Friday, December 26, 2014

Tsunami on Boxing Day, 2004 – 10 years on

The giant waves

26th December 2014 marked the 10th  anniversary of Tsunami tragedy of countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia. Banda Aceh and Meulaboh in Sumatra of Indonesia were severely hit. Tourist spots at Phuket and Penang were not spared. The Tsunamis also reached Sri Lanka and wiped out some of the Tamil Tiger terrorists as reported in the news.

(Lines in the ocean show tsunami waves could reach Sri Lanka in just 3 hours. Picture credit:

By the end of the day, eight Asian countries reported tsunami deaths, including Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh and Maldives. Somalia, Tanzania, Seychelles, South Africa, Yemen, Kenya and Madagascar also reported death in the following days.

(Residents were swept away in Sri Lanka when the tsunami reached its coast. The tsunami also wiped out some of the Tamil Tiger terrorists as reported in the news. Picture credit:

Based on information from Wikipedia, the U.S. Geological Survey reported the total depth toll as 227,898. However, another report by Siti Fadilah Supari, the Indonesian Minister of Health at the time, estimated the death total to be as high as 220,000 in Indonesia alone. Due to some people died in remote areas or washed out to sea, the exact number would never be known.

The Tsunamis caused by the most powerful earthquake since 1964. It was recorded as 9.1 Richter scale with the epicentre at about 160km off the western coast of Sumatra. The earthquake radiated along a 1200km fault-line running north-south. Experts believed that the mega-earthquake started at 30,000m below the Indian Ocean floor. The quake itself is known as the “Sumatra–Andaman earthquake” by the scientific community.

(The 2004 earthquake is the third largest since 1900. Picture credit:

The devastated earthquake occurred on 7.58am Indonesia time, or 8.58am Singapore time. Soon after that, we felt some shaky effects mainly for people living in the eastern part of Singapore. We were lucky that Sumatra provided natural shelter for major part of Malaysia and Singapore. Otherwise, imagine that the tsunamis travelled at about 700km/hr in open sea, it would reach Singapore in less than an hour. The wave height surged to 10 to 20 metres near coast and rushed in at about 50km/hr. Lives could never be the same again if our many small islands in Singapore have to face with such natural disaster.

(Devastated scene at Meulaboh after being hit by tsunami. Picture credit: "Reaching out flying eagle", SNP International Pte Ltd )

Operation Flying Eagle and the RSN

The now Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin assumed the command of the Humanitarian Assistance Support Group back then. He was a 36 year old Colonel then and was the Commander of 7 SIB, a Guards unit in the Singapore Arm Forces (SAF). The humanitarian relief mission was carried out under the code name Operation Flying Eagle (OFE).

For the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), if the RSS Courageous collision case on 3rd January 2003, happened barely less than two years ago, is considered as the darkest day of the RSN’s history, OFE should probably be remembered as the RSN ‘s most meaningful deployment thus far. Within short span of preparation time, all three LSTs in Singapore were deployed with fully loaded logistics and replenishment aids to Meulaboh. The other LST (RSS Resolution, 208) was sent to the Persian Gulf in November 2004 for 4 months to support the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

(All the 3 LSTs in Singapore and numerous landing craft were deployed to Meulaboh for the humanitarian effort. Picture credit: "Reaching out flying eagle", SNP International Pte Ltd)

Every man and woman, regardless of putting on uniform or as MINDEF civilians who contributed along the value chain for tsunami relief in Indonesia, should take pride of what they had done for our friends who lived so close to us. Many in-service personnel, reservists and civilians volunteered to land their helping hands. 

It was indeed an extremely valuable occasion to pull together the spirit of the service personnel after the RSS Courageous incident. The service personnel’s morale was high as they had a clear sense of purpose and felt that what they did for the Indonesia people was worthwhile. In my 21 years of working hand in hand with the RSN, this was probably the most heart-warming scene I had ever seen. It was from the bottom of their hearts without having to put up a "show".

My neighbour, MAJ Abdul Nasir bin Husssein from the Army was nominated as the S4 (logistic officer) for OFE. After some years, He jokingly said that thank to OFE, he managed to obtain his next rank as Lieutenant Colonel and extended his SAF career. Otherwise he would have to leave at the age of 45 and learn to cope in the commercial world.

(Loading the first LST with equipment and supply at Tuas Naval Base. Picture credit: "Reaching out flying eagle", SNP International Pte Ltd)

On 2nd January  2005, the first LST (RSS Endurance, 207) reached Meulaboh after leaving Tuas Naval Base for 50 hours. RSS Endurance, commanded by LTC Li Lit Siew, left Singapore on the new year’s eve. The look-outs on the LST saw an adult, a child and a hand clinging to a wooden plank. That was the first devastated scene sighted by the ship crew near Meulaboh. They knew that they had to work around the dead from then on.

In fact, the entire downtown area of Meulaboh was wiped out by the tsunami. About 40,000 residents lived in the town prior to the hit. The town had lost all communications and electricity. Bridges were broken and some roads went underwater or blocked by landslides. All the wooden houses were gone while concrete buildings withstood the earthquake and tsunami better. As what MG Endang Suwarya, the Indonesia military area commander, said, “The damage is truly devastating. 75% of the west coast, in some places it is 100%, is gone.”

(FCU sending in people and supply to shore. Picture credit: "Reaching out flying eagle", SNP International Pte Ltd)

It was assessed that bringing in supply from the sea was the best means to aid the local. Although the LST was not able to berth at Meulaboh, the LST had a well dock which carried landing craft such as FCU (Fast Craft Utility) and FCEP (Fast Craft Equipment and Personnel) to bridge such gap. They were designed to offload vehicles and relief supplies ashore at suitable landing beaches. Naval divers were sent in to clear the underwater obstructions at the identified beaches.

Of special note, usually a ship with a well dock would be named as LSD (Landing Ship Dock) or LPD (Landing Platform Dock). Ths Singapore version was named as LST (Landing Ship Tank) probably due to some political considerations.

(The LST has a well dock which carries landing craft such as FCU and FCEP. Picture taken during Navy open house 2010)

The landing craft were among the first to provide supplies from the LST to the locals. Supplies could move into Meulaboh 20 times faster than before. RSS Endurance carried 470 people, 51 vehicles and heavy equipment and 350 pallets and crates of relief supplies. They were discharged to the shore by the landing craft.

LTC Gregory Goh was the commander of the Landing Craft Squadron, commonly known as 195 Squadron. He also assumed the role as commander of the Naval Task Group, OFE. I remembered him as a gentle, polite and humble person. I first knew him when he was a Commanding Officer of an old LST (County class) in the 1990s. His landing craft crews were working 16 hours a day and even more at times. They made numerous trips between LST and shore everyday but they did not have a single chance to step onto the soil of Meulaboh. The landing craft operators were among the first to perform their duty in the early morning and often the last to go to bed.

The second LST (RSS Persistence, 209), commanded by LTC Eddie Tang, arrived on 6th January, carrying 196 men, heavy equipment and 4 containers of supplies.

The third LST (RSS Endeavour, 210), commanded by MAJ Yap Chee Eng, arrived on 17th January, carrying personnel from NGOs (non-government organisation) and another batch of relief supplies.
In total, the three LSTs transported 190 tonne of relief supplies.


The massive disaster had brought together the Singaporeans’ compassion. Many donated generously to the Tsunami Relief Fund. As an example, the Singapore Red Cross collected S$84 million within days. Singapore companies contributed equipment such as electrical generators and water purification sets. NGOs such as Touch Community Services, Mercy Reliefs and Tzu Chi, alongside with many other Singapore professionals such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists, volunteered their services.

(On a personal level, Singaporean and Indonesian have good rapport. Many volunteers committed to Operation Flying Eagle is a typical example. Picture credit: "Reaching out flying eagle", SNP International Pte Ltd )

As most of the NGOs did not have their own means to bring in relief supplies and personnel to the sites, the LSTs and landing craft came in handy.

With the United Nation and the Indonesian Arm Forces (TNI) coming in for rehabilitation and reconstruction, it was also time for SAF to close the emergency relief chapter. It was time to go home. The NGOs took over the subsequent tasks from the SAF. The beach landing sites were symbolically handed over to the TNI.

(NGOs took over the subsequent reconstruction task. Picture credit: "Reaching out flying eagle", SNP International Pte Ltd)

COL Edwin Low, former Chief Naval Medical Officer and the Chief Medical Officer for OFE, recalled a TNI soldier who was with him. The soldier had lost his home. His children were still missing. However, he chose to work to help others instead of searching for his old children.

Major Nur Effendi said he met a TNI officer who was helping the survivors. His daughter was buried in the rubber of his house and his wife was sent to Jakarta for medical treatment. The officer said he had returned his daughter to God and assured her that she was in a better place than before.

Many other TNI soldiers also lost their loved ones but carried on with their duties. Their determination to help other survivors inspired many Singaporeans.

(Lives returned to normarcy. How are these bright and smiling faces doing after ten years since 2004? Picture credit: "Reaching out flying eagle", SNP International Pte Ltd)

Friday 21st January 2005 was Hari Raya Haji. It was also the day where the Humanitarian Assistance Support Group from Singapore handed things over to the TNI and the NGOs. Tan Chuan Jin exchanged farewells with COL Geerhan and soldiers of TNI. He boarded the Fast Craft Utility after all the men and equipment had embarked.

That evening, RSS Endurance and RSS Endeavour sailed past Meulaboh’s mass grave. In memory of the dead, the ship crews lined up on deck, and the two ship COs each tossed a floral wreath into the sea.

(The ship crews paid their respect to the town's dead when LST sailed past Meulaboh's mass grave. Picture credit: "Reaching out flying eagle", SNP International Pte Ltd)

(It was time to move on with life. Picture credit: "Reaching out flying eagle", SNP International Pte Ltd)

Ordinary folks among Singaporean and Indonesian are friends of each others despite that there are occasional differences at political front

On a personal level, Operation Flying Eagle was an enriching and satisfying experience for those who landed their helping hands to the Meulaboh people. They had reached out and made a difference for those who are distance away from our daily lives.

For the people in Banda Acer, the city and the people have picked themselves up from that disaster. They are simply amazing.

(You had done the meaningful and the right thing. Welcome home. Picture credit: "Reaching out flying eagle", SNP International Pte Ltd)

(Aceh: 2004 after Tsunami (top) versus now (bottom). Photo credit: Straits Times December 21, 2014)

Key reference: Reaching Out: Operation Flying Eagle. SAF Humanitarian Assistance after the Tsunami. ISBN 981 248 097 8. Published by SNP International Pte Ltd 2005. 

RSS Courageous - 10 years on
麦唐纳大厦(MacDonald House)爆炸案-1965年3月10日

Friday, December 19, 2014

爸妈不在家,Ilo Ilo



现在的新加坡法律比较人道,明文规定从2013年开始,每个星期必须让外籍女佣(foreign domestic workers)休息一天。

休息日是个开心的日子,各个社群都有各自的天地,见同乡人,讲家乡话,开开心心过一天。印尼人:City Plaza;菲律宾人:Lucky Plaza;泰国人:Golden Mile Complex;缅甸人:Peninsula Plaza;斯里兰卡、印度、孟加拉:小印度。随着地铁线不断扩张,现在还多了一些新地点如植物园、圣淘沙、滨海公园等。



201476日,跟75位文艺作家、戏剧演员、文友等在艺术之家(The Arts House)的小剧场,观赏《爸妈不在家》及分享观后感。这个雅聚是热带文学艺术俱乐部所主办的每月活动之一。



梁智强一身才华,不过选择了通俗路线的电影道路。梁智强的名气+通俗电影是否一定赚大钱?从梁大导早期的《梁婆婆》、《钱不够用》系列、《小孩不笨》系列、到2013年的《Ah boy to man》系列都缔造了傲人的票房,当然其中不乏媒体的广告效应。


据集编剧导演于一身的陈哲艺表示,《爸妈不在家》的创作灵感来自个人的成长记忆。97/98年的亚洲金融危机导致许多公司倒闭,包括他父亲在内的很多人都受到裁员的冲击。当社会压力转化成家庭压力的时候,许多被裁的人士包括他一家人不得不“降级”(downgrade),搬家、换车子。当时感受最深的是在无法负担的困境下,必须跟照顾他八年的菲律宾保姆(Auntie Terry)告别。全家去机场送她回乡的时候,他哭得很凄惨,也是第一次感受到离别的痛楚。这个情感世界里有个童年的故事,于是拍成一部含蓄温馨但不煽情电影。

(Auntie Terry、陈哲艺和弟弟小时候。照片来源















饰演菲佣特丽的Angeli Bayani菲律宾舞台演员,她跟许多在本地工作的女佣见面,以学习本地口音和融入剧中角色。南洋大学的《Nanyang Chronicle曾经访问过Angeli Bayani她说跟女佣见面时特别感受到的离乡背井的心酸:“女佣们都是为了求得温饱出国打拼,然而菲律宾政府竟然鼓励输出人口,用出卖人民的劳力来换得经济利益,但这样就造成很多破碎家庭。即便她们撑起了国家的生产总值,可惜回国后,还是被视为二等公民。”她希望观看这部电影的观众能够体会女佣离乡背井的艰辛。

(真假特丽:左一是饰演特丽的Angeli Bayani,右二是已经离开新加坡十六年的特丽Auntie Terry。图片来源:联合晚报)

在菲律宾华裔查尔斯(Charles L. Lim)的协助下,2013723日在伊诺伊诺的圣米格尔乡村,陈哲艺兄弟和失散多年的Auntie Terry重逢。图片来源

《爸妈不在家》的英文片名叫“Ilo Ilo”,IloIlo是菲律宾的伊洛伊洛市,是当年陈哲艺家的女佣的老家,也是菲佣的来源地之一。根据联合早报李亦筠的报道(2013731日),在菲律宾华裔查尔斯(Charles L. Lim)的协助下,2013723日在伊诺伊诺的圣米格尔乡村(San Miguel),陈哲艺兄弟和失散16年的Auntie TerryTeresita D. Sajonia重逢了。

陈家印象中的Auntie Terry是个漂亮、爱打扮的女人,她富有文化气息,听的卡带有《西贡小姐》(Miss Saigon)、《伊维特》(Evita)等音乐剧。在新加坡打工的时候,她口操流利的英语,现在变得羞涩寡言。

Terry离开陈家的时候已经40岁,在菲律宾供养外甥读书,后来因为身体欠安回到乡下。李亦筠写道:“(Terry)房子总面积大概只有一间政府组屋的房间般大小,无法用家徒四壁来形容,因为四壁至少有四壁,它是简陋到没有完整的四壁;以木头、木板和竹片盖成的屋子没大门,地板是泥地,竹片墙缝隙间结满了蜘蛛网。客厅与厨房在一起,只有张木桌与长凳。没有电冰箱,没有瓦斯。房间是垫高了,但空间很小,没衣柜,小床以木头与竹片搭成,没床垫,上面只有老旧的枕头、被单和防蚊纱网。房间下方用来养鸡,这也是为什么粪味熏天。 整间屋子只有一盏小灯泡,电视三年前坏了,买不起,所以一台老旧的收音机是唯一的电器。至于“厕所”,离屋外有段距离,得风吹雨淋,踩过烂泥地才能抵达。厕所没电没抽水系统;特莉希答所喝的水,也不是经过过滤的自来水,而是用抽水器压出来的井水。”

(Terry 在IloIlo的家。图片来源




Friday, December 12, 2014

永平鱼丸 Yong Peng fish ball






历练的人生即使回归平淡,但依然叫人回味无穷。同样的,美味人生并非垂手可得,是要精心炮制的。真正的美食也无需什么山珍海味,美味自在注入爱心的家常菜中。一旦熟食沦落到以减轻成本与快捷的手法来达到赚钱的目的, 忽略了厨艺与对食客的最基本的尊重,就会减淡叫人垂涎的感觉,也失去了古早味。所以很多有一把年纪的人都在感叹,现在的食物,只有童年的记忆,却已没有童年时的味道。










(清晨新村的闸门一打开,每个人都赶着去做工。图片来源:ASTRO 《我来自新村》)









(永平老一辈人的回忆:那些兵是很野蛮的...图片来源:ASTRO 《我来自新村》)




勿洞 - 泰南的小城大事

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

处在夹缝间的玛丽亚(Maria Hertogh - In Search of Identity)- 二之二



玛丽亚告诉母亲艾德琳:“我不要跟你们回去,我要跟阿米娜在一起。你根本就不爱我,你将我送了给别人,我为什么要跟你在一起?我已经决定跟我的丈夫在一起。” 图片来源:Straits Times



承审的布朗法官(Justice Brown)认为双方的供词都不可靠,他问玛丽亚想要跟谁。






“It is natural that she should now wish to remain in Malaya among people whom she knows. But who can say that she will have the same views some years hence after her outlooks has been enlarged, and her contacts extended, in the life of the family to which she belongs?”
---Justice Brown


“(Maria's marriage to Inche Mansoor Adabi is)a discreditable manoeuvre designed to prejudice these proceedings...... What I am concerned now is that this child should start a new life altogether without being concerned in any further proceedings.”
---Justice Brown

闻讯后养母阿米娜伤痛欲绝,当场晕厥过去;玛丽亚被带到汤申路的善牧罗马天主教修道院(Roman Catholic Convent of the Good Shepherd, Thomson Road),她的生母艾德琳也到同一家修道院寄宿。

图片来源:NAS 11 Dec 1950)


在等待下一轮上诉期间,报章记者可以自由进入修道院。125日,英文报(Singapore Standard)在头版刊登了玛丽亚跟修道院长的亲密照,报道玛丽亚如何换下沙龙,改穿西装,除了使用“回教抚养不敌血緣关系”之类的敏感字句,还通过“玛丽亚跪在圣母玛丽亚的雕像前”的标题(Bertha knelt before Virgin Mary Statue)来刺激回教社群。多年以后玛丽亚被问起此事,她说当时记者安排拍摄这些照片时,她并不知道自己被利用。

英文报(Singapore Standard通过“玛丽亚跪在圣母玛丽亚的雕像前”的标题(Bertha knelt before Virgin Mary Statue)来刺激回教社群。图片来源

(刺激回教徒的照片:玛丽亚在修道院,开心的跟修女在一起。图片来源:  National Archive The Hague 2356848-501212-13)


(刺激回教徒的照片:玛丽亚开心地等待回荷兰。图片来源:ANP photo)

马来报章(Utusan Melayu)以牙还牙,127日刊登了三张玛丽亚伤心饮泣,修女在一旁安慰的照片,并将这起官司形容为“灵魂争夺战”。

甘尼(Karim Ghani)是一名极端的淡米尔族回教徒, 128日,他在苏丹回教堂发表演说,告诉回教徒这不只是玛丽亚个人的问题,这也不只是回教徒的问题,这是关系到整个回教法律,谴责法庭的判决是对回教的歧视。他告诉在场聆听的穆斯林警察,你有职权在身,不支持我没关系,但至少不要干涉抗议行动。甘尼甚至表示在逼不得已的情况下,圣战(Jihad)将是唯一的途径。

(12月7日,马来报章Utusan Melayu 还击,刊登玛丽亚伤心饮泣,修女在一旁安慰的照片,并将这起官司形容为“灵魂争夺战”。图片来源:互联网

129日,甘尼成立了一个玛丽亚行动委员会(Nadra Action Committee),来自雪兰莪、彭亨、吉兰丹和阿米娜的家乡甘马望的马来人参与支援,暴乱一触即发。

警察总长意识到事态的严重性,向上司(Colonial Secretary)请命,建议扣留甘尼,并将玛丽亚从修道院转送到保良局去,以避免进一步刺激回教徒。殖民地政府表示只知道华人会在新马搞乱,但从来没听说过马来人会扰乱社会秩序,结果不了了之。


1211日,甘尼发表公开信,要法官别宣布审讯结果,否则将会有灾难性的后果。法庭依时开庭,仅用了五分钟就驳回阿米娜的上诉。这时候聚集在高等法庭外的马来人和印度族回教徒开始闹事,马来族警察同情回教徒,采取了消极不应对的态度,导致暴乱升级。在亚拉街(Arab street)、桥北路(North Bridge Road)、惹兰勿剎(Jalan Besar)、实龙岗(Serangoon)、芽笼(Geylang)以及加东(Katong)等地,路上的车辆被暴民纵火,受害者被暴民扔入水沟等。殖民地政府宣布戒严两个星期,并从马来亚各地调集辜加兵前来镇压,才控制了局面。持续两天针对白人的暴乱事件造成18人死,173人受伤,119辆汽车被破坏。

(暴乱中其中一名死者。图片来源:SBC 1988)

暴乱的18名死者中,其中一个个案是英国人约翰(John Davies)。他跟妻子和八岁的女儿坐在巴士车上,却被暴徒扯下车毒打,匆忙间跳下沟渠,希望可以捡回一命,但事与愿违,约翰在无路可逃下伤重身亡,妻子和女儿则无恙。


1215日,玛丽亚抵达荷兰,受到夹道欢迎。荷兰报章(De Telegraaf)说玛丽亚看起来只有十岁大,言外之意就是在“森林”被虐待,导致营养不良。玛丽亚能够脱离苦海是少数的幸运儿之一,因为在许多殖民地国家,有很多类似玛丽亚的孩子滞留在当地,成为别人的养子养女,过着悲惨的生活。

玛丽亚抵达荷兰,受到群众欢呼。图片来源:CNA 2014)

这起事件也挑起共产国家与资本主义列强的政治斗争。英美报章(例如Manchester Guardian, New York Times)指责共产党在背后主导这场暴乱,苏联则在联合国会议上回击,指责玛丽亚事件违反人权,这不是起强迫婚姻,而是强迫离婚,这才是暴乱的源头。


图片来源:SBC 1988)

还有值得一提,但许多后来的研究与报道都忽略的是在向调查团供证时,当时的警察总长R.C.B. Wiltshire在事发现场,他认为报章不公正确实的报道已经挑起了民众激烈的情绪,警察开枪来尝试控制高等法庭外的局面是引起现场群众暴动的根源(The Straits Times, Feb 21, 1951)。

法庭的终极判决在西方法律眼中是顺理成章的大团圆结局,但在一些英国报章(例如Manchester Guardian)眼里,认为殖民地政府又再一厢情愿的作出决定,严重忽略了托付回教女子给天主教会的后果;苏联报章(Pravda)指责英国政府采用一贯的手段,歧视殖民地人民;至于在马来人的情义至上的世界里,公义到底在何方?

(英国报章Manchester Guardian认为殖民地政府又再一厢情愿的作出决定,严重忽略了托付回教女子给天主教会的后果。图片来源:SBC 1988)





前新加坡市议会主席麦尼斯(Sir Percy McNeice)在口述历史中(Oral History Centre 000099/16)觉得荷兰人认为玛丽亚身为一名白人女子,必须在欧洲家庭里成长,不能跟马来人在一起,这种单向思考是完全错误的。荷兰当局自以为拯救了玛丽亚,其实是毁了她的一生。如果玛丽亚留在阿米娜身边,跟丈夫曼梭在一起,她可能会比较开心,她的生活也会过得好一些。玛丽亚虽然皮肤白皙,看起来不像马来人,但没关系,马来人喜欢肤色较浅的孩子,在那个战争的年代,许多马来人收养华人的孩子也是基于这个原因。


麦尼斯也批评记者Lilian Buckle,她的丈夫在社会福利部工作,因此获得许多内幕消息。Lilian Buckle利用这个优势,进入修道院,拍摄了许多煽动性的照片,刊登在报章上。这项举动激怒了马来人,认为白人侵犯了玛丽亚的宗教自由,在回教世界里,这是不可饶恕的罪行。




(1975年,玛丽亚接受荷兰电视台现场访问,她没想到当局竟然通过越洋连线,安排曼梭在电视的另一端上节目,表情愕然。图片来源:CNA 2014)

(曼梭在电视的另一端说生活如意,感谢阿拉赐予他美满的家庭。图片来源:CNA 2014


图片来源:CNA 2014

图片来源:CNA 2014

2009年,玛丽亚因血癌去世。去世前两个月,玛丽亚接受Monsoon Pictures的专访,回忆起过去的点点滴滴,还是坚持说阿米娜的抚养权是合法的,她相信领养文件就在艾德琳的兄弟Soewaldi 手上。她并不想离开阿米娜,不愿意离开原任丈夫曼梭,更不想回荷兰。玛丽亚童年的经历一辈子都烙印在她的脑海中,挥之不去,郁郁而终。



(玛丽亚的三个孩子来到新加坡寻根。图片来源:CNA 2014)