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A Tale of Three Cities – Singapore, Penang and Hong Kong

The once mighty powerful British Empire having ruled the world for more than 300 years left behind many legacies; some are good and some are bad. Today’s geographical landscape is partly the result of the once omnipotent British Empire. Let’s look at Singapore, Hong Kong and Penang which are Great Britain’s modern creations. These three cities have lots in common. They are city harbour states created by the mighty British Empire for their own self interests; to further their strategic hold on power for their own wealth and glory.

Out of the three city states, Singapore is the only sovereign independent state. Whereas the other two cities are part of their larger hinterlands with Penang as part of Peninsula Malaysia and Hong Kong as part of China. All of them are blessed with deep sea ports for ocean going ships. They started life as sea ports in the maritime trade. Except for Singapore, their ports are situated opposite the mainland. Therein lies their individual destiny. That’s the crux of the matter.

Let’s trace their origins and their existence.

Hong Kong island was forcibly seized from the weakened Manchu dynasty after the first opium war. In the Treaty of Nanking (1842) after the first opium war, the British made China pay for the war indemnity and also ceded Hong Kong in perpetuity to them amongst other unfair terms and conditions. This was a trading post in the Far East to enable the British to further their commercial interests in the maritime trade routes.

In those days, whoever controls the sea lanes rule the world.

When they found out that Hong Kong was too small as the colony’s needs increased, they used all kinds of pretext and excuses to grab more lands from the helpless Chinese for agriculture, training grounds for troops and security buffer against attacks etc. More and more lands were subsequently seized from the weak Chinese and added to the British colony in Hong Kong. All lands acquired were rent free. The stretch of land on mainland China opposite Victoria Harbour which is on tiny Hong Kong island had to be seized for obvious security reasons. Thus, tiny Hong Kong from an initial land area of 78.59 sq km expanded to a whopping 2,754 sq km – almost 35 times!

Same as Hong Kong, Penang was only a tiny island of 293 sq km, much smaller than Singapore which is more than 700 sq km. Subsequently, the British conned the Kedah Sultan into ceding a vast swarth of territory on mainland peninsula Malaysia opposite the Penang harbour for security buffer and to facilitate the expansion of port facilities. That piece of land known as Wellesley province was a mangrove swamp infested with pirates which was not conducive to commercial activities for the Penang port. Thus from a mere 293 sq km, Penang’s territory expanded to a sizeable 1,048 sq km – more than 3.5 times.

When Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819, she was the biggest of the three sea ports in terms of land area. Fast forward to today, it’s the smallest among them. Since Singapore harbour is well sheltered by the huge land mass in Sumatra and not situated directly opposite mainland Johore, the British didn’t see any need to annex any extra land in Johore. There’s no necessity to grab extra land on the opposite side on the mainland.

How I wish Singapore harbour were located somewhere along the narrow straits between Singapore and Johore like Victoria harbour! The story of Hong Kong formation would have been played out with more and more lands added to the Singapore colony. Instead, the British laid a railway line cutting across the centre of Singapore from the northern tip to the southern end up till Tanjong Pagar where our port is. This was to facilitate the exports of rubber, palm oil, tin etc from mainland Malaysia via the railway line through Singapore harbour. Singapore was part of the Straits Settlement then governed by the British. But the railway line belonged to KTM based in Malaysia.

After more than 50 yrs, the railway line was finally resolved. It defied all logic that a foreign owned railway could cut across another country from one end to the other with that entire track of land belonging to another government. Not only the British did us no favor but left us with so much shit to contend with. If the British didn’t give away Christmas Island to Australia, we would have another 135 sq km of extra island! Our sea boundary would be much larger than now. We could have used that island for our farming, holiday chalets, army training needs etc not forgetting the tons of crabs.

As a matter of fact, the British also left lots of shit all over the places when they lost the Empire. Think of India’s West and East Pakistans they created! Until today the Kashmir issue still remains unresolved despite three border wars fought between India and Pakistan.

How I wish that if only at that critical juncture of history, the British were to grab a piece of territory on the Johore side off mainland peninsular Malaysia for security reasons and further development of the Singapore colony as happened in Hong Kong and Penang. Do you think we have to face so much nonsense from them today? Like what Mr Brown says, they are “playing punks” on us. Out of nowhere, suddenly they started their nonsense again. Unwarranted provocations on the sea and in the air to play sport on us! They seem to enjoy doing it. They love to see how we react to their childish antics thinking that we are merely a helpless small fly! Link

To those who clamour for reduced defense spending, abolishment of NS and name the enemies, I say open your eyes wide to what’s happening right now! Are we so stupid as to spend billions on defense year after year for no reason? It takes 1000 days to build an army only to use it on one day. When that day of reckoning comes, there will be no regrets. The saber rattling up north is a timely wake up call indeed! Link

The other two cities are much better off than us. Fate or history has not been kind to us even though we seek to co-exit peacefully with such unfriendly neighbours making a decent living despite the fact that we are a barren island and yet having to spend tons of money on defence. Are we destined to live under their whims and fancy forever? Do we have to be at their mercy for generations to come?

When stupid narrow minded people are in power, that’s the problem. They don’t think far ahead on the mutual benefits if we co-operate together combining our weaknesses and strengths to reap tremendous benefits for our own respective citizens. As it is, there are so many of their citizens earning good money here when their own citizens could not find employment back home. If we become enemies, what about those tens of thousands earning a decent living here? I say those retards running the place up north are irresponsible and callous in their duty to their own people. Link

Remember this age old adage. Do not force a tiger (lion in our case) to the wall or it’ll be left with no choice but to retaliate to the maximum. If you want to bring us down by restricting our sea and air spaces until we can’t breathe and survive at all, what else could we do especially when we got lots of arsenal at our disposal?

Maybe, letting an nonagenarian hold the country’s destiny is not a good move after all cuz he’ll have no qualms bringing down the country together with him knowing that his days are numbered!

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/maritime-dispute-malaysia-port-limits-mahathir-vessels-remain-11018056

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Year of the Dog 2018

Today is the 2nd day of CNY. It’s also exactly one year after I joined this company having returned my taxi as a hirer. Last February , I was still facing an uncertain future without any confirmation of a stable job. Now, things look promising for me with a stable secure job.

I could even go on working beyond the company’s official retirement age at 55 yrs till 65 yrs on annual contract subject to medical fitness. When I turn 55 this Aug, I could either go on with annual renewal contract or I could opt for the “flexi-scheme” meaning I get paid whenever I report for work. I think this is the only company in the world where as long as one reports back to work once in 6 months under the flexi-scheme, one could still keep the job and remain on the payroll!

Even though I had to work on CNY, I still feel grateful that I’ve got a well paid job at my age. We know that it’s quite difficult to get a decent job once you are in your 40s, let alone when I joined this company at age 54. Most of my M/sian colleagues have gone back so we had to stand in for them. We’ve no complts cuz we also get additional incentives for working during this festive period.

Not only we had quite an extra monetary reward for working during this festive season, we were also given KFC meals, drinks and yes angpao in the form of Mac vouchers for each and every staff. Our supervisors even forked out their own pocket money to buy us 2 toto tickets placed inside angpao for every one of us! Hopefully, one of us will strike the jackpot so that we could have more free makan.

Such is the kind of environment I’m working now where our efforts are much appreciated. Surprisingly, there is not much MC during this period. Only a handful of MCs. Chinese or non-Chinese, we all look forward to working during this festive period. Certain jobs like those in the essential services such as transport services including my job still need to be manned round the clock 24/7. As part of the job description, we understand what we are in for when we take on the job. It is expected of us.

Compared to my previous taxi driver job, there are good and bad. After a year on the job, more or less I’m set to the routine of a salaried job. But still there are times when I miss my previous job as a taxi driver. Even though there is an assurance of a regular income and its fringe benefits that come along with the stability of this job, I still feel that it’s rather restricted and confined. My current job is too specialised compared to the colourful life of a taxi driver.

As a taxi driver, the whole island is my playground. I’m free to roam to every corner of the island. Imagine zipping around the island in a taxi for more than 10 hrs a day making a living on the roads. The things I’ve seen and the number of passengers I interacted surely are much more interesting than any other jobs. It’s a breathtaking experience lacking in my current job.

I could even say that as a taxi driver, I was more in tuned with pulse of the country in terms of the state of the economy and a cross section of our society. Whatever happens or any latest developments, taxi drivers are the first to know. Whenever a new road or super highway is open, taxi drivers are the first to try out. When there is a new building or shopping mall opening, taxi drivers will be the first to see when we fetch and send pax there. Goodies bags are even given to encourage taxi drivers to cruise in when new establishments especially hotels are open for business.

To bring the logic further, any new policy or rules that the govt introduced, taxi drivers will have the immediate first hand raw feedback from the public when they interact with passengers. As such, I could say that taxi drivers are the barometer of a society. We are more in-tuned with the general sentiments of the public including foreigners whether tourists or expatriates on how they perceive us as Singaporeans and our country.

That is why I say taxi driving is a career with many exhilarating experiences. Whether taxi driving is a viable career or not – that’s a different matter.

Anyway, it took me quite some time to adjust to my current job after the switch from taxi driving. But the allure and pull of driving taxi never fades. I still miss driving taxi. Maybe when my 3 year contract is due, I may consider switching over to taxi again. I could still drive taxi if I opt for the flexi scheme. By then, I won’t know what could have happened to the taxi industry. Already in one year, there is so much changes in the taxi industry with the invasion of 3rd party apps without any taxi fleet hardware moving in with cut throat competition and wantonly slaughtering their way thus disrupting the otherwise well regulated predictable taxi industry reserved for locals only.

Anyway, it’s still early for me to make the decision on whether to go back to driving taxi. Most probably I’ll drive taxi when I reach the mandatory retirement age of 65. Taxi drivers subject to medical checkup could drive till 75 yrs. Don’t you think that driving taxi at age 65 is so much better than collecting cardboards or clearing dirty oily plates at Food Courts?

_____________________________________

As in all the previous 8 yrs, yesterday morning on the first day of Chinese New Year (CNY), my good old friend Datuk Freddie personally delivered more than 10 pieces of medium size rabbit fish to my humble residence. This is the 9th consecutive year that he has faithfully done so. This time round, I was not at home to receive him due to work. I was on night shift yet to report off duty.

My mother on my behalf received the gift of fish from Freddie which meant a lot for the Chinese as it symbolises abundance and prosperity [年年有余(鱼)]. I told my mother to give him a red packet meant for his daughter. I ever told him that I would continue giving red packet to his grown up adult daughter until she’s married. I also asked my mother to hand over 2 books – The Chinaman by Stephen Leather and Norwegian Wood by Maruki Murakami. Much to my surprise, Freddie reciprocated with a big red packet for my mother! Link

We were so busy that we could hardly meet up so the books were put on hold for quite some time even though I’ve finished reading them. I usually pass over to him books I’ve read. I hope he’s finished reading the 1,000 page “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts – that’s the last book I gave him. Link

Over the 9-year span – from Feb 2010 till Feb 2018 that my faithful friend Freddie has consistently delivered rabbit fish aka CNY fish, many things have happened not to mention that we have aged over the years and his brand new luxurious BMW 5 series COE also about to expire! Man and machine also grow old and aged in this mortal world. Nothing is permanent in this transient existence. But I wish our beautiful island city state will defy this logic and remain much longer wistfully lasting forever in eternity.

Just to mention some – I’ve changed jobs thrice, many friends were made and lost with some having departed to the netherworld. Our children have also grown up. His 2 children having graduated to be a specialist doctor consultant and an accountant whilst mine about to sacrifice 2 of his best years for the country.

Notwithstanding these changes in our lives, our friendship has grown and bonded through the years. The Chinese saying “路遥知马力,日久见人心” truly describes our special friendship. Link

This brand new Year of the Dog hopefully will be a much better than last year’s Rooster. It is going to be my next milestone in life and I’m looking forward to it. May the Year of the Dog bring us all luck, prosperity and happiness in this uncertain and turmoil world.

PS: Update from Freddie.

I believe this could b a commemorative note. I asked many of my friends n it seems was not reported in the press. There were also unable to change for it with the banks.

☝️ That’s the piece of note given to my mother in the red packet.

Read related articles below.

https://gintai.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/the-fish-connoisseur/

https://gintai.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/will-traditional-taxi-become-extinct/

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