Saturday, May 26, 2018

We follow orders or people die

Two days ago, the Straits Times carried a report on the measures that the SCDF (Singapore Civil Defence Force) is introducing to prevent accidents like the one that led to the  death of NSF Cpl Kok Yuen Chin. Meantime a board of inquiry has been convened to look into this incident.

This article reminds me of the famous courtroom scene from the movie, A Few Good Men. In this scene, Col. Nathan Jessep, played by Jack Nicholson said something that I thought was very relevant to the tragic incident at the SCDF, as well as the Pasir Ris MRT track accident in 2016 and even the Bishan MRT tunnel flooding incident last year. He said; “We follow orders or people die!”

These accidents happened simply because people ignored orders or did not follow procedures. Hence, I believe that any investigation into such accidents has to go beyond looking at procedures and human actions. They have to look at the work culture in the organisation. Do the people there have a “you can do anything; just don’t get caught” mentality?

We have to get to the root cause. If the main cause is people ignoring the orders of their superiors, or not following safety procedures, then we have to understand why.
  • Were they simply too lazy; and ‘bo chap’?
  • Do they have no fear or respect for their bosses?
  • Are they exhausted with too much work, and think that these procedures were a waste of time? If this was the case, then wouldn’t adding more procedures make matters worse?

I remember a case from my own NS days in the 1970s. To the best of my recollection this was what happened. There was an accident involving a soldier who was sleeping under a three-tonner; and he was killed when the vehicle moved off before he could ‘escape’. After that, one of the new procedures that was implemented was that the driver had to check under the three-tonner each time he was about to drive off. Needless to say, very few people followed that procedure.

I also feel that our newspapers ought to carry out some ‘investigative reporting’ when it comes to such a serios matter. They should review past accidents and results of the BOI enquiries. Just how effective have their recommendations been? I am not being cynical, but judging from the frequency of these tragedies; I suspect they have not been very effective.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

I remembered wrongly

Sigh … I realized that I made a mistake in the very first sentence of my book .
I wrote in my Introduction that many years ago, I saw a Taiwanese movie by the title of; 一个平凡人的故事, or An Ordinary Man’s Story.

I think this is incorrect. That movie, whose title I still cannot recall, was about the struggles of a man who tried all his life to achieve something extraordinary. Finally, he realized that that was unrealistic and it only made him and those closest to him miserable (something to this effect). In the end, he wrote a book with that title I quoted.

I hope someone can confirm my recollections.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Return to Blogging

Yesterday, I was invited to give a talk to a group of Secondary 1 students at NJC (National Junior College), my alma mater. They were attending a seminar on Place-Writing and learning how to write essays and poems about places they remember. Although I know nothing about writing poetry, that topic was covered by two professors who came after me. My task was simply to share my experience of writing about the places that I remember.

And so I shared with the children my experience in blogging about the Singapore that I grew up in. Due to time constraint, I focused mainly on the schools I went to (click on the label “schools” in the column on the right of this page); especially NJC, seeing that I was in the pioneer batch in 1969. Gave them some details of the old campus and shared about how we had to trudge across a big field, which is today’s Nanyang Girls School, and climb 103 steps to go for lunch at the Dunearn Secondary Technical School during the first few months when our own canteen was not ready. The irony is that the ground that DSTS stood on was the very same place that today’s NJC occupy.

1981 Map of NJC and vicinity

I also shared my fondest memories of my two years in NJC. Showed them some photos of our Adventure Camp in Pulau Tekong in April 1969. Not surprisingly, the photo which most intrigued them was this one of me standing in front of a tobacco farm.

I should apologize for neglecting this blog - which had given me my much satisfaction and even a bit of fame – for so long. I haven’t blogged regularly since I discovered Facebook in 2014. Anyway, I have decided that I would try to resume my blogging here, even if it’s on a less regular basis. So do keep tuned.