Friday, July 31, 2009

Teen sold himself for money

New Paper
30 July 2009

Teen sold himself for money

Three men plead guilty to performing obscene acts with teen in 2006 and 2007

HE WANTED to look good and dress well.

By Arul John

So the teenager, then aged 15, decided to get money from strangers, offering 'paid fun'.

His mother knew nothing about his prostitution, though she did notice that he wore expensive clothes and had lots of money.

But an anonymous phone call out of the blue revealed the unpleasant truth in May 2007.

After she confronted her son and learnt what he was up to, she lodged a police report on 18 May that year.

According to court documents, the boy had been chatting with strangers on social networking websites since he was in Primary 3.

He came across a website popular with homosexuals here five years ago and later started posting messages and chatting there.

In December 2006, as he needed money to 'maintain his lifestyle', the boy posted messages on the website saying he was 'seeking paid fun'.

The boy cannot be named due to a court order.

Age revealed upon meeting

On the website, he said he was 16, but he revealed his real age to anyone he met personally or chatted with on the telephone.

A month or two after the boy posted the messages, Thomas Song Choon Chen, 37, responded and agreed to pay him $50 in exchange for sexual favours.

The boy told Chen his address and they met at the boy's home at 9am the same day.

When Chen arrived at the flat, the boy, who was in school uniform, told him he was actually 15 years old.

After leading Chen to his bedroom, the boy undressed himself.

Chen then performed sexual acts with the boy and paid the boy later and left.

Chen kept in touch with the boy for some time, but the relationship later ended.

Assistant nurse Muhammad Hafashah Mohd Aslam, now 21, got to know the boy online through the same website around February 2007.

The boy offered sexual services and Muhammad Hafashah agreed.

After meeting at the void deck of Muhammad Hafashah's HDB flat in Jurong West, they went to a community centre nearby. They then went to a toilet for the handicapped there.

After the sexual acts, they both cleaned up and went to an ATM nearby, where Muhammad Hafashah withdrew $100 to pay the boy.

In January 2007, Victor Ng Yong You, 25, got to know the boy via the website.

The boy offered sexual services to Ng in exchange for a lift to Wisma Atria.

Ng agreed and he went to pick up the boy.

Before heading to Wisma Atria, Ng drove him to an underground carpark in Bukit Merah to engage in sexual acts.

The two later went to Wisma Atria and Ng then dropped the boy at the boy's girlfriend's home.

Neither Muhammad Hafashah nor Ng kept in touch with the boy after the acts.

Pleaded guilty

Yesterday, Muhammad Hafashah, Ng and Song, pleaded guilty in the Subordinate Courts to one charge each of performing obscene acts with the teen.

They and three other men were earlier charged with committing unnatural offences under sections 377 and 377A of the Penal Code, but the charges were later reduced to committing obscene or indecent acts under the Children and Young Persons Act.

Muhammad Hafashah and Ng each had one other charge, which was taken into consideration.

Another man, Quek Hock Seng, 42, pleaded guilty in January to one charge and was sentenced to four months' jail.

The cases of two other men - Ng Geng Whye, 50, and Balasundram Suppiah, 40 - will be heard next month.

In his mitigation plea, Muhammad Hafashah's lawyer, Mr S Balamurugan, said his client went to the website as he was confused about his sexual orientation then.

This led him to commit the offence, which was his first, Mr Balamurugan said.

He said his client, who had since undergone counselling, was now in a relationship with a young woman, and had been accepted for a nursing course at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Mr Balamurugan urged District Judge Sarjit Singh to consider probation for him.

Judge Singh asked for a pre-sentence report on Muhammad Hafashah, and his case will be heard again on 26 Aug.

Ng and Song will be sentenced on 5 Aug.

Anyone guilty of committing obscene or indecent acts with a child or young person can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000.

They can be jailed up to four years and fined up to $10,000 for each subsequent offence.

UK govt releases Twitter manual

New Paper
30 July 2009

UK govt releases Twitter manual

Guide to tweet not short and sweet

THE British government has told civil servants: Go forth and tweet.

The government published guidelines yesterday for its departments on using the microblogging service Twitter.

Yet in contrast to Twitter's limit of 140 characters per message, the document runs for 20 pages, or more than 5,000 words.

Mr Neil Williams of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who produced the guidelines, acknowledged that 20 pages was 'a bit over the top,' but said he had been surprised by 'just how much there is to say'.

The document tells civil servants their tweets should be 'human and credible' and written in 'informal spoken English'. It advises government departments to produce between two and 10 tweets a day, with a gap of at least 30 minutes between each 'to avoid flooding our followers' Twitter streams'.

The advice says Twitter can be used for everything from announcements to insights from ministers, and in a crisis could be a 'primary channel' for communicating with the electorate.

The document warns against using Twitter simply to convey campaign messages, but notes that while tweets may occasionally be 'fun', they should be in line with government objectives.

It also says departments should not follow any Twitter users who are not following them, as this could be interpreted as 'Big Brother' behaviour.

The prime minister's office, the Foreign Office and some individual lawmakers already use Twitter to broadcast their activities online. Prime Minister Gordon Brown's 10Downing Street office has more than 1 million Twitter followers.

Mr Tom Watson, a Labour party lawmaker who is one of the House of Commons' most active bloggers, said Twitter could be a valuable tool for Britain's Labour government.

But he said the guidelines showed how levels of familiarity with the Internet varied widely in the government.

'There are some very bright, digitally enabled civil servants who unfortunately have to write these documents for their bosses, the mandarins, who still get their secretaries to print off their e-mails so they can read them,' Mr Watson told the BBC.


One young life lost each month last year to suicide:

New Paper
31 July 2009

One young life lost each month last year to suicide:

What could have pushed them over the edge?

By Liew Hanqing

TWELVE youngsters in the 10 to 19 age group took their lives last year.

That makes it one young life lost every month, according to statistics released by Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), a suicide prevention and support group.

Of course, it's just a small fraction of the pool of thousands in this age group here.

But even one life lost this way is one too many, prompting observers to once again try to make sense of something that is ultimately senseless.

The latest casualties: Two second-year students from a junior college in the west.

What could have triggered these events?

Study/exam pressure or a relationship issue? Was it over a struggle over identity and belonging?

The New Paper understands that the two students were classmates. The first death occurred on 3 Jul, and the second, on 20 Jul.

The principal of the junior college said: 'They were good students who did not have any problems with their studies.'

She added that the students' classmates are being counselled.

Over the last few years, other lives have been lost in the same way. Several were from junior colleges. (See report on facing page.)

To catch such problems early, schools have, over the years, introduced measures to reach out to students, including a tiered referral system to identify troubled students.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Education said teachers who notice anything amiss with a student can provide support by referring students to trained teacher-counsellors, part-time school counsellors or full-time school counsellors.

'The common issues that have been referred for counselling are relationship issues with family and peers, and motivation issues, for example, the lack or loss of interest in studies and goal-oriented direction,' the spokesman said.

One teacher, who spoke to The New Paper on condition of anonymity, makes his teenage students keep journals to get to know them better.

He works at a secondary school in the East and teaches mainly students in the Normal (Technical) Stream.

He said the journals provide an outlet for students who find it difficult to voice their personal problems.

He said: 'Through their journals, they are able to write reflections on the problems that they may face.

Trust needed

'But first, teachers must win their students' trust. Students must believe that their teachers will not show their journals to anybody.'

Tell-tale signs of depression, he said, may not be apparent even to those closest to them.

Through his student's journals, the teacher said he has managed to identify certain problems that needed urgent attention.

'I found out that one of them had actually attempted suicide when she was in primary school,' he said.

Unplanned pregnancies and troubled families are other situations he has also come across in reading students' journals.

'The problem is that teenagers are not willing to speak up about their problems, and sometimes we don't find out until it's too late,' he said.

Child psychiatrist Brian Yeo agreed, adding that suicides by teenagers often take their families by surprise.

He said: 'A lot of communication is done online - on MSN Messenger, through text messages, and Facebook.

'A teenager may look okay superficially, but there are issues which only close friends they communicate online with may be aware of.'

Red flags often surface in messages youths send to each other through these platforms, Dr Yeo said.

He cited relationship problems as a factor that often triggers suicide attempts by youths.

School-related stress is also common.

Dr Yeo added that he usually sees a spike in the number of patients who see him for school-related stress issues in the months leading up to major exams such as the A Levels.

He said: 'These days, I have started seeing the numbers spike even earlier, because the stress begins even before the preliminary examinations.'

Ms Christine Wong, executive director of SOS, said most teenage boys who called the SOS hotline spoke about issues relating to identity.

'Many shared their difficulties coping with stresses and the challenges of everyday life, and some experienced symptoms such as feeling down, anxious or lethargic.

'Female teenagers expressed concerns relating to studies, exams or needing someone to talk to.'

What's more, parents whose children are in junior colleges and polytechnics often find it difficult to communicate with their children, much less keep track of what their children are going through.

Said Dr Yeo: 'At this age, teenagers are often closer to their peers than to their parents.

'Parents may be less involved in their childrens' lives during these years, and may find it difficult to pick up the warning signs.'

He stressed the importance of properly debriefing those who have lost friends to suicide, especially if there is more than one case from a single group.

Said Dr Yeo: 'There could be problems endemic to a particular class or cohort. It is important for these problems to be identified, and for affected students to be informed about where they can go to for help.'

Looking at the big picture in Singapore, the total number of suicides (all age groups) last year fell to 364, a five-year low.

But that's still about one suicide a day.



Signs of depression

1 Signs of depression or feelings of hopelessness

2 Restlessness, lack of interest or energy

3 Changes in eating habits, sleep patterns, or personal appearance

4 Any dramatic changes in behaviour, actions, or attitude

5 Preoccupation with death or dying

6 Bad grades, failing exams, dropping out of hobbies, sports, school or job

# Youths should call the SOS hotline at 1800-221-4444 or e-mail if they are in crisis or feeling suicidal.



31 July 2009

Sec 3 student falls to death from a block of flats in Sengkang. Student was healthy and had no known relationship problems.

13 Sep 2006

First-year junior college student from China falls to death from a block of flats in Woodlands.

28 Aug 2006

Second-year junior college student, a recipient of the prestigious Asean scholarship, falls to death from a block of flats in Balestier.

7 Mar 2006

First-year junior college student fell to death from a HDB block at Sims Avenue.

3 Mar 2006

Second-year student from a top junior college fell to death from a HDB block in Bedok.

Putting spotlight on suicide

AS PART of the SOS Suicide Awareness Week from 7 to 13 Sep, SOS is organising a photography contest and exhibition for the public.

The contest, based on the theme 'Life's Caring Moments', aims to increase community awareness on suicide-related issues.

You can take part in the contest by sending in photographs that reflect empathy, understanding and care.

The top three entries stand to win $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000 respectively in cash prizes.

The closing date for submission of photographs is 14 Aug. The contest form can be downloaded from http://samaritansofsingapore.

Sudden shock, so they can't accept truth

New Paper
31 July 2009

NTU Student's Death

Sudden shock, so they can't accept truth

WHY is it so hard for David Hartanto Widjaja's family to accept the truth about his death?

Psychiatrists contacted by The New Paper said their emotions are typical of a grieving family.

Dr Danny Ng, a clinical psychologist with Raffles Hospital, said a family would find it easier to accept the truth if the person had died from a prolonged illness or old age rather than from sudden tragic circumstances.

In cases of death from sickness and old age, family members have time to prepare themselves emotionally and to rationalise the death, Dr Ng added.


But David's death was a sudden shock to his family, he said.

'The fact that David's family is finding it hard to accept the ruling that he is responsible for his own death is highly natural,' he said.

'Whether or not it be the case, it is normal and human tendency that the family will choose to believe that their flesh and blood was a victim rather than the one responsible for his own death.'

Dr Tan Chue Tin, a consultant psychiatrist with Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, agreed.

'It's one thing to say that he died but another to say that he committed suicide. There's a negative connotation when we mention the latter,' he said.

The family is still in denial, Dr Tan noted.

'From a psychological standpoint, I understand why the family reacted this way. But I guess it's a question of preserving good memories of the deceased,' he said.

He added that it normally takes at least six months for a grieving family in denial to finally accept the truth. It has been 51/2months since David died.

Psychologist Daniel Koh said the time a family takes to heal depends on how close they are to the deceased and how much the deceased means to them.

Support is also important, he added.

Ervina Mohd Jamil, newsroom intern

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

He offers $3,000 for info on dogs

I can identify with the owners feelings. My mom did the same thing. Except she changed her mind at the last minute. The thing is if she had done, then I would probably have killed myself.

Gin, was the only thing that made life living at home bearable.

Stupid mother fucker!


New Paper
28 July 2009

He wants to know where dogs are, but couple now can't be contacted. So...

He offers $3,000 for info on dogs

His mother gives his dogs away to stranger coupleHIS mother put his two dogs up for adoption on a local classifieds website without his knowledge.

Now he says he has no idea where they are or even if they are still alive.

Worried, Mr Kenny Lim, 31, an underwriter, is offering a reward of $3,000 for anyone who can provide information on their whereabouts.

Mr Lim bought Hofy, a jack russell, from a pet shop in 2001 when it was just three months old.


Fifi, a daschund, was rescued from an abusive owner in 2007. Mr Lim estimates that she is 3 years old this year.

The trouble started when his son was born last year. 'My mother has been wanting me and my wife Vivien to give up our dogs as she was convinced that it was bad for my son's health and dangerous too,' said Mr Lim.

He said his mother decided to take action when Hofy accidentally hurt the boy three months ago.

Soon after the incident, Mr Lim's mother put both dogs up for adoption.

WHERE ARE THEY? Hofy, a jack russell, and Fifi, a daschund. PICTURE: KENNY LIM

He was not home when she gave the two dogs away to a couple, known only as Xueli and Ray, after they responded to her online ad.

'Having convinced my wife to give the dogs up, my mum gave them to the couple a month after the ad was put up, ' said Mr Lim.

He estimates the couple to be in their late teens to early 20s.

When Mr Lim found out the dogs were given away, he was concerned for the well-being of his dogs and sent multiple messages to Xueli and Ray, who had left their handphone numbers on the ad website.

However, he didn't receive any response from the couple.

Two weeks after his dogs were given away, MrLim decided to pay a surprise visit to Xueli and Ray. He said the couple had left the address when they took the dogs.

It was a flat in Yishun. There seemed to be a number of tenants, but a couple there admitted that they were the ones who had taken the dogs.

But Hofy and Fifi were not there.

'The flat was small and rather messy. The only dog that I saw was a small chihuahua. I questioned the couple, asking them where Hofy and Fifi were.

'They told me that Hofy was given to someone who lived in Johor, while Fifi was taken back by my mother, which was obviously untrue,' he said.

Mr Lim said he became increasingly frustrated at the couple when they refused to reveal the contact details of the dogs' new owners.

'I only wanted to make sure my dogs were all right,' he said.

Mr Lim said if he is able to locate his dogs, he will try to get them back.

'After all this happened, I don't trust anyone with my dogs any more. I'll definitely take them back,' he said.

False addresses

After the confrontation outside the couple's flat, Mr Lim said they refused to deal with him again.

'They said that I was rude and intimidating, so they only spoke with my wife from then on,' he said.

When Mrs Lim asked for the location of the dogs, she was given a series of false addresses, said MrLim.

He said: 'When we first asked where the dogs where, they gave my wife an address. However, the address turned out to be fake. When we confronted them about it, they said the dogs were taken away to some new place.

'This happened on three separate occasions over a few weeks. Each time, they would give us an address, but every time we went down, the addresses were either fake or our dogs weren't there.'

Desperate, Mr Lim offered the couple $3,000 in exchange for genuine information about his dogs.

But the couple turned down his offer with vulgarities, he said, claiming that they felt deeply insulted.

'The very next day, however, one of them contacted my wife asking for $250, instructing her to go to the Yishun flat alone to hand over the money.

'They promised to help us after getting the money,' said Mr Lim.

Fearing for her safety, Mrs Lim said she would only hand over the money after they received accurate information.

This did not sit well with the couple. 'He (Ray) responded with vulgarities again and told my wife to forget about ever finding our dogs,' said Mr Lim.

Since then, the couple have not responded to any of his messages or phone calls.

A Google search revealed postings from someone named Xueli on various forums indicating an interest in adopting dogs, including another jack russell and a maltese puppy.

When The New Paper tried to contact the couple, a young woman answered the phone.

'I keep some dogs for myself and give some others away,' she said, when asked what happens to the dogs she adopts.

Upon further questioning, she hung up the phone. Subsequent attempts to contact her were unsuccessful.

Mr Lim said he is worried about the fate of his dogs and the other pets that the couple have adopted.

'They told my mother that their parents loved dogs, and that they would take good care of them. However, my dogs were nowhere to be found at their flat.'

They may sell the dogs they adopt to dog breeders, he said.

'It's an easy way to make a quick buck.'

Those with information about the dogs can contact Mr Lim at 9863 8946, or send an e-mail to

Benita Aw Yeong, newsroom intern


Original Postings by Owners

My 2 dogs, Hofy and Fifi, were put up for adoption via this website in late April. (The link can be found here: gumtreeSometime in mid May, they were eventually taken away by their new owners, one young girl and one young man by the names of XUELI and RAY.

2 weeks later, I paid a surprise visit to their flat only to find that my dogs were both not there. I questioned the people who took my dogs; they claimed they had given my dogs away, but refused to reveal to whom nor their contact details. Subsequently, they contacted my wife and gave her an address, saying that was where my dogs were; the address turned out to be fake. When we confronted them about it, they said the dogs were taken away to some new place. This happened on 3 separate occasions over a few weeks. Each time they would give us an address, but every time we went, the addresses were either fake or our dogs weren’t there.

Since then, my wife and I have been desperately contacting these people, pleading with them to tell us what had happened to our dogs, to no avail. They responded with vulgarities instead. We offered them money, but they turned us down angrily, claiming they felt insulted. However, the very next day, one of them contacted my wife asking for $250, instructing her to go alone to their flat to hand over the money, after which he would then agree to help us. My wife obviously did not believe him, but instead said she would give him the money as soon as he tells us the truth about our dogs. He responded with vulgarities again and told her to forget about ever finding our dogs. They have not responded to all our calls or messages eversince. What puzzles us, as much as it distresses us, is what could they have possibly done to our dogs, and why can’t they simply tell us the truth?

It has been almost 2 months now, and I fear our chances of getting our dogs back lessens with each passing day.

We are hereby offering a $3000 cash reward to anyone who can provide information regarding the fate of Hofy and Fifi.
We may be contacted at 98638946 (Kenny) / 81897013 (Vivien) / 96775009 (Michelle)

WARNING! Take such pictures at your own risk

New Paper
28 July 2009

WARNING! Take such pictures at your own risk

If your private pictures get posted online, there might not be any way of getting them down, say lawyers
THERE may be no recourse for you if your nude pictures turn up on a US-based website.

By Liew Hanqing and Germaine Lim

So if you have ever allowed yourself to be photographed in the buff, be warned.

First, you risk putting yourself on display on a popular US-based website, which has catapulted several Singaporean women to online notoriety.

You could beg and plead for your pictures to be removed, or, like others have done, even make a police report.

But the webmaster of the site says he will not budge.

In an e-mail interview with The New Paper, the webmaster of the Arizona-based site said that once he creates a post on his website, it is never removed.

He said: 'Before a post is created, I go to great lengths to ensure it will obeys all applicable criminal laws.

'But mistakes, if any, can and will be corrected when they are pointed out convincingly. If a post violates an applicable law, only then it will be removed.'

He added that because his website is based outside Singapore's jurisdiction, posts on Singaporean scandals there will not be removed - even if authorities here request it.

In the latest case, the webmaster posted a Singaporean undergraduate's sex pictures on his website, and subsequently received numerous requests for the pictures to be removed.

He said: 'There were many comments on the post requesting the pictures to be removed. Some of them claim to be the girl's friends.'

A day after he first posted the pictures on his site earlier this month, the webmaster also received an e-mail from a relative of the girl, requesting that the post be removed.

Said the webmaster: 'He asked for the post to be removed immediately, or face legal action. I did not reply to the e-mail.'

He claimed he also received an e-mail request from the Singapore police to remove the post, and to provide information on the source of the pictures.

'A reply was sent to the officer requesting a scanned copy of the police report but it never came,' the webmaster claimed.

A spokesman for the Singapore police confirmed a report had been lodged and that investigations are ongoing.

The webmaster said he had learnt of the student's leaked pictures on 17 Apr.

He received the first pictures on 24 Apr, but decided not to post them until 'a few things were checked.'

He claimed that he first compared the pictures he had received to third-party pictures of the student, to verify her identity.

He also claimed that he checked the university's calendar year.

'I thought it would probably best (or less bad) for the student not to have the pictures leaked in the middle of a semester in April or around her exams.

'So I delayed the post to the summer. That was the best I could do because she does seem like a likable person.'

He added that he did not know who first uploaded the pictures of the student, and if the person was related to her.

Singapore lawyers agree that there was very little a victim could do.

Lawyer Adrian Wee told The New Paper that the victim may not be able to claim damages if the pictures were not stolen.

Assuming the photos were not altered, a claim for defamation is also unlikely to succeed given that the photos were taken with permission.

He added that it is difficult to commence action against someone located in a different jurisdiction.

He said: 'For example, if you have an American with a UK-based server, but who lives in Singapore, it would be difficult to determine where one would commence legal action.'

Mr Wee added that the victim might argue there was an expressed or implied agreement that the pictures would not be distributed to a third party at the time the pictures were taken.

'The victim needs to demonstrate to the court that there was such an agreement. She could then ask the court to order the removal of the pictures,' he said.

Even so, it would be a long shot for the court to rule in the victim's favour, Mr Wee said.

'In addition, this would only work if the defendant is in the jurisdiction of Singapore courts.'

Difficult to control

He said that the Singapore police cannot do anything to ensure the photos are removed.

'It can only request the US authorities to take action. It's up to the latter to decide what they will do,' Mr Wee said.

He added that unlike child pornography, which is an international crime, US authorities are unlikely to take down porn sites which are not banned in its own country.

Ms Yuvarani Thangavelu, Deputy Director (Licensing Policy), Development Policy Division, Media Development Authority, told The New Paper that MDA regulates Internet content with joint government and industry initiatives as well as public involvement.

'Internet Service Providers and Internet Content Providers are regulated under the light-touch Class Licence scheme and have to abide by the conditions of the Class Licence and Internet Code of Practice,' she said.

Regulations, she said, focus on those who distribute pornography or other offensive materials, including seditious content.

'The unauthorised dissemination of personal photos on the Internet without consent is a privacy issue that is beyond MDA's regulatory purview,' she said.

She added that aggrieved individuals should seek legal advice to determine the most appropriate legal recourse. They may also wish to contact the website directly for assistance in taking down the photos.

Websites hosted overseas, she said, are beyond MDA's jurisdiction.

'While websites can be blocked, it is not practical for MDA to block all objectionable websites on a borderless and dynamic Internet,' she said.

However, MDA does block 100 mass impact websites as a 'symbolic statement of core societal values'.

She added that MDA does not monitor which websites individuals access in the privacy of their homes.


New Paper
28 July 2009

Leaked intimate pictures may lead to anger, depression

IT'S an act many indulge in without realising the risks.

Taking intimate photos of themselves seems to be a trend among local youngsters, but they do not realise the risks until these compromising images of them are leaked online.

When this happens, experts told The New Paper, anger, anxiety and even depression can set in.

Psychologist Daniel Koh says that anger could come from being betrayed by a trusted person, and for being placed in such a situation.

He said: 'Anxiety could arise from not knowing how many people have seen the pictures, and how they would react.'

He added that victims are also likely to isolate themselves, and may even avoid going out altogether.

On the other hand, however, victims could react in an entirely opposite way.

Said Mr Koh: 'The other extreme is the 'what do I have to lose' attitude. Since they are exposed, they become wilder and uninhibited about sex.'

He added that substance abuse is also common, as a means to numb one's emotions.

'The best thing is for victims to go for counselling, so they can learn how to face challenges ahead in a positive manner.'

Mr Charles Lee, a senior counsellor at Tanjong Pagar Family Service Centre, added that victims should seek professional help to help them recover emotionally.

He said: 'The victim must have trusted whoever took the pictures. If the pictures were uploaded without permission, the victim would be traumatised by such a breach of trust.'

Mr Lee added that recovery from such an incident 'is a long process of forgiveness and learning to let go'.

'Victims need to go for professional counselling so that they can learn to trust people again.'

Speaking out may also help in the recovery process, says psychiatrist Dr Adrian Wong. A victim has to remain strong in face of possible criticism.

Dr Wong said: 'She has to try not to let such remarks bother her. She has to tell herself that she will be a stronger person and that she will learn from this negative experience.'

Victims are not alone in the distress; their families undergo the same emotions as well. This is when they should stick together during such tough times, says Dr Wong.

He said: 'Sit down and discuss the problem, and decide on the best course of action. If the parents or significant other gets upset, don't argue or defend yourself too quickly - let them cool down first.

'It's necessary to keep a cool head when dealing with such a difficult situation.

'Try not to get caught up with finger-pointing and assigning blame. Instead, work on the fundamental problems that may have triggered this.'

Harassed Golden Mile tenants avoid toilets plagued by 'lurkers and gropers'

New Paper
28 July 2009


Harassed Golden Mile tenants avoid toilets plagued by 'lurkers and gropers'

FOR the last two years, he has been afraid of using the toilets outside his office.

By Pearly Tan

Instead, Mr Tan (not his real name) walks some 100m to use the toilet at a petrol kiosk.

Why? Because he is convinced that some of the male toilets at his office, in Golden Mile Complex, are being used for homosexual acts.

The 28-year-old did not want to be identified because he is afraid of repercussions.

Said Mr Tan: 'I don't dare to use the toilets. Having to go out of the building to use the toilet is better than being sexually harassed.'

The businessman said he has been propositioned and even flashed at in the toilets, which are located on the second and third storeys of Golden Mile.

And the proposition he received came through a hole in the wall between toilet cubicles - a 'gloryhole' in sexual slang.

VANDALISM: Partition hole that was glued shut and then ripped open.

These are holes used by perverts for peeping or for sexual activity.

When male reporters visited the toilets, the team found holes in the cubicles on both the second and third floors.

There were none on the first floor, probably because the partition walls are made of metal.

But on the higher floors, holes, one the size of a doorknob, at waist height, have been cut through the chipboard material.

Filthy loos

The toilets were also filthy.

Internet videos have surfaced, allegedly showing sex acts taking place through these holes in these cubicles.

They appear to have been taken in these toilets.

Online invitations are also issued for encounters in these toilets.

Said Mr Tan: 'In February this year, I was in the second last cubicle on the third floor at about noon when I heard a knock on the partition.

'A finger came through the hole and gestured. I just ignored it.'

Mr Tan said he has seen local and foreign men loitering in the toilets. According to him, their ages vary widely. Some are in their 20s while others are older 'ah peks'.

He said: 'Some are uncles who are really sloppy and walk around in shorts, T-shirts and slippers.

'Younger ones come in office wear and look like they took off from work.'

He recalled an incident last year. 'I was washing my hands and this man in his 30s wearing a striped shirt and office pants kept watching me.'

BEWARE: Men are often seen loitering near the male toilets, eyeing the users.

Mr Tan said the man then suddenly ran into a cubicle and performed crude acts while watching his reflection in the mirror.

Stunned and scared, Mr Tan said he ran out, but the man gave chase.

'He followed me all the way to the escalator before he turned to go back to the toilet,' he claimed.

The men often hang around in the toilet, trying to make eye contact with those they target.

They walk around the toilet areas on both levels and sometimes even around the office units, said Mr Tan.

'They look up and down at you and watch you if you're going to the toilet.

'Usually the last two cubicles are occupied for hours. If you use the cubicle next to it, you can tell from their feet's position that they're facing the partition.'

WHAT'S GOING ON?: Some occupy the same cubicle for hours

One of the holes appeared to have been previously glued shut, before it was forced open again, as dried glue remain around the hole.

Said a woman in her 60s, who gave her name only as Madam Tong: 'The place is full of ah kuas (Hokkien for homosexuals) just walking around every weekend.

'On the eve of public holidays, the whole place looks sleazy.'

She goes there every day to collect soft drink cans to sell.

Mr Tan, who has worked at Golden Mile Complex for five years, said the problem began only in 2007, when the second and third storey toilets were renovated.

'After the renovation, the partitions were changed from metal sheets to chipboard.

'That's when the holes started appearing. Nowadays, the toilet is disgustingly filthy.'

The New Paper spoke to a man, who identified himself only as Leonnie. He said he has used the cubicles several times.

Asked if he was worried about contracting diseases, he said: 'I don't need to know who's on the other side. Diseases are not an issue to me.'

Miss Germaine Chong, 28, often visits her boyfriend who works in a company in Golden Mile Complex.

She said: 'I used to tell my boyfriend to be careful when he goes to the toilet but now he knows better.

Avoid toilets

'He was groped in the toilet two months ago and now he won't use the toilets there.'

Despite the hazards, Mr Tan said that he has no plans to move his company out of the building.

'It's a family business and it's close to the places we need to access frequently. I think I'll just ignore what's going on and do my job,' said Mr Tan.

When The New Paper visited the toilets on 15 Jul, we noticed that one of the covered holes had been pried open.

Instructions had been scribbled on one of the wooden partitions.

GROSS: Obscene proposals are scribbled in this third-storey loo.

On the opposite partition, one could see the next cubicle through a hole.

One person occupied the dimly-lit cubicle next door.

Strangely, the man sat in that cubicle for more than two hours.

Another tenant, who gave his name only as Mr Lee, said that he does not walk about the complex unless necessary.

'I hate it that the men are around all day and they look at you like prey to be eaten. The men who visit those holes are sick,' said the 53-year-old.

The management of Golden Mile Complex, Management Corporation Strata Title 446, declined comment.

The New Paper contacted lawyer Foo Cheow Ming, 45, of KhattarWong for comment on the legal issues involved.

'Assuming it's between two consenting adults, without threat or money involved, it's in violation of 377A Penal Code,' he said.

Under the act, any man who, in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another man, can be imprisoned for up to 2 years.

Mr Shashi Nathan, head of criminal litigation at Harry Elias, said: 'The minute sexual acts move into the public sphere, it's about public indecency.

'It's still a public place, although behind doors.

'The issue here is not the gender of the people involved. The police will also need to consider other issues such as age, consent and whether there is any exchange of money.'

additional reporting by Naveen Kanagalingam

Friday, July 10, 2009


New Paper
10 July 2009

Want to remember your loved ones in death? Turn their remains into a diamond

By Ng Tze Yong

WHEN funeral director Victor Hoo shows you the diamonds, they are sparkling 1-carat babies, but you'll likely not want to touch them, thank you very much.

Instead, you'll probably admire them from afar with a morbid curiosity.

'Erm... so who's this guy?' you'll try asking.

In a Singapore that is growing in affluence - and ageing rapidly - a local funeral home, Singapore Funeral Services (SFS), is offering these perfect fusion of death and beauty, convinced they will catch on.

Cremate your loved ones - and instead of leaving the ashes in a hard-to-find niche in the temple - send it to a lab in Switzerland.

A few months later, welcome Grandpa home as a precious stone - complete with a certificate from the Gemological Institute of America listing his cut, carat, clarity and colour.

The service is provided by a Swiss-based company Algordanza, which was founded in 2003 and now operates in 20 countries.

A Chicago-based company, LifeGem, has been offering a similar service.

For what is believed to be the first time in Singapore, SFS is offering this service in partnership with Algordanza.

Cost will range between $6,999 for a 0.25-carat diamond and $33,999 for a 1-carat diamond.

The waiting period will range from three months to a year.

'Our society is now at a stage where we want the finer things in life - even until the last step,' said Mr Hoo.

But it's not about being extravagant, he explained. It's about moving with the times.

'Many people feel guilty when they have a tablet or an urn for their parents, because they're not sure the future generations will continue to visit it,' said Mr Hoo.

'If you have a ring, you can pass it down from generation to generation. Your loved one will be with you every minute, every second.'

Preserve memories

Many families these days also have members living in different countries, he pointed out. 'They may not be able to come back every year to pay their respects. Making a diamond helps them preserve the memories,' said Mr Hoo.

In a land-scarce Singapore, it also encourages cremation, 'in line with government policy'.

'People already associate diamonds with love and eternity. For a widow, for example, it can provide a lot of comfort,' said Mr Hoo.

Singaporeans, however, may need a bit more convincing.

'We should just let the dead rest in peace,' said 37-year-old manager Yvonne Wong.

Miss Pearl Chia, a 46-year-old manager, wonders what will happen if future generations run into financial difficulties.

'What if they pawn off Grandpa?' she asked.

But diamonds, however they come, retain their allure for some.

'I don't mind a diamond, real or otherwise,' gushed Stacey Kelly, a 20-year-old student. 'It will give family heirlom a new meaning.'

Mr Raymond Xiao, a 69-year-old retiree, doesn't mind being turned into a diamond.

'It is a good idea to recycle, so to speak,' he said.

'People will get used to the idea. Look at Bishan. It used to be a cemetery. Now, it's a HDB estate.'

Leaders from Singapore's two main religions were not keen on the idea.

Mr Lee Bock Guan, president of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge, said that 'there is nothing in Buddhism that forbids this'.

'But if you have the ring, people may not want to shake your hand. It may not be nice to wear it to someone's wedding,' he said. 'Worse still, what if you lose it?'

Rev Dr Daniel Koh, an ordained minister of the Methodist Church of Singapore, said in his personal capacity: 'It does not seem to gel with the Christian faith at all.

'It may be better to remember a loved one through the lessons they taught us. It is things like these, not diamonds, which last forever.'

Fellow undertakers also have their doubts.

'Singaporeans may feel uneasy about passing on the remains of their loves ones to strangers halfway across the world,' said Mr Roland Tay, 62, the director of Direct Singapore Funeral Services.

Mr Darren Tan, 31, the operations manager of a memorial services firm, worries that the diamonds may have a reverse effect, making it hard for mourners to find closure, especially in cases where the death occurred unexpectedly.

'I don't think it will be popular in an Asian society,' he said.

1. An average person leaves behind 2kg in ash after cremation. 500g of this is sent by air to the Swiss Alps, where the headquarters of Algordanza is located.

2. Upon arrival, the ash is marked with a serial number to prevent any mix-up.

3. The ash undergoes an analysis in the lab to determine its chemical composition.

4. Potassium and calcium, which make up 85 per cent of the ash, are extracted from the carbon using strong acids.

5. The remaining carbon is compressed into graphite under high pressure and temperature. Waste gases are generated and removed immediately.

6. A tiny diamond is added into the graphite. Crystalisation takes place around it and the diamond grows in size. The duration of the crystalisation depends on the size of the diamond desired. It can last anything from three months to a year. When the desired size is reached, the diamond introduced at the start of the process is cut off.

7. The remaining chunk of diamond is cut and polished. Engraving can be done upon request.

8. Your loved one comes home as a precious stone - accompanied by a certificate from the Gemological Institute of America listing his cut, carat, clarity and colour.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I am on Twitter!

Yes, I have jumped on the Twitter wagon. Been a few days, less than 1 week and I have managed 750 twits as of date.

And I have 225 followers! Not bad for a twitter virgin! However, most of my followers are spams/porn, so nothing to be envious about. My followers used to be higher. About 250 till I start blocking spam/porn.

I do missed blogging. And I dun think twitting can ever replace blogging. At least for me. Its like comparing peanuts to cookies. Peanuts are not that physically filling as compared to cookies.

Yes, I will be back blogging soon. As soon as I am tired of twitting, which I already am.

So, if interested, just click on

Oh ya, I did not let anyone on twitters know I have this blog, so its our little secret.

The Wicked adventure continues!