwater said...

Well, there will be a day when people actually stand behind what they say, so that they can be held accountable.

This is one of the basic ideas behind free speech. Say what you want, but be prepared to support it.

Maybe that day will not come soon, but I do hope for all of us Singaporeans that it will be soon... signing in with a proper online identity (where available) is a good way to start.

It will also make the bloggers who dare to stand out from the crowd more credible and respectable. I think, anyway.

Undoubtedly, there are some who think that this is a bad idea, given how words can easily be misquoted on the Internet, or taken out of context. But it's one of the risks we all have to take.

@Iron Bowl, statistics are dangerous because they can be easily manipulated. If 50% of the country earns more than $4500 a month (median), it means that 50% is earning less than that. It's not stated how much less, because that might be troublesome. And you're right to question how the statistics were prepared in the first place.

@Anon(29.4.10/12.15): True. People who are there for the short term usually have a different perspective from those who are there for a longer period of time... even foreign talent who are not sure if they will stay long-term will think differently from those who have committed to settle in Singapore.

@Anon(29.4.10/12.46): I'm curious to know how you find that reporter who uncovered the injustice and allowed it to be fixed socially irresponsible. I suppose some things should be kept unreported, but I think in this case it was good that the report was made, that way it allowed the situation to be brought to light, no?

@TrappedbyHDB: your family has certainly fallen on some hard times. I hope some sort of solution can be found that will allow you to stay on in your current flat. I can't do much except wish you the best of luck, I think...maybe @Starbucks has a suggestion that might help?

@Beggar: Some personal questions: I wonder where you are living now, then, if you're spending your money on a new car every 2 years. And are you planning to stay single for the rest of your life?

Beggar said...


I lived with my parents in a 4rm hdb. Nothing great and yes, i do change my car every 2 years and currently driving nothing great too, just a modest Skoda Superb.

As for starting a family, you are right that I am escaping. If wanting a woman means spending more and beyond your means, you shall have to balance it whether is it worth while.

Money spent on relationship especially with a woman who is a total stranger in the very first place and cannot reap any real tangible returns, I am not too sure about it.

Maybe should I want to have a child to begin my next phrase of life, I would get married. Come on, live for yourself not for the other half.

icedwater said...

@Beggar: thanks for the quick reply.

With the statement that you were 'changing your car every two years' I was thinking of Mercs and BMs and Mazdas or the like, but you've corrected that.

Thanks for satisfying my curiosity. I don't usually probe into others' lives without invitation, but I felt I had to find out more about that.

My intention is not to accuse you of escaping anything - I think your views are valid too - and what you said about balancing expenses and living within your means is very important.

It's advice a lot of us could do with. :) Cheers!

Beggar said...

To icedwater:

Yeah, lived within what you can. Skoda is moving up the scale of expensive cars. BM & Merc are more for another category of people which I prefer not to say haha.

I change 4 cars in total every 2 yrs from a humble altis to civic to golf and now superb. Targetting an audi next.

Realistically, it is not that worth while to buy a flat in Singapore should you consider the price and also not that worth to burden yourself with a debt becos of a woman of your dreams coming up.

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