New Paper: Murdered China masseuse? No, that’s S’pore’s WP candidate

China newspaper mixes up the two women and learns of mistake only when contacted by The New Paper

By Kor Kian Beng


The China newspaper’s website which wrongly identified Miss Glenda Han as Chinese masseuse Yu Hong jin, who was stabbed to death last Sunday.
Picture: HAI XIA DU SHI BAO

HERS was one of the more recognisable faces in the last general election.

But Miss Glenda Han, 30, from the Workers’ Party (WP) got a shock yesterday when she learnt that she has been mistaken for a murdered woman.

In a report published on Thursday in a China newspaper, Miss Han’s photograph was used instead of that of masseuse Yu Hong Jin.

Madam Yu, 30, a China national, was found stabbed to death last Sunday morning at a healthcare centre in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10.

The male suspect, Eu Lim Hoklai, 53, who was found with Madam Yu at the healthcare centre, has been charged with murder.

The boo-boo was made by Hai Xia Du Shi Bao, a daily in Fuzhou province.

The wrong colour photograph was also used on the newspaper webpage.

Miss Han said that a reporter from Lianhe Wanbao, who had stumbled upon the website, contacted her yesterday morning and told her about it.

And Miss Han’s immediate response? ‘I said, ‘That’s terrible.’ It’s not very nice to be confused with a dead person, especially one whose death was rather unusual.’

Miss Han, who was part of the WP team that lost to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s team in Ang Mo Kio GRC in May’s General Election, said that she has been following the murder case through the media.

When The New Paper spoke to her yesterday evening , she said that her parents still hadn’t learnt about the mistake, nor has she got calls from friends asking about it.

Miss Han, who runs Les Chameaux, a cocktail bar at Robertson Quay, said: ‘Maybe it’s still too early.’

Miss Han, who visited the newspaper’s website yesterday, doesn’t know how it could have happened.

But she noted that the photograph used in the China newspaper appears to be the same one published in a Lianhe Wanbao report on Monday about her life after the elections.

Miss Han filled in an online feedback form belonging to the newspaper requesting for a correction.

She said: ‘The newspaper should also apologise to me.’

When The New Paper visited the website at 5pm yesterday, her photograph was still on the webpage.

But after The New Paper contacted them at about 7.30pm, the photograph was removed.

When contacted yesterday, the newspaper’s editor, Mr Sun De Jian, said that he wasn’t aware about the mistake until The New Paper told him.

Mr Sun claimed his paper has a circulation of about 500,000 copies.

He said the reporter who had filed the report had passed Miss Han’s photograph to the newspaper.

Mr Sun said he didn’t know how it happened, but promised to find out.

He said: ‘If we have made a mistake, we will definitely apologise to her.’

Weekend TODAY: China paper in photo mix-up

IN A bizarre case of mistaken identity, Fujian-based daily newspaper Hai Xia Du Shi Bao used, in its Thursday report on the murder of an Ang Mo Kio masseuse, a picture of Workers’ Party member Glenda Han (picture) as the victim.

Both Madam Yu Hong Jin and Ms Han may be 30-year-old Chinese businesswomen with long flowing tresses – but the similarities end there.

The two women had appeared in last Monday’s Lianhe Wanbao, which profiled Ms Han at her Robertson Quay cocktail bar, Les Chameaux, and ran a separate report on the fatal stabbing of Madam Yu, a Chinese national.

The Hai Xia Du Shi Bao apparently used the Singapore paper’s published picture of Ms Han at her cocktail bar.

Mr Yuan You Zhi, the reporter who wrote the article for the Fujian daily, told TODAY the mix-up was a careless mistake and Ms Han’s photo would be removed today.

The report appeared online at ww.hdzxw.com/hdnews/place/200606/199306.html.

When contacted for her reaction, Ms Han said: “I heard from Wanbao about the photo mix-up. I’ve sent the Chinese newspaper an email to remove the photo. I just think it’s not very professional to get something like that mixed up, especially for such bad news.”

The Hai Xia Du Shi Bao had picked up the news as Madam Yu, who was stabbed to death last Sunday morning, was born in the Fujian province where the paper enjoys a readership of 60 per cent of the population. – TOR CHING LI

I-S Magazine: Simply Sylvia

I-S Issue 310

FEATURE

The fever of the elections has passed, the dust has settled. Sylvia Lim, Chairman of the Workers’ Party, leads the highest-scoring opposition team, winning 43.9 percent of votes at Aljunied GRC. Newly appointed as a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP), she gives Sharon Lim an insider view. Photography by Nancy Ide

By Sharon Lim

Stepping into the interview in a bright pink chinois jacket and a pair of jeans, Sylvia Lim looks relaxed and unassuming – nothing like the persona portrayed during the nine-day hustings. Personable and eloquent, answers easily roll off her tongue when asked about politics and the work of her party. But delve into Sylvia Lim the person, and long pauses and hesitation fill the air.

Realistic and practical, she typifies the composed party leader with her feet (and ear) firmly on the ground. Don’t expect her to be championing women’s causes in Parliament. Her passion lies in the bread and butter issues of the regular Joe. And bring up the fact that she is the first woman opposition MP since 1963, she retorts, “So what if I am male or female. It doesn’t make a difference.”

From a supporter who donated bottles of birds’ nest drinks for each Workers’ Party candidate, to an anonymous man who sent Lim constructive feedback on her rally speeches every day via email, to the hordes that attended the nightly rallies, these actions surprised, touched and affirmed her cause in giving Singaporeans another voice in politics.

Did you feel that you were given justified media coverage during the elections?

I think this round, generally, the English and Chinese papers did not represent the Workers’ Party in a bad light. And because of this, it affected voters’ perception of us as well. So people started to think, “Hey, Workers’ Party is not crazy.” But then, we could have had more coverage vis a vis PAP, but that’s the way things are.

“The way things are.” Is that a resigned statement or…?

It’s born out of a sense of realism and also from having worked with people who have been in opposition politics longer. They’ll tell you “Oh, it’s so much better than the previous elections, don’t complain.” So there is a little bit of taking the scraps that fall from the table, that kind of thing. Of course we want things to improve, but we can’t expect things to improve in quantumn leaps overnight, so we try to push the boundaries. I find sometimes also that because people are too resigned to the fact that the status quo will remain, that there’s no inclination for change, and that’s wrong. Because if you’ve ever tried to push the boundaries, you will realize that things can happen. If you’re there and you’re prepared to take a risk, things will happen.

What part of campaigning did you find enjoyable?

I think it was enjoyable to know that a party of our size – which is nothing compared to the PAP – can make some waves. So it’s always good to know that you don’t have to have a lot of money or a lot of manpower to make some difference. Even little steps do matter. People are prepared to come forward to join the party and stand as candidates against the PAP. These are the pillars on which bigger things will be founded.

What was the high point for you?

I found the Serangoon Stadium rally quite a high point for me. It was the final rally, first of all. Secondly, it was the one and only rally site that we had where we couldsee the audience, because the stadium was very well lit and we could see people’s faces. That was very very uplifting. And we ended off the whole thing with the pledge—and I think there was some sense of unity of purpose, some solidarity with the people.

What was the lowest point?

For me personally, I think there were times when I thought that I didn’t do as well as I could. For example, for the party political broadcast on TV, the feedback was that I came across as arrogant, blah, blah, blah. I didn’t intend to be so, but I realized that it’s got a lot to do with media training. Other than that, what I imagined the campaign to be eventually turned out to be not as scary as I thought.

Were you scared?

I wasn’t scared at all. But initially, you know, when you think of it in vacuo, you think that the PAP is going to dig out everything you’ve done from the time you were in kindergarten or whatever. I was waiting for that, but nothing came. In the end, they were just harping on the James Gomez thing.

What is your feeling on the outcome of the James Gomez incident?

I was surprised that the police gave him a warning. Not because I felt that he had done anything wrong.

Was there any point in time when you thought, “Yah, we actually have a chance of winning.”

Such thoughts do cross my mind, but generally I know that we really need to be prepared for the worst, because if we don’t win or if our margins are poor or whatever, we still have to face the media and the people. And we have to be composed at that point, you see. So it’s always important to be prepared for all eventualities.

Were you pleased that you actually met your 40 percent target?

I wouldn’t say it was a target, but we are pleased that the voters showed that they were prepared to support us. We were not really surprised by the results, but I think we still hoped that we could have done better.

How did you feel when the Party decided that you would be the NCMP?

I felt a sense of responsibility, that I have to do it properly. And also not to let down the people who had voted for us.

What can we expect from you in Parliament? What kind of issues will you be championing?

The traditional concerns that WP tends to raise, i.e. to speak up for those who are not doing very well under the free market economy. So we’ll be watching issues like cost of living, health care costs, retirement concerns. At the same time also, because I’m legally trained, I will be reviewing the legislation concerning Parliament, which I’ve been helping Mr Low to do for the past few years anyway. So I’ll be speaking up on that. And personally, I guess I will take an interest in some of the law and order debates. But I must add that I’m not there to canvass my own causes.

What is your mantra, speaking generally?

Fairness. I think people should be treated fairly. I think that’s the fundamental principle.

Do you think you’re misunderstood?

No, not really (laughs). I don’t think people’s impressions of me have fossilized yet. It’s hard to put this in a neutral way. People have come up to me after the elections, in public places, and told me things like “Thank you for what you’re doing,” “Thank you for giving us a choice,” and “Don’t give up.” So for whatever reason, I think that they believe that what we’re doing is actually something for them. Which I think is really (pause) it! We’re not in this for ourselves because, frankly speaking, the benefits you get are (laughs), you know, let’s not talk about that. There are some sacrifices made, because we think that it is probably better for Singaporeans in Singapore if there are elections where people have choices. And because of that, if the people perceive it, then I think we’ve achieved quite a lot.

That speaks of the party, but what about you?

Similarly too, I think, okay, I don’t know about everyone, and I’m sure some people hate me, but ah…

Does that concern you?

You can’t please everyone, so that’s okay. But I think so long as the average person believes that I am sincere in what I’m trying to do on the Workers’ Party platform, that is try to advance their interest and keep the government accountable, so long as people believe that, I think that would be good enough.

Do you think people believe this?

It may be too early to form a definitive judgment, but I think, based on the elections feedback and all that, that people do believe that I’m sincere in what I’m trying to do. It’s something that is a long haul thing, you know. Of course I’m not saying that I’m going to be around forever. I think, personally, I would commit my time and energy if I feel that there’s support for the things we’re trying to do and we’re making headway. But if I find that we’re not making headway, then what’s the point. I mean, we all have lives to lead, right?

You’re a public figure now. How does that make you feel?

I think that’s alright. I think I can still bear with that. But I suppose I have to be more circumspect in the things I do. So I guess you can expect me to be going out of Singapore more (hearty laughs). Like just yesterday I went down to my neighborhood coffee shop dressed in my home clothes. I put on sunglasses to try to look as unrecognizable as possible. I was waiting for my mother, actually, and along came this group of retirees, and they said “Oh, we finally get to meet you” or something like that. It was very, very touching. They were supporters of Workers’ Party. And they told me about the rallies they had attended and gave me feedback. It’s useful to remain in contact and be approachable. We don’t want that to change.

So who is Sylvia Lim?

I’m idealistic, but I’m also a very practical person. So I would make sacrifices for my ideals, but still try not to break the law in doing that.

Is being Chairman of WP and lecturer at Temasek Polytechnic your entire life? Or is there more to it?

No, no, it isn’t. I would say it takes up quite a lot of my time. I still have time left over, which I save for a few things like my family, close friends and myself. And I will always leave that pocket there, because I think that’s very important for my sanity.

New Paper: You speak only Singlish? You’re in berry big trouble

Columnists

By Glenda Han

IN Singapore, when we speak poor or colloquial English, we are said to be speaking Singlish.

I basically divide Singlish into three broad categories. The first is unique to Singaporeans: Finishing our sentences off with lahs or lehs so as to give them a slight oomph. When you say ‘Come lah?’, it sounds more persuasive than just ‘Do you want to come?’

Secondly, we tend to cut our sentences short so as to get our message across faster. For example, we say ‘Have or not?’ rather than ‘Do you have it or not?’ I’m still trying to decide if we are just plain lazy or trying to divert those few nanoseconds saved into more constructive use.

Lastly, we churn out ‘rojak’ sentences – not comprising fried dough, pineapples and peanut sauce – but English, Mandarin and Malay all within one sentence. For instance, ‘Let’s go makan (eat in Malay).’ Though not an excuse, it’s no wonder, given our multi-racial society.

Speaking Singlish in those ways does not mean having a bad command of English. Sure, it isn’t proper, but if you can switch to proper English if need be, you don’t have a problem.

Bad command of English is more a poor grasp of grammar and mispronunciation. For example, when you say ‘This is more better’, or when someone pronounces lingerie as ‘lin-gir-ree’.

The Speak Good English Movement emphasises the need to stop speaking Singlish. But I think Singlish is a problem only if one cannot get his or her tenses or pronunciation right.

Actors like Gurmit Singh speak Singlish in their sitcoms but can easily switch to proper English if need be. Yet, as much as I understand that our sitcoms need to have a local flavour, it irks me when words are intentionally mispronounced to inject humour. Using words like ‘par-kwet (parquet)’ or, as a Chinese variety show host said, ‘I like it berry (very) much’, is just brazenly bad English.

The young may grow up thinking they are pronouncing these words correctly.

Every country has its own slang. Singlish helps identify us as Singaporeans, but don’t confuse it with bad English.

And don’t confuse it with having an accent either. An accent does not naturally mean your standard of English is higher. I was perplexed when someone was surprised that I did not have an accent even after living in Paris for two years.

I have known people who have lived in Anglophone countries for years, and though they do speak less Singlish, they do not simply adopt an accent after having spent their formative years in Singapore.

During a recent meal, I heard a girl who has spent all her life here speak in a quasi-local, quasi-American accent (with Singlish terms peppering her sentences!). It kept my appetite at bay.

I quote PM Lee Hsien Loong at the launch of the Speak Good English Movement last year: ‘Speaking good English does not mean using bombastic words or adopting an artificial English or American accent. We can speak in the normal Singapore tone, which is neutral and intelligible.’

Perhaps teachers should pay more attention on highlighting the irregularities in pronunciation, like the word ‘presentation’ (pronounced ‘PRARE-sen-tation’ rather than ‘PRE-sen-tation’).

Our standard of English will continue to spiral downwards if there is no conscious effort to address even the basic problems.

The writer owns a restaurant and was part of the Workers’ Party team, which contested in Ang Mo Kio GRC in the recent General Election. For feedback, e-mail tnp@sph.com.sg

Straits Times: MP to ask Govt for $100m for Hougang

Application for upgrading package to go ahead despite what minister said, says Low

By Ken Kwek

HOUGANG MP Low Thia Khiang is going to ask the Ministry of National Development (MND) for the $100 million upgrading package for his ward that the People’s Action Party had announced during the general election.

The Workers’ Party chief told The Straits Times last night that he will do so, despite National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan’s recent statement that opposition wards will get funds for upgrading only after PAP constituencies had received theirs.

Mr Low said: “It doesn’t matter what the minister has said, I will apply for the funds anyway.”

After the election, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong had said that although Hougang voters had not voted in the PAP candidate, Mr Low could still try and apply for the money as the Government had been “prepared to put up a budget for it”.

But Mr Mah said last week that the money would not be made available for the opposition ward.

Mr Low yesterday said he had met Mr Mah on May 30 at the swearing-in ceremony for the new Cabinet, and had asked the minister for the $100 million upgrading fund that Hougang residents were promised by the PAP.

He declined to disclose Mr Mah’s response, saying it was “a private conversation”.

But he added: “The Government will just have to decide what is the right thing to do. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said he wants to build a more inclusive society, right?

“On my part, I’ll do whatever is necessary to fight for my residents’ needs, and apply for the funds.”

Mr Low said he had “given instructions” to his town council staff to prepare the necessary paperwork for making the application.

But he would not be seeking funds through the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC), as the application process for such funds had always been ‘skewed against the opposition’.

“I think it’s pointless going through that avenue,” he said.

Constituencies that want CIPC funds for estate upgrading can apply for them only through their grassroots advisers, who are always PAP representatives. No CIPC funds have been used for opposition wards so far.

Mr Low added that he was sure the MND had the budget “since they promised Hougang voters before Polling Day that $100 million could be set aside for upgrading their estate”.

He added that he believed many Singaporeans did not support the votes-for-upgrading policy because they considered it unfair.

“I’ve always believed that Singaporeans have a sense of justice in their hearts, and are able to make fair judgment on issues,” he said.

“The question is whether the PAP is willing to accept this, and trust the people’s judgment.”

Mr Eric Low, the PAP candidate who failed to win Hougang, declined to comment when contacted yesterday.

kenkwek@sph.com.sg

Straits Times: PAP policy belies ‘Staying Together, Moving Ahead’

FORUM

IN THE wake of General Election 2006, various senior People’s Action Party (PAP) leaders pledged to respect voters’ choice.

At the Cabinet swearing-in ceremony on May 30, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged that his Government would work with all Singaporeans, including those who voted for the opposition.

Singaporeans who hoped that the PAP would therefore remove its votes-for-upgrading strategy got a lightning bolt of reality with the Minister for National Development’s statement over the weekend that, basically, nothing has changed.

Minister Mah Bow Tan’s main argument was that the Government had to be fair to those who had voted for the PAP on its promise to upgrade PAP wards. But the bigger question on voters’ minds is a very simple one – whether such a promise is a legitimate use of taxpayers’ monies. To state the obvious, everybody pays taxes, whether they live in PAP or opposition wards.

Mr Mah had previously said that he could not “look PAP MPs in the eye” if he gave the same priority in upgrading to opposition wards. But how, then, does he look these taxpayers in the eye?

No one living in an opposition ward expects special treatment, that is, to jump ahead of PAP wards with older blocks. But, all things being equal, it should not matter whether a PAP or an opposition MP is the incumbent.

The same objections apply to how the public funds entrusted to his ministry under the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) for estate improvements are disbursed.

Further, to say that disbursing CIPC funds through the citizens’ consultative committees is not political because they are made up of residents, makes as much sense as saying that residents’ committees are politically neutral when they are heavily mobilised to help PAP candidates campaign.

On this vexed question of selective upgrading, the recent conflicting messages from the PAP are telling. For instance, the day after Polling Day, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong praised Potong Pasir and Hougang residents for having loyalty towards their MPs, which was a “better (characteristic) than for them to be chasing after every goodie which we offer them”.

After this dose of honesty from SM Goh, what kind of values is the PAP promoting by continuing with its votes-for-upgrading policy?

The overarching theme of the PAP’s 2006 Election Manifesto is “Staying Together, Moving Ahead”.

As a Singaporean who decided to stand with the Workers’ Party, I look forward to the day when election campaigns will be fought by all parties over long-term national policies which affect Singaporeans’ lives deeply.

Let Singaporeans reflect and decide elections on these questions, which are surely far more important for the nation’s future than the selective use of public funds to ensure that the PAP stays in power.

Sylvia Lim Swee Lian (Ms)
Non-Constituency MP (Elect)
Chairman, Workers’ Party

TODAY: Block upgrade debate

Opposition says it’s taxpayers’ money, PAP MPs say it’s about the timing

TEO XUANWEI
xuanweit@newstoday.com.sg

EVEN as National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan has reaffirmed that the policy of upgrading the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) wards first will stay for now, discussion of the issue looks set to continue for some time yet.

Mr Mah said there are three criteria when selecting precincts for upgrading: How old the blocks were, where the blocks were – to ensure upgrading is not concentrated in a few constituencies – and support for the Government. But the Opposition feels it is unfair to place its wards at the back of the upgrading queue.

“It should not matter whether a PAP or an Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) is the incumbent,” wrote Non-constituency MP Sylvia Lim in a letter to TODAY yesterday.

“Mr Mah’s main argument was that the PAP Government had to be fair to those who had voted for the PAP on its promise to upgrade PAP wards. But the bigger question on voters’ minds is a very simple one – whether such a promise is a legitimate use of taxpayers’ monies or not,” said Ms Lim, who is chairman of the Workers’ Party.

“Everybody pays taxes whether they live in PAP or Opposition wards. There are no tax rebates for those living in Opposition wards.”

Mr Mah earlier said such a policy was “not unreasonable” because the Government had pledged to provide all HDB blocks with lifts that stop on every floor by 2015. There are also blocks in PAP wards that are as old as those in the Opposition wards of Hougang and Potong Pasir that have not been upgraded as well.

South-west District Mayor Amy Khor agreed that prioritisation is inevitable because there are limited resources.

Moreover, lift upgrading “is not a right, but done by the Government out of goodwill”, argued Dr Khor. She also agreed with Mr Mah that the surplus generated from the Government’s policies generated the funds for the costly upgrading programmes.

“The principle is that we will do lift-upgrading for all eligible blocks, regardless of whether they are PAP or non-PAP wards. But it’s just a question of timing. The Government has said that no one will be deprived of upgrading,” she said.

MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol Charles Chong added that while governments have a responsibility to take care of basic necessities such as defence and education, lift upgrading is a “non-essential item”.

He said: “It’s a question of who goes first, you can’t do it all together. The reality of the situation is that you take care of your supporters first.

“When I cast my vote, I’m casting for one programme over another, so there must be some differentiation. If not, after a while, people will say ‘no matter how I vote, life goes on and nothing changes’.”

For those who think it is unfair, they should see that the Government also has “many other policies that benefit everybody equally, regardless of whose ward they are staying in”, said Dr Khor, who is also Parliamentary Secretary for Environment and Water Resources.

Examples are the Progress Package, Workfare bonus, and policies to help the low income.

But Ms Lim said that elections should be fought over “long-term national policies that affect Singaporeans’ lives deeply”, and not over “the selective use of public funds to ensure that the PAP stays in power”.