Sites and Sounds of Singapore

I scribbled these personal notes in my Hotel Room at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore in 2015.
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There is Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Sydney Opera House in Australia, Taj Mahal in India, Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, Buckingham Palace in London, Kaaba in Mecca, Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, Eiffel Tower in Paris, Statue of Liberty in the USA, the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, Findeco House in Zambia, Egypt has Pyramids and Singapore has Marina Bay Sands.

Marina Bay Sands is an integrated resort fronting Marina Bay in Singapore. Developed by Las Vegas Sands, it is billed as the world’s most expensive standalone casino property at USD8 billion, including the land cost. Land space, life and living in Singapore can be costly.

Singapore had topped 131 cities globally to become the world’s most expensive city to live in 2014, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The city’s strong currency combined with the high cost of running a car and soaring utility bills contributed to Singapore topping the list. It is also the most expensive place in the world to buy clothes. Singapore replaced Tokyo, which topped the list in 2013.

It was our weekend staycation. Marina Bay Sands Hotel had been our weekend second home. It was an agreed-upon way of a family celebrating a special thanksgiving occasion for one of the family members. Two rooms at level number 50 were not only high enough regarding height levels, but the cost was also equally high. But, when you come to think of it, this property is arguably the most expensive place on Earth at least in 2015. You pay for quality, you pay for security, and you pay for cleanliness. You pay for high standards.

The Marina Bay Hotel is home to the World’s famous Sands Sky Park on the 57th floor, atop three Magnificent towers where the available family members enjoyed a breathtaking 360• view of Singapore skyline.

Room at the top, Sky on 57, KU DETA nightclub was equally tempting. The girls took a relaxing dip in the stunning World’s highest Infinity swimming pool located on the 57th floor. Never remind yourself of the term acrophobia. What else can you say; this is the highest infinity pool in the world located at the Sands Sky Park on Level 57 of this magnificently designed hotel!

Thanks to the no inclement weather, the lush gardens and Sky Park observation Deck – a gravity-defying cantilever was a special treat.

The four days holiday from Friday seventh to Monday tenth August 2015 was special days in Singapore and for the City State of Singapore. The people and the “Red Dot Nation” were in a celebratory mood. Sunday ninth August 2015 marked 50th National Day. The Country had adequately prepared a lot of exciting activities across the Island. After all, the Nation’s Golden Jubilee was indeed worth celebrating.

A wonderful Parade to mark Singapore “SG50” National Day brought about an electric atmosphere at the Padang and many people with were with Singapore, and the world when they sang and waved the many Singaporean nicely designed scarves and flags. Singapore Defense Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen also thanked the organizing committee and creative director Dick Lee for pulling off the largest NDP ever. I suspect it will be the largest for a long time to come, perhaps even up till SG100,” It was a “massive undertaking,” he noted.

At the peak of Sunday’s celebrations, close to 250,000 people turned up at multiple sites such as the Marina Bay Floating Platform and the surrounding area. Singaporeans made the show their own. “They put emotions into it, and from that point of view, that was the greatest success.”

Singaporeans reminisced when the veterans from the vintage parade marched past, they gushed when the aerial display was up, and some cried when the tribute film for Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was aired, said Dr. Ng.

Looking ahead was something the then Education Minister Heng Swee Keat hoped as well that Singaporeans continue to do, with the SG50 year not yet ended. “We still have many exciting things coming up, like the Jubilee Walk and an exhibition showing our hopes for our future,” he wrote on Facebook as he added his thanks to the various SG50 organizers as well as the Old Guard and pioneers for making Singapore’s short history a proud one. “I have confidence. We are a young but special nation. There are challenges ahead, but we have the heart and the spirit to take Singapore onward.”

What a Jubilee Weekend. From the Old Guard leaders marking this historic moment, to pioneers in uniform standing tall, to little ones “lighting up” the Padang, to other Singaporeans working through the weekend to keep Singapore running safely and smoothly, to all their neighbors and friends sharing the joy in all ways big and small they all came together to celebrate as one people. Singaporeans braved the heat, rain, and crowds to show their love and support to one another.

The following month of September 2015 was equally an exciting month as Singapore held its Elections. One day, I sat down watching TV and the Political campaigns for General Elections, in Zambia, in the USA, in the UK, in Singapore, other Asian and African Countries.

With wall-to-wall coverage of the U.S. presidential election campaign, you could be forgiven for missing the fact that Singapore was also going to the polls on Friday 11th of September 2015.

The elections had been called earlier. If the current Government had wanted, they could have gone up to January 2017. They cut short their term of Office. It was a political strategy if one asked me. Some Salient points to take note, explore, consider and maybe take a leaf from are the concept of compulsory voting: This solves the Apathy afflicting several Countries in Asia and Africa. Interestingly, all Singaporeans who are twenty-one or over have to vote on Election Day or stand to lose their right to vote in subsequent polls. A list of people who didn’t vote is published by the elections department after the ballot, and offenders are removed from the register of electors. Getting back on the ledger is possible only if you have a valid reason for not having voted, like delivering a baby, or are willing to pay Singaporean Dollar SGD50 which is equivalent to USD35. For many Singaporeans, September 11, 2015, was the first time they got to vote, as opposition parties contested every parliamentary seat for the first time since independence in 1965. A record 2.5 million Singaporeans were estimated to be at the ballot boxes during 2015 according to the Elections Department.

Lessons Learnt here is that Electoral systems have to work. National Identification Cards (Ids) have to be tamper-proof, and the system has to be incorruptible. Singapore is undoubtedly a shining example.

Voting stopped at precisely at 20.00hrs. Results started flowing in by 22.00hrs. By midnight, all the results from all the Constituencies had been officially announced by the Electoral Commission Officials. By 02.00hrs, all Heads of Political Parties had been given equal time on Television to say something and mainly thank the people and or concede defeat. By 03.40hrs, the winners Prime Minister was addressing the Nation through a Press Conference flanked by his A-Team all dressed in white, thanking the Voters, for their support and confidence shown in him, his Party and Policies.

The Prime Minister was profoundly humbled, and urging his newly elected and re-elected Members of Parliament (MPs) to serve the people of Singapore diligently, be accountable and transparent in all their dealings. Officially, there is no corruption in Singapore. He thanked the Opposition Parties and pledged to work with all Singaporeans including those who did not vote for the PAP (People’s Action Party). The Prime Minister and his team were back to work that very morning. It was a good result for the ruling Party and Excellent results for Singapore.
There are some lessons many Countries can learn from Singapore’s General Elections. From America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Some Salient Points like “Cooling-off” period and “Best Losers” MPs concept are great to favorably consider, note, explore and may take a leaf from under many Electoral reforms.
With wall-to-wall coverage of the U.S. presidential election campaign, you could be forgiven for missing the fact that Singapore also went to the polls on Friday the 11th of September 2015.

Quick campaign period. Zambia held Presidential Elections in January 2015. By February, the Country was back in a Campaign mood for the August 11, 2016, General Elections. That obviously may be a cost to the Campaign teams from all Political Parties involved. Not forgetting the diluting of Campaign messages which by then would have become stale and not impactful.

Singapore has one of the shortest official campaign periods in the world. In 2015, candidates got nine (9) days, the minimum required by the constitution, to woo voters.

The country also observes a “cooling off day” where no campaigning is allowed on the eve of polling day. That is meant for electorates and voters to reflect, digest and dissect the campaign messages deeply. Voters are allowed to make up their minds to settle for who they want to lead the Country and manage resources on their behalf.

Compare that with the United Kingdom (UK), Zambia or indeed the United States of America (USA) were campaigning for November 8, 2016, presidential election had been in full swing since 2015. We had seen Mr. Donald Trump and Senator Mrs. Hillary Clinton vigorously campaigning for an extended period. They had many states and so many people to reach out to.

By the way, no Poll surveys are allowed in Singapore. The United Kingdom (U.K.) for David Cameron’s Prime Minister Victory Surveys was wrong. The Stanbic/Standard Bank of South Africa sponsored Survey on Michael Chilufya Sata and his Patriotic Front (PF) and Rupiah Bwezani Banda’s Movement for Multi-Party Development (MMD) general elections in Zambia in 2011 were wrong. The 2015 Zambian election survey between Hakainde Hichilema (HH) of the United Party for National Development (UPND) and Edgar Chagwa Lungu (ECL) were wrong.

In Singapore, it is illegal to publish the results of an election survey or conduct exit polls once an election is called, offenses punishable with up to 12 months in jail and a fine not exceeding SGD 1,500. The Attorney-General’s Chambers issued “stern warnings” to Singapore Press Holdings Ltd., publisher of the island’s most widely read the paper, The Straits Times, in 2013 after it printed the results of a survey of voters during a by-election. Doctor Joseph Ong was arrested in 2011 for publishing an exit poll during the 2011 general election online, Asia One reported at the time.

No entertainers. Musicians like Pilato, Jordan Katembula (JK), Danny Kaya, Moses Brothers, Mampi, Bikiloni and Professor Difficulty, Dorika Ndaifulila, Dangerous Jo”burg, Black Muntu, Dandy Crazy (Donchi Kubeba), Chester, General Kanene and many such others are not allowed to demean others on the Political scene. Candidates can only hold outdoor political rallies at designated sites, which are allocated through a ballot.
Parties are also barred from sharing the stage with traditional Getai singers, live performances held during the Hungry Ghost Festival that coincides with the 2015 vote, a likely draw for middle-aged voters, the Straits Times reported.
That’s different from election campaigns in Zambia, India, Indonesia, USA and several other Countries where actors and entertainers frequently endorse candidates and appear in campaign rallies.

Group districts – The government created multi-member wards in 1988 where voters elect a group of candidates instead of an individual. The system requires parties to field as many as six candidates, including at least one of a minority ethnicity. While some have argued the rule makes it harder for smaller opposition parties to field candidates, it also resulted in the removal of then-foreign minister George Yeo in 2011 when the ruling People’s Action Party lost in his district in the general election.

One idea the seemingly never-ending several African Countries Constitution making process can explore and consider is the issue of the “Best Losers.” An MP in Mandevu (Zambia), Kibera (Kenya), Alexandria (South Africa), Moshi (Tanzania) Constituency for example who loses by 50 votes but has been voted for by more than 20,000 votes is much better than an MP who won an election in another constituent voted by 900 voters beating his/her other 10 rival MPs by 20 votes only.
Singapore reserves parliamentary seats for Non-Constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs), who are the “best-losers” among the opposition candidates. The system ensures a minimum number of opposition members of parliament after each election. While NCMPs are entitled to vote on most issues, they don’t represent any particular district. There were three in parliament before it was dissolved for the 2015 elections.
I have had a chance to carefully read, watch, follow the electoral system and speeches. Even when one wishes to put across an opinion which is slightly different from the other party, whether ruling or opposition, it is done in such a way that the electorates would be left appreciating the manner, the sense as well as points raised and would wish to proceed with analyzing further.
An example is the well respected former Minister of Finance the “Rising Star” who gave out facts and figures which made sense during his campaign within his Constituency. Many including those in Opposition Parties applauded his campaign speech. He is a London School of Economics graduate from the United Kingdom, a Harvard University Graduate. His former classmate, a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director (MD) of Government Investments Corporation and now Economics Professor at Singapore University is the only one to give a response. The way he came out was by first agreeing to most of the points, praise the Hon. Minister for the great work done and pointed out by suggesting few areas of improvement.

The concept of it shall be well, or we will be well in future begs another or other questions. When would that be? Why leave such a process for the future generations to correct? Why not resolve now? When God created us human beings and put us in our Christian Nation called Zambia, he did not say we have to exhaust and make all the mistakes in our lives and within our lifetime.

Even at our personal levels, we can learn from others and avoid more significant problems. For example if it took 300 or 400 years for UK or USA to develop a semblance of a democratic process and relatively peaceful Electoral process, it must not surely take Zambia or indeed any other African Country the same period of time to know that grinding machetes on tarred City roads, carrying spears, gun trotting by senior cadres who move around with shotguns in public, knives around their waists may lead to a bloodbath like what happened in Kenya or Rwanda genocides. Those are very tragic and unfortunate incidences which should never be allowed again by anyone.

The best is to learn lessons from others and peacefully conduct elections in a peaceful Zambian spirit and manner. Let us get it clear also that the Singapore, UK or USA Electoral or indeed any other known systems may not be the best arrangement to copy, but apparently, certain good traits like absence of unprintable, unpalatable insults, violence, and criminal activities can be emulated from any other Country where International Observers have noticed peaceful voting process. We can hold different opinions and views without becoming a Nation of Insultants. We need consultants, not insultants.

The reason we may not wait for the unknown future is that Singapore separated from Malaysia in August 1965, a year after Malawi and Zambia obtained her independence in October 1964. Singapore was also once a British Colony. If they can conduct peaceful campaigns and elections, why not our beloved Country and Nation Zambia? In Botswana, Namibia, and other Countries can why can’t we? It can be done and now without waiting for the unknown future.

Chachacha brought some loss of life, the 1986 food riots shed some blood, the 1990 student riots which brought about Mwamba Luchembe’s failed coup had some members of the society being shot by stray bullets, the third term debate brought some loss of lives, the Chawama, Mapatizya, and some bye-elections Mukaika Constituency in Eastern Province had brought out some hair-raising and untold miseries to the blood oozing cadres, Chongwe incidents and Livingstone issues where lives have actually been lost before should be genuine reminders to avoid violence and loss of life.

Such uncouth and uncivilized way of conducting our Politics and campaign must just come to an end. We pray for peace in all the ten Provinces of Zambia, on the Continent of Africa and indeed the whole World as we carry out Political campaigns peacefully during general elections now and beyond. Posterity would judge us harshly if we left it up to our younger generation to resolve the impasse we seem to have created for them. Our grand Children would point an accusing finger at us and ask us, what role we played to smoothen the process and build a peaceful society for them to enjoy. We all have a role to play. We owe it to our good conscience to act with civility and offer tangible solutions. Stay blessed folks.

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