Friday, June 25, 2010


It has been a long time since I last traveled to Singapore, a place where I had onces served. Back in the 60's when Singapore was still part of Malaya and subsequently Malaysia, I think the army had a Brigade HQ located at Fort Canning, two SIR Infantry Battalions at Ulu Pandan, a RMR Battalion at Temasek Camp, Logistics Units at Bukit Timah, and an Independent Recce Squadron at Tanah Merah.

Sembawang Camp to which the 6th Battalion RMR was to be located as a non family station, was built around the mid 60's. The battalion was initially accommodated in tents, while a semi-permanent camp was being constructed. I remembered that besides the camp was a pig farm that emits an unbearable smell that caused a lot of discomfort to most of us. The smell becomes even more unbearable during the rainy season. Besides the smell, the rains would also cause a nuisance to all of us, as some of the tents would leak, and the walk ways flooded. Living under tents for more than 6 months was a misery to most of us, for we had to bear the blistering afternoon heat, dust and with no proper lighting, bathing and toilet facilities.

The Sembawang landscape has now changed tremendously, and one could no longer recognize the existence formerly of an old army camp in that vicinity. Traveling along Holland Road and the neighboring areas, I could still see some old double storey bungalows that I believe were built as quarters for senior British military officers. These bungalows resembled those built at Port Dickson military camps that still exist till this day.

What strikes me most about Singapore is the cleanliness of the city center and the disciplined society, especially of its bus and taxi drivers. Traveling around the city keeps me wondering as to how could the local authorities up-keep the maintenance of all the buildings (HDB Flats in particular) and structures in such a perfect state. I could not see a single dilapidated and unkempt building. All are well painted and most HDB Flats have huge numbers painted high up on its walls that can be viewed from afar by impending visitors.

I could not see cars being parked indiscriminately besides roads in the city center, and this makes traveling in the city center easy, despite the heavy traffic and with no policemen to monitor the traffic flow. I decided to hitch a taxi ride back to my place of residence, and I do not have to wait long at the taxi stand for a taxi. I was greeted by the driver even before I could get into the taxi, and the ride was in a comfortable and clean Korean built Hyundai blue colored taxi. This is in vast contrast to the taxis that we get in this country that are small, and the rude treatment that passengers sometimes get from its drivers. Now, with the introduction of the Proton Saga, our taxis are getting even smaller and less comfortable. Passengers comfort, seems the last in the minds of our taxi service providers.

There are many more things that I saw in Singapore city that could serve a useful lesson to our local authorities, especially to the local councils, as well as KL City Hall. I believe the difference lies in the attitude, training, professionalism and dedication of the people involved that is severely lacking in our people and if such attitude does not changed, we will soon see our cities being in league with some of the worse among the underdeveloped countries.

I believe, we have been sending a number of our officers from the local authorities and City Hall for study visits abroad. I am told too that even parliamentarians and state councilors are send abroad on study tours, but what happened upon their return is everyone guess. Was it really a meaningful study tour, or was it merely a leisure tour? But I suppose, having been a fully paid overseas tour at public expense, it does not really matter whether it was to be a study tour or a leisure tour. Both are one and the same thing.

And having seen the latest of Singapore, one does not need to go to Europe, USA, Japan or Korea to do a study tour. The thing that needs to be learned by our local authorities in the management of a city is just a few miles south of Johore Bahru.



benadam said...

Dato’ it’s so nice to know the military set up in Singapore of that yesteryear. I can recall on the deployment of the Independent Recce Squadron but not its location. So Tanah Merah it was then.
But what I really wanted to endorse, is your views on Singapore’s professional planning and implementation. It was intimated to me that when Singaporean went for a study tour they went with that sole purpose in mind. For example when they want to build a new Changi airport they send study group to the U.S., England and France. They took notes of the strong and weak points. But I was told that “all the weak points will never be a feature in Singapore.” Should be good lesson for our planners

abdulhalimshah said...

Dear Pak Chad,
What you have posted here is nothing new, because I have said it many times to people who mattered about the squeaky clean and highly efficient public transportation which you described.
The biggest stumbling block for the powers that be is the mentality of our decision makers which is deep rooted and next to the impossible to surmount, ie. Singapore is small, so it is easier for them to do it. As long as this mind-set prevails, we could pour our hearts out and tell the planners and decision makers about Singapore but it will just fall on deaf ears. To mention Singapore's efficiency is akin to "Kiasu" attitude and it just end there, without much ado. Probably as I always mentioned in the past to my close friends, if Singapore were to remain part of the Federation probably LKY one day might become PM and what he did in S'pore could have benefitted the Malayan Peninsula, but the twist of history made us regressed while S'pore progressed by leaps and bounds.

Capt's Longhouse said...


,,,sad but unfortunately true, may i make my conclusion here first, WE just don't have good true Malaysian leadership as compared to our brothers in Singapore, in fact they are the same kind of breed...but are professional in many other ways !. We need to change our mindset and attitude BUT but but !!!! you know what am talking about-lah. Guess we can still try and hope/pray for that CHANGE ?. Well, it must start with oneself too yaa.
,,,"the greatest men in all ages have been lovers of their kind. All true leaders of men have it !. Faith in men and regards for men are unfailing marks of true greatness"...Emerson

Malaysian said...


I'm not sure a trip down south they would learn anything from our neighbor. Few weeks ago, I ordered for internet service from Telekom. I called them every week for update. Last Friday, I learned that they lost my request form. Thus, I've to re-apply again.

What about the LRT service? It broke down every now and then. My experience only reinforce my believe that we have poor work ethic and management.


WIRA said...

Sorry Dato',
I have only one comment to make with regards to our country's poor state of affairs.
Mediocrity ad nausium...
We are led by mediocre political leaders put in place by mediocre majority voters, who then put in place mediocre public servants who cannot even understand the term mediocre let alone break away from it.
Why is Singapore so far ahead?
To my mind, the key to their success is their strict adherence to the concept of "Meritocracy" in their selection of personnel. No 'pilih kasih', no 'angah along' no 'oreng kito', no Bumiputra or Melayu concept when selecting candidates for important govt posts, just plain 'the best man for the job'.
As the saying goes, mediocrity breeds mediocrity... Just look around us and determine for ourselves which area of govt and govt proccesses that is actually free from mediocrity?
Not a very difficult question to answer!!! Just look at Mindef....

Capt's Longhouse said...


,,,best to look at oneself too yaa. Its you and me and others that makes or break the nation.
,,,We malaysian shall never give-up !. i guess not you for sure too.
,,,Just be creative with life and living, we will not only survive but be darm happy at it.
,,,forget about the blame game but ACT on it-lah. Just do what one is good at, if not why bloody not ?.
,,,i don't care a rat shit as long as its for the bloody good.
"Truth is always right."

WIRA said...

Dear Dato,
Yesterday I posted a comment in this blog in response to your observation of the progress you saw in Singapore. For one reason or other, it disappeared from the web!! Some people are getting sensitive.
In the main, my comment was centred on our mediocre political leadership, our mediocre civil service and the mediocre electorate who determine the government. My theory is that we are simply too midiocre when compared with the peoiple who run Singapore.
In addition to this mediocrity spell that has been casted over Malaysian life, I also touched on the concept (policy)of 'Meritocracy' preached and practiced by LKY from Day 1 of Singapore's independence.
I opined that these two aspects were the main driving force behind our neighbour's success, while the same two factors became Malaysia's achille's heel. I pointed out that we were far behind because our leaders were too myopic and/or too preoccupied with the need to promote the so-called Malay agenda.
Sure today Malay presence (to read dominance) can be seen in all aspects of our society (except for the economy) but where are we in comparison with other developing nation states?
To get an accurate analysis of this we have to refer to internationally recognized reaearch houses like Amnesty International- Corruption index Malaysia is not far behind Zimbabwe, as for corporate governance Greece automatically comes to mind and for the all important standard of democracy? Ha,ha,ha, sad to say we are probably just ahead of Kampuchea!!!
Of course amidst this melieu of midiocrity there were exceptional personalities who helmed the nation with integrity and fore-sightedness. There were Tuns Razak, Ismail, Azizan, Ahmad Sarji and T S Hassan Marican. Currently we can think of a few outstanding people like T S Zeti, Prof T S Khoo Kay Kim, D S Tony Fernandez, D S Idris Jalla, D S Wahid Omar, D S Jamaluddin whose performances in their own respective fields make the Malaysian flag fly high. However, underlying all these hope, were we to ask ourselves the question 'can these few shoulder the responsibility of carrying the nation forward by themselves. Your answer is as good as mine.
Of course Malaysia will continue to forge ahead as we have done in the past; progress in some areas but falter and stumble elsewhere, but the bottom line is still - AVERAGE.
The answer to all these malady is MERITOCRACY. It might not be the panacea to the daunting challenges we face, but it is a good starting point. It is better late than never!!

Andy said...

Hi Dato, I couldnt agree more about having study visits as far as Europe or US, just take a step into our neighbour and its a completely different world and from then on, only true students will start to learn upon stepping into Singapore's soil. I had my last trip as a 'visitor' in Dec 2009 with my wife and it was a great experience. It wasnt the attractions that caught our attention but the sheer cleanliness and systematic approach in everything they do have touched our hearts and we tend to compare it with our country - how backward we are! Taxpayers money is constantly being squandered and more so as we speak. God knows how they use it, whether for the public or for to fill up their own pocket, indirectly, is a big question we all wish to know the answer including the man on the street. Dato, I am Andy Mervin George and we once belonged to an institution not many years back. I wish to pay you a visit sometime soon, if you could recall me. :)

eshark said...

Dear all, really appreciate the brilliant suggestion and ideas but I am afraid it will stuck here. If you commented on Gov... they will reply who are you to comment!!!

Do some action now. Start to make changes within your control. Change your family (childrens) mindset first and don't forget to change yours..