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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

News Reports

Questions AFTER answers in Parliament

So many questions in Parliament, and what I mean is, these are AFTER answers have been given.

That mess over school funding

You’ve got to read both ST and TODAY to figure out the confusion over whether six independent schools had their funding cut, or just four (see earlier post Clueless about Schools). It seems the ST based its earlier figure “six’’ on the number of schools which have both the Gifted Education Programme and the Integrated Programme. Now, seven schools offered this, but one, Dunman, is not an independent school. That makes six. And it IS true that the schools had their GEP portion cut.

ST’s mistake was to only focus on independent schools with GEP and IP, when there seemed to have been under funding formula that covered ALL independent schools which resulted in just four being worse off and six actually having more money in the kitty.

The strange thing is, no one seemed to have asked about that new funding formula for independent schools. Seems the House was satisfied with Education Minister Heng Swee Keat’s answer that funding is not a zero-sum game: that the Education ministry doesn’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul.

That mess over the checkpoint breach

Oops! It should have been called a border intrusion, not a mere immigration breach. This was why the so-called public alert to detect the Malaysian car was a “low level’’ alert, rather than a “high level’’ alert to the police when the red car scooted into Singapore. That would have meant road blocks set up etc. (See earlier blog post Shame on the Home Team).

DPM Teo Chee Hean said the ICA officer at the first checkpoint for passports took two and a half minutes to sound the alarm after consulting the supervisor. The auxillary police officer at the car booth check didn’t sound the alarm either and he does “not know why’’ – sheesh, how come the DPM doesn’t know why when a thorough investigation was supposed to have been conducted? But he did say that APOs are trained, just as ICA officers are trained, when questions were raised about such security outsourcing.

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A more interesting question posed was whether the seriousness of the breach was deliberated “scaled down’’. There wasn’t much of an answer beyond how it was a “mistake’’ on the part of the ground commanders to do so. Hmm, perhaps because they don’t want to make waves? Or because they have been so successful in stopping previous breaches (what were they like anyway – involved tailgating one car through the barriers?) that they didn’t know what to do when something happens?

There was a comment about relying more on technology than on human instincts to prevent such things from happening. Donno if this is good or bad. It might prevent errors but will only blunt the human instinct further no?

That mess over train stoppages  

DPM Teo would only say the errant officers had been disciplined or deployed. The commissioners of both ICA and the Police (who haven’t said a thing about the whole saga) have been given a talking-to. No heads will roll presumably and neither will they roll at the transport operators’ sector. Transport minister Lui Tuck Yew said he was less interested in heads rolling than heads fixed on doing the job well. In any case, it was the boards of the companies (now exhorted to have more engineers among members) to decide on whether to keep the CEO’s head on or off.

In fact, those heads will probably be aching now that the penalties for stoppages have gone beyond one million dollars, if 10 per cent of annual revenue per line is higher. That would be in the millions. ST gave an estimate of $49 million in penalties for the North-South and East-West lines should there be a large scale breakdown. It is not clear why it picked the double lines as an example. What would it have been for each line, or the Circle line?

That mess over HPB FAQs

This wasn’t mentioned in Parliament but in a written reply to an MP’s questions on why the Health Promotion Board’s FAQs said that homosexual relations were not much different from heterosexual ones. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong stood by HPB’s side to rieterated that the FAQs were meant to give advice to young people and their parents from a public health perspective.

He said that the statement singled out by the MP should be read together with what followed. That relationships required commitment by two people, and that it is possible to remain faithful to one’s partner regardless of sexual orientation. So the public health message is: Don’t have multiple partners or you’ll contract all kinds of diseases and spread them.

Hm. You wonder then if the FAQs could have been re-written to reflect the “public health perspective’’ more clearly.   

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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