A Day in the Life of a Chinese Emperor

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Source : Epoch Times

China’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing, was founded with a shock. In the 17th century, Manchurian warriors, hailing from the chilly northeast, breached the Great Wall and conquered the waning Ming Dynasty.

For the next 250 years, these foreigners managed to rule over hundreds of millions of Chinese by adopting Chinese culture. Under their rule, China’s territory increased threefold and the empire was widely held in awe by great thinkers of the European Enlightenment.  

Early Risers and Workers
The Manchu ethnic group, comprising but a tiny portion of China’s massive population, went to great lengths to rule efficiently and harmoniously. Ruling from the Forbidden City in China’s northern capital of Beijing, Qing emperors led lives of painstaking diligence. Particularly the three greats—Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong—who presided over a 140-year period of prosperity are remembered for their personal discipline and measured dedication.

At 5 a.m., the emperor rose to be dressed. His robes were selected in accordance with the varying seasons, months, occasions, and even different times of day. Once dressed, the ruler would pray to Buddha, then spend his morning vigorously absorbing lessons in historical records passed down by his ancestors. Through constant learning, he aspired to streamline his own governance.

At 7 a.m., the emperor finished his studies and went to have his breakfast. In accordance with Manchu custom, the Qing monarchs took two major meals daily, one in the morning, the other in the early afternoon. Two departments—the Office of Palatial Affairs and the Imperial Household Department—tended to the emperor’s diet.

Focused Policymaking
The greatest Qing emperors held court early, quickly, and frequently. It was during this time the emperor announced policy and gave his orders.

Officials representing different advisory bodies and government agencies would submit imperial reports, or memorials, to the emperor, which he read at breakfast. He would then choose which men to meet individually from a list of available officers provided by a eunuch, and then head to court for a one and a half hour session.

Court was only mandatory on a few days of the lunar month, but diligent emperors would hold more frequent sessions, typically starting at 9:30 a.m. Emperor Kangxi (r. 1654−1722) saw his officials almost daily.

Following the meetings, the emperor, retreating to his palace quarters, would set himself upon his paperwork. A vermillion ink pen, designated for his exclusive use, was sign of the annotations and notes he would make to imperial documents. On busy days, an emperor might stay up late into the night reviewing his executive policy.

Meditative Bearing
Provided the emperor was not swamped in state affairs, he would likely spend the afternoon reading or enjoying some cultured leisure—painting, poetry, or operas. The emperors slept early—9 p.m., so that they could wake up before dawn the next day.

Education and religion were integral to the worldview of the enlightened Qing monarchs starting from the first emperor, Shunzhi, who established the tradition of daily Buddhist worship. Aside from a morning session, the emperor would spend much of the evening participating in Buddhist prayer or shamanistic rituals, passed down through his Manchurian heritage. All major rituals, such as those respecting Heaven and Earth, or soil and grain ceremonies, were sure to be attended and led by the emperor personally.

Water Is the Chinese Element of Winter
Can Meditation Really Slow Ageing?
The most successful Qing rulers were also highly spiritual men who wrote much about Buddhist cultivation and philosophy. All emperors received classical educations from Chinese tutors. Even their place of residence bore the title Hall of Mental Cultivation.

Qing emperors were also accomplished artists. Qianlong (r. 1736-1795) was known for his calligraphic skill, and Kangxi, in true Confucian fashion, spent his spare time researching musical traditions from both east and west. The Manchus sponsored the arts and culture from an early period in their rule, which no doubt contributed to their success in governing the Chinese.

Source

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Is the Prime Minister’s pay really high?

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DPM statement on PM's salary

I’m quite reluctant to comment on our Prime Minister’s pay. But since everybody keeps talking about the issue, I thought I would just relate a conversation we had at Elias Mall coffeeshop on the controversial topic. This happened some time ago. As usual, there were few of us gathered at Elias Mall coffeeshop in the evening having coffee or beer relaxing and chatting away. Out of the blue, Lao Si suddenly commented that actually our Prime Minister’s pay is not that high. He just read a news report on CNA dated 19 Jan 2015 10:45 link

Lao Si : “I’ve just read the news report. It says that the richest man in Singapore is worth 10.8 billion. Do you know how much is one billion? link One thousand million makes one billion. And he’s got 10.8 billion! He’s only selling paint! So actually our Prime Minister’s pay of $2.2 million (used to be more than $3 million before the pay review) per year is not that much lah. I’m not saying that PM’s pay should increase further. I’m just saying that it’s quite reasonable to pay him that amount”

Not surprisingly, before Lao Si could go any further, there were objections and cries of indignation all round at the table. All of us seated at the table strongly disagreed with his statement he just made.

Lao Si : “Let’s look at it objectively. He’s our Prime Minister for 10 yrs now. Assuming that the PM earns $3 million per year if we include his bonuses and allowances, he only earns $30 million (10 X $3 million). For 10 years as the PM of a country earning only $30 million is actually peanuts compared to that local guy with $10.8 billion. Like I said earlier 1,000 million makes a billion. $30 million is a very small portion of $1,000 million (One billion). Imagine PM running the country looking after the well being of more than 5 million people compared to that paint seller? Moreover, the paint seller does not need to face the public, listen to endless complaints every week during “Meet the People”, no loss of privacy and he could enjoy his life living like a Duke. Whereas, the PM can’t. The irony is that his team is creating a conducive environment for business people like that paint seller to thrive and prosper beyond their wildest dreams.”

Me : “Lao Si, look here. You can’t deny the fact that he’s the highest paid politician in the whole world. The American president taking care of much more people only paid slightly more than half a million annually. Our PM is only running a small country. Everybody says so. They feel that our PM’s salary is too high if you compare him to other world leaders.”

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One of the most powerful men on earth taking care of 1.2 billion people but paid so little. But he's got many perks we don't get to see.

Lao Si : “You name me one country with only 700 sq km that is so successful with nothing at all i.e. no resources and even water need to be imported? You think it’s easy to run a place with 5 over million people squeezed into this tiny piece of rock? The Americans are heavily indebted. They can never pay off their tons of debts even over the next few generations. Still, they can survive by merely printing money and borrowing. We are different. If we keep printing money, all our CPF monies will become banana currency. Look at Zimbabwe link not to mention our neighboring countries where our Sing dollar keeps appreciating in value. That means that our economy is mightily strong. We got peace and security. We are able to sleep soundly at night. Our red passport is so well respected overseas especially in China. I used to go back to China every year and I’m so proud to be Singaporean cuz the Chinese really respect us for our economic success. Our existence in this part of unfriendly neighborhood is really a miracle which many have taken for granted!”

Just in case those trigger happy retards start whacking me without really looking at the issue objectively, I wish to reiterate that I do not quite agree with Lao Si’s views. Like all the others, I still feel that our PM is highly paid. I’m merely stating Lao Si’s views. Sadly, not many share his views. Lao Si is now enjoying himself in Teochew town; China.

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Even though Lao Si is in China, we can still WhatsApp

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I've not been to Teochew township. I'll go there one day.

Posted in Langgar | 11 Comments

One in three cabbies report ‘driver fatigue’

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SINGAPORE: While waiting in line for passengers late one night, cabbie Han Poh Guan witnessed a taxi in front slide and hit a wall as its driver had fallen asleep without pulling up the handbrake.

It is common for taxi drivers to doze off on the job because of prolonged driving without a good rest, said the 57-year-old.

Long hours and sedentary conditions are perennial complaints among taxi drivers here, many of whom work beyond the 12-hours-per-day guideline suggested by the Manpower Ministry.

A recent study among 231 cabbies here also found that one in three of them experience driver fatigue, with those who work longer hours – more than 10 hours a day – reporting a higher chance of dozing off inadvertently.

More than half (55 per cent) of taxi drivers surveyed said they do not take any day off.

The study – the first to look at risk factors of fatigue driving among taxi drivers here – was conducted by the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and published in this month’s issue of the Singapore Medical Journal.

Source

The above report published by an independent think tank is a cause for concern. It should vindicate all the endless grievances by taxi drivers. Currently, we have nearly 29,000 taxis operating on our public roads. link The total Taxi Vocational License (TVL) holders is nearly 100,000. Only citizens can hold a TVL. More than half of the existing TVL holders are active taxi drivers if we assume that every taxi is operating on two shifts. The number of 50,000 over taxi drivers on our public roads reveals an alarming phenomenon if we assume that the recently published report in this month’s Medical Journal is accurate citing the “one in three taxi drivers facing driver fatigue”. The implications are serious and even dangerous. They are running “time bombs” on our public roads only waiting to explode!

The fact is that everyone of us is a road user. Whether you drive or not, we are all road users. (also paying the ubiquitous ERP charges of course) Unless you do not leave your homes, we all use the roads as motorists, cyclists, passengers in a bus, car or taxi or simply as pedestrians. With a third of taxi drivers having “driver fatigue” plying on our public roads, one could imagine the potential safety issue and their repercussions. As a responsible government, the relevant authorities should study the implications further and make policy changes to address this problem. Sadly not much is done. At the best, they are only negligible or token measures just to show that they do care. It’s merely lip service so to speak. Take this training scheme for instance. Only 4,000 cabbies stand to benefit for the next 2 years? Is it enough when we have more than 50,000 active taxi drivers?

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This is only what they could for taxi drivers?

Currently, all TVL holders need to go through a compulsory refresher course every 5 years. The TVL holder pays for the $50 one-day course. During the one-day course, new rules & regulations are briefed with updates on latest landmarks and buildings. Only a small part of the course is devoted to the safety aspect. Once in every 5 years to get briefed on a little bit of safety aspect is clearly not enough. It should be revamped to at least a 3-day course once in every 2 or 3 years with a greater part devoting to safety driving and healthy lifestyle appreciation. But then who is going to pay for the rental when active taxi drivers go through the course. As it is, the taxi driver will still have to pay for the daily rental whether he’s driving or not; attending courses notwithstanding. In other words, the taxi driver will need to pay for the $50 one-day refresher course, daily rental of the taxi and also incur loss of income for that day!

Obviously, the government will need to work out with taxi operators to ensure that active taxi drivers do not suffer any loss of income whilst attending such courses. All these active taxi drivers are citizens and their welfare (esp driving fatigue) is of concern to all of us. As a responsible government, more should be done for this group of taxi citizens. I’m referring to active taxi drivers. The other half TVL holders who are not active taxi drivers should not be taken into account.

This group of taxi drivers is not subject to MOM rules and regulations. Most of them work for more than 10 hours, some clocking even more driving hours on the roads. They also do not have off days or public holidays. Even maids and foreign workers do get day-offs. Taxi drivers as citizens of this country are even worst than those foreign workers. For taxi drivers, as citizens of this country nevertheless it’s still a dog’s life for them. I did blog about it on my previous recent posts. link For a start, the government could decree that all taxis need to be run on 2 shifts so as to lessen the rental burden thus reducing their driving hours. Some of those taxis running on the roads do not have relief drivers and yet LTA insists that they clock at least 250km daily. It could be quite tough especially for the older drivers. LTA’s rationale for that 250km requirement is to ensure that taxis are kept running on the roads most of the time to meet increasing demand for taxis.

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Obviously taxi drivers are not on their radar!

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How come taxi drivers don't get? Double standards?

Government should also step in to ensure that taxi drivers get at least one day off fortnightly. The latter should work with taxi operators regarding co-rental payment. No taxi driver will want to voluntarily take a day off cuz he will still need to pay rental on daily basis whether he’s driving or not. That’s a sad reality. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken if the government is serious in addressing this “driver fatigue” safety issue amongst the tens of thousands of active taxi drivers.

Actually, the root cause lies in the high rental as a result of ridiculous COE prices. Taxis just like other private cars need to compete for existing COEs. The sky high COE contributes to high rental. If the taxi is run on OMO (with no relief driver), the rental of $132 as in my case, (Rentals vary with different types of taxis), about $30 to $50 diesel depending on mileage clocked and other miscellaneous costs such as monthly season parking, other parking charges when taking breaks, ERP charges etc (not to mention fines for unavoidable minor traffic offenses eg dropping pax at bus-stop) – the total operating costs could escalate to about $190. As such, the taxi driver is forced to drive everyday to meet the high operating costs whether he’s feeling well or not, rain or shine. That’s the main cause for the “driver fatigue” syndrome.

Trains do not compete for limited road space so they are exempted from COE. Buses are also exempted. Taxis even though a form of public transport, still need to pay for the high COE. If only the government could waive COE for taxis, then taxi rental will be reduced. With reduced rental, the pressure on taxi drivers will be much lesser. Question is will this government willing to forgo such a huge sum of revenue? They seem more keen on revenue than taxi drivers’ welfare.

Taxi drivers are a neglected group of public transport workers working long hours without off days or rest on public holidays. Their priority is never on the government master transport blue print even though tens of billions are pump into rail & road infrastructure not to mention the millions given out to purchase buses for bus operators.

I feel that it’s a pity that taxi is not their top priority. Taxis should complement trains and buses. Taxis do play an important role in public transport due to its affordability, convenience and versatility which need to be recognized. The government needs to change its mindset regarding taxis since most tourists and foreigners take this mode of transport. As ambassadors of the country, due recognition needs to be given to them. More courses need to be conducted for taxi drivers to upgrade and improve its professional image. Without addressing the fundamental issues especially high rentals highlighted above, standards in the profession will not improve. The vicious cycle will not be broken. It will remain at its current pathetic state now that the independent report has warned of “driver fatigue” and its serious safety repercussions. Hopefully, the government will take the sobering report seriously before it’s too late.

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My condolences to Tan Kin Lian on the demise of his beloved mother

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My deepest condolences to Tan Kin Lian on the demise of his beloved mother

This afternoon at about 3.45pm, I paid a visit to Mr Tan Kin Lian (presidential candidate 2011), at Cactus Crescent. He’s holding a funeral wake for his beloved mother aged 90 yrs who passed away on the morning of 24/2/15. I followed him on Facebook. That’s how I got the message. It’s the 8th day of CNY. Usually, Chinese avoid funeral wakes during this time – the first 15 days of CNY unless they are relatives or close friends. Since I was around the vicinity, I thought I’d just drop by to send my sincere condolences to him.

When I arrived at his residence, I asked for him. I introduced myself after paying my respects to his late mother laying in state. For a moment, he was not sure. When he managed to recall, he straightaway introduced me to all his friends present that “he’s my blogger friend.” He shook my hand warmly and invited me to the living room.

Mr Tan wanted to know how I find his Facebook postings and the many articles he’s written especially on financial planning, investment, insurance etc. My reply was that I only disagreed on one issue. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to pay him a visit to discuss. When he looked at me curiously, straightaway I told him that I do not agree with his National Service views.

Mr Tan is lobbying for our NS to be reduced to one year. In fact, he has set up online petition to get his message across. It was a friendly exchange of ideas on the NS issue immediately after paying my respects to his beloved mother by lighting joss sticks on the altar. There were no drinks or peanuts. We did not waste time on formalities. We debated on one of the vital pillars of our society – National Service for all able bodied male citizens. link

Mr Tan says that he’s not asking for the abolishment of NS. Just a reduction to one year from the current 2-year NS. I told him it used to be 2 and half years. Later, in the evening when I was discussing it with my EM friends, they told me it’s now only 20 months. The following points were brought up by him…

a) Times have changed
Unlike in the early years of nation building when we were poor, we needed as many able bodied citizens to take up arms to defend the country. Now, we are quite “rich”. We are able to afford all kinds of high tech weapons. We’ve got fighter jets, war ships, missiles, submarines and other deadly weapons. In fact, war is no longer fought on land with much manpower. It’s the age of button pressing and joysticks in times of war. link Look at the Americans’ recent military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. No ground troops deployed at all. As such, according to him, we need to modify and change our NS concept since we are already 50 yrs into nation building.

b) Waste of resources & time
According to Mr Tan, Switzerland only demands 9 months of NS from her citizens. Taiwan is currently one year. The latter plans to scrap it. They will expand their professional armed forces instead. If other countries could do it, why can’t we?

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Our citizen army marching on National Day

For the past 50 yrs, our young men need to sacrifice 2 years performing NS obligation at a meagre pay. Their university education is delayed. Their career is also delayed. In the early years of nation building, we did not have tons of foreigners working here. But today, these foreigners have a head start in work places cuz they need not serve NS. Mr Tan is not against FTs working here. He’s merely stating the facts and the grim reality facing our young men. The burden of 2 yrs need to be reduced to a year to alleviate such gross injustice to them as citizens. Why penalize them? Moreover, they should be paid “market rate” for their NS obligation. Serving the country is one thing but they also need to be adequately compensated. Just like our Ministers and MPs serving the country are also adequately compensated.

Our professional armed forces need to be expanded with savings ( in terms of training costs, allowances etc ) from a reduced NS obligation. Citizens also need to go back for in-camp training every year for 2 to 4 weeks thus disrupting their work. Many employers are not very supportive of this disruption (though they don’t openly say it). Whereas, those FTs are not subject to this obligation.

Actually, those facts mentioned by Mr Tan are common knowledge. They are not unknown to us. It’s just that no one takes the initiative to highlight those points on the NS issue. It’s a taboo subject with much sensitivity and emotions. We must not forget that NS is one of the vital pillars of our society.

Having listened to Mr Tan’s explanations about the NS issue, I’m still not convinced. Maybe, I belong to the old school of thought. I’m old fashion in that sense. I find it difficult to accept what he’s saying regarding his views on NS. Rape of Nanking and all the frightening images of atrocities kept flashing in my mind! We better get prepared for that day which I wish will never come! Never forget the Chinese saying, “养兵千日用兵一时!”

Just this morning when I was sending a male passenger to the Salvation Army office at Upper Changi Road North from Pasir Ris, we commented that the TPE (Tampines Expressway) leading to his place of work is always jam pack with cars every morning. I then said that cars are so expensive, yet there are still so much cars on the roads. It’s just like maintaining a second wife. My passenger all of a sudden replied that “rifle” is the main wife not a car! Without rifle, people will bully you. Even you hold a rifle, people will still bully you! I just could not believe that it’s so co-incidental that I’d be talking about NS later in the afternoon.

At the end of the discussion, I still told Mr Tan I don’t agree with his views on NS. I do not support him on that. He graciously told me that we could agree to disagree and remain as friends. No hard feelings. I respect him for that.

Next, he gave me a preview of a taxi app he’s working on. It’s called “Page Taxi.” There are so many taxi apps in the market nowadays. He feels that his taxi app is better than the rest. He’s still refining on it. I shall blog about it next time round.

At about 2.15pm, after spending half an hour at his residence, it’s time for me to take leave to resume my driving routine. We bade farewell after another round of warm handshakes.

Read related NS article here.

Read another related article here.

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CNY get together …

On the afternoon of 22/2/2015(Sun), the 4th day of CNY, some of my taxi course-mates gathered at Old Kallang Airport Road Hawker Centre to touch base. Nearly 40 of us took the 2-week taxi crash course and graduated on 16 Jan 2014. It’s slightly more than a year since we passed out from Singapore Taxi Academy. It’s a pity that not all turned out in full force. We came with our own $2 red packet to exchange amongst ourselves for good luck! link

Anyway, we were very excited to catch up with each other. We exchanged news on our different career paths. Most of them are taxi hirers with few relief drivers working for different taxi operators. We related our own experiences and giving each other useful tips relating to our job. We started on an equal footing in the same class under the same brilliant instructor, but after a year of baptism of fire clearly we could sense the differences amongst us. Some ran faster whilst some are still playing catch-up. Even myself could not match the better ones amongst them. For instance I told them it’s not easy being OMO – One Man Operation without any relief driver. But many of them could do it OMO (paying full rental instead of half) driving everyday for more than 12 hours with no qualms at all. I really salute them for their tenacity and perseverance.

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Group photo of my taxi course-mates

I also learnt from them that so and so got a new job and given up driving taxi. Some have also returned their cabs and become relief drivers. Many have switched from the main taxi operator to a smaller operator etc.. They took time off from their busy driving routine (due to CNY) to drop by with some managed to catch passengers on the way to the meeting venue. They started arriving from 1pm onwards until we finally dispersed after 3pm. Before we left, we promised to meet annually to keep in touch. Hopefully, more of them will turn up next year. We expected our brilliant instructor Mr Foo to turn up since he suggested that we meet up. Unfortunately, he was busy with his “Lo Hei” session somewhere. I observed that some of my course-mates still addressed Mr Foo as “Sir”. It shows the kind of respect they accorded him. As the Chinese saying goes “一日为师,终身为父!”

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Our instructor Mr Foo with blue shirt appearing on TV

In fact, we are all on WhatsApp chat group. We used to keep each other updated of road conditions eg traffic jams, airport situation whether the taxi queue is long or the high demand of taxi in certain places and also not forgetting those monkeys hiding in the bushes! For example, some of them will update us via WhatsApp chat group whenever there is a huge cruise ship calling at Marina Bay Cruise Centre (MBCC). Once the huge ocean liner arrives at MBCC, we could expect few thousand passengers. If we happen to be around the vicinity, we would move over there.

On the same day in the evening, we had the biggest CNY gathering at Elias Mall coffeeshop. The 444 gang under Wilson also came over to join us at EM. More than 30 of us sat on 3 tables. Even M. Chua also took time off to join us to usher in the Year of the Goat. It started at about 7.30pm until past midnight. I had to take leave at about 11pm cuz I had to work the next morning.

The CNY gathering was planned well in advance before the CNY. The number of participants kept growing until it hit more than 30 members. Red Bull initially booked 2 big tables but not enough. We had to add another table to accommodate the extra bodies. Alan Taxi was the treasurer. We contributed a small amount to AT for the expenses. Albert acted as liason officer by setting the menu. Wilson sponsored the 444 gang tables. We only ordered a set of “Lo Hei”, steam boat and some side dishes. Ah Keng sponsored 5kg of fresh flower crabs sourced directly from the kelong. Ah Tong prepared tons of huge fresh prawns, cuttlefish, fishballs, meatballs, fresh vegetables, grouper fish-heads, mushrooms etc etc.

Initially, we ordered some beer to go with the occasion. Later, the boss Cheng San of the coffeeshop dropped by. Out of the blue, he gave instruction to the beer promoters  that 4 crates of beer delivered to our tables. 4 crates of beer comprising 2 Guinness, 1 Carlsberg and another Tiger giving us a total of 48 bottles of beer! M. Chua wanted to pay for the food and drinks but we declined since he’s our VIP for the night. Befitting of his status, he already had plan B in mind. He came prepared. Before he left, he distributed 40 pieces of red packets with a piece of Singapore Sweep ticket inside to all of us. With that gesture, he brought much cheers and uplifted the joyous mood by few decibels with shouts of Huat and Fatt!

As usual, we had portable speakers playing music in the background whilst we enjoyed the tons of food cooked on the steam boat with free flow of beer. How not to be merry with so much food, beer, music and most importantly good company? The star of the evening was our dear fren Bob. Everyone from EM and 444 seemed to know Bob. He managed to walk albeit slowly with a cane. He’s recovering fast since his spinal operation last year. He was completely immobilized when we visited him in the hospital last year. Every one took turns to wish him speedy recovery. We were so happy to see his usual self once again.

Obviously our invited guests from 444 were impressed. They thanked us profusely for the efficient and well organized feast. The only regret is that our Leong & Leong – FOM from 444 were not able to join us due to some unforeseeable circumstances. We hope they could join us next time. We missed them lah!

Wilson speaking for the rest declared that it’s the best dinner feast they ever had in recent memory. Many photos were taken and circulated on our smartphones. I even uploaded some of the pictures on Facebook. link It’s indeed a memorable way to usher in the Goat Year with a bang! So many “Huats” and “Fatts” were uttered whilst we cheered and toasted each other all night long!

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Group photo of EM & 444 members

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Lao Si, Datuk Lim, Chris and Bob

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