As the silly season starts

By noon on September 1st, we will know who are running for the 89 seats in the parliament.

As voters we are all keen to know who the candidates are. The irony is that the majority voters don’t really know who their current member of parliament is to begin with. I know who mine is, but I have not met nor spoken to him ever. That being the reality, how would you go about making a considered and fair assessment of how you should be casting your vote.

Let me offer up a short checklist to help with the thinking:

  1. Is your’s, your family’s and of Singapore’s future important to you?
  2. If you said YES to 1, do you think the candidate(s) in your ballot paper will be able to deliver the future you want?
  3. If you said NO to 1, it does not matter who you vote for.  So VOTE, PLEASE DON’T SPOIL THE VOTE EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPOIL IT.
  4. If you said YES to 2, have you understood who the candidate(s) is(are) and where they stand on issues that is of concern to you? Have you done sufficient research to be able to be honest to yourself to come to a decision?
  5. If you said NO to 2, are you prepared to find out why you think they cannot deliver the future you want?
  6. If you said NO to 5, it does not matter who you vote for. So VOTE, PLEASE DON’T SPOIL THE VOTE EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPOIL IT.
  7. If you said YES to 5, do spend time reading, talking to family, friends, colleagues or just about any other Singaporean voter. Do make sure that you get to hear from all sides not just one side.

See, it is quite easy to navigate the silly season.

Do be aware that what is called “Mainstream Media” (MSM), which especially in the Singapore context, has very low credibility in terms of being fair, balanced and critical. These MSM include the newspapers, TV and radio owned and operated by Singapore Press Holdings and MediaCorp. These entities are government-linked companies and have never been known to challenge or be critical of government policies. Investigative and critical reporting is NOT what they can ever do (or to be fair, allowed to do).

Having said all of that, do take about 10 minutes to listen to this TEDx talk that discusses how entities, like governments and political parties, would do all that they can to astroturf opinion and understanding of issues. Don’t be lulled by catchphrases, innuendoes, carrots, meat etc.

And, yes, this post could perhaps be also playing that game.

Majulah Singapura!


He probably is indeed telling the truth! (info graphic updated on Aug 29)

It would appear that ESM Goh Chok Tong is indeed telling the truth that “checks and balances are a seductive lie”.

He says in that article that: “the check comes from the “integrity of the leadership in PAP.”

Let’s dissect the notion of checks and balances. I will draw reference to how the PAP-run town councils built-sold-then-leased-back the town council management system. This system was withdrawn from use by the Worker’s Party following their 2011 general election take over of the Aljunied GRC.The fact that a key piece of infrastructure needed to run the town council had to be replaced with something new, I would assert, contributed to the issues that the Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol-East Town Council faced.

The town council management software was paid for from public funds, not party funds. The public funds also included funds from contributions made to the town councils that were under the PAP then. So, just because there was a “change” in the MPs running the GRC/town council, to then deny them a key infrastructure goes against all commonsense and fairness.

And to make things even worse, the “Coordinating Chairman” of the PAP town councils made statements that were totally wrong. In my post in 2013, I addressed his comments and you can read it there.

Coming back to what ESM Goh said a couple of days ago about checks and balance being a seductive lie, he probably is telling the truth. The PAP, it would appear, has been lying all along and seduced us all.

Let me share this info graphic which was sent to me. I am not sure of the origin of it or what licence is it made available (assuming CC). It seems to be from a facebook page of Temasek Review.

From Temasek Review’s Facebook page. Assuming CC license.

Update: August 29, 2015. The infographic above is incorrect and I have updated it to reflect that there indeed was a tender to sell the system.

updated infographic to reflect that there was a tender called.
updated infographic to reflect that there was a tender called.

The need for a independent Electoral Commission

I am reading the Candidate Handbook for Parliamentary Election 2015 for the first time. I don’t have any of the earlier versions so I cannot tell what the changes are (yes, no edit history/change log; here’s a local copy: Candidate Handbook for Parliamentary Election 2015_1 in case the site goes down).

According to Section 4.1 of the handbook:

Candidates should conduct election campaigning in a responsible and dignified manner that befits the seriousness of the election process. Candidates should steer away from negative campaigning practices based on hate and denigration of opposing candidates, and should not make false statements that allege corruption or commission of criminal offences, or statements that may cause racial or religious tensions or affect social cohesion. Egregious acts of negative campaigning could also be in breach of the law.

As noted by Viswa Sadasivan in his IQ post, this paragraph has many issues. Who would be the adjudicators of this? How does one raise an infraction?

We could crowd source to tally up of the various transgressions on an hourly/daily basis on a wiki or Google doc. This will help, if nothing else for posterity, but more so for transparency, regardless what is done with “the list”.

Further reading of the Candidate Handbook gives more nuggets:

On page 30 (Section 4.5.4):

iv. no form of public entertainment (such as singing, dancing or showing a film) shall be provided, and no live-streaming of any event (including the election meeting itself) shall be shown before, during and after the election meeting;

I wonder what the “live streaming”  is referred to here? I have to assume that it means that live streaming done by the candidate/party themselves is a no go. I cannot see how I, as a person in the audience at the rally, choosing to use Google Hangouts or Periscope to stream the rally is a no go. I have the right to do so.

These additional conditions are intriguing (page 30/31):

Other conditions that will be imposed are:

a. only persons named in the application for the permit and who are approved as speakers can speak at the election meeting;

b. members of the Central Executive Committee or an equivalent governing body of a political party as well as candidate(s) from the same political party who are nominated in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Elections Act (Cap 218) for election as a Member of Parliament for an electoral division shall only be permitted to speak at election meetings held by their own political party. They may not speak at election meetings held by an Independent Candidate or another political party even if they are concurrently members (of any type) of that other political party. The reference to a political party includes political alliances registered as a political party. An Independent candidate can only speak at election meetings for which a permit has been issued to him/her or his/her election agent. He/She will not be allowed to speak at election meetings held by political parties or other Independent candidates contesting in the elections. However, where a member of the Central Executive Committee member or an equivalent governing body of a political party has been nominated in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Elections Act for election as a Member of Parliament for an electoral division as a candidate for another political party or as part of a group of Independent candidates, he may be permitted to speak at all election meetings held by that other political party or at the election meeting held by that group of Independent candidates as the case may be;

emphasis added

Why would you DISALLOW a party or independent candidate from speaking at each other’s rally? While it would be strange for “opposing” candidates to speak at each other’s rally, stating it the way it is done smacks of being excessive and is curtailing one’s freedom to speak.  Granted that no one would want to or accept an invitation to speak at a PAP rally, but denying it explicitly, seems rather draconian.

Why did I name this post “the need for an independent electoral commission”? The fact that these “guidelines” did not have any public consultation – it might have been there but I cannot find any references to such. Because the Elections Department reports to the Prime Minister, I doubt that they have any form of independence or opportunity to do things better that could be negative for the PAP but good for Singapore.

More drama to unfold I am sure.

Five days to nomination.

What I want for the future of Singapore starting today.

rainbow-2 (2)
CC-BY version 4 – View from my house looking north. Rainbow (primary and secondary) originating in Bt Timah and ending somewhere at Clementi

Fifty years of being an independent country and having seen how we have evolved over the years with my fellow Singaporeans is just amazing. Yes, the political hand did play a significant part in the direction we took, but if we are to continue to thrive and get even better, we need to relook and reassess many things.

As the next general elections is looming (some say September 12 2015), here are my list of things I want to have a conversation around as well as action taken. These are in no particular order, except that these were listed over several weeks. I have diliberately left them unorganized/unsorted.

1. Withdrawal of the Internal Security Act. Failing which, a mandatory judicial review within 48 hours of anyone arrested. And they have to be presented in court within 30 days or be released.

2. Formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission: At fifty years of independence, we should be looking at reviewing al the dark days and getting a closure to all of them – no exception. Yes, it will hurt people along the process, but we need to clean and clear the deck.

3. No walk overs. All seats will be contested. Even if there is only one candidate, that candidate must get at least 25% votes in favour or else the seat is vacant. Democracy has to be seen to happen and not be something that is manipulated via technicalities. This applies to the silly GRC system as well.

4. Full disclosure of all the assets of GIC and Temasek. No excuses.

5 Set up of an Independent Electoral Commission

6. Removing the pre-requisites for being a President – anyone born in Singapore and above the age of 40 can run for president.

7. Live and archived broadcast of all parliamentary proceedings – warts, sleepy heads, yawns and all.

8. Freedom of Information Act

9. Removal of GRCs

10. Release of all government records after 30 years.

11. MPs will focus only on municipal work and bringing up issues in parliament. This means that other than the Prime Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister (as elected MPs), every minister shall be nominated and qualified people who were NOT ELECTED into parliament. Such nominations will be done AFTER the elections and these nominees will be confirmed by parliamentary committees convened for this purpose. The term of a minister so chosen will be for the duration of the government. This is to give separation of executive from municipal issues.

12. No pensions for MPs

13. All government systems will be built using open source software and where they don’t exist, to fund technology to meet it. The code will be available for anyone to use.

14. Review Instruction Manual to bring it up to date.

15. Removal of 2nd language as a requirement. Languages such as Tamil, Malay and Mandarin shall be taught at levels that should encourage their usage but not to the extent that is being done today. Students can optionally decide to take on a full 2nd language load if they want to. PSLE to be reviewed to level the playing field to ensure that social mobility is achievable and elitism to be contained.

16. Removal of licensing of newspapers etc. No government oversight.

17. Fixed dates for elections. No longer at the whim and fancy of the government of the day.

18. Mayors to be abolished. No practical value. If Mayors have to be kept in place, they must be elected positions not held by MPs.

19. All town council software systems will be publicly funded and built using open source and available to anyone – not party specific.

20. People’s Association restructured to have NO political links. The MP of an area is the advisor to the local grassroots organizations and the People’s Association works with the elected MP at all times.

21. Review of all HDB designs to that the apartments are of a decent size and not shoebox sizes

22. Proper labelling of GMO foods

23. Giving the consumer advocacy more authority – from a legal perspective.

24. Review of ALL government scholarships with a view to reduce the “bond” period to no more than 3 years after graduation. This is to free up people for the private sector.

25. Proportional representation in parliament. This is the best way

26. No Trans Pacific Partnership without national referendum

27. Outlawing of software patents.

28. Residential use of down link satellite systems.

29. Singaporean astronauts by 2020.

30. Smart power generation via Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. This is critical is we are to achieve our Smart Nation vision which is power hungry.

31. During elections, the “party political broadcasts” will all be of the same duration of ten minutes per party contesting and ten minutes for each independent. Similarly for presidential elections – each candidate gets the same amount of time.

32. Exit polls encouraged – the best part of these polls is that, in most cases, these polls are completely wrong but by specifically not allowing for it, there is no empirical evidence.

33. Removal of death penalty

34. Removal of 3/4 tank rule

35. Allow dual/multiple citizenships

36. ASEAN Day, August 8th, to be officially observed – starting from 2017, the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN.

37. Introduce a National Thanksgiving Day starting in 2015.

38. SAF Day to be renamed National Service Day and to encourage donning of uniform by all NSmen (SAF, Police, SCDF) during that day.

39. Removal of election deposit (all elections).

40. All Singapore Standards documents (coming out of SPRING Singapore) should be make available in electronic format at no cost.

41. Reinstate sale of chewing gum – educate on how to dispose them and we will be just fine.

42. Remove REITs to mitigate the excessive rental rates. Or create a rent control scheme to manage the runaway rents.

43. Hawker center rentals to be controlled by NEA and have to always be affordable.

44. Introduce Pay-As-You-Bid for COE bidding. The base line for each category will continue to be what it is today and that is the number that will be used for all subsequent considerations regardless of what the PAYB paid.

45. Singaporeans living outside Singapore will be exempt from Medishield Life.

46. Automatic forgiveness of National Service defaulters after they reach age of 50.

47. Removal of censorship of Internet sites and films. Rating of films to continue.

48. Removal of no alcohol law (introduced after the Little India incident)

49. Review the ORBAT of the SAF and Police to reduce the number of BGs and ACs. There are too many of them.

50. All tax payer funded research (and code developed) must be made available on a GPL-like license for anyone to use at no cost.

Here be the dragons!

I cannot believe that the MCE planners did not think things through.  Of how the traffic is to flow from East to West and vice versa as well as all the other exits from the AYE-ECP model.

I guess the clues to how they planned the MCE is quite clear in the video that the LTA created to explain how the MCE will benefit.

Let’s look at how they were selling the MCE.

a) At 0:12, the narrator says “… will change the way people travel East to West …”

b)  At 1:12, the narration is about taking Exit 3 to go to the Marina South Pier and Marina Bay Cruise Centre, Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage and Marina Bay Financial Centre.

c) At 1:59 the narration turns to traffic going East and taking Exit 2 to go to Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage and MBFC.

The focus of the narration is all about accessing the Marina Bay area. No where does the narration talk about the connectivities that the ECP had to Rochor and from Ophir. This means that as far as the LTA is concerned, traffic is all about new flows that have nothing to do with what is currently happening. In general, that is fine, but the fact is that what was a quick entry into the Rochor and exit via Ophir is now not available except via the new major trunk road, the Central Boulevard. This Central Boulevard (CB for short) exit is going to be the SINGLE merge point from any traffic exiting from the MCE going to the MBFC, Gardens etc. I am not sure of the capacity of the CB, but I reckon it will be a choke point. I think the majority of traffic getting out of the MCE is not going to the Cruise center etc but to the down town areas. Perhaps some of the load will be shared with the Maxwell Road exit (MCE Exit 1), but that is not ready until later. Maybe by then, the traffic flow will be much improved. All of this is something that the LTA should have considered before opening the MCE. What was the hurry to open it in stages when we all know that it will be a mess? Who gave the go ahead to open the MCE with these major links not ready? Did the Cabinet OK this?

Going back to the video, the key message early on was the traffic flow between East and West. It was only in the later part of the video at 2:40, any mention of going to the Northeast via KPE appears. So, the focus of the MCE is really for E<->W traversal.

If we accept that premise, then it completely befuddles me as to why the MCE->ECP exit is a TWO lane exit. One breakdown/accident on that exit means a 50% cut in road capacity meaning back ups in the MCE (all underground BTW) and a nightmare for anyone in a hurry to get to the airport. How did the planners NOT think through this?  How was the design review even signed off? Were there external consultants to give an independent review of the design?

If you look at the video the MCE->ECP exit is to the West and loops around before joining the northside of the ECP. There are NO major buildings or infrastructure in that area that is obvious to me that would have required the exit only having 2 lanes. Did the LTA actually determine conclusively that the original ECP eastbound traffic volume was mostly going to the Northeast via KPE and not enough going to the Bedok/Changi area hence validating the 2 lane exit? Really?

I don’t believe that the design is sound and I would urge the LTA to urgently relook and provide for at least two more lanes for the MCE->ECP exit.

Do it NOW.

I am very apprehensive now in going to the airport from the west. In one fell swoop, a fairly predictable eastbound ECP route is mired in a risky two lane MCE->ECP exit.

Just admit that a planning mistake was made. Let’s not wait for a situation before fixing it – numerous parliamentary seats are at risk.

Proceedings from the “The Singapore Computer Society’s Internet Regulations Workshop” – August 1996

I used to head up the Internet SIG of the Singapore Computer Society back in the 1990s. When the then Singapore Broadcasting Authority (now known as the Media Development Authority) issued a directive that they will require all ISPs to filter access to websites, my SIG sprang into action and organized a workshop at which we invited the SBA rep and interested members of SCS as well as the public to discuss the issues.

I had posted the proceedings of the session on my personal website when at that time was hosted on Pacific Internet ( But today that is all gone and I am using this blog to host it for posterity:

Singapore Computer Society’s Internet Regulations Workshop

The ProceedingsCopyright 1996 Singapore Computer Society

Saturday August 17th 1996 0930-1200 NCB Auditorium



Ms Ling Pek Ling, Director (Policy and Planning), SBA

Mr Lim Kien Thye, Legal Adviser, Singapore Computer Society

Mr Andrew Sansom, Vice President, SCS (moderator)

The workshop started with a welcome by the moderator who introduced the two panelists and the agenda of this workshop.

Ms Ling started off first by introducing the SBA regulations as was spelt out by the SBA press release and the subsequent gazette notification.

Mr Lim then went through the regulations in finer explaining the various clauses and their implications and interpretations.

Following the tea-break, Lim continued with some clarifications on issues raised during the break. Specifically, the issue in Section 13 of the Conditions of Class License was revisited. Mr Lim said, before the break, that geomancy et al as mentioned in that section are illegal on the net. A member of the audience had pointed out to him that in fact, Section 13 mentions the outlawing of this only for services defined in Paragraph 3(a) to (e), eg audiotext and videotext services of the Notification and this excludes the Internet. Lim was of the opinion that it is a little difficult to totally delineate the Internet from this category. SBA clarified that while Sec 13 did not apply to Internet Service Providers and Internet Content Providers, they were subject to the requirement to comply with the laws of Singapore.

The much awaited question and answer session ensued thereafter.

[Ed Note: Most of the answers were from the SBA. Where it is not, the speaker is identified.]

Q1: If a web site is maintained OUTSIDE Singapore but the contents are political in nature with the editors residing in Singapore, must that site register?

A1: Yes.

Q2: Even if the site is NOT of a political party?

A2: Yes, if it falls in the list of other categories which need to register with SBA. [These categories are spelt out in the class licence gazette, a copy of which is available on SBA’s web-page at]

Q3: If a Singaporean machine discusses, say, Indonesian politics, it is OK not to register?

A3: The registration requirement for political groups applies only to political parties registered in Singapore and groups discussing political issues relating to Singapore.

Q4: But if it discusses Singapore politics it must be registered?

A4: Yes.

Q5: Do you think the Wall Street Journal will care to register if you were to ask them to because some of their subscribers are resident in Singapore?

A5: We have a good working relationship with the WSJ and do not see that as being a problem.

Comment: I think the WSJ would not bother.

Q6: Can you please tell me why you included geomancy, astrology, palmistry and fortune-telling in the list of banned activities?

A6a: [Lim KT] Well technically, fortune-telling, palmistry and geomancy are on our statutes as “banned” activities.

A6b: But, KT, you and I (Harish Pillay) were in the police force doing NS many years ago, and you know very well that there are many things that are illegal (for example the burning of joss paper in public), but we close an eye and let it pass. We have been doing so with these things anyway, then why bring it back?

A6c: Well, the SBA regulations do not preempt other laws of Singapore and the inclusion here is merely to re-iterate the laws.

Q7: So, can I take it that we will not see anymore palmistry, astrology, geomancy and fortune-telling books in Times and MPH?

A7: Well those are not illegal. The SBA regulations focus on broadcast media, which are more pervasive – we want to make sure that people are not cheated by confidence tricksters under the pretext of telling fortunes etc.

Q8: Do you know that the SPH in it’s audiotext service, it is providing fengshui, astrology and horoscopes? How come, in spite of you listing audiotext services as one that must not promote these, you are allowing SPH to do so?

A8: We are in discussion with the SPH on what the acceptable limits are.

[Clarification: SPH is allowed to carry horoscopes. It does not offer astrology services.]

[Ed’s clarification – at last check, August 20th, SPH’s 1-900 service provides fengshui (Chinese geomancy) services.]

Q9: Will you tell us the public what arrangements you have made with SPH to allow this?

A9:We have given some guidelines on what the acceptable limits are in the phrasing of Condition 13(c), namely “ensure that its service is not used to advertise, provide or otherwise promote-

(i) astrology, geomancy, palmistry; or

(ii) any other type of fortune-telling device

Content or service providers who need further clarification can check with SBA.

[SBA has a feedback channel on its web-page at]

Q10: You say that I cannot put up banned audio/video on web pages. Does that mean that my .wav files are illegal now? Is there a publically available list of banned movies/songs?

A10: Those come under the Undesirable Publications Act and you can get the information from the Ministry of Information and the Arts.

Q11: In your Internet Code of Practice, you mention fines. I have never known a Code of Practice that carried fines. How much is the fine?

A11: Sec 24 of the SBA Act provides for SBA to impose fines, suspend or cancel the licence of a provider in the event of a breach of licence conditions. The Code of Practice gives some guidelines on the types of content that should not be carried. As one of the class licence conditions (Condition 11) is that licensees should comply with the Code of Practice, breach of this Code would constitute a breach of licence conditions.

Q12: Who can I appeal to?

A12: You can appeal to SBA. SBA will refer grey cases to the National Internet Advisory Committee. You can appeal to the Minister if you are not satisfied with SBA’s decision.

Q13: When will the NIAC be formed/announced? You did announce the SBA regulations in a hurry, out on a Thursday and enforced on a Monday.

A13: Sooner than you think.

Q14: In the Code of Practice you say that there should not be anything that satirises or denigrates any race or religious group. So, will you now force the ISP to drop rec.humor.funny because it has racial jokes? Are Jewish, Irish, Chinese, Indian, Malay jokes illegal now?

A14a: We will go by what is acceptable to our community and focus attention on areas which upset the racial and religious harmony of our society.

A14b: [Lim KT] The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act 1990 provides for a Presidential Council for Religious Harmony which would advise on matters affecting the maintenance of religious harmony in Singapore.

Q15: Since we do not have any sizeable Singaporean Jewish community, will you say that Jewish jokes are OK and not others?

A15: Again you have to refer to the Religious Harmony Act.

Q16: You say that promiscuity and permissiveness must not be promoted and yet allow Beverly Hills 123456 to be aired on local TV. If that is not promiscuity and permissiveness, then what is?

A16: It’s all a matter of degree. Even on TV, there is a family view hour of 9.30 pm. Shows aired before that hour have to comply with stricter standards.

Q17: If I run a site that has a bunch of people editing and maintaining the site with some of the editors physically outside Singapore, do I have to register that site because it could contain political discussions about Singapore?

A17: Yes, if it falls within the list of groups which need to register with SBA.

Q18: What kind of liability do the editors have?

A18: They are responsible for the contents as they have editorial privilege.

Q19: What about mirror sites mirrored in Singapore? And it contains political discussions but I do not have editorial rights?

A19: If the SBA thinks that the material in the mirror is not acceptable, it has to be removed.

Q20: Proxy servers for leased line customers. I have clients who have leased lines and use the net link to do Virtual Private Networking (VPN) and other business transactions. Now they want to go away from Singapore because of your rules. They have confidential information that cannot be put on a proxy server.

A20: The requirement for the use of proxy servers does not apply to customers who use it only for company use. Organizations such as cybercafes, libraries, community centers have to go the proxy servers as they are providing Internet to the public.

Q21: Let me understand this. I look after the schools. Schools have leased lines to the Net and so, if leased lines users are exempt, schools are exempt also?

A21: The exclusion is not for all leased line users per se. It is for corporate (private) communications. The primary audience of the schools are the students, which count as members of the public, and so they have to use the proxy.

Q22: But what about the teachers who have machines on their desks and no student will use it?

A22: The aim is to for the links to be used by the students and so the proxy must be used, even if student access is supervised by teachers.

Q23: When will you announce this non-use of the proxy server?

A23: Soon.

Q24: How soon? Some of the ISPs are sending out information to leased line customers informing them of this rule.

A24: Sooner than you think.

Q25: There is one group that is exempt from the regulations – those who provide access incidental to their business. Can you elaborate?

A25: If a hairdresser provides net access while cutting the hair of the client, the net access in that business is incidental and not primary. This is unlike the case of a cybercafe, where it would be difficult for the operator to claim that providing net access was not a primary part of its business.

Q26: Will you release the black list of web sites to the public?

A26: No, we want to keep it confidential and want to be conservative.

Q27: Why not? I can get a list of banned books, movies, tapes, magazines etc. How come you are so secretive about the black list?

Comment: The black list could become a hot list (laughter).

A27: The books and magazines that are banned are made known because people can buy then overseas and so they need to know what is not allowed. In the case of the Net, only the ISPs need to know as they are the ones making access available.

Q28: So, let’s consider this. I spend a weekend cruising the web. I come across a bunch of sites that are blocked off to me – I know this because of the message on the screen. I write them down. I then pass the information to others and collectively we build up a list and then I post it to my home page. Is that OK?

A28: No, you are in violation of these guidelines.

Q29: Why, where and how?

A29: You should not put the information out on the web.

Q30: So if I e-mail it to a friend outside Singapore and he posts it, will you block the information?

A30: The site is in violation.

Q31: When does an article or web page become “illegal”? When it is being created using an editor, or uploaded to server but not hyperlinked or when it is on the web?

A31: [Lim KT] The issue of when material becomes content is a grey one which lawyers are still grappling with.

Q32: I am a software developer. I depend on my customers to use my software to develop content on the Internet. Currently you are specifically mentioning WWW services. Will you in the future say that a particular service is not legal?

A32: As a software developer, you should not feel constrained as the primary responsibility lies with the content developers who use your software. We encourage software development in Singapore and want to emphasise the light touch nature of our licence scheme. We would also like to hear from you if you think the regulations are hindering your business operations. SBA is keen to have close consultation with the industry.

Q33: Further to that I asked if in future such “consultations” with the “Industry”, should they be minuted, be placed in the SBA web site for public access?

A33: We will look into the feasibility of this.

Q34: The Internet Regulations specifically define Internet Content Provider to be:

      – any individual who provides any programme, for business, political or religious purposes, on the World Wide Web through the Internet; or

– any corporation or group of individuals (including any association, business, club, company, society, organisation or partnership, whether registrable or incorporated under the laws of Singapore or not) who provides any programme on the World Wide Web through the Internet, and includes any Web publisher and any Web server administrator.

This definition excludes other Internet services such as the Gopher and the IRC services. Does this mean that the above definition excludes the Gopher and the IRC services? What about other emerging Internet technologies?

A34: We will continue to refine the Internet Regulations to incorporate emerging Internet technologies when these have mass public impact.

Q35: What about Intranets?

A35: Intranets are NOT under the jurisdiction of the SBA.

Q36: What about an Intranet of say a club – say the Turf Club. And they want to use their computer network to place bets and do gambling?

A36: As long as they have the license to do so by other relevant government authorities, this should not be a problem.

Q37: What would you define as obscene? I have to manage a design school where there are creative people who would ask me why a particular site is blocked when in their opinion it is not obscene.

A37: SBA will refer grey areas to the National Internet Advisory Committee.

Q38: If my site has a link to another who may have links to objectionable sites, am I liable?

A38: You will not be, provided you did put the link in good faith and did not know of the subsequent links.

Q39: You say that financial information presented without commentary is exempted from the SBA regulations. What does that mean?

A39: The exemption covers raw information for example, the index closed high at 1234. To quote the Gazette, the exemption applies to “financial information services where the financial information is transmitted without commentary and without alteration or addition to its form.”

Q40: You say that the Internet Advisory Committee will be formed soon. What types of people will it have? Users or people from the govt?

A40: It will constitute a broad cross-section of people to represent the users of the Internet and will include relative light users as well as members of the industry.

Q41: When the committee decides on something and the decision is not what the SBA or the Minister hoped for, the SBA and the Minister is NOT bound to accept the decision, right? After all it is only an advisory committee.

A41: Yes. But, we will take into consideration all the viewpoints carefully before deciding.

Q42: We all know of this abomination called “Mr. Kiasu”. Now, I belong to a running group which enjoys lewd and naughty jokes and one us wanted to create an e-mailing list to share it with the rest. He approached one of the ISPs who, erring on the side of kiasuism, wanted him to sign a document that effectively disallowed anything like what we wanted. Don’t you think your rules will breed more self-censors – mind you, this was before your rules came about? I now run the mailing list out of my laptop.

A42:No, as long as they are following the guidelines.

Updated August 20th 1996
This page was compiled, edited and posted by Harish Pillay, Internet SIG Chair with the help of four other participants from the audience and the SBA panelist, Ms Ling.

You may quote from this page for commentary purposes, newsgroup postings and so on, but we ask you to please include the URL – – in your quotes.


The Town Council IT System Tender

[This was originally written on March 26, 2013, but kept as a draft giving the powers that be time to revert. Looks like nothing is moving for a country that prides itself on efficiency and fairplay, the AIM saga which has deep links into the ruling party is proving to be a hot potato. The tender has been awarded to the team led by NEC Singapore. No indication that any of this is open source software.]

I thought I should post it now so that there will be transparency in this affair.

The tender for the town council IT system was released on February 4th. I did try to get the tender documents but failed.

Here’s the email flow – minus the recipient info:

1. Feb 26, 2013

Subject: Town Council Management System tender docs

Hi.  I refer to the tender that was called for a new IT system for managing the town council.  I can’t seem to find the document on your website (nor on GeBiz).  Can you please point me to where it is?


2. Feb 26, 2013

Dear Mr Harish Pillay

Kindly contact me regarding your enquiries.

3. Feb 26, 2013

[Person at town council] –

> Dear Mr Harish Pillay
> Kindly contact me regarding your enquiries.

Thanks for the reply as well as speaking on the phone earlier.  It is a pity that I can’t participate even though the date is not due yet.


4. Feb 27, 2013

Dear Mr Harish Pillay

As mentioned, the tender is advertised in The Straits Times and Zaobao on 4 Feb 2013.

Interested and eligible tenderers are to attend the tender briefing on 7 Feb 2013 before they are allowed to purchase the tender documents.


5. Feb 27, 2013

[Person at town council] –

> Dear Mr Harish Pillay
> As mentioned, the tender is advertised in The Straits Times and Zaobao on 4 Feb 2013.
> Interested and eligible tenderers are to attend the tender briefing on 7 Feb 2013 before they are allowed to purchase the tender documents.

Thanks for the confirmation.  I find it strange that even the tender docs are not on GeBiz.  Any reason why there is an exception?


6. Feb 28, 2013

Dear Mr Harish Pillay

We are not a government agency and as such we are ineligible to participate in the Gebiz.

7. Feb 28, 2013

[Person at town council] –

> Dear Mr Harish Pillay
> We are not a government agency and as such we are ineligible to participate in the Gebiz.

Thanks for the clarification.

8.  Mar 20, 2013

[Person at town council] –

Hi.  I am writing to you to find out if there has been any submissions to the tender that closed earlier this month.  I’d appreciate if you can tell me who they are and when do you expect the tender to be awarded.


9. Mar 22, 2013

Dear Mr Harish Pillay

The provisional tender result is posted on our Town Council website ““.

Progress on tenders currently under evaluation cannot be disclosed.

10. Mar 22, 2013

[Person at town council] –

> Dear Mr Harish Pillay
> The provisional tender result is posted on our Town Council website ““.

Thank you.  I assume this is the page:

> Progress on tenders currently under evaluation cannot be disclosed.

Certainly.  Is there a way to get a copy of the tender specs to understand what the 3 options are?
Thanks again.

11. Mar 22, 2013

Dear Harish Pillay

Only the eligible tenderers who have attended the tender briefing are allowed to collect the tender documents.


12. Mar 22, 2013

[Person at town council] –

> Only the eligible tenderers who have attended the tender briefing are allowed to collect the tender documents.

Yes, I understand that. You did indicate that in an earlier email.  But since the tender has been submitted, I am wondering if the document is available, even at a price.

13. Mar 22, 2013

Dear Harish Pillay

The tender documents can only be purchased by the eligible tenderers who have attended the tender briefing.

So, you can see that unless you attended the briefing, you cannot get to the tender documents. I would need to reach out to those who have submitted the tenders to get to the document. Why would this be made so difficult to be acquired? What’s the secret in those documents?

Town Councils exist by virtue of the Town Council Act Chapter 329A. We know the reasons for creating town councils but from the citizen’s perspective the town council is part of municipal government as suggested by former PM Goh Chok Tong:

So in a way, the MPs became the elected representatives of this municipal aspect of government. But more importantly, we also believed in the devolution of powers downwards. This is to give a stake, first, to the MPs, then next to the grassroots leaders, and of course, very importantly, to the residents. This is your Town Council.

So, I think in the email exchange above, the person from the town council is totally wrong to say that they are not a government agency.

The current PM has called for a review of the town council is a good thing as the unstated objectives (“let’s make it difficult to let non-PAP parties win GRCs”) has now gone away.

Talking about the review of of the AIM fiasco, the PM gave the MND two months from January 8. It is now almost end of March 2013 May and thus far nothing has surfaced.

Since there is supposed to be a review of the AIM transaction, is it still appropriate for the 14 PAP run town councils to call for a tender to “replace” the system they already have? Or should it be held off until the review is done. The answer is quite clear.

Switching gears, let’s look at the tender submission result.

Option 1            Option 2               Option 3      Alternative Option

1. NEC Asia Pacific Pte Ltd           –                         –                $17,610,820.00          –

2. HCL Singapore Pte Ltd        $27,549,208.46   $21,063,955.09             –                     –

3. NCS Pte Ltd                             –                         –                $31,485,192.00     $16,798,500.00

Option 1: Ownership model (hardware is decentralized)
Option 2: Software ownership model, hardware service model (hardware is centralized)
Option 3: Software and hardware service model (hardware is centralized)
Alternative: Decentralized solution for 3 years of contract period

On April 2nd, it was announced that the tender was awarded to NEC Singapore. For a lot of money – $16.8 million dollars to be exact. No mention of anything in this being open source, no git repository nothing. No indication of the poison pill clause “if there is a change in the boundaries or management of town councils, the application stops working” etc.

The PM asked for a review of the AIM scandal. Today, May 1st, there is still no sign of it. How long does it take the MND to do the work? I volunteer to do this due diligence. I am sure they will not take this offer, even though it is given in good faith.