SINGAPORE: A 58-year-old man was charged in court with armed robbery with hurt on Tuesday (Oct 15), after attacking another man with a knife and robbing him of his phone.
Police said they received a report on the incident at about 10.40pm on Monday.
According to the report, the man had “slashed a male victim with a fruit knife and robbed him of his mobile phone along Tanglin Halt Road”, near Commonwealth.
Officers from Clementi Police Department established the identity of the man through investigations and arrested him on the same day.
If convicted, the man could be jailed between five and 20 years. He could also receive at least 12 strokes of the cane.
SINGAPORE: The bond between the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) must be sustained and strengthened, as Singapore navigates the uncharted waters of global uncertainties, a new phase for its economy and technological disruptions, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday (Oct 15).
This “symbiotic relationship” is a key foundation that can prevent the forces of angst and social division, which have been seen in other parts of the world, from happening here in Singapore.
In a keynote speech delivered at the NTUC Delegates’ Conference, Mr Lee reaffirmed the Government’s promise to keep workers at the centre of the country’s economic and social development efforts.
UNIQUE TRIPARTITE PARTNERSHIP
This year’s conference held at the Orchid Country Club is a “special” one, said the prime minister, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Modernisation Seminar.
That was a “pivotal moment” for both the PAP and the NTUC that Mr Lee recounted at length in his speech, as he retraced the history of the relationship between the ruling party and the labour movement.
“NTUC was no longer just an institution for collective bargaining. It saw itself as a partner in Singapore’s economic and social transformation,” he said of the 1969 Modernisation Seminar.
“This led to the unique tripartite partnership, which has underpinned half a century of harmonious industrial relations.”
This harmonious industrial relations catalysed investments and jobs, while Singapore’s industrialisation drive succeeded allowing the country to leapfrog the region and link up with the world.
As the economy took off, wages of workers and standards of living rose quickly, Mr Lee recounted.
The PAP and NTUC worked as partners throughout this period of high growth, although this tripartite relation was also “severely tested” during “frightening” economic downturns in 1985, the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis.
The Government had to take “difficult and painful decisions” during these downturns, such as cutting Central Provident Fund (CPF) rates and ministers had to convince union leaders that these steps were unavoidable.
“And hardest of all, PAP and union leaders then had to persuade Singaporeans and workers to accept the bitter medicine,” added Mr Lee.
“But each time, we tackled the problem together, pulled through, and emerged stronger and more united.”
Moving forward, Mr Lee said the bond between the PAP and NTUC leadership has "to be sustained and strengthened”.
“Once again, we are sailing into uncharted waters,” he continued.
“The world is filled with uncertainties. Our economy is entering a new phase. Technology is transforming many industries. Emerging businesses are disrupting established players.”
READ: Close ties between PAP, NTUC will continue into 4G leadership: DPM Heng Swee Keat
Amid these, workers have to be ready for change, said Mr Lee, while assuring that help will be at hand to help them train for new roles, cope with the rapid changes in their industries and to remain employable.
“Hold their hands and give them confidence that we can make it together,” he said.
"It won't be easy but we will walk with you every step of the way."
This is unique to Singapore. In other countries, workers are left alone to fend for themselves when they lose their jobs, added Mr Lee.
Many more who still have jobs feel left behind, while the masses are angry that the elites in their society are “disconnected” and they feel looked down upon.
“The social compact, that trust (and) that mutual reliance has been fractured,” said the prime minister. “People are angry and they just to want to tear the system down, because it is no longer working for them (but) what comes after that, don’t know.”
This is why populist movements are growing in many countries, such as the United States, Britain, and France.
Closer to home, ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong showed deep and widespread unhappiness, with the most vocal complaints being political such as how the “One Country, Two Systems” is working out.
“But underlying this is also the sense that serious economic and social concerns have not been addressed,” Mr Lee continued, pointing to concerns about expensive housing and how the younger generation in Hong Kong is losing optimism about their future.
Singapore’s situation is quite different from Hong Kong’s, but it still warrants close attention, he said.
“We should study closely what’s happening in all these other places, including Hong Kong, and ask ourselves: Can this deep social angst happen here? Can this social division befall us? And my answer is yes it can if we are not careful.”
He added that Singapore, being a small and open country, is not immune to these underlying forces that are tearing at other countries.
“If it happens to us, like what’s happening elsewhere, we will suffer the same consequences as the other countries, only worse because we are that much more vulnerable.
“It will become impossible to govern Singapore, to make and carry out difficult decisions, or to plan for the long term good of the nation,” said Mr Lee.
“Confidence in Singapore will be destroyed. Singapore will be finished.”
The “symbiotic relationship” between the PAP and the NTUC is a key foundation that can help to avoid such a “dire outcome”, he pointed out.
“The PAP will always remain close to its roots in the labour movement.”
With its fundamental objective being to advance the well-being and future of our workers, the PAP government has set out to build affordable homes, deliver high-quality healthcare for all ages, ensuring the availability of good preschools and schools, as well as a reliable and efficient public transport system.
It also creates jobs and opportunities for workers so as to “enable every citizen to improve their own lives through their own efforts”.
“This is far better than having a populist government that gives vent to the frustrations of the population or panders to short term passions at the expense of our long term interest,” said Mr Lee.
On its part, the labour movement has also participated as an equal and constructive partner to create prosperity and growth.
It is also continuing to re-think its role by keeping itself up to date and relevant to the changing needs of workers, added the prime minister.
Earlier, NTUC president Mary Liew noted how the make-up of the Singaporean workforce is changing, with the inclusion of more professionals, managers and executives (PMEs), as well as those involved in the gig economy.
The workforce is also one that’s ageing, with changing needs that involve caregiving duties for elderly parents and young children.
“We must be nimble. We must be adaptable and we must continue to represent and protect all our workers,” she said in her welcome address.
Ms Liew also stressed the need for the labour movement to leverage technology to better serve its members in the areas of training and protection.
Said Mr Lee: “As you make your way forward in an uncertain world, a strong NTUC will help you, guide you and walk with you. This is how we can stay united and progress together.”
Concluding his speech, the prime minister said the promise that pioneer leaders had made to keep workers at the centre of the country’s economic and social development efforts, “remains as central and as relevant today as it was 50 years ago”.
“So today, the PAP Government renews our commitment to you,” he said.
“We will always stand with workers (and) ensure your well-being. We will always do our best to help you and your children progress with Singapore and have a better life.
“And we will ensure that no Singaporean, regardless of family background or life circumstances, will ever be shut out from opportunities, or left behind," said Mr Lee.
WASHINGTON: An internet meme that depicts Donald Trump shooting and stabbing media characters and political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters, the New York Times reported Sunday (Oct 13).
In the clip, the US president's head is superimposed on a man opening fire in the "Church of Fake News" at people whose faces have been replaced with the logos of outlets including CNN, the Washington Post and NBC TV.
As the rampage continues, the Trump character fends off worshippers, strikes late senator John McCain in the back of the neck and torches the head of Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential rival.
He throws Republican senator Mitt Romney to the ground and strikes former president Barack Obama in the back and slams him against a wall.
The organizer of last week's "American Priority" event, which was held at Trump's resort in Miami, said the clip was part of a "meme exhibit".
"American Priority rejects all political violence and aims to promote a healthy dialogue about the preservation of free speech," Alex Phillips told reporters.
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump's 2020 election campaign, told the Times that the "video was not produced by the campaign, and we do not condone violence".
Media organizations have come under regular verbal attack from Trump and his supporters.
At rallies, the US president repeatedly encourages the crowd to boo and heckle journalists covering the event, calling them "fake news" and "enemy of the people".
SINGAPORE: The lawyer who went missing in May, along with more than S$33 million from a client’s escrow account, was charged with three more charges of forgery and one count of criminal breach of trust on Monday (Oct 14).
JLC Advisors managing partner Jeffrey Ong, who turned 42 in August, appeared in court through video-link sporting a shaved head, TODAY reported. He now faces a total of 26 charges – mostly for forgery and cheating – in addition to the new ones.
These charges are not related to the S$33.4 million that may have been paid out under Ong’s instructions from the account of engineering firm Allied Technologies, a client of JLC Advisors.
On Monday, Ong was charged with committing criminal breach of trust as an attorney by pocketing US$4.85 million (S$6.64 million) from the law firm’s Standard Chartered bank account around Oct 23, 2017.
This is the most aggravated form of criminal breach of trust, and is punishable by a life sentence.
Ong is now also accused of making fraudulent statements of accounts for the said bank account from October 2017 to February 2019, TODAY reported.
He is said to have done so in order to cheat one Chan Yi Zhang into believing that the US$4.85 million held by JLC Advisors in escrow was present and unused in the Standard Chartered bank account.
The funds were meant for a settlement involving two firms: Airtrust (Singapore) and Wrangwell.
Court documents did not state who Chan Yi Zhang is.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo told the court on Monday that Ong may face more charges, as the authorities are still completing investigations and taking statements from him, the TODAY report said.
He is due to appear in court again on Nov 25 and remains in remand.
ONG USED STOLEN PASSPORT
When Ong last appeared in court in June, the court heard that he fled Singapore on May 13, 10 days before a May 23 Singapore Exchange filing by Allied Technologies, which first put focus on Ong and JLC Advisors.
Ong was arrested in a Kuala Lumpur hotel with a stolen Malaysian passport about two weeks after absconding. He had also disposed of his mobile phone and got a new one with a Chinese SIM card before he fled.
According to prosecutors, he got a friend to take him to Malaysia and arranged to stay in two locations – a hotel and an office. He did not use credit cards to pay for either place.
According to reporters, Ong told no one of his plans, save for his wife, an officer from the Commercial Affairs Division said in his affidavit.
Following his arrest in Malaysia, Ong appeared in court on Jun 1 and was charged with cheating a company called Suite Development.
He allegedly did so by deceiving another company – CCJ Investments – into believing that Suite Development had entered into a loan agreement with it.
Ong is accused of signing a series of documents, in which he pretended to be one Tan Kwang Yong James, the sole director and shareholder of Suite Development.
He allegedly did this multiple times on Feb 18. The matter is said to have involved a sum of S$16 million and the signing of documents, such as a shareholder’s resolution and a deed of guarantee, between the two companies.
Additionally, Ong is also accused of dishonestly inducing CCJ Investments to disburse a sum of S$6 million.
About S$3.3 million was used to refinance Suite Development’s mortgage loan and about S$2.7 million was deposited into the client account of JLC Advisors, the court heard then.
SINGAPORE: The Certificate of Entitlement (COE) quota for November to January 2020 will fall by 1.7 per cent as compared to the previous quarter, continuing the downward trend since February.
The COE quota for November to January will be 20,498, a drop from the 20,850 from August to October, the Land Transport Authority said in a media release on Monday (Oct 14).
Category A, which is for cars up to 1,600cc and maximum power output not exceeding 97kW, will have a quota of 6,110 COEs, lower than the previous quarter's 6,338.
Category B, which is for cars above 1,600cc or maximum power output above 97kW, will have a quota of 6,071, which is lower than the preceding quarter's 6,251.
Goods vehicles and buses in Category C will have a quota of 1,907, with an average monthly quota of 635.
In Category D, which is for motorcycles, the COE quota is 4,148, down from last quarter's quota of 4,433. The average monthly quota for this quarter is 1,382
Open category vehicles will have a quota of 2,262, with an average monthly quota of 754.
HAWTHORNE, California: SpaceX's new Crew Dragon astronaut capsule will be ready for its first manned flight into orbit in the first quarter of next year provided "everything goes according to plan" in upcoming tests, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said on Thursday (Oct 10).
The pronouncement of a revised time frame signaled NASA believes SpaceX is getting the Crew Dragon project back on track following an explosion during a ground test in April and technical challenges with its re-entry parachute system.
Bridenstine said successful development of the capsule was key to achieving NASA's top priority - the resumed "launching of American astronauts on American rockets from American soil" for the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.
The NASA administrator spoke to reporters at the end of a visit to the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, just outside Los Angeles, where chief executive Elon Musk led him on a tour of the sprawling manufacturing plant.
Their joint appearance by a giant glass-enclosed "clean room" where engineers were working on a Crew Dragon marked a show of unity following a rare public spat over delays in the project.
NASA and SpaceX had previously aimed to launch the Crew Dragon on an initial test flight carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station in 2019.
The revised timeline hinges on a series of system tests that SpaceX hopes to conduct by year's end, Bridenstine said.
These include a high-altitude test of an in-flight abort system designed to propel the crew capsule to safety in the event of a rocket failure on the way to orbit.
The schedule also includes at least 10 more mid-air "drop tests" to gauge the resilience and performance of parachutes used to slow the capsule's descent into the ocean after it re-enters the atmosphere from space.
GET THE PARACHUTES RIGHT
"If everything goes according to plan, it would be the first quarter of next year," Bridenstine said when asked how soon he the capsule would be ready to fly astronauts into orbit. He was quick to add that the new timeline could slip again.
"We are not going to take any undue risk," he said, standing beside Musk and the two astronauts slated to fly aboard the Crew Dragon - Doug Hurley and Bob Benkoe.
Bridenstine also praised SpaceX for its "fail fast, then fix" approach to spacecraft development, an ethos he said that differed from the cultures of other NASA contractors.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is paying commercial launch companies SpaceX and Boeing US$6.8 billion to build rocket-and-capsule systems enabling NASA to resume human space travel with US-made hardware.
SpaceX has so far never flown humans into orbit, only cargo. But the company successfully launched an unpiloted Crew Dragon to the International Space Station in March.
Musk said overcoming problems with re-entry parachutes had proved especially challenging.
"It's a pretty arduous engineering job to get the parachutes right," Musk said, declaring that Crew Dragon's parachutes will be at least twice as safe as those used during NASA's Apollo moon missions.
He expected that "testing will be complete and hardware at the Cape (Canaveral) by the end of December."
The top executive for Boeing's rival Starliner program, John Mulholland, said on Wednesday that its own key test of an abort system was slated for Nov 4, while its unpiloted orbital test flight was set for Dec 17. Under that time frame, the first Starliner manned mission is all but certain to slip into 2020.
NASA is currently paying Russia about US$80 million per seat for rides to the space station.
Bridenstine said the agency was "still buying seats" for ride-alongs aboard Russia's Soyuz as an "insurance policy" against future delays in US crew capsule development.
While providing few concrete details on their joint investigation into an explosion during a ground test of Crew Dragon's abort thrusters in April, Musk said such setbacks were inevitable in rigorous testing of complex systems.
Bridenstine's visit came after he and Musk had clashed over the past two weeks, with the NASA chief chiding Musk on Twitter for celebrating a milestone on SpaceX's deep-space Starship rocket while the Crew Dragon project remained delayed.
Bridenstine sought to bury the hatchet on Thursday, saying he was merely "signaling" to SpaceX and other NASA contractors that "we need more realism built in to our development time frames."
SINGAPORE: The 50-hectare Thomson Nature Park was officially opened on Friday (Oct 11), becoming Singapore’s seventh nature park.
Located east of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and buffered by Old Upper Thomson Road, the park houses the ruins of the former Hainan Village, offering visitors a glimpse into life in Singapore in the 1960s.
The park is also home to a number of rare and endangered animals, such as the Raffles’ Banded Langur. A subspecies of the banded leaf monkey, the animal can only be found in Singapore and southern Peninsular Malaysia and is listed as critically endangered.
With the opening of the new park, the National Parks Board (NParks) hopes to reduce “visitorship pressure” on the Central Catchment Nature Reserve by providing the public with an alternative venue to enjoy nature-related activities, it said in a press release.
First announced in 2014, the Thomson Nature Park complements existing nature parks such as Chestnut, Springleaf and Windsor, extending the green buffer for the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee said: “Establishing Thomson Nature Park is an important part of our efforts to conserve our natural heritage and native biodiversity. It is the fifth buffer park that we have planned as a ring around the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
“The buffer parks that we have progressively opened over the past few years not only protect our nature reserves, but they also provide Singaporeans with more green spaces.”
Biodiversity surveys have found that animals, including the Raffles’ Banded Langur, frequently move between the nature reserve and Thomson Nature Park using trees, culverts or directly across the road, said NParks.
With this in mind, trees with spreading canopies have been planted and rope bridges installed along the road to facilitate the safe movement of some of these animals.
“NParks worked closely with the Raffles’ Banded Langur Working Group to situate the rope bridges where langurs have been observed to habitually cross,” it said. “Small mammals such as pangolins and porcupine also move across the road safely through culverts.”
In addition, Old Upper Thomson Road has been reduced from a dual lane to a single lane road, said NParks. To ensure that the area is more “conducive” for nocturnal animals, there are plans to close Old Upper Thomson Road to vehicles from 7.30pm to 6am daily.
Along with NParks, the Land Transport Authority has also launched a 12-month trial of the Roadway Animal Detection System along Old Upper Thomson Road.
The system, which is the first of its kind, uses video analytics to detect animals when they are near the road and alerts incoming motorists to their presence through flashing road signs.
The system has been in place since the start of the month.
“I hope that more Singaporeans will have a greater appreciation for our biodiversity and green spaces,” said Mr Lee. “Such collective efforts help ensure that our natural heritage is protected for future generations to enjoy.”
Workers' Party MPs found liable in multimillion-dollar AHTC case; judgment raises 'serious doubt' about their integrity
SINGAPORE: A judge on Friday (Oct 11) found three Workers’ Party (WP) Members of Parliament liable in a landmark case investigating misuse of town council funds, saying that there is "serious doubt" about the integrity of Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang.
The two MPs, along with WP chief Pritam Singh, could now be liable for part of the S$33.7 million in claims, which will be determined in a "future second stage of the trial", said High Court judge Kannan Ramesh.
In his written judgment, Justice Ramesh said Ms Lim and Mr Low had breached their fiduciary duties in appointing FM Solutions and Services (FMSS) as managing agent of Aljunied Hougang Town Council (AHTC).
Both had "failed to act in AHTC’s best interests and had acted for extraneous purposes”, he said.
As for Mr Singh, while "it cannot be said that he has breached his fiduciary duties to AHTC”, he had breached his “duties of skill and care”, the judge said.
The appointment of FMSS as managing agent led to AHTC making more than S$33 million in improper payments to FMSS, which was helmed by conflicted parties with roles in both the town council and FMSS.
The conflicted parties are Ms How Weng Fan, who had worked with Mr Low for more than two decades, and her late husband Danny Loh.
The judge found that all three MPs were “clearly involved from the beginning to effect the appointment” of FMSS without a tender, and they had “collateral motives in doing so”.
He also rapped Ms Lim and Mr Low for their "lack of transparency and candour", which he said was apparent in an email sent by Ms Lim to FMSS' Ms How and Mr Loh, asking them to examine a draft report on the managing agent appointment if it would "pass the auditors' eyes".
"I find this to be quite extraordinary and casts serious doubt on the integrity of Ms Sylvia Lim. It seems to me to be wholly unsatisfactory and inappropriate for Ms Sylvia Lim to ask Ms How Weng Fan and Mr Danny Loh to comment on a report concerning the appointment of FMSS without tender being called," the judge said.
Mr Low was "equally complicit", since it was his suggestion that Mr Loh should prepare the first draft of the report under the instruction of Ms Lim, Justice Ramesh said, adding that his observations on Ms Lim's conduct "would also apply" to Mr Low.
"There was a concerted attempt to cloak the appointment of FMSS with a veneer of propriety. It was an attempt to mislead, and a clinical demonstration of the disregard Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Low Thia Khiang had for the requirements in the TCFR (Town Councils Financial Rules)," he said.
“Their conduct was improper and the attempt to cloak the same with a veneer of truth and credibility collectively leads to the conclusion that they had not acted honestly and therefore breached their duty of unflinching loyalty to AHTC as fiduciaries,” said Justice Ramesh.
The civil suit had been brought against the defendants by AHTC and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC), the former asking for claims of S$33.7 million from the defendants, with costs, and were based on audit reports by KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The auditors had pointed to poor controls in the town council, flawed governance and millions of allegedly improper payments made by the town council to FMSS.
The verdict comes half a year after both sides made their final oral submissions, with PRPTC lawyer Davinder Singh arguing that the defendants had used residents’ hard-earned money to improve their political standing.
AHTC lead lawyer David Chan said WP stalwarts Ms Lim and Mr Low had three motives: To protect the former employees of Hougang Town Council and bring them over with them to AHTC when WP won Aljunied in the elections, to reward Ms How and Mr Loh as long-time WP supporters, and to position FMSS as an alternative service provider for opposition-run town councils.
At the heart of the MPs’ defence is their claim that they acted in good faith and in the best interests of their residents, as they had to work swiftly against deadlines to find a managing agent and ensure continuity of services to residents.
Senior Counsel Chelva Retnam Rajah, who represents the three WP MPs and town councillors, had said the accountants who wrote the audit reports were second-guessing the town councillors’ decisions, despite Parliament’s intention for town councils to exercise latitude over their own decisions.
If the defendants are not able to pay damages, AHTC could commence bankruptcy proceedings against them, and the WP MPs may lose their parliamentary seats as undischarged bankrupts cannot be MPs nor contest in parliamentary elections, under the Singapore Constitution.
The WP MPs involved in the suit had successfully raised a million dollars in a few days last October after turning to the public for help in legal fees.
Reporters has sought comment from the WP.
MELBOURNE: The remains of an elderly couple have been found in a burned-out home in rural New South Wales state, Australian police said on Thursday (Oct 10), as Australia comes to grips with an earlier and more severe start to its bushfire season.
Police had been investigating the whereabouts of a 77-year-old man and 69-year-old woman from Coongbar, a remote town about 50 km inland from the northeastern coast of Australia's most populous state.
"NSW Police and specialist forensic officers returned to the home and, a short time ago, remains were located inside the property," police said in a statement.
More than 70 homes have been destroyed by spring fires in Australia, officials said on Thursday, straining communities already suffering under the region's worst drought in living memory.
Blazes in New South Wales have ravaged more than 80,000 hectares of land this week alone, and state fire service officials said they were monitoring about 25 fires ahead of what is shaping up to be a long bushfire season.
SINGAPORE: An Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) customer service officer was charged on Thursday (Oct 10) with receiving bribes from a Malaysian national applying to be a Singapore permanent resident (PR).
The 49-year-old officer, Lucy Teo, was charged with two counts of engaging in a conspiracy with another woman Sharon Loo Wai Woon to corruptly obtain S$1,500 from Malaysian national Fenny Tey Hui Nee, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and the police said in a joint release.
The money was meant as an inducement to expedite Tey’s PR application.
Teo also faced 20 counts of unauthorised access into ICA’s Central Identification and Registration Information System to retrieve the 24-year-old’s PR application status on 11 occasions, as well as records of a man’s passport number three times and records of another woman’s PR application status six times.
Loo, 28, was also charged with two counts of engaging in a conspiracy with Teo to corruptly obtain the money from Tey.
Tey was charged with two counts of bribing Teo with a total of S$1,500 as an inducement to expedite her PR application.
All three were granted four weeks' adjournment to engage lawyers.
ICA said in a statement that Teo was reported to the police after the case was detected through internal checks and investigations.
As a customer service officer, Teo's responsibility did not involve the processing of applications for permanent residence, the authority said.
"She was handling public inquiries on NRIC matters," said ICA, adding that it takes a serious view of errant officers.
Anyone convicted of a corruption offence can be fined up to S$100,000, jailed for up to five years, or both.
Anyone who knowingly causes a computer to perform any function for the purpose of securing access without authority to any programme or data held in any computer can be fined up to S$5,000, jailed for up to two years, or both.