24 May 2017
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Lawyers want apex court to clarify term 'bookmaker'

Straits Times
24 May 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Issue arose due to case of man in casino who accepted baccarat players' 'insurance' wagers

Lawyers for a man jailed 10 months for accepting "insurance" wagers from punters playing baccarat in casinos are pushing for the test case to be referred to the Court of Appeal.

They want the law clarified in the public interest on whether the term "bookmaker" under the Betting Act applies to persons who provide "baccarat" insurance to casino patrons.

The lawyers had argued in a High Court appeal last month that bets taken by a bookmaker under the Act are limited to horse races or sporting events and do not cover games like baccarat in casinos.

But the High Court judge dismissed the appeal, ruling that the Act could cover a wide range of instances, including outcomes of government elections.

With the High Court dismissal of the criminal case, which was first heard in the State Courts, there would be no room for further appeal except to get permission to file a criminal reference, which is reserved for cases hinging on questions of law of public interest.

The case involves businessman Peh Hai Yam, 53, who had been convicted last year on nine counts of conspiring with various accomplices to provide baccarat "insurance" to casino patrons at Resorts World Sentosa.

In baccarat with insurance, users in certain situations, at some point after the cards have been dealt, may bet on "player insurance" or "banker insurance".

The insurance is meant to guard against the user losing all of the betting money placed in the game proper. The payout from the insurance bet cannot exceed the original bet placed on "player" or "banker".

Peh's wife, Madam Tan Saw Eng, had admitted last year that she made about $50,000 through insurance bets with baccarat players.

Peh and an accomplice hatched the move in 2010 to jointly receive baccarat insurance bets from casino patrons, offering the same odds as Resorts World Sentosa casino. Their enterprise grew, but in November 2011, Peh and other accomplices including his wife were snagged by police.

He was sentenced by District Judge Mathew Joseph in December 2015 to five months' jail on each of the nine charges, with two of the jail terms to run consecutively. He was also fined $200,000.

Peh's lawyers, led by Mr Ong Ying Ping, in arguing his appeal against conviction in the High Court, said Parliament's intention behind the Act was solely to regulate betting on horses and sporting events.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Hon Yi countered there was no evidence that Parliament had intended such a restrictive approach and the relevant term in the Act applied to bets or wagers in any event.

Justice See Kee Oon, in judgment grounds released last month, held among other things that the terms "horse race" and "sporting event" were absent when Parliament defined "bookmaker" in Section 2(1) of the Act, showing there was no intent to limit it to horse races and sporting events.

The judge also cited "other potential and readily-identifiable situations" in which a person may have acted as a bookmaker and breached Section 5(3)(a) of the Act by receiving bets or wagers not related to horse races or sporting events.

"For example, bookmakers may conceivably receive or negotiate bets placed on the outcomes of government elections, beauty pageants, talent contests (for example, music or dance competitions), or entertainment award ceremonies such as the Academy, Emmy or Grammy awards," said Justice See. These are obviously not horse races or sporting events and "bets or wagers received or negotiated in relation to these outcomes by bookmakers would fall foul of the Betting Act", said the judge.

The case is set to be heard by the top court in September.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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Singapore Law Watch
19 May 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

Labour scam mastermind jailed 5 years, fined $144k

Straits Times
12 May 2017
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

He deceived China nationals with promise of jobs that never existed

He was the mastermind behind a labour scam which deceived 46 Chinese nationals into coming to Singapore for legitimate work that never materialised or even existed in the first place.

When they arrived in Singapore, they were told to look for their own employment to sustain themselves.

After a 14-day trial, Uber driver Chew Sin Jit, now 51, was convicted of 46 counts of being part of a conspiracy to illegally obtain work passes for foreign workers by using shell companies that were not in operation.

Describing Chew's actions as "reprehensible", District Judge Crystal Ong sentenced him to five years' jail and a fine of $144,000 yesterday.

He committed the offences between May 2013 and August 2013 by making use of two shell companies known as NCK Construction and All Rounder Builders (ARB).

According to court documents, he worked with Toh Gim Por, 44, and Mr Sim Oon Peng, 38, to obtain work passes for 26 of the men. The documents also stated that Chew and Mr Poh Ah Ho, 29, obtained the passes for the remaining 20.

In her submissions, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Prosecutor Joanne Wee said: "Such offences inevitably result in social consequences, as vulnerable foreigners... have to source for their own employment, inevitably illegal employment, at work sites.

"As their official employers, both NCK and ARB were businesses that were not in operation, none of the foreign employees was given any basic upkeep, such as accommodation, nor were they entitled to workmen compensation should any workplace injuries occur."

Ms Wee said Toh had testified in court that the purpose of the two firms was to "make money".

However, the submissions did not mention how this was done. There was also no evidence to suggest Chew benefited from these offences directly or otherwise.

During the trial, Toh testified that Chew hatched the plot in May 2013.

Toh then roped in Mr Sim to be the director of NCK Construction and Mr Poh as the director of ARB. These directors were promised up to $25,000 each.

Ms Wee said they would also be given about $1,000 monthly and between $500 and $1,000 for every work pass application received.

She said: "(Their role) was to sign on applications for work passes in their capacity as directors of the companies before the applications were submitted to the MOM."

Toh told the court that he received between $4,000 and $6,000 for contributing to the scheme.

Pleading for a lighter sentence, Chew, who was unrepresented, told the court yesterday that he wished to appeal. He was offered bail of $30,000.

Toh, who pleaded guilty on July 21 last year to five of 46 charges, was jailed for three years and four months, and fined $15,000.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, MOM said Mr Sim and Mr Poh have not been charged in court. The 46 Chinese men have been sent home. For each count of engaging in a conspiracy to illegally obtain a work pass, Chew could have been jailed between six months and two years, and fined up to $6,000.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

NTUC Foodfare seeks $443k from SIA Engineering in suit

Straits Times
24 May 2017
Shaffiq Idris Alkhatib

A Wang Cafe outlet at Changi Airport Terminal 2's departure transit lounge was closed for business for about nine months in 2014 as a result of an accident one floor below.

NTUC Foodfare Cooperative, which runs the eatery, is now seeking $443,000 in losses and damages from SIA Engineering and one of its employees, Mr Yap Tee Chuan, 47, following the incident on Feb 13 that year.

On the first day of the hearing in the High Court yesterday, the court heard that Mr Yap was driving a ground-handling vehicle that day when it hit a pillar which stood a floor below Wang Cafe.

NTUC Foodfare's lawyers, Mr N.K. Rajarh and Mr Daryl Cheong from Straits Law Practice, said the incident caused the floor in the affected part to "cave in".

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) later issued a closure order for the area.

The plaintiff had a meeting with its landlord, the Changi Airport Group (CAG), on March 18 that year and was told to retrofit the kiosk. Two days later, CAG suggested that NTUC Foodfare rebuild the kiosk structure.

The court heard, however, that the plaintiff's lease at that time was due to expire on April 30, 2015.

The lawyers said: "The plaintiff's issue was the financial viability of undertaking such works if there was no possibility of a renewal of the lease."

On July 7, 2014, NTUC Foodfare was told to pursue its claims against SIA Engineering instead of CAG and the BCA lifted the closure order later that month.

CAG told NTUC Foodfare that it had to restart operations there by Aug 7, 2014 and rental would also be charged from that day.

However, the plaintiff still had to confirm its course of action - whether to rebuild the kiosk - before it could start operations.

Its lawyers said: "The plaintiff was only able to proceed with the rectification works to the kiosk once it had received the assurance that its lease would be renewed."

In October 2014, NTUC Foodfare's lease there was extended from May 1, 2015 to April 30, 2018.

It rebuilt the damaged kiosk which was reopened some time between October and November 2014.

It is now seeking losses and damages from SIA Engineering. The amount, which came up to around $443,000, includes $171,017 for loss of gross profit and $82,838.33 for rebuilding the damaged kiosk.

SIA Engineering and Mr Yap are represented by lawyers Kevin Kwek and Gina Tan from Legal Solutions.

In their defence, they said NTUC Foodfare's loss of gross profit of $171,017 has already been settled through insurance claims.

The defendants' lawyers said: "It is well established that an insured (party) should not profit from his own loss."

The hearing continues today.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Court rules in favour of Sakae founder

Straits Times
18 May 2017
Grace Leong

A former Sakae Holdings director and two associates failed in their bid to get sushi chain founder Douglas Foo to indemnify about $37 million in penalties they are facing.

An adverse ruling would have forced Mr Foo to contribute towards paying for damages assessed against the three men.

The latest development in the long-running dispute goes back to April when Mr Andy Ong was found to have breached his fiduciary duties while he was a director and ordered by the High Court to pay $2.64 million to Singapore-listed Sakae.

Mr Andy Ong, Mr Ong Han Boon and Mr Ho Yew Kong were also ordered to pay about $35 million to Griffin Real Estate Investment Holdings, in which Sakae is a minority shareholder. They have appealed against the ruling.

In the meantime, they tried to get Mr Foo to pay their liabilities by claiming that he was also in breach of his fiduciary duties to Griffin. They claimed that these breaches contributed to certain transactions that Sakae had complained about.

Sakae had sued Mr Andy Ong and others who allegedly conducted the affairs of Griffin "in a manner that is oppressive and prejudicial" to the interests of Sakae. They were accused of treating Griffin's funds as their personal stash and diverting them for the benefit of Mr Andy Ong's ERC group.

The High Court's decision issued on May 4 found that the three men had no legal basis to make third- party claims against Mr Foo. Instead, High Court Justice Judith Prakash ordered them to pay a higher than the standard rate for Mr Foo's costs after "unreasonably" pursued claims that had no legal basis.

The men claimed that if Mr Foo "had been a good boy and done what he was supposed to do, they could not have been bad boys, and done what they were not supposed to do", according to the ruling.

But Judge Prakash said the contention does not have any weight. "The whole complaint against Mr Foo is not that he actively did something, but that he did nothing," she noted.

The three men have offered no evidence that Mr Foo had knowledge of their various "oppressive" activities, she said. "All they have said is that if he had been a more active director, he would have found out what was going on and stopped it," Judge Prakash added.

On the other hand, she found that the harm done by Mr Andy Ong and Mr Ho to Griffin was deliberately inflicted. Judge Prakash noted that, in one instance, the defendants acted in "clear disregard of" Sakae's interests when they siphoned off $16 million from Griffin under the guise of prematurely terminating a lease agreement, which she found to be a "sham document".

Judge Prakash also dismissed Mr Ho's claims for liability against Mr Foo, noting that Mr Ho had a duty to act in the interests of Griffin, but did not alert Mr Foo to what was going on. "Instead, he connived with Mr Ong and did whatever the latter wanted him to do without applying an independent mind. He was not merely a sleeping director but was an active party to sham documents," Judge Prakash said.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Sakae Holdings Ltd v Gryphon Real Estate Investment Corp Pte Ltd and others (Foo Peow Yong Douglas, third party) and another suit [2017] SGHC 100

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Singapore Law Watch
12 May 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

New controls raise the bar in fight against corruption but companies must step up

Business Times
24 May 2017
Belinda Tan & Saket Bhartia

Singapore's reputation as a "clean" country did not come by chance. It is the result of decades of strong political will to sustain a robust and comprehensive anti-corruption framework, and build a society that frowns on corruption.

The Republic's fairly squeaky-clean image was reinforced by latest data from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) showing that corruption cases locally fell to a 32-year record low in 2016. Notwithstanding this, incidences of bribery and corruption continue to command public and media attention locally and globally, and unethical conduct remains one of the most pertinent risks to organisations.

Business executives attest to this themselves. In the EY Global Fraud Survey 2016, over a third of the respondents were of the view that bribery and corruption were fairly rife in their countries. Given that many Singapore companies have business relationships with other parties overseas, particularly as the call for international growth and expansion grows, the exposure to bribery and corruption potentially widens and intensifies.

It is therefore timely that the CPIB and Spring Singapore collaboratively launched the new Singapore Standard, SS ISO 37001: 2016 Anti-Bribery Management Systems, a certification programme that aims to help Singapore companies strengthen their anti-bribery compliance systems and processes.

The standard, although voluntary in nature, sends a clear signal of the country's unwavering stance on maintaining a transparent and honest environment with zero tolerance for corruption. It is also a significant step in enabling Singapore companies to combat bribery by providing specifications on the leading practices to establish, implement and maintain, as part of continually strengthening the internal controls in the company.

Adopting the standard has clear benefits for Singapore companies. With the operating environment becoming more complicated and corruption risks more transnational in nature, it helps them to better safeguard against bribery not just locally but overseas. It also provides assurance to market regulators that the company is aligned with the latest guidelines and standards, and garners the confidence of customers and stakeholders. All of these combine to lend a competitive advantage, for example in a tender bid exercise where the need for extensive due diligence can potentially be reduced.

NOT A MAGIC PILL

Yet, the implementation or adoption of the standard in itself does not eradicate all unethical ills. The effectiveness of this standard depends predominantly on the commitment of the company management to establish the right tone at the top, an ethical culture and clear anti-bribery policies that are enforced through a governing body and compliance function, and supported by adequate training and investments in proactive monitoring tools.

For one, management needs to continue to drive a stronger nexus between policies and improved behaviors. A 2015 EY survey had found that even as Singapore executives say their companies' efforts to combat fraud, bribery and corruption have been increasing or stayed the same, around a third of them found the anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies to be irrelevant and ineffective, and there was inadequate policy training.

Companies should also keep in mind that being certified does not mean regulators and enforcement authorities will accept that anti-bribery standards have been met. Neither does it provide an auto-defence against punishment should a bribery or corruption incident occurs, even though authorities will usually consider the anti-fraud controls in place when determining the penalty or prosecution.

The SS ISO 37001 is based on similar ISO standards such as SS ISO 9001 for quality management and ISO 14001 for environmental management. Hence, companies that have some exposure or are already certified with other ISO standards may be familiar enough with the structure and elements to swiftly incorporate SS ISO 37001. The standard can therefore be established independently, or integrated into a pre-existing overall management system.

Companies that are keen to embark on the certification should firstly conduct an assessment of the existing internal controls and processes that address bribery-related risks. The assessment should provide an accurate representation of the maturity level of the current programmes and using that, companies can then determine how comprehensive the certification process will be with respect to the costs, resources and duration required. Periodic renewal through audits will also be necessary, and companies must consider the additional investments beyond the initial certification.

Clearly, the Singapore government is taking additional steps in the right direction to raise the bar on anti-bribery in our business ecosystem as a whole. The effectiveness of the standard remains firmly in the hands of companies.

Importantly, adopting the standard should not be seen as a point-in-time certification or management exercise. Seen and done in the right sprit, anti-bribery is a continual journey, and a collective effort by everyone through the ranks and across functions. Getting the human element right is key. As with all unethical behaviours, it starts and ends with a human.


Belinda Tan and Saket Bhartia are partner and executive director respectively for Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services at Ernst & Young Advisory Pte Ltd.

The views in this article are the writers' and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organisation or its member firms.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Maritime sector needs help to ride out storm

Business Times
18 May 2017
David Gerald

The industry faces more issues than help, especially with local banks, when caught in a challenging economic climate

The raging and persistent turbulence in the maritime sector has destabilised not only many industry players, but also minority retail shareholders and noteholders, who have suffered as restructuring efforts have been lacklustre and futile.

It started with Swiber, Swissco, Rickmers and then Ezra. The spotlight is now on Marco Polo Marine and Nam Cheong. What do they have in common?

In their heydays, they were market darlings, courted by banks, followed by analysts, and loved by shareholders and bondholders with insatiable appetite to "invest" in their future and share the rewards. Risks were far from their minds. What could have possibly gone wrong?

According to the 2017 Menon Report, world's second-largest port Singapore is the top maritime capital, ranking No 1 in shipping, ports and logistics, and attractiveness and competitiveness - particularly due to its strategic geographical position and its role as a strategic centre for commercial management. This is the third time Singapore took pole position, after 2012 and 2015. In this latest survey, Singapore also scored high in maritime technology (No 2) and financial and law (No 4).

Oil and gas players could only thrive in this environment. Banks were ever ready to bankroll acquisitions, joint ventures, new yards, new vessels and related capital expenditures. With relatively "easy" financing, these companies borrowed from generous lenders, with scant regard for soaring gearing levels. After all, banks were their benevolent financial "partners".

All is well when macroeconomic indicators are positive, with active trading activities, high oil price and strong demand for shipping, logistics and oil exploration.

But when the global economy becomes weak with trade becoming sluggish, the shipping industry moving into its cyclical low, and oil prices hitting historical lows and staying persistently low, it is a perfect storm for the maritime industry.

Financing from banks slows or dries up. To compound the problem, customers take longer to pay or stop paying, more and more vessels become idle with limited charters, contracts for new vessels are delayed or cancelled - the list of bad news gets longer by the day.

Let us consider some of the issues facing the industry:

Short-term financing for long-term assets

The average lifespan of a ship ranges between 20 and 30 years, but typical financing for these multi-million-dollar assets by Singapore financial institutions averages only five years. In Europe, banks offer 10- to 12-year financing for these vessels.

Why are the local banks this conservative? Naturally, banks want to recover as much as they can. They are not willing to take sharper cuts - inevitable under such circumstances, when companies are heading towards insolvency if no new funds are available. Banks should be open to innovative refinancing ideas that may require a longer time horizon for them to recover their debt, for instance, pegging the repayment to cash flows or even considering debt equity swaps.

It is a clear issue of short-term financing for long-term assets. With loan tenures of just five years, when these vessels are at an embryonic stage of useful life, Singapore banks are practically disregarding the balance of their good two-decade useful lifespan.

Can this structural balance be corrected? Are there any compelling reasons why Singapore banks should be much more risk-averse than their European counterparts? Otherwise, maritime players can only afford to operate in the up-cycle or hold huge cash balances for the down-cycle lest they fall victim to crippling cashflow woes.

Government lifeline controlled by banks

With many marine sector players floundering under heavy debt and bond defaults, the Ministry Of Trade And Industry announced in last November two unprecedented sector-specific one-off measures to throw a lifeline to these players and to stabilise the beleaguered sector. The Singapore government will take on 70 per cent of risk for both schemes, with the banks taking on the remaining 30 per cent risk. But are the banks really taking the measured risk?

Both schemes provide vital working capital and financing to help marine and offshore firms, from shipyards to offshore services providers, as well as oil and gas equipment and services companies and their suppliers.

An internationalisation finance scheme, under IE Singapore, which provides up to S$70 million (it was S$30 million) per borrower group.

A bridging loan scheme that allows Singapore-based firms to borrow up to S$5 million each for up to six years to finance operations and bridge short-term cash flow gaps, with the maximum loan for each borrower group capped at S$15 million.

The schemes are designed to provide much-needed financial assistance to facilitate business sustainability for companies in distress. But companies will get the badly-needed funds only if the banks are willing to share the burden and the risk of the remaining 30 per cent. On paper, this scheme looks good, but in practice, it is very much in the control of the banks. Are these measures too little and too late for some of the marine companies?

It is now almost six months since these lifeline measures were introduced. How many companies have been resuscitated? Perhaps the banks should be asked to account for any loans extended, to how many and which distressed companies.

Haircuts a necessary evil in restructuring

For these distressed companies to continue operating under the current economic climate, they need to channel whatever limited financial resources available to them to working capital to stay afloat.

Creditors - including bank lenders and bondholders - must provide a temporary respite in allowing a standstill in interest payments and capital repayments, where applicable, when they become due.

In addition, haircuts are now a necessary evil so that the distressed companies can effectively restructure their debts and financing for business sustainability. This, I understand, is not favoured by the creditors. Otherwise, the demise of these companies could be a self-fulfilling eventuality, given the lack of financial resources.

Bank roles must prop government goals

It has been said that banks are companies' friendly, benevolent financiers in good times but undertakers when the tide turns.

Whether this is a fair statement remains to be seen in the current financial crisis in the marine sector. How far are the banks willing to give and take as creditors? If they are unwilling to take a haircut, they are complicit in destroying Singapore's once robust marine sector.

As Singapore aspires to become a leading financial centre, the role of the banks has to be in sync with this overall objective as Singapore aims to attract international issuers of bonds and equity.

Judicial management sound in theory

Judicial management is a court-supervised administration process where a public accountant is appointed as a judicial manager, with the primary objective of coming up with a rescue plan for financially-distressed companies to be returned to financial health - but it doesn't come cheap.

And unfortunately, it is often used as a means to sell off assets in a more controlled setting than liquidation.

It should be noted that since judicial management was introduced in 1987, very few companies that were put under such management survived as going concerns. While our judicial management laws (which are in the process of being updated) are sound in theory, the evolution of the judicial management process and practice over the years has led to its current flawed state.

Senior lenders also often influence the company's choice of judicial manager, putting the judicial manager in a position of potential conflict of interest. There is little or no direct day-to-day supervision to ensure that the judicial manager is acting objectively, in the best interests of the creditors as a body collective, and doing his/her job in reinvigorating the business.

Instead of trudging into the thick of complex and difficult negotiations with banks and trade creditors, noteholders, potential investors and even the regulators, in the hope of conceptualising and executing a comprehensive debt-restructuring plan, often see judicial managers selling off bits and pieces of the company's business and assets (even those critical to the company's survival) at distressed values, ultimately destroying value rather than preserving it. And through the process, while shareholders see their equity reduced to zero and creditors take haircuts on their debts, the judicial managers are the only ones who get their high fees paid in full.

It would be a worthwhile study to analyse who are the real beneficiaries of companies under judicial management. The judicial manager who is paid handsomely to manage businesses that he or she had no prior experience in managing? Or the larger creditors, usually the banks, who typically have stronger influence in the selection of the judicial manager?

My bet is that the small creditors are the real losers, sharing what remaining financial crumbs, if any.

The failed experiment of judicial management in Singapore makes one question the benefits of such a "creditor-in-possession" regime, as opposed to a "debtor-in-possession" regime like the US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. One wonders whether the passing of Singapore's new Chapter 11-styled insolvency laws is an implicit acceptance of the shortcomings of judicial management.

New insolvency laws to better protect

The recent amendments to Singapore's insolvency laws are modelled after the powerful pro-debtor US Chapter 11 bankruptcy regime. The amendments have been passed by Parliament in March this year and are expected to come into effect soon.

Like Chapter 11, the new insolvency laws afford greater debtor protection, and introduces Chapter 11 concepts such as enhanced moratorium protection, super-priority treatment for rescue financing, and cram-down mechanism for dissenting class of creditors.

These changes, part of a series of legal reforms to make Singapore a more attractive global restructuring hub, are to be welcomed. A brave new course has been set. It remains to be seen whether the passengers on this journey, such as the banks and the professionals, embrace these changes or fight to hang on to the old.

Liquidation reduces recovery value

Here comes what is possibly the worst option and must surely be the last resort because no one wins.

Whether the liquidation is managed by professional liquidators or the company, fire sales rarely fetch good value for asset sales.

In the recent round of management of distressed situations, the parties enjoying the best returns are said to be institutions specialising in liquidation and insolvency management.

From a country perspective, for Singapore to retain its pole position as a strategic maritime centre, and from a sectoral perspective, for the marine sector to recover, all stakeholders must play their part in the recovery process in unity.

This is especially crucial in transforming Singapore into a leading centre for international debt restructuring. We cannot turn back the clock for Swiber, Swissco or Rickmers, but the clock has started ticking for Marco Polo Marine and Nam Cheong.

Of the 48 (out of 58) small- to mid-cap maritime, offshore and engineering listcos on the Singapore Exchange as at the end of 2016, how many will be able to withstand this perfect storm? For all stakeholders, this motto rings true: United we stand, divided we fall.


The writer is founder, president and CEO of the Securities Investors Singapore (Singapore).

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Unwed mum adopts own biological daughter

Straits Times
11 May 2017
Kok Xing Hui

Some mums do so to protect child's interests, gain benefits given only to legitimate children

Within the month, two-year-old Lorraine Tan (not her real name) will be formally adopted.

She and her adoptive mum will then be treated as any mother and daughter - they will be legally recognised as a family nucleus.

The unique thing about this story: Little Lorraine is not an orphan awaiting a new home. She is a child born out of wedlock who is being adopted by her biological mother.

Her mother, who requested anonymity, started the adoption process last August after seeing mentions of it on a Facebook page belonging to a support group for single parents.

"I saw a post talking about adoption. One woman left a comment saying that she did it for less than $1,000. So I sent her a message and asked her how she did it," said Ms Tan, 38, a civil servant.

She also saw mentions of adoption on the Baby Bonus brochure and on the FAQ pages on taxes.

Unwed parents do adopt their biological children. But that usually happens after they marry a partner who is not the child's parent, and they want him or her to become the legal parent of the child.

Cases of unwed parents singly adopting their children are "very few", said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF).

"Our laws do not require them to do so. Some unwed parents may nonetheless choose to do so, for reasons such as to terminate the rights and responsibilities of the other parent," the MSF added.

The Straits Times knows of at least two other mothers doing this, one of whom has successfully concluded her case.

Family lawyer Koh Tien Hua said that this procedure is allowed under the Adoption of Children Act, and it "makes the illegitimate child her lawful child, as if the child was born to her in lawful wedlock".

The move essentially removes the label of illegitimacy without changing the circumstances of the child. Lorraine, for example, will have all the rights of a child born to a married couple.

Currently, the differences between legitimate and illegitimate children are benefits such as housing, housing subsidies, the Baby Bonus cash gift, tax relief for the parent and inheritance priority.

Under the Intestate Succession Act, an illegitimate child ranks behind the spouse and legitimate children when it comes to inheritance.

In Parliament last year, the MSF said: "Parents who want to leave something for their illegitimate child should make a will."

Ms Tan's initial impetus for the adoption was the Baby Bonus cash gift and the Child Development Account (CDA) of up to $6,000, which has since been extended to children of unwed mothers born from September last year.

"That was the push factor. But when I started the journey, I noticed more benefits," said Ms Tan.

Top of her list was that Lorraine's biological father - who is married and does not want to acknowledge the child - would have to give up all ties to the girl.

"So in future, he cannot turn around to claim against her," she said, referring to the Maintenance of Parents Act.

The adoption costs less than $1,000 for Ms Tan, who navigated the legal procedures on her own by filing e-litigation papers. Engaging a lawyer would have set her back between $3,000 and $5,000.

Experts said allowing an unwed mum's adoption to change the legitimacy status of a child is like making them jump through hoops.

In recent years, Singapore has moved to equalise benefits for children of unwed parents.

Most recently, those born this year to unwed mothers will have 16 weeks of maternity leave instead of eight weeks previously.

The MSF said: "Government benefits that support the growth and development of children are given to all Singaporean children, regardless of their legitimacy status."

Lawyer Ivan Cheong said unwed mothers are more likely to initiate an adoption for personal reasons rather than benefits since issues such as inheritance can be dealt with by writing a will, which will cost under $500.

He added: "From a layman's view, it sounds very artificial."

Women's rights group Aware called the process of "labelling children as illegitimate" absurd.

Law professor Leong Wai Kum has long called for this label to be removed. In a 2011 paper, she wrote: "With our evermore enlightened view of appropriate legal protection of children, it is incontrovertibly unsuitable."

Family lawyer Sim Bock Eng pointed to the Women's Charter and how both parents are obligated to maintain the child - legitimate or not. She added: "It may be more productive to focus on the parent-child relationship as opposed to the relationship between his parents."

Unwed mothers like Ms Tan may find it "silly and ridiculous", but she said she would do anything for Lorraine's benefit.

She and her daughter now live with Ms Tan's parents in her brother's marital home.

Once the adoption goes through, she plans to buy a built-to-order flat in her and her daughter's names so that the child's future is secure even when Ms Tan dies. She said: "I have to protect my daughter's interests."


<$1k

Cost of adoption for Ms Tan, who navigated legal procedures on her own by filing e-litigation papers.

$3k

Minimum amount Ms Tan would have to pay if she had engaged a lawyer.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

<$1k

Cost of adoption for Ms Tan, who navigated legal procedures on her own by filing e-litigation papers.

$3k

Minimum amount Ms Tan would have to pay if she had engaged a lawyer.

Market discipline comes with its own caveats

Business Times
24 May 2017
Kenneth Lim

It is possible to put too much faith in the market to enforce good behaviour

The Singapore Exchange's embrace of market discipline is encouraging, but the market regulator must also guard against overestimating the importance of stock prices and underestimating how painful it is for investors to punish a company.

Singapore Exchange Regulation chief executive Tan Boon Gin recently described market discipline as an effective tool to drive good corporate behaviour in a way that regulation could never match.

"The last two years have also showed us how the Singapore market can punish the share price of a company when there's a lack of confidence in a company's disclosures," Mr Tan said recently at Thomson Reuters' Asean Regulatory Summit in discussing whether to relax quarterly reporting requirements. "Market discipline has been imposed in a very public, aggressive and immediate way. This shows that the market is becoming more mature, and we can increasingly count on investors to play their part in enforcing a disclosure-based regime.

"Indeed, in an ideal world, if we had a truly efficient market, the immediate feedback loop that is market discipline would be able to drive good corporate behaviour in a way that regulations can never match. So, if you can show me a rule that can be replaced by market discipline, I am more than happy to review it."

There is no disputing that the ability of investors to make the right decisions is critical to a caveat emptor regulatory system. After all, only one person is mentioned in the phrase "Let the buyer beware".

It is also true that accountability tends to improve corporate behaviour, and the threat of a price crash probably keeps a number of chief executives on their toes. There is also a good chance that a number of companies will continue to publish quarterly reports even if they are not required to do so, in the belief that investors will reward companies that are more transparent.

Giving market discipline a chance to distinguish between good and bad investments is also a pro-innovation stance. It allows new ideas and products that do not fit in existing paradigms to have a day in the sunlight, with market forces determining success and failure.

But it is also possible to put too much faith in the ability of the market to enforce positive behaviour.

For example, the fear of a crashing stock price could perversely incentivise company executives and directors in a continuous disclosure regime to conceal inconvenient developments if they have some discretion over timing and determining materiality, in the hopes that matters can be resolved on the quiet.

And while the promise of a better valuation might entice companies to brush up their disclosures, it is also important to consider what happens when companies do not play ball. It is well and good to say that investors can punish companies by selling when something foul is afoot, but that process usually happens after the fact, when investors have already lost money.

That investors have to take a hit is unavoidable, but regulators can at least reduce the pain by helping to detect bad behaviour earlier rather than later. In the context of quarterly reporting, the question is whether the new framework can ensure timely disclosures in a continuous regime.

As Mr Tan has mentioned on a number of occasions, Singapore's disclosure regime has been improving over the years. The Securities and Futures Act now adopts a broader definition of materiality, and the exchange itself has improved its system of queries to companies.

There is room to improve further. One persistent issue that is often mentioned in corporate governance debates is how directors and company officers - and not the companies - can be better held accountable. For instance, a well-calibrated legal framework that allows investors as a class to take action could give market discipline greater heft.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Easier for parents to be deputies to their special-needs child

Straits Times
18 May 2017
Kok Xing Hui

New scheme cuts costs for parents who want to manage their adult child's matters

Housewife Selina Tan, 63, worries about her son Kenny, 24. He has autism and may have trouble applying for housing because of his mental capacity, but she cannot do so on his behalf because she has not been appointed as his deputy.

"To get a deputyship is costly," she said, so the family never got around to doing it.

To help families like Madam Tan's, the Government has tweaked forms and processes so parents can easily apply to become their special-needs child's deputy before the latter graduates from school.

The programme started as a pilot at the four schools run by Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore and is now expanded to AWWA School, Eden School, Pathlight School and St Andrew's Autism School. About 200 students graduate from these schools each year.

Under this programme, students about to graduate will have their mental capacity evaluated by school psychologists. Parents will then be invited for a deputyship briefing with pro-bono lawyers who can help them fill in forms and make court applications.

The entire process takes two to three months and will cost under $400. Without this programme, parents would have to pay $3,000 to $9,000 for legal fees, and a few hundred for a formal medical report.

Previously, parents needed a formal medical report to apply for deputyship. With this Assisted Deputyship Application Programme, parents can apply with a report prepared by special education (Sped) school psychologists.

The psychologists will use a new standardised mental capacity assessment form. The assessment will look into the child's capacity to make decisions. It will assess if he can manage his own finances, or would need help applying for travel documents or for government benefits. About 100 psychologists were trained to use the new form yesterday.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development intends to roll this scheme out to another four Sped schools next year - Metta School, Grace Orchard School, Rainbow Centre Margaret Drive School and Rainbow Centre Yishun Park School.

For mothers like Madam Tan, whose children have already graduated from Sped schools, they will get help when the scheme is eventually rolled out to adult institutions.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who was observing yesterday's training, said: "It could be with the schools or with voluntary welfare organisations... where parents with adult children can come back and we can help facilitate that process of applying for deputyship."


HELP AT HAND

It could be with the schools or with voluntary welfare organisations, where there could be centres where parents with adult children can come back and we can help facilitate that process of applying for deputyship.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT TAN CHUAN-JIN

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Court orders man to return $1.1m to dad's estate in feud

Straits Times
11 May 2017
Tan Tam Mei

He withdrew money through unauthorised cheques from late father's bank account

A bag containing more than $1 million that was stashed in the false ceiling of a Pasir Panjang house was among the assets brought to light in an estate feud between two brothers.

Their father, coffee-shop operator Ong Kim Nang, 80, died in May 2010. A judgment released by High Court Justice Steven Chong last Friday ordered the younger brother, Mr Ong Teck Seng, 45, to return $1,113,000 and a Rolex watch to his father's estate, which was to be split between some of the seven siblings.

The older brother, Mr Ong Teck Soon, 56, who is one of the two executors of his father's will, had taken his brother to the High Court in June last year over the withdrawal of a total of $1,113,000 through unauthorised cheques from their late father's bank account. He also wanted his younger brother to return two Rolex watches.

In his 2003 will, Mr Ong had left all the money in his bank accounts to his wife, Madam Tan Ai Cheng.

However, the younger Mr Ong had claimed that three days before his father's death, the old man had instructed him to draw two pre-signed cheques - one for $500,000 to himself as a gift, and the other for $613,000, to be held in trust for his mother's expenses and for upkeeping the family's Guok Avenue property off Pasir Panjang Road.

Court documents revealed that the first cheque was made out to "Cash" and was banked into the younger brother's account.

The trust cheque was made out to Madam Tan and banked into a joint account she shared with the younger brother's wife.

But in July 2010, $615,000 was withdrawn and deposited into an account belonging to the younger brother and his wife.

The younger Mr Ong had said that the father had "always intended" to give him the sum of $500,000 when he passed on.

However, the older Mr Ong disputed this, bringing up an incident some time between 1992 and 1994 when he discovered over $1 million hidden in the false ceiling of their family property while repairing the water heater. The father had then distributed the money evenly between the two brothers. Therefore, there would be no reason for him to give the younger brother a further $500,000, the older brother said in his affidavit.

The younger brother's actions were brought to light only in 2011 when the estate's solicitors were preparing the schedule of assets.

Justice Chong said that he was of the view that the late Mr Ong did not authorise the issuance of both cheques. Among the reasons he gave were that the cheques were never once mentioned by the father to any of his other children, and that the gift cheque had been falsely recorded as being made out to Madam Tan in the cheque book, when it was a "Cash" cheque.

He also highlighted that funds from the trust cheque were never used for its intended purpose for the expenses of Madam Tan - who died in 2013 - and the upkeep of the family home.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Ong Teck Soon (executor of the estate of Ong Kim Nang, deceased) v Ong Teck Seng and another [2017] SGHC 95

Man jailed 20 months, fined for taking kickbacks from vendors

TODAY
24 May 2017
Alfred Chua

A former assistant sales manager at a packaging and labelling company was on Tuesday (May 23) sentenced to 20 months’ jail and ordered to pay close to S$275,000 in penalty for corruption offences related to business contracts he awarded.

Lu Sang, 36, a Malaysian and Singapore permanent resident, was working with HMLY Private Limited when he took kickbacks from three suppliers and gave them contracts while he pocketed the gains. The company outsources the printing of packaging materials to its suppliers.

He was convicted of corruptly obtaining more than S$260,000 in these dealings, and faced 27 corruption charges. The prosecution proceeded with 24 during the trial.

Court documents showed that Lu was appointed as assistant sales manager in June 2008, eight years after he joined the company. The offences took place between 2009 and 2013.

In one instance, he obtained more than S$8,600 from one of the three suppliers, HDL X-Print, through his wife. In another, he received more than S$147,000 from the director of Union Label Industries through its sales executive.

Court documents also showed that he had at first denied all the charges at his eight-day trial, and claimed that he did not receive the money from the vendors.

The prosecution charged that he was “inconsistent” throughout the trial, and called on the court to discredit Lu as a witness. Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ang Siok Chen said: “Clearly, the accused was prepared to change his positions and advanced tenuous claims so as to avoid being pinned down by incriminating evidence.”

In arguing for a sentence of at least 20 to 24 months, DPP Ang said that Lu had “received staggering amounts of gratification”, over a prolonged period of time. The money he took “went against the business ethics rules of the company”, she added.

“His actions caused detriment to HMLY by causing (it) to pay more for the print jobs it placed with these suppliers,” DPP Ang said.

In a media release on Tuesday, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau said that the awarding of business contracts “should be fair and in the best interests of the organisation”.

“Unscrupulous dealings for dishonest personal gains can lead to serious consequences,” it said, adding that it takes a serious view of any corrupt practices and would not hesitate to take action against any party involved in such acts.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Marco Polo Marine's shipyard unit seeks stay on creditor claims

Business Times
18 May 2017
Tan Hwee Hwee

The shipyard unit of troubled offshore and marine group Marco Polo Marine is seeking a scheme moratorium to restrain creditors from commencing legal proceedings against the unit.

An application for the stay order was made to the Singapore High Court after Marco Polo Shipyard Pte Ltd received a claim from its creditor, Hock Leong Enterprises Pte Ltd.

The Business Times understands that the hearing of the application, which took place on Wednesday, will continue at a later date.

Tuas-based Hock Leong is a supplier of metals and metal products, according to published information on the private-owned entity.

BT was not able to ascertain the size of Hock Leong's claim against Marco Polo Shipyard as at press time on Wednesday.

Marco Polo Marine's shipyard arm has sought the stay on creditor claims under Section 210(10) of Singapore's Companies Act, which outlines the legal remit of schemes of arrangement (SA) for companies incorporated here.

The shipyard unit is also said to have tabled a compromise or arrangement with its creditors akin to an SA at the time of its application for the stay order.

The listed parent group, Marco Polo Marine, had on May 1 suspended share trading, citing the receipt of an "increasing number" of letters of demand from its creditors.

Back then, it warned against a roadblock in its refinancing and debt structuring efforts. It said that it was not confident that it would be able to eventually bridge the gap between the expectations of the lenders and the conditions set by strategic investors.

Marco Polo Marine had negative working capital of S$18.7 million as at end- March. On Thursday, the group is holding an informal dialogue for holders of its 5.75 per cent notes due 2016. The dialogue will be hosted and moderated by the Securities Investors Association (Singapore).

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

US children wrongfully retained by mother in S’pore, court rules

TODAY
11 May 2017

Overturning a district court’s decision, the apex court has ruled that two children with US citizenship were wrongfully retained in Singapore by their mother who had found work here.

The two boys, aged five-and-a-half and nearly three, must be returned to their father in California within 30 days, in accordance with the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which Singapore is a signatory.

In judgment grounds issued on Tuesday (May 9), Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, delivering the decision on behalf of the court, said the father had agreed to the family’s relocation to Singapore so his wife could pursue a career here in a bid to save their rocky marriage. But the terms of the consent changed when his wife indicated that she was going to file for a divorce last June, and by holding the children here, she was wrongfully retaining them, he added.

The parents, who were born in India and married there in 2003, are naturalised US citizens. The relationship was strained before the children were born, with frequent spats starting from about three years into the marriage.

The older son was born in Fremont, California, in December 2011, while the younger boy was born in August 2014. Between October and November 2015, the children came to Singapore as part of a family holiday.

The plan was to return to the US on Jan 9 last year, but the mother landed a job with a private equity and advisory firm here on a one-year contract.

After some discussion, the couple agreed on moving to Singapore temporarily. But on June 2, the wife said she wanted to end the marriage, prompting the father to find out how to regain custody of their boys, including launching a legal bid.

Outlining the definition of parental consent in the contested movement of children for the first time, the court said the father never intended for the family to relocate to Singapore. That intention was unilaterally the mother’s, it noted.

“What is clear, in our judgment, is that the only reason the father agreed to the move was to try to rehabilitate the marriage and to be with the children while he was doing so,” wrote CJ Menon. “We are satisfied that there was no shared intention on the part of the parties to relocate to Singapore.”

The court also ruled that the “habitual residence” of a child cannot be determined unilaterally by one parent.

“Our principal reason for taking this view is that where the parents are at odds on the issue and there is no shared intention, the intention of the one parent that could be relevant to a change of the child’s habitual residence will be the intention of the abducting parent,” it added.

“To accord weight to this as a relevant consideration seems to us to be contrary to the purpose of the Hague Convention and, indeed, to good sense ... The purpose of the Hague Convention is to prevent parents from acting unilaterally and engaging in, as it were, self-help remedies.”

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

TUC v TUD [2017] SGHCF 12

ADV: SCCE - Become certified in compliance and ethics

Singapore Law Watch
24 May 2017
Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics

Multiple paths to enact EU-Singapore FTA, future Singapore-UK trade ties

Business Times
18 May 2017
Soon Weilun

Experts share ways in which Singapore and EU can ratify EUSFTA as soon as possible, but are reticent on how the FTA can benefit Singapore-UK ties post-Brexit

The next steps that Singapore and the European Union (EU) take in ratifying a proposed free-trade agreement (FTA) between them will affect how soon a similar one between Singapore and the United Kingdom can emerge, experts told The Business Times.

In separate interviews, international law and trade specialists shared with BT some ways in which Singapore and the EU can look to ratify the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) as soon as possible.

Experts also pondered about how this may impact future relations between Singapore and the UK. The top British envoy to Singapore had said that the UK is wondering how both parties can retain benefits from the FTA the moment it leaves the EU.

The experts' comments come a day after the EU's top court ruled that the EUSFTA, in its current form, needs the EU's and all of its member states' approval in order to come into force.

Even though majority of the provisions can be enacted by the EU alone, two areas still need the region's 38 national and sub-national parliaments' green light.

A spokesman for the city-state's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said that MTI wants to work with the EU to have the pact "provisionally applied" for the parts that are under the EU's exclusive purview.

Yeo Lay Hwee, director of the EU Centre in Singapore, says that there is still a danger of a member state potentially upsetting the FTA. She thinks that with only two provisions needing their approval, any concerns can be sufficiently answered.

"Look at the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which is much more complex than EUSFTA. Wallonia almost killed it, but still consented in the end," she said. Wallonia is a region in Brussels.

One way to assuage member states' worries about the EUSFTA is to introduce an ancillary document or an amendment to the FTA, said Eugene Lim, head of law firm Baker McKenzie's Asia Pacific international commercial and trade practice. "It ultimately boils down to whether everyone can agree to the final agreement whether in parts or as a whole with bilateral modifications."

Jessica Gladstone, partner at law firm Clifford Chance, offered another, perhaps more drastic, way to avoid any member state vetoing the FTA. It involves splitting the agreement into two - one for the EU and another to be agreed upon by member states. This can speed up the ratification process.

Future Singapore-UK trade relations have also entered into the experts' consideration. British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman told BT in mid-April that the UK is looking at how feasible it is to have a "mechanism" that allows businesses in the UK and Singapore to continue enjoying benefits of the EUSFTA once Brexit occurs.

When approached by BT after Tuesday's court ruling on what MTI thought of the idea, the spokesman said: "As key trading partners and like-minded countries, Singapore will work with the UK post-Brexit towards a bilateral FTA that will offer certainty and confidence to our businesses, and bolster bilateral trade and investments."

Baker McKenzie's Mr Lim sees the value in Mr Wightman's proposition. "It would be a quick way of having a base-line blueprint for a bilateral agreement with the UK rather than having to negotiate a new treaty from scratch."

But Deborah Elms, executive director of the Singapore-based consultancy Asian Trade Centre, is sceptical. Negotiations between the UK and the EU may change, and by then the EUSFTA may not be applicable to the UK, she said.

It would be easier to just allow Brexit to occur, then let the UK fall back on "foundations of the house", or World Trade Organization rules, as a basis for trade negotiations with other countries.

"No reason to start buying new fixtures and fittings because the bathtub won't fit until and unless the foundation is solid," she said.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Milk brands use premium image, consumer behaviour to drive prices up: CCS

TODAY
11 May 2017
Valerie Koh

Brand loyalty and a penchant for premium products among parents here have driven formula milk companies to invest heavily in marketing and research and development.

And this, in turn, could reinforce such consumer behaviour, the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) said.

This was among the findings in the commission’s report released on Wednesday (May 10), which showed that manufacturers have resorted to non-price competition and aggressive marketing to increase their share of a small Singapore market with limited growth.

As a result, formula milk prices here as of May last year were found to be higher, compared with several other countries such as Australia, United States and United Kingdom.

Total marketing expenditure by all six major manufacturers — including Abbott, Mead Johnson and Danone — soared by 42.4 per cent between 2010 and 2014, contributing to more than double the average retail price of formula milk over the past nine years. 

Triggered by public concern over the rising prices, CCS’ year-long market inquiry sought to understand the supply chain, suss out the nature of competition in the industry, and assess if there was scope to increase competition, among other objectives.

Feedback was gathered from manufacturers, distributors, retailers, hospitals and government agencies.

The commission found that manufacturers, which were well aware that the only alternative to formula is breast milk, have chosen to shun price competition. Instead, they focused on constructing a premium brand image and introducing new ingredients purporting attributes desired by consumers.

“Such ‘premiumisation’ strategies further strengthen consumer perceptions and entrench consumer purchasing behaviours, which in turn give formula milk manufacturers the market power to increase wholesale prices, in the face of limited volume growth prospect due to low birth rate and rising breastfeeding rate,” said the CCS.

The report cited the experience of an unnamed supermarket, which had previously brought in a “value-for-money” formula milk brand after receiving customer feedback on the high prices of other options.

Although the new product belonged to an established brand and was priced lower than other premium brands, sales were poor and the product was discontinued by the manufacturer.

Other retailers had similar experiences: Another supermarket noted that this product had been underperforming while a pharmacy stopped selling it after less than a year due to a lack of demand.

Market researcher Euromonitor International noted in a July 2016 report that the focus on premium products was not unique to Singapore.

Across Asia, manufacturers have been increasingly playing up the quality of their formula milk to retain margins in light of rising breastfeeding rates and low birth rates constraining volume growth.

In Singapore, the CCS found that an estimated 95 per cent of formula milk sales in 2015 belonged to premium and specialty milk, while the remaining was standard milk.

“Insufficient understanding of the nutritional content of formula milk and the dietary requirements of infants and young children have often led parents to perceive that the more expensive or premium products are of higher quality,” said the CCS.

The commission stressed that all infant formula milk products in Singapore meet the safety standards and nutrient composition requirements under the Singapore Food Regulations.

The commission’s findings showed that consumers prioritise brand name, nutrition and safety when it comes to buying formula milk. They also relied on word-of-mouth recommendations, and seldom changed brands after settling on a suitable option. The resulting brand loyalty and limited effectiveness of price competition to encourage consumers to try a new brand poses significant barriers to entry.

“Manufacturers who wish to enter the market must devote significant resources to convince consumers of the ‘premium’ status of their products through a combination of marketing and innovation,” said the commission.

The commission also pointed out the “negligible presence” of parallel imports, due to strict labelling and import documentation requirements. Security and quality assurance concerns may have played a role as well.

The CCS made several recommendations to lower the barriers to entry and boost price competition. A research institution or non-governmental organisation could improve consumer awareness on nutritional content and requirements. Armed with such information, consumers will be able to “counter simple heuristics such as ‘more is better’ or ‘more expensive means better quality’”.

Apart from reviewing sponsorship activities in hospitals and their impact on milk rotation schedules, parallel import requirements could be reviewed to encourage greater price competition. Restrictions on online sales, discount on volume sales and delivery services could be relooked. Currently, formula milk for babies up to six months’ old cannot be sold online.

The commission noted that it was unlikely for any single recommendation to be a silver bullet. “Rather, they complement each other in order to increase the level of price competition in the market, so that consumers can derive more value for money,” it said.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

ADV: Choose to study law with Birmingham City University!

Singapore Law Watch
24 May 2017
Kaplan

ADV: SAL - Assistant Manager (MIS)

Singapore Law Watch
18 May 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

ROM limits spouses' data on portal

Straits Times
11 May 2017
Tan Tam Mei

Redacting of full names and NRIC numbers in response to feedback on possible misuse

The Registry of Marriages (ROM) has quietly started redacting the full names and identity card numbers of spouses from its online records.

This comes after public feedback on the possible misuse of personal details, said the Registrar of Marriage, in response to queries from The Straits Times.

The registrar said the redaction was not due to Personal Data Protection Act regulations, which public agencies do not come under.

When asked about cases of misuse, the agency said there was one instance where a couple's personal information on the registry was possibly misused on social media.

The registrar said the couple managed the situation privately, but declined to say more.

The redaction started last November, and while such feedback on possible misuse was "low", said the registrar, the lawyers ST spoke to said cases of abuse of public records happen "regularly".

Criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam said one of his clients lived in fear after receiving threatening notes and having paint splashed on her door because of her former husband's debts with unlicensed moneylenders.

She later learnt that the loan sharks had traced her address after obtaining personal details from the free online searches with ROM.

"With just a name and NRIC number, people can trace your whereabouts, and innocent people are harassed as a result," said Mr Supramaniam, who has seen at least six such cases in the past year. He added that there are other instances that might not go to court, such as a spiteful lover who uses the data to track down a person's spouse.

Lawyer Ravinderpal Singh said he believes that the online searches are mostly used for the right purposes, but added that cases of abuse will definitely pop up. He cited a case where a client in the United States engaged his services to check on her husband, who was working in Singapore. "She suspected that her husband got married here and, through the search, it turned out to be true," he said.

In May 2010, ROM records were made available online, and Singaporeans and permanent residents were each given two free online searches over a 12-month period. They could pay $35 for any number of additional searches.

It was reported that the intention was to make it easier for individuals to search the history of prospective spouses, so they could make informed decisions before marriage.

Given the growing concerns with privacy, some lawyers said the redaction is a step in the right direction and "better late than never".

Family lawyer Rina Kalpanath Singh said ROM's move is necessary to prevent misuse of data. "The primary use for this portal to search for marriage history is important, but the names and NRIC numbers are not necessary for that purpose."

Supporting the redaction, Ms Gloria James, head lawyer at Gloria James-Civetta, said: "It gives people the due respect and privacy, but does not detract from the good intentions of helping people confirm marriage history."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Withers KhattarWong takes stock of its Singapore-global alliance

Business Times
23 May 2017
Claire Huang

Tie-up gave firm presence in 18 cities and helped it to grow fee income 10% annually despite tough market

Singapore's legal profession has come full circle in an amusing way, observes Deborah Barker, managing partner at Withers KhattarWong, who points to the tough environment as a catalyst for marriages between local and international practices.

"Once upon a time, we were a colony with a lot of foreign lawyers here. Then we became entirely local. Now, we've got to compete against the world - and they're all here again," she says with a laugh, adding that the sector has gone through its fair share of challenges over time.

Even as the Singapore government moves to further develop practice areas such as arbitration, dispute resolution and intellectual property (IP), slowing economies and political uncertainty have resulted in lesser work for the Singapore legal profession. Law firms are also squeezed by higher operating costs, in terms of rental for instance, and intense competition.

The search for growth has triggered a spate of mergers in recent years between local law firms and international ones, while smaller firms have to tough it out with a harder slog. Against such a backdrop, a union was decided between international law firm Withers and one of Singapore's largest practices, KhattarWong on April 6, 2015. Withers' forte has been in private wealth while KhattarWong specialised in tax when it started in the 1970s before becoming a full-service firm.

The alliance broadened the global presence of Withers KhattarWong to 18 cities. It now has 36 partners and over 170 employees in Singapore.

In the two years since the union, Withers KhattarWong has carried out a lot of integration, with the IT systems, accounts and offices refreshed - something Ms Barker draws a parallel to "stepping into the 21st century". Though married, both firms hold separate books.

And plans to bring the two parties closer are on the cards. "I think if we go ahead and make it closer, in a sense it's not very much different from what it is now. Once we've committed to this formal law alliance, we have committed to changing a lot of things," Ms Barker says plainly.

Asked how the alliance has worked, she notes that Withers KhattarWong has experienced a 10 per cent annual growth in fee income despite challenging market conditions.

"One good thing we've given to Withers (Worldwide) is a foothold in Asia. They have their office in Hong Kong but with Singapore now, we can be much more effective," says the soft-spoken Ms Barker, who is the daughter of the late E W Barker - Singapore's first law minister.

Globally, Withers Worldwide aims to have total revenues split between Asia, the United States and Europe - now its largest contributor. Withers KhattarWong, Withers Worldwide's second-largest office after London, is expected to be the main growth driver for the Asia-Pacific region, which now holds the smallest proportion of global revenues among the three regions.

The global firm is divided into three areas - private wealth, dispute resolution and business, which includes corporate, IP, hospitality and real estate. For Withers KhattarWong, litigation is a bigger practice area than business.

In the past two years, Withers KhattarWong has been building its business team comprising corporate, mergers and acquisitions, as well as funds, driven by the burst of private capital.

And it has set its sights on hospitality as a new growth segment.

The existing hospitality team is based in Australia and the firm has roped in Ukrainian Lada Shelkovnikova, formerly from Al Tamimi & Co in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), says Ms Barker, a senior counsel.

The perks of being global means that the Singapore office has access to speciality fields. For example, the firm has a strong art law and art litigation practice in New York that she says is something Singapore is hoping to offer.

That said, Ms Barker believes that turning into a full-service, one-stop firm is not the only way to survive in Singapore's legal landscape and that there is always room for boutique firms specialising in one area.

Having been appointed counsel in a Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) appeal case, she hopes this is a step in the right direction and that the firm can take on more of such work.

But when it is pointed out to her that SICC cases are few and mostly referred, she says: "To be quite honest, you can't expect that you could say, Rome to be built in one day. People see the success of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) but they do not realise they've been working for 25 years.

"When SIAC first started, it was pretty slow. In a way, we were not a leading arbitration centre. It was London, Paris, Hong Kong - all were ahead of us and you'd have said we were just a small player. But just by quietly working over 25 years and really getting the brand out there, we've succeeded."

Still, one aspect the SICC can work on is the enforceability of its judgments, Ms Barker suggests.

Amid the trend to digitalise and transform, Singapore has started pushing the legal sector to embrace technology - something she admits the practice "is a bit slow" in. So the firm is looking to speed up processes by getting more software for legal programmes in the coming weeks and months as it moves forward.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Early gains seen for Singapore in EU court ruling on FTA

Business Times
17 May 2017
Soon Weilun

Ruling gives the EU room to ratify more aspects of the FTA on its own than previously; observers say the FTA can now move on to seek approval

Singapore can look to scoring early gains from a top European Union court ruling on a free-trade pact that the city-state has with the regional bloc, observers told The Business Times.

This comes even as the ruling by the EU Court of Justice on Tuesday is expected to lengthen the time for the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) to come into force.

Deborah Elms, executive director of the Singapore-based consultancy Asian Trade Centre, said: "It's fantastic that we've now unlocked the step forward. The court's decision really affects EU more than Singapore; the battle is now between the member states and the EU."

Tuesday's ruling said that for the EUSFTA to fully come into force, it needs approval from the 38 national and sub-national parliaments of the 28 member states in the regional bloc.

The decision, which cannot be appealed, ends a years-long state of suspension for the FTA's progress.

Back in October 2014, the European Commission (EC), the EU's executive branch, said that it needed legal clarity on the number of layers of approval for the FTA to come into force.

Trade between the EU and Singapore reached S$93.18 billion last year, up from S$90.83 billion in 2015.

Following Tuesday's ruling, a spokesman for Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) said that it respects the EU's internal processes, and looks forward to the FTA's formal entry-into-force after all member states give their approval.

For now, MTI wants to work with the EU to have the pact "provisionally applied so that businesses can utilise the parts of the agreement that are under the EU's exclusive competence".

"Exclusive competence" refers to those areas in the FTA that the EU can ratify on its own, without the approval of the national parliaments.

Under Tuesday's court ruling, the EU can put into force a wider range of provisions that include (but are not limited to) protection of direct foreign investments, intellectual property rights and sustainable development.

Only two aspects of the EUSFTA require national ratification: One is in the field of non-direct foreign investment; the other is the regime governing dispute settlement between investors and member states.

The split of competencies proposed last December by an EU Court of Justice advocate-general was markedly different - Eleanor Sharpston had pushed for the EU to be required to seek member states' approval in more areas.

Observers said that the split of competencies can work in Singapore's favour, in that, with more exclusive competence granted to the EU, there is a potential for the FTA to come into force sooner, which can benefit Singapore.

For reference, the EU-Korea FTA's provisional application allowed EU exports to South Korea to grow by 55 per cent over four years, going by an EC parliamentary reply.

Public international law specialist Jessica Gladstone, a partner at law firm Clifford Chance, said: "The Court of Justice did acknowledge that a large part of the Singapore FTA does fall under exclusive EU competence.

"If this option is pursued by the European Commission, then the Singapore FTA, by and large, may be entered into force sooner rather than later."

But even as Singapore can hope for early gains with Tuesday's ruling, observers note that the EU may experience more issues in the future with the ruling.

A recent deal between the EU and Canada was almost killed by opposition from one sub-national parliament. It now will take effect provisionally in the coming weeks.

Observers also note that Tuesday's ruling covers an FTA that is considered "new generation" - one that goes beyond just a simple agreement on trade in goods and services.

Milagros Miranda Rojas, a special adviser on international trade law at Norton Rose Fulbright in London, said that the EU, already in the process of negotiating similar pacts with other economies such as Japan and Mexico, will be concerned by Tuesday's ruling.

For now, Singaporean businesses said that the enlarged exclusive competence under the EU's purview in Tuesday's ruling can give them some relief.

But having it subjected to national ratification still worries them.

Said Ho Meng Kit, chief executive officer of Singapore Business Federation: "The positive thing is that it's not as severe as we thought.

"But we still wish that it would not need to go through the national parliaments because we've completed the negotiations.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Tommy Koh rebuts view that S'pore has acted against China

Straits Times
11 May 2017
Lim Yan Liang

Singapore does not take sides in the South China Sea issue, nor is it aligned with or against any of the major powers, Ambassador-at- large Tommy Koh has reiterated at a public forum in China.

Reaffirming the close and mutually beneficial relationship between Singapore and China, he addressed statements made by a high-level Chinese official at the public session of the 12th China-Singapore forum yesterday.

Senior Chinese diplomat Ruan Zongze, the first of four speakers at the forum, said Singapore has taken actions in recent years that adversely affected bilateral ties. These included trying to get other Asean countries to release a joint statement after an international tribunal's ruling against Beijing's claims in the South China Sea last year, and saying publicly that the tribunal's award is legally binding and countries should abide by it.

China and four Asean states have overlapping claims in the sea.

Dr Ruan added that Singapore has also allowed the United States to deploy military vessels and aircraft meant for "close-in reconnaissance in China's South China Sea" since last year, though it claimed not to be aligned with the US.

Noting that Singapore is one of China's few "all-weather friends", Professor Koh said Singapore acted very carefully after the tribunal's decision: It did not issue a statement supporting the ruling, or call on China to comply with it.

"What did we do? We did the minimum possible without sacrificing our own national interests: We took note of the award," he said.

Dr Ruan's accusation that Singapore tried to mobilise Asean states to issue a joint statement against China on the arbitration award was also untrue, he added.

"We asked each of the nine Asean countries what is their position, what can they subscribe to in the joint statement, that is all we did," he said.

"We were an honest facilitator, trying to find out whether there is a consensus among the 10 Asean countries, but always conscious that our national interest is to promote peace and cooperation between Asean and China."

Prof Koh said Singapore's foreign policy is to be close to all the major powers. But he assured his Chinese audience that "the bottom line is this: Singapore will never allow its relationship with any major power to harm China".

Sino-Singapore ties are in good order, he added, with multiple annual high-level meetings, including the apex Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation meeting co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli. Singapore is China's top foreign investor, and China is Singapore's largest trading partner, he noted.

When Singapore becomes Asean chairman next year, it will think of projects to bring China and Asean even closer, he said.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Late June hearing likely for Tan Cheng Bock's case

Straits Times
23 May 2017
Charissa Yong

The legal challenge mounted by former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock, on the timing of the reserved presidential election, will likely be heard late next month.

The timing of the hearing was one of the matters addressed at a pre-trial conference in the High Court yesterday morning.

The Attorney-General's Chambers was represented by Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair, while Senior Counsel Chelva Retnam Rajah of Tan Rajah & Cheah represented Dr Tan.

It will likely be a one-day hearing, said Mr Nair.

He also said that the hearing will likely be held in the last week of June, subject to the court's calendar. The court will confirm the final date at a later time.

The court also gave directions for the filing of other affidavits.

Dr Tan's challenge centres on whether the Government's counting of the five presidential terms needed to trigger a reserved election, as spelt out in changes to the Presidential Elections Act passed by Parliament in January, is consistent with constitutional changes to the elected presidency.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Adopting a more patient-centric legal standard the right call

TODAY
17 May 2017
Nigel Fong

In a landmark judgment released last Friday, the Singapore Court of Appeal embraced a more patient-centric standard to decide if a doctor has fulfilled his duty to provide medical advice.

The Court dismissed the appeal of Mr Clement Hii Chii Kok, who had sued Dr London Lucien Ooi for complications from major surgery that turned out to be unnecessary. Mr Hii, a Malaysian businessman, had two suspicious pancreatic nodules.

Multiple tests could not confirm whether these nodules were cancerous or not. After extensive counselling, Mr Hii opted for aggressive treatment in view of the possibility of cancer.

Dr Ooi, a surgeon at the National Cancer Centre, performed surgery to remove the nodules. Unfortunately, the operation led to various complications, while the nodules turned out to be non-cancerous.

The crux of Mr Hii’s complaint was that he should not have been offered surgery, and was not adequately informed of the uncertainty of the cancer diagnosis. The High Court dismissed Mr Hii’s lawsuit in 2016, prompting his appeal, which was turned down by the nation’s highest court last week.

In doing so, the Court of Appeal also established a new legal standard to determine whether a doctor had been negligent in his care.

Up till now, the standard of care had been the “Bolam test” with a “Bolitho addendum”. The court of appeal made it clear that this standard of care applied not only to physicians, but also to other professionals.

The principle of the “Bolam test” is that the court, as a medically untrained party, cannot determine what is medically “correct”; instead, this should be left to the professional opinion of the body of physicians.

Under Bolam, a doctor is not negligent if he does what other competent doctors would have done. Hence, a “rogue doctor” who does what other doctors deem unsafe or harmful would be negligent. On the other hand, where there is controversy between physicians about whether treatment A or B is better, either is acceptable.

The “Bolitho addendum” clarifies that a physician cannot defend himself by referring to other physicians who do the same, if this practice is outright illogical (for example, it goes against proven facts, does not weigh risks and benefits, or is internally inconsistent). Therefore, Bolitho offers a safeguard against commonly held but unreasonable practices.

It should be noted that for liability to arise, it is insufficient to prove that a doctor did not meet the standard of care. It is also necessary to prove that this negligence resulted in demonstrable harm to the patient.

Over the years, the “Bolam test” has come under criticism. Arising from a 1957 British judgment, an era of Doctor-say-Patient-comply, the “Bolam test” took a rather paternalistic stance of emphasising medical judgment over the patient’s viewpoint. But medicine has changed dramatically since the 1950s.

Today’s doctor-patient relationship is a partnership founded on mutual trust and open communication.

Except in an immediately life-threatening situation, or when dealing with demented or obtunded patients, I sit down with my patients to explain the disease they have, its consequences, and the benefits and risks of the various treatment options available.

While I provide my recommendations, patients have the autonomy to accept or refuse the treatment I offer. In this light, the “Bolam test” seems to give too little heed to patient autonomy.

While many jurisdictions have moved away from Bolam and Bolitho, it remained the standard of care in Singapore, having last been upheld by the Singapore Court in 2011. This case provided the Court of Appeal with an opportunity to re-examine whether it should remain the standard of care.

Firstly, the Court held that Bolam and Bolitho still applied in the areas of diagnosis and carrying out treatment that had been agreed upon. Correct (or at least defensible) diagnosis is a matter of the physician’s experience and judgment.

Carrying out treatment (for example, surgery) is a matter of the physician’s skill. Both have little to do with the patient’s opinion. Therefore, whether a physician had been competent in diagnosis and treatment is a matter best adjudicated with reference to reasonable professional opinion, as set out in Bolam and Bolitho.

On the other hand, in the provision of advice to patients, the Court recognised that the “Bolam-era conception of the patient as a passive recipient of treatment no longer prevailed within the profession or in the wider society”.

Patients today have access to more information and expect to participate more actively in the consultation process with a doctor, the court noted.

Therefore, the Court adopted a new standard of care that acknowledges patient autonomy to decide on his/her treatment, and obliges physicians to enable this autonomy by providing sufficient information on the benefits and risks of treatment, including available alternatives.

What constitutes “sufficient information” is determined from the patient’s perspective — what a reasonable patient would want to know, and what this particular patient is likely to find important — not the Bolam standard of what other information physicians would have provided.

As part of a three-stage inquiry to determine if a doctor has fulfilled his duty, the court will also look at whether the doctor is aware of the information in the first place, and whether the doctor could have any justification for withholding the information.

Consider this scenario: A famous singer had a neck lump. He sees a surgeon, who diagnoses thyroid cancer, and proposes surgery to remove the thyroid. This surgery carries a very small risk (less than 1 per cent) of nerve damage leading to permanent hoarseness of voice.

This would be inconvenient for most patients, but career-ending for the singer. Suppose the surgeon knows that the patient is a famous singer, but does not inform the patient of this risk, and proceeds with surgery. Unfortunately, hoarseness of the voice occurs.

Under Bolam and Bolitho, the surgeon could possibly have defended himself if it were the professional norm not to counsel patients on risks of less than 1 per cent probability, notwithstanding this patient’s occupation.

Under the new test, however, the surgeon clearly falls short of providing relevant information that the patient would have wanted to know. This does not mean bombarding the patient with every single detail, but only what is reasonably important.

I personally find the Court’s position fair and right.

While the Court’s judgment breaks legal ground locally, it is already what physicians here practise on a day-to-day basis. This is also codified in the 2016 Singapore Medical Council Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines.

There were concerns that a shift away from Bolam and Bolitho would promote medical litigation and defensive practice, and increase healthcare costs. I beg to differ.

On the contrary, in providing a well-calibrated legal standard that offers clarity, the Court removes much of the uncertainty that had been driving some defensive medical practices in the past few years.

There are adequate safeguards written into the judgment to deter frivolous lawsuits.

Furthermore, it has been shown that the root of much litigation is poor doctor-patient communication, rather than malpractice per se; encouraging sound doctor-patient communication will only decrease, not increase, litigation.

More importantly, it is the right thing to do — and not simply for fear of the lawyers.


Nigel Fong is a Resident in Internal Medicine at Singhealth. He was a President’s Scholar and maintains a keen interest in healthcare policy.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

ADV: SCCE - Become certified in compliance and ethics

Singapore Law Watch
11 May 2017
Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics

Challenge filed against changes to elected presidency

Straits Times
23 May 2017
Charissa Yong

They are discriminatory and deprive citizens of right to stand for public office, says lawyer

Human rights lawyer M. Ravi yesterday filed a constitutional challenge against changes to the elected presidency (EP) made last year.

The changes to the Constitution which Parliament approved last November tighten the qualifying criteria for candidates, and include a provision to reserve a presidential election for candidates from a racial group that has not been represented in the office for five continuous terms.

Mr Ravi argues that the changes are unconstitutional because they deprive citizens of their right to stand for public office, and discriminate on the grounds of ethnicity.

The High Court confirmed that Mr Ravi had filed an originating summons and supporting affidavit .

A spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers told The Straits Times that "it will study the papers" filed by Mr Ravi.

Mr Ravi, currently a non-practising lawyer, said on Facebook that he filed the application in his capacity as a private citizen.

His is the second legal challenge related to the EP mounted this month. On May 5, former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock filed a challenge over whether the upcoming presidential election should be a reserved one.

Dr Tan's challenge centres on whether the timing of the reserved election, as set out in the Presidential Elections Act, is consistent with the constitutional amendments.

He says the counting of five terms should start with Mr Ong Teng Cheong. The Government began with the term of Mr Wee Kim Wee, the first president vested with the powers of the EP.

Therefore, the upcoming election has been reserved for candidates from the Malay community.

Unlike Dr Tan, Mr Ravi challenges the entire reserved election mechanism as unconstitutional, he said on Facebook yesterday. He believes that the EP is not consistent with Article 12(2) of the Constitution.

It states that unless expressly authorised by the Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against Singapore citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law, or in the appointment to any office, or employment under a public authority.

Mr Ravi argues that the EP deprives citizens of their right to stand for public office, and discriminates by ethnicity. "The right to stand for the elected presidency should be no different from the right to participate in parliamentary elections - all citizens should be equal," he wrote.

"The selection of the elected candidate should be based on merit, all other relevant requirements being fulfilled."

Mr Ravi also contends the amendments run counter to a legal principle called the basic structure doctrine, which he says applies here.

It holds that any constitutional amendment which goes against the basic structure or key tenets of the Constitution is invalid. Mr Ravi argues that the prohibition on discriminating against citizens by race is a key tenet of the Constitution.

Law dons told The Straits Times that if the cases are not resolved by August, the election - which the Government has said will be held in September - could be postponed.

But they said this was unlikely.

Singapore Management University (SMU) assistant law professor Jack Lee said it is in the interest of all parties to have the applications decided before the election is due to be held, so they may well ask the court for expedited hearing dates.

SMU associate law professor Eugene Tan believes "the court is mindful of the presidential election timeline". He added: "It will move resolutely and expeditiously so that the election schedule will not be detrimentally affected."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

NGOs seek clarity on organisers’ role at Speakers’ Corner events

TODAY
17 May 2017
Valerie Koh

To comply with the no-foreigner rule for events at Speakers’ Corner, civil society groups said they would append a note on this in their publicity materials, or even check attendees’ identity cards on the spot.

Besides these measures, however, there is little else they can do to enforce the rule on the ground, they said, asking the authorities for more clarity on when the organisers would be held responsible.

Their comments came after the organisers of Pink Dot said last Sunday that only Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) will be allowed at the annual rally held in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on July 1.

Rules on who can attend events at Speakers’ Corner were tightened under changes to the Public Order (Unrestricted Area) Act last November, which barred foreigners from participating in assemblies and processions. Previously, foreigners were not permitted to join demonstrations only.

Responding to TODAY, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the Government has made clear that it does not seek to proscribe events, but “Speakers’ Corner is a designated outdoor area for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents to participate in assemblies and processions, and for Singaporeans to express their views on issues that matter to them”.

She added: “This approach is consistent with the Government’s long-held position that foreigners and foreign entities should not engage in our domestic issues, especially political issues or controversial social issues.”

The MHA spokesperson also said that the rules on event funding and participation at Speakers’ Corner are “applied equally to all public assemblies and processions”.

In response to TODAY’s queries, a Pink Dot spokesperson said they might check attendees’ identity cards to ensure only Singaporeans and PRs take part in the event.

But Mr Leong Sze Hian, president of human rights group Maruah, said such a measure will be difficult to enforce. “You can’t just ask people to show you their identity cards,” he said.

Mr Gilbert Goh, who frequently organises events at Speakers’ Corner, said that he would include a footnote on event websites to deter foreigners from attending in future.

Mr Leong said Maruah would study the tweaked rules in detail before deciding what steps to take.

He noted that if an organiser announces prior to and during an event that foreigners cannot attend, he “cannot imagine” that they would be held accountable if there were still the odd foreigner present. Maruah organises one event — usually a protest — at Speakers’ Corner each year.

Last Sunday, for instance, there were at least 10 people who turned up for a prayer service organised for members of the Indonesian community in Singapore, even though organisers had circulated a WhatsApp message the day before cancelling the event. The event was organised partially in support of outgoing Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok), who was recently sentenced to two years’ jail for blasphemy against Islam. But after a police advisory, one of the organisers, who wanted to be known as “Pak Chau”, called off the event which was to be held at Queenstown Stadium.

On the day itself, he sent two people to Queenstown MRT Station just in case some did not get the message, and at least 10 people showed up.

The Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), which has organised funfairs at Speakers’ Corner, wanted to know the types of events that fall under the definition of an assembly or procession.

“It’s a park. Practically, this would be very difficult (to exclude every single foreigner),” said Ms Jolene Tan, the group’s advocacy and research head.

For events on domestic helpers’ or foreign spouses’ rights, for instance, their voices would be essential, she added. “I wonder if the changes are necessary to be so complete in the exclusion of foreigners,” Ms Tan said, adding that Aware would have less manpower at events if its foreign staff members are barred.

Concerns of undue influence, which the Government had cited in the past to bar foreign entities from organising and sponsoring events, were already addressed by prohibitions on foreigners speaking and holding placards, she added.

There have been several rounds of changes to the rules on the use of Speakers’ Corner. When it was set up in 2000, demonstrations and marches were allowed with a permit.

The rules were relaxed four years later, with the police scrapping licensing requirements for indoor public talks and allowing more activities for Singaporeans.

In 2008, Singaporeans were allowed to organise and participate in demonstrations — except for those involving race and religion — without having to apply for a police permit.

Last October, the Government reiterated that foreign firms would have to apply for a permit to get involved with events at Speakers’ Corner, unlike local companies and NGOs.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Apex court to rule on reformative training for youth

Straits Times
10 May 2017
Selina Lum

A 19-year-old youth, who was given three years' probation in 2013 for drug trafficking, went on to commit a spate of other offences.

Muhammad Nur Abdullah, who was 23 when he was hauled back to court for breaching his probation order, was sentenced last year to undergo reformative training, a regime meant for offenders aged below 21 on the day of their conviction.

His sentence was overturned in March by the High Court on appeal by the prosecution, who argued that reformative training was not a sentencing option as Muhammad Nur was over 21 when he was dealt with for breaching his probation order.

Yesterday, Muhammad Nur's lawyer, Mr Tan Hee Joek, succeeded in getting approval for the Court of Appeal to give a final ruling on whether his client can serve reformative training even though he was above the age of 21.

The procedure, known as a criminal reference, is reserved only for cases that hinge on questions of law of public interest.

Yesterday, Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang noted that the question was important and that two views have arisen on the issue.

Under the law, the court can order reformative training if the convicted person is aged 16 and above, but below 21 "on the day of his conviction".

In Muhammad Nur's case, the prosecution argued that the relevant date to determine his age for the purpose of eligibility for reformative training should be the date he was sentenced for breaching his probation order.

In March, the High Court agreed with the prosecution and substituted the reformative training stint with a sentence of five years' jail and five strokes of the cane.

Yesterday, Mr Tan argued that the relevant age is the age at the date of conviction.

He cited cases, including one in 2014 where the High Court upheld the sentence of reformative training for an accused person - who was below 21 when probation was granted and above 21 when he was dealt with - for breach of probation.

Mr Tan said the conflicting decisions show that the question of law involving the correct interpretation of the Probation of Offenders Act and how it interacts with the Criminal Procedure Code is "one of considerable difficulty and complexity that deserves to be resolved by the Court of Appeal as the highest court of the land".

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

More volunteers needed to help young suspects

Straits Times
23 May 2017
Seow Bei Yi

Only 24 of 143 Appropriate Adults tackled cases in first three weeks of scheme as some didn't respond

While Appropriate Adults (AAs) have been called upon 46 times to support young suspects during police interviews in the first three weeks of the new scheme, these involved only 24 out of 143 trained volunteers. The problem - some AAs did not respond when activated.

Even though AAs were expected to be activated only four times in a year, some have had to handle two cases in one day since the scheme was launched on April 17 at several police and Central Narcotics Bureau divisions for a start.

This has led the Singapore Children's Society (SCS), which runs the scheme, to appeal for more AAs to respond, to help ease the crunch.

The activation works this way: When police contact SCS through its 24-hour hotline, an SCS representative matches AAs with the needs of the case, including language. AAs then have to arrive at police stations within 90 minutes of an activation. For complicated cases, or if no AA responds to an activation, SCS said it counts on 16 of its staff, who include youth social workers. They are also AAs.

The scheme for suspects younger than 16 was set up after an inter- agency review of investigation processes following the death of schoolboy Benjamin Lim, 14, last year. He was found dead at the foot of his block of flats hours after police questioned him over an alleged molestation case.

AAs undergo around six hours of training before they are confirmed. When activated, they sit by a young suspect's side during the police interview, and may intervene if the suspect appears agitated or unable to understand a question.

SCS youth worker Lo Feng Ying was activated in the week of its roll-out. She found herself accompanying a six-year-old boy as he was questioned at the Bedok Police Division. He was the youngest of the 46 young people who needed AAs in the first three weeks of the scheme.

"While he was talking, he would look to me," recalled the 26-year- old of her first and only activation so far. "When I smiled at him, he continued speaking. This was when I noted such non-verbal cues can be quite reassuring for a young child."

She declined to elaborate on the nature of the boy's offence but said he did not show signs of distress.

Ms Ann Hui Peng, director of SCS' Student Service Hub (Bukit Merah) and head of the scheme, said: "There are a lot of considerations we take (into account) when activating volunteers. Because of this child's young age, for example, we didn't feel very comfortable letting a general volunteer handle him until we have better knowledge of this volunteer."

It has also been more challenging to match AAs between 1am and 5am as fewer AAs respond to activation SMSes, she said.

Other teething problems include AAs having had to wait between 30 and 90 minutes before a police interview took place. In two cases, AAs did not turn up within 1½ hours. Generally, police would have to wait for an AA to turn up before starting the interview.

SCS has since refined its protocols. This includes AAs waiting a maximum of one hour from the stipulated interview time, said Ms Ann.

"We're talking to the National Council of Social Service and various partners to bring forward the training - we need a lot more volunteers on our database, so we have more people to tap."


GETTING MORE ON BOARD

We're talking to the National Council of Social Service and various partners to bring forward the training - we need a lot more volunteers on our database, so we have more people to tap.

MS ANN HUI PENG, director of SCS' Student Service Hub (Bukit Merah) and head of the scheme, on recruiting more volunteers for the Appropriate Adults scheme.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Having a meaningful regulatory conversation

Business Times
17 May 2017
Tan Boon Gin

Since Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) was incorporated as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Singapore Exchange to take on its frontline regulatory responsibilities, there has been chatter that this change spells more regulation ahead. I find this interesting because if the objective were to increase the number of regulations, there is no need to set up a dedicated subsidiary because adding new regulations is par for the course. It is removing them that is hard.

I would like to explain that our focus as a regulator will sway towards neither more nor less regulation; rather, we want to regulate meaningfully. By meaningful regulation I mean regulation that is meaningful to all market participants, will remain meaningful today and tomorrow, and will produce meaningful outcomes.

When it comes to regulation of capital markets, there is a tendency to focus on investor protection. This is particularly true in Singapore where there is a higher proportion of retail investors compared to the Western jurisdictions. This, however, risks losing sight of the reason that capital markets exist in the first place: which is to help companies grow, stimulate the economy, create more jobs and allow investors to participate in that growth.

This has several consequences. Firstly, it means that we always need to balance our role as a market watchdog, protecting investors against market failure, with our role as a market shaper, to grow and develop the markets. Take the heavily debated issue of dual class shares: from an investor protection point of view, it is important to promote a capital structure that aligns management interests with that of shareholders and holds management accountable to shareholders. However, that does not mean that if certain types of companies face a funding gap, or feel that they need to resist pressure to boost their short term financials, it is better for them to do so through the private markets, or through opaque arrangements in the public markets.

RELEVANT ISSUES

Similarly, there are different kinds of investors; some may value control more than others who want to have the choice to earn asymmetrical returns by putting their faith in a talented founder or a talismanic brand. These are all relevant issues that we need to address.

Secondly, it means that our policymaking should be informed by views from all market participants. Currently, SGX has a public consultation process before we make any major rule changes. If we notice that a certain segment of the market has not responded, we try to chase for a response. We want to identify and engage with these segments, even if it is through verbal rather than written channels and through more informal sessions such as focus groups. We may even depart from the usual open-ended consultation process and do a multiple choice survey. In short, we are willing to listen to feedback in all shapes and sizes to encourage the whole market to be forthcoming because the diversity and richness of views will create better outcomes for everyone.

Finally, the regulator must be willing to be more open and transparent. Over the last couple of years, we have shared information gathered from our surveillance activities with the market through our Trade with Caution alerts that we issue in response to unusual trading. Similarly, we have produced what we call a surveillance dashboard for each of our member firms, that records the details of their trading activities that have generated alerts in our surveillance system, so that they can see what we see.

We know that the market is sensitive to regulatory changes, and will endeavour to signal major changes clearly and well in advance to give the market time to react. So from now on, the market can expect greater certainty in terms of timing and pace of regulatory change.

Major rule changes are often event-driven. The danger is that with time, memory fades and one forgets the precise reason for having a rule in the first place. We need to drill down to the precise mischief the rule was intended to address, and see whether it is still relevant today. More importantly, we need to see whether there have been other changes in the regulatory framework which make the rule less obligatory now.

Another case in point is quarterly reporting (QR), where there have been many developments in the continuous disclosure framework in Singapore since QR was introduced. The Securities and Futures Act has been amended to broaden the definition of materiality and now sets a higher bar for disclosures. The new enhanced auditor reporting requirements require key audit matters to be highlighted, thereby increasing the transparency and accessibility of financial statements. We have been taking prompt and proportionate enforcement against disclosure breaches, and have not hesitated to query a company publicly and pointedly when we felt that disclosure was lacking, underscoring how aware we are of the need to preserve public confidence in the robustness of the regime. The global regulatory landscape has also changed and more and more jurisdictions are moving away from QR on the basis that it encourages short-termism.

The market is becoming more mature and we can increasingly count on investors to play their part in enforcing a disclosure-based regime. In an ideal world and truly efficient market, the immediate feedback loop that is market discipline would be able to drive good corporate behaviour in a way that regulation could never match. The question we need to ask is whether these changes have strengthened the disclosure-based regime to the point where there is scope to dial down QR, because QR is not an end in itself, but a tool to ensure prompt and accurate disclosures.

Now, turning to regulation that is meaningful tomorrow; I must confess this is a tricky one because it requires a leap of faith. When it comes to something like sustainability reporting, it is understandable that some controlling shareholders and senior management cannot imagine that shareholders will care so much about environmental, social and governance factors, despite the growing evidence that sustainability is important to investors. But the role of a regulator is to anticipate global trends and prepare the market for trajectories that we foresee are necessary to give us a competitive edge. It bears recalling that corporate governance also took some time to be accepted when it was first introduced, and we accept that it may take some time for everyone to see the benefits.

INTENDED GOALS

In order to achieve meaningful outcomes, regulation must be no more and no less than is absolutely necessary to achieve its intended goals. We want quality companies to list on the exchange, which is why we have high admission standards. However, this only works if what the company is representing to us in terms of its financials and business is in fact true and accurate. This is why we have worked closely with the Association of Banks in Singapore to enhance the guidelines for the due diligence that must be carried out by issue managers and sponsors on companies seeking to list on SGX.

On the other side of the equation, if a regulation proves to be too blunt a tool, we will not hesitate to sharpen it. When we first started issuing our Trade with Caution alerts in response to unusual trading, these were generated automatically and we used to issue as many as 50 a year. However, we realised that because we generated so many alerts, they were being shrugged off and had limited impact. Today, we issue less than five Trade with Caution alerts a year, and each time we do so, it has the intended effect, because the persons who should not be trading, stop trading.

Finally, we need to bear in mind the danger of over-regulation such that we create the perverse outcome of deterring quality companies from listing on our exchange, or driving investors to the unregulated sector instead. We need to offer products that cater to different risk appetites in the regulated space, and we must not make it too difficult for investors to access these products.

In conclusion, the pace of global regulatory change in the last few years has been unrelenting. Regulators everywhere are finally pausing to take stock, weigh the cost of compliance and assess the unintended consequences. As a regulator, the setting up of SGX RegCo should be seen as a step towards pursuing truly meaningful regulation to widen investor choice and facilitate access to capital.


The writer is CEO of Singapore Exchange Regulation.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Court of Appeal gives Shunfu Ville sale the green light

Straits Times
10 May 2017
Lee Xin En

Four years after the collective sale committee at Shunfu Ville was formed, the sale of the Bishan estate has finally got the green light.

The Court of Appeal yesterday dismissed an appeal filed by objectors against the sale of the 358-unit privatised HUDC estate. The sale grabbed headlines last May, when more than 82 per cent of the owners agreed to sell the estate for $638 million to property developer Qingjian Realty.

But the deal hit a snag when some owners objected to the sale last July, later filing an appeal to the High Court. One objection queried if the transaction was done in good faith, taking into account the sale price.

From 2015, the sale committee had launched two public tenders, both at a reserve price of $688 million. Both tenders did not attract any formal bids, but the committee had been in talks with Qingjian, which had offered $638 million.

The committee later obtained the requisite 80 per cent consent for the sale at $638 million, although it did not call for another public tender at that price, owing to the urgency of the timeline.

The Court of Appeal noted that while the "committee was in somewhat of a rush, there was nothing to suggest an absence of good faith or impropriety in the transaction".

It said the committee signed a private treaty with Qingjian, as "failing to commit to Qingjian not only did not assure that a better offer would come along" but could also have meant "the loss of Qingjian's offer".

Dentons Rodyk & Davidson senior partner Lee Liat Yeang, acting for Qingjian, said the ruling was significant in clarifying the law in this area, and would give greater confidence to developers looking to buy land through collective sales.

Mr Li Jun, Qingjian Realty managing director, said he was pleased that the deal had gone through and added that Qingjian now faces higher development charges of some $50 million. The charges are levied by the Government on developers who intensify land use. They are revised twice a year and could affect profit margins, he said.

Qingjian plans to build about 1,000 homes on the Shunfu plot, expected to be a mix of high-rise units of up to 25 storeys and landed units. The development will be launched a year from now, said Mr Li.

With the conclusion of the sale, each flat owner will pocket an average of $1.782 million. The Straits Times understands that the sale is expected to be completed in July, and owners will move out six months from then.


The Court of Appeal noted that while the "committee was in somewhat of a rush, there was nothing to suggest an absence of good faith or impropriety in the transaction".

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Ramachandran Jayakumar and another v Woo Hon Wai and others and another matter [2017] SGCA 36

S'pore, Poland ink pacts to boost economic ties

Straits Times
23 May 2017
Rachel Au-Yong

Economic cooperation between Singapore and Poland received a boost yesterday with the signing of several new agreements.

It will be further bolstered when the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) goes into force, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said yesterday.

Speaking to 100 businessmen at the maiden Poland-Singapore Business Forum, Dr Tan said the trade deal, which is the first between the EU and a South-east Asian country, will "send a strong signal of the EU's commitment to engage Asia".

With EUSFTA, Polish companies will have greater access to Singapore and Asean markets, worth a total of $3.6 trillion.

They can, for instance, bid for more energy contracts, and Singapore will accept made-in-Poland goods based on EU standards, eliminating the need for the products to undergo extra testing, he added.

Dr Tan, the first Singapore head of state to visit Poland, said he looked forward to the early ratification of the trade pact, parts of which have to be approved by all the 38 national and regional authorities in the EU.

While investment levels remain modest, bilateral trade has more than doubled to $962 million from a decade ago, and there is opportunity for further growth for both nations, he added.

His Polish counterpart, Mr Andrezj Duda, said of Singapore: "Though a relatively small state, it is a giant - one of the largest financial markets in the world."

Noting that trade between the countries has "room for improvement", he urged companies to use the new Polish trade office in Singapore to get more information.

Earlier in the day, Dr Tan received a ceremonial welcome at the Presidential Palace, where he also held a meeting with Mr Duda.

Yesterday was the second day of his state visit to Poland, during which he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument for soldiers who died fighting for Poland in various wars.

In their talks, the two presidents reaffirmed their nations' longstanding and excellent relations.

The issues they discussed ranged from developments in Singapore and Poland to the progress made in bilateral ties, including economic, science and technology, and cultural collaborations.

Both leaders also presided over the signing of three memorandums of understanding (MOUs). IE Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation each signed an MOU with the Polish Investment and Trade Agency to establish trade links and investment opportunities, especially in the auto and aerospace industries, wholesale trade of food and agricultural products, and transport and logistics sectors.

The third agreement was between Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research and its Polish counterpart. It will "facilitate the sharing of scientific expertise and knowledge, cross- fertilisation of ideas, as well as talent development in both countries", noted Dr Tan at a press conference with Mr Duda.

He urged Polish leaders, officials, businessmen, tourists and students to visit Singapore, as both leaders agreed there is scope to enhance people-to-people links.

Meanwhile, he invited President Duda to visit Singapore.

Dr Tan's day ended with an official dinner Mr Duda hosted for him at the Presidential Palace.

Today, the final day of his three-day visit, he will meet the heads of the upper and the lower chambers of Parliament, before leaving for a four-day state visit to the Czech Republic.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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Singapore Law Watch
17 May 2017
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'Not a must to substitute caning with extra jail'

Straits Times
10 May 2017
Selina Lum

Court will look at circumstances of each case and decide if enhancement is needed, says CJ

A heroin trafficker appealed against the extra jail time he received in lieu of being caned, and had his appeal thrown out.

But the case gave the court the chance to deal with an important question of law, said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.

Should a convicted criminal be given extra jail time if he is spared the cane owing to medical reasons?

The prosecution argued for this to become the norm, barring special circumstances, and proposed two weeks' jail for every stroke of caning avoided.

But the High Court yesterday said that while the court may impose extra jail time in lieu of caning, that does not mean it has to do so.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, when a prisoner is found medically unfit to be caned, the court may remit the sentence of caning or impose an additional jail term of up to 12 months.

The wording of the provision is open ended, giving the court the discretion to impose additional imprisonment, said Chief Justice Menon, delivering the decision of a three-judge court. Such discretion should be exercised only when there are grounds to warrant an additional jail term, he added.

"This approach will mean that in each case, the court should consider the circumstances that are before the court and then decide whether enhancement is called for," he said.

The court will give detailed grounds in due course.

Amin Abdullah, 48, had appealed against an extra 30-week jail term given in lieu of caning. His initial sentence was the mandatory minimum of 20 years' jail and 15 strokes of the cane for trafficking in 13.23g of heroin and possessing 0.27g.

Last year, a prison doctor certified him permanently unfit for caning owing to a rare spinal condition.

After the prosecution applied for the caning sentence to be revised, the district court imposed the additional jail term.

Amin, who did not have a lawyer, appealed, arguing that the extra 30 weeks was excessive. He said he knew of other inmates who, like him, were exempted from caning because of their medical conditions but did not get more jail time. "A term of 20 years is already heavy to me," he told the court yesterday.

The court that heard his appeal also included Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justice See Kee Oon. Chief Justice Menon noted that Amin had received the minimum jail term. "Even with enhancement of 30 weeks' imprisonment, the sentence was on the low side and was certainly not manifestly excessive," he said.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Terence Chua had argued that imprisonment in lieu of caning would preserve the deterrent effect of the corporal punishment, and that Parliament intended for the courts to impose extra jail time for offenders who are medically unfit to be caned.

Also weighing in was Mr Benjamin Koh, who was appointed amicus curiae (Latin for friend of the court) to give an independent view.

He favoured a flexible approach weighing all the relevant factors in each case, and said the mathematical approach of two weeks per stroke proposed by the prosecution was "not ideal". He disagreed with the prosecution's arguments on deterrence, noting that would-be offenders would not know for certain if they would be spared caning until they were certified in prison.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

S'pore's business community ready for Belt and Road projects

Business Times
23 May 2017
SS Teo

China's more than US$100 billion Belt and Road Initiative is a chance for S'pore to play its part as a connector in a dynamic new global trade ecosystem, cementing the future for local businesses

The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, held from May 14-15 in Beijing, was a resounding success and has generated wide interest among the business community in Singapore. China's pledge of more than US$100 billion in Belt and Road projects resonated positively with world businesses, notwithstanding differing views in regard to the initiative's outlook.

Singapore has always been a connector - most significantly for trade. Our role in the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) can be traced to the ancient Silk Road. Singapore's strategic location along this trade route led to significant maritime exchanges, as evidenced by extensive archaeological records.

Our continued prosperity depends on continuing to serve as a connector. We are a small country, and therefore throwing our weight on either side of the geopolitical scale does little to tilt the balance. However, as a conduit between larger nations, we make ourselves a vital part of the conversation. We must engage everyone and obstruct no one.

Better engagement at a diplomatic level facilitates better trade relationships, and better trade relationships lead to more effectiveness in diplomatic engagements. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a chance for Singapore to put itself at the heart of a new global trade ecosystem, and cement the future of Singaporean business.

Singapore's strategic location at the crossroads of East and West enables it to be a key access point along the MSR, as it expands its role as a global transportation hub. Two hundred shipping services depart from Singapore daily, cementing its status as a key global maritime centre and one of the world's busiest ports. Also, Changi International Airport handles about 6,800 flights weekly, making it one of the largest air transportation hubs in South-east Asia. Hence, it is natural that Singapore continues to strengthen its potential as an important logistics and transportation hub along the MSR.

In addition, Singapore's track record in financing, insurance, legal, arbitration, project management and training and development positions it as a centre for providing numerous businesses opportunities in the BRI.

As a key regional financial centre, Singapore houses over 200 banks, with many basing their operational headquarters here for regional group activities. Also, as one of the largest offshore renminbi centres, Singapore serves corporates and investors' RMB needs with enhanced convenience. Currently, several Chinese banks have issued BRI bonds in Singapore to finance projects. This builds on the strong record of project financing in Singapore with its ecosystem of insurance, legal and arbitration expertise. Sixty per cent of Asean infrastructure projects are mainly financed by Singapore-based banks.

Against this backdrop, Singapore businesses can leverage their expertise by actively seeking opportunities to fund BRI projects. Also, Chinese companies can partner Singapore companies to finance projects in other countries. In recent years, Singapore has emerged as the top destination for Asian businesses expanding abroad. According to official statistics published by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, more than 6,500 Chinese companies have established their presence in Singapore, almost twice the number of companies five years ago. This reflects the Chinese companies' interest to go global through Singapore or via joint partnerships with Singapore companies.

On the other hand, China remains the top expansion destination for Singapore companies. Over the years, more Singapore enterprises and projects have embraced BRI-related policies and platforms to access the Chinese market. One key area is the development of Government-to-Government (G2G) projects. In April this year, IE Singapore signed an MOU with the Guangxi government to jointly improve connectivity between Western China and South-east Asia via Guangxi, reaffirming the close and mutually beneficial relationship between Singapore and China.

We therefore strongly urge Singapore businesses in these industries to step forward and offer their expertise as their exchange of knowledge and information would be crucial to the projects' success.

As Singapore continues to grow its capability in managing public and private sector projects, it can leverage its expertise in education, public policy, public administration and governance to facilitate the sharing of best practices in managing BRI projects. This can enable our foreign business counterparts from varying backgrounds to hone core skills required for implementing BRI projects.

HOSTING BRI OFFICE IN SINGAPORE

Singapore's vast experiences make it an attractive proposition for China to consider setting up a "BRI Planning & Implementation Office" here for closer G2G collaboration on BRI projects in our region. This is in line with Singapore's role as the country coordinator for Asean-China relations to act as a bridge between both parties.

The BRI can contribute significantly to the Asean Connectivity Blueprint and help bridge the infrastructure gaps in the region. Singapore is well placed to accelerate the realisation of these projects through informed assessments. The possible services that the office can provide include devising businesses strategies and responses, building corporate and financing capabilities, sourcing project development opportunities for infrastructure and urban planning through joint-venture partnerships, and establishing overseas representative offices. In addition, Singapore's reputation as a country that promotes and upholds good relations with its neighbours will provide a neutral location for the office.

Through enhanced cooperation and integration, participating businesses from China and Asean can stand to gain from improved development. A prosperous Asean will become a more important market for Chinese products and services.

Singapore Business Federation (SBF) was the first to respond positively and strongly support the BRI by mobilising, sharing, exchanging BRI-related information and increasing the business community's awareness of China's BRI. These are done primarily through establishing platforms such as the annual Singapore Regional Business Forum (SRBF) and Belt and Road Digital Portal, and participating in BRI forums and seminars since 2014. During the 11th China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) in September 2014, the SBF chairman in his speech highlighted the importance and significance of MSR.

The SRBF was inaugurated in 2015 to serve as a high profile, neutral and constructive platform for regional business leaders, academia, and government officials to network and discuss current issues in today's global economy, with 21st Maritime Silk Road chosen as the theme.

It has been receiving strong support by the regional business community, with the participants increasing from 400 to 500 for the second SRBF held last year.

The 3rd Forum is scheduled to be held on Aug 15 this year with the theme Seizing Business Opportunities Through Regional Cooperation, incorporating an exciting lineup of programmes that includes the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signing ceremony, business matching, side meetings and networking among business leaders, launch of the Belt and Road English portal, and an inaugural regional business survey report under the BRI.

Jointly launched by SBF and Singapore Press Holding's Lianhe Zaobao (LHZB), the Belt and Road Digital Portal aims to help businesses better understand the initiative and seize opportunities arising from China's trade and economic development plan. According to the latest survey conducted by SBF, the Portal has been well received by the business community in Singapore, Asean and the Greater China Region, with readership hitting 7.8 million within one year of its official launch. To reach out to a wider audience, an English version of the portal is scheduled for launch in the second half of the year.

It is obvious therefore that huge opportunities exist for the business community to leverage. Not only is the business community wired to sense the potential of these trading relationships, it is also unburdened by diplomatic baggage. Nobody is asking the business community to take sides as part of some geopolitical balancing act.

Business can and must take the lead. Being a connector does not require us to compromise our founding principles. We should approach and engage; the stakes are simply too high.

China has charted the new trajectory for trade and investments with a grand vision and ambitious long-term plans; it is timely and opportune for us to work together to achieve more. As the old Chinese saying goes, "A nine-storey tower rises from a heap of earth; A journey of one thousand miles begins with the first step". Working together, we can progress collectively in an environment of stability, trust, confidence and prosperity.


The writer is chairman of the Singapore Business Federation

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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Singapore Law Watch
17 May 2017
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The war of the dual-class shares rages on in Singapore

Business Times
10 May 2017
Stefanie Yuen Thio

The battleground

On one side of the battlefield, positioned on the lofty heights of moral superiority, the asset managers (and academics) lob propaganda leaflets pointing out their greater firepower in the form of smug principle and the dollar value of their total assets under management (AUM).

Their opponents are a motley crew. There are the Startup Upstarts, whose uniform is expensive sneakers and untidy man-buns. There are also venture capitalists doling out "series A" funding, corporate finance professionals hardened by years of chronic shortages in the capital markets, and the random outspoken lawyer. They face a steep uphill charge because this is kiasu Singapore, where "don't rock the boat" is an operating principle. Retail investors will not hesitate to blame the government for their investment losses no matter how prominently the risk factors are highlighted.

The latest skirmish

In February this year, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) launched a consultation on dual-class shares (DCS), shortly after the Committee on the Future Economy recommended in its report that Singapore adopt this.

The objections have been swift and vociferous, coming largely from asset managers who typically hold significant but minority stakes and would naturally like to see the one-share-one-vote default continue. State Street Corporation and BlackRock, both heavy hitter investors, have voiced concerns.

The proponents of DCS, while not as organised, are equally impassioned. They include investment bankers who have seen the value of the stock market eroded by delistings - witness OSIM's recent "defection" to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange shortly after being privatised in Singapore. There are also investors and hedge funds who worry that Singapore is missing out on the wave of technology companies, and will dwindle into a stock exchange of Reits for retirees.

Blowing up the arguments

The main concern about DCS is the unequal voting power accorded to different share classes, and the potential for mismanagement and abuse. But to argue only the principle is to fence with ideas.

We are operating in a global market where DCS are a common feature in companies listed in the US, and the question facing us is whether we want to lose our homegrown success stories to a foreign exchange if the SGX does not permit DCS structures on its board.

Commentators say allowing DCS would open the floodgates to badly run companies. But history is full of examples of companies mismanaged without the help of dual-class structures. In 2005, China Aviation Oil's S$500 million fiasco caused by a rogue chief executive's forgery and insider trading shook corporate Singapore.

Purists will also argue that shares with different classes of rights are intrinsically bad. But preference shares, foreign tranche shares, management (golden) shares and share warrants have co-existed peaceably in our corporate eco-system, largely because investors understand that different rights attach to different types of securities.

Rather than a binary position of "yes" or "no", it may be more useful to consider if the SGX's framework of rigorous safeguards would be sufficient to protect investors. Would having DCS really open the floodgates?

Manchester United: Would history be re-written if DCS had been allowed in 2012?

The debate over DCS started when Manchester United wanted to list in Singapore. The Red Devils, denied their DCS goal, went public in the US in August 2012. Their IPO consisted of a vendor sale for the Glazer family, and a new share issue. This lined the Glazer family pockets, and allowed the company to pare down its debt. Under the company's voting structure, the Glazer family's shares had 10 times more voting power than shares in public hands. A successful IPO, reported the Financial Times, would see investors owning 42 per cent of the club's A shares but only 1.3 per cent of the voting rights. It is hard to see what the DCS structure achieved other than to entrench the rights of the major shareholders.

In my opinion, Man U would not have been a good candidate for listing even if the DCS framework had been in place in 2012.

Snap Inc: The case of disappearing shareholder rights

Another negative case in point is Snap Inc, the developer of the Snapchat app. Snap is the first NYSE listed company to issue shares with NO voting rights. The company's governance was disdained as "a banana republic approach", but its shares surged 40 per cent on its trading debut this year, giving it a valuation of US$30 billion, roughly twice the worth of Facebook.

Under the SGX's proposed DCS framework, Snap's founders would not be allowed to bang the opening gong in Singapore. Our rules would have disqualified the app developer as its shares would not have come within the maximum allowable voting differential prescribed.

Can Singapore afford to retire the field?

Singapore has publicly pinned its "future ready" strategy on embracing technology - implementing regulatory sandboxes for fintech, encouraging startups and most recently announcing a S$150 million investment in Artificial Intelligence. It would be market suicide to seed and nurture our homegrown unicorns, only to lose them when it is time for listing because we do not support DCS. Depressingly, Bloomberg reports that Garena, a Singapore online gaming portal and e-commerce provider, which it described as "South-east Asia's most valuable startup", is preparing to list in the US.

In any event, are DCS companies poison? Do asset managers, predicting the apocalyptic fallout of DCS, shun these investments?

Interestingly, based on public information, State Street Corp and Blackrock, opponents of DCS, are listed among the top five holders of institutional holdings in Facebook on Nasdaq.com. They are also invested in Alibaba, both well known for having special voting rights.

Aberdeen Asset Management Asia worries that DCS are a race to the bottom. Perhaps another way to look at it is this: if professional asset managers, notwithstanding their in-principle objections to DCS, feel that it is not commercially viable to avoid investing in companies with dual-class shares, can Singapore really afford to keep its doors closed to DCS?


The author is joint managing director of TSMP Law Corporation.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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23 May 2017
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Two men told to return $3m to late doctor's estate

Straits Times
16 May 2017
Selina Lum

Elderly woman with dementia lacked mental capacity to give away $5m to the defendants and her maid: Court

When a retired doctor was asked to subtract seven from 100, the octogenarian, who had dementia, answered 200.

The late Dr Freda Paul's inability to do simple arithmetic in December 2009 was cited by the High Court yesterday as a reason why it found that she lacked the mental capacity in 2010 to give away a total of $5 million to her maid, a construction worker and an engineer.

Judicial Commissioner Debbie Ong ordered construction worker Kulandaivelu Malayaperumal to return $2 million to Dr Paul's estate. Engineer Gopal Subramaniam was ordered to return about $912,000.

A default judgment had earlier been obtained against Sri Lankan maid Arulampalam Kanthimathy, who had received $2 million. She returned home in 2012.

The money came from the sale of Dr Paul's sole asset, a Haig Road bungalow that was sold in 2009 for $15.4 million.

"I do not think that Dr Paul would have had the capacity to appreciate property value and determine the distribution of sale proceeds, given her lack of arithmetic ability," said the Judicial Commissioner.

She found that the defendants had "supplied hindrances" to Dr Paul's independence in decision- making, cutting her off from her friends and relatives. She was also made to live in unclean conditions, including sleeping on newspapers spread out on the bed.

Dr Paul was a paediatrician at the Singapore General Hospital. She was single and died in August last year at the age of 87.

In the early 2000s, she befriended Mr Malayaperumal, a worker at a nearby construction site, and his supervisor, Mr Subramaniam. Both were from India.

In mid-2009, Mr Malayaperumal moved into her home.

Months later, she signed a power of attorney authorising Mr Subramaniam to sell the house and to buy a smaller one.

Before the house was sold, Dr Paul underwent a psychiatric assessment. She could not do simple arithmetic and could not recall the names of simple objects two minutes after she was told, but was certified fit to sell her house.

In 2010, Mr Subramaniam used the proceeds to pay $1 million to Mr Malayaperumal, $1 million to Ms Kanthimathy and $912,000 to himself. He used $2.4 million to buy a house in Ceylon Road for Dr Paul.

Six months later, Mr Malayaperumal and Ms Kanthimathy each received another $1 million.

Dr Paul also willed most of her assets to Mr Malayaperumal and Ms Kanthimathy, in stark contrast to her 2007 will in which she wished for the bulk of her wealth to be used to set up a bursary fund for needy female medical students at the National University of Singapore.

In 2013, her distant relatives, Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam and Dr Ruhunadevi Joshua, were appointed under the Mental Capacity Act to manage her affairs.

Suspecting that she had been exploited, they went to court to reinstate the terms in the 2007 will and filed a suit to recover the money.

Yesterday, their lawyer, Mr Herman Jeremiah, said the judgment "redresses in no small way the advantage that the defendants had taken of Dr Paul's vulnerability".

A successful recovery of the judgment sums would mean more money in the bursary fund to be set up in the name of Dr Paul, he said.


$2m

What maid Arulampalam Kanthimathy received.

$912k

What engineer Gopal Subramaniam received.

$2m

What construction worker Kulandaivelu Malayaperumal received.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Intellectual property: The next big thing in business

Straits Times
10 May 2017
Yasmine Yahya

IP isn't just for geeks and lawyers. Companies may have IP assets that can make a lot of money. Like the data-rich company that was sold for 32 times its operating profit

For many, the phrase "intellectual property" (IP) would probably bring to mind one of those ads we have been subjected to over the years each time we went to the cinema, about the horrors of film piracy.

Or perhaps one might recall any of several high-profile cases in which a giant corporation or famous artist managed to claim ownership over a pretty basic idea.

Like when Apple successfully obtained a patent so that nobody can ever make a product that is rectangular with rounded corners, or when Taylor Swift trademarked phrases such as "Nice to meet you, where you been?" from her song lyrics.

That's right. Swift could sue you if you use the phrase "This sick beat" in a song, poster or even on a removable tattoo, without her permission.

In short, IP can seem like scary stuff to mess with, the domain of multinationals, megastars and people with expensive law degrees.

But the Singapore Government would like you to know this: IP has a very benign side to it too. In fact, it would really like it if we got to know IP a little bit better.

"We have to stop seeing IP as a technical, legal thing that scares off anyone who's not a lawyer and who's not steeped in the technical IP world," Mr Daren Tang, the chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos), said at a media briefing two weeks ago.

"We have to make sure that people understand IP is of strategic importance to their business. We want business owners to be comfortable with IP."

He was speaking at an event to announce a whole new phase in Singapore's IP journey, one that includes the launch of a $1 billion Makara Innovation Fund, to invest in innovative companies with globally competitive IP.

As he pointed out, IP's role in the global economy is becoming more significant as, increasingly, the most innovative companies of the day are those that trade not in goods but in services, ideas, technology and data.

Kodak is out, Instagram is in.

The world's largest taxi company, Uber, does not own a single vehicle.

Singapore's own Razer, valued at US$1.5 billion (S$2.1 billion), sells computer gaming hardware, yet owns no land, factories or inventory.

What it does have, as Mr Tang noted at the briefing, is a portfolio of over 1,000 IPs - trademarks, designs and patents. "Razer is using IP not just to protect, enforce and ringfence, but to grow, acquire and become bigger," he said.

And as Singapore heads into the future, more companies have to do the same.

This was highlighted in February by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE), which noted in its report that economies that create, preserve and disseminate IP well are the ones that will turn out to be innovative and competitive.

IP: BREAKING IT DOWN

One of the big myths about IP is that it is created only within disruptive start-ups or huge multinationals with deep research and development (R&D) pockets.

Not so.

And many companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), do not know that they may be sitting on intangible assets of their own, much less that these could be their IP, off which they could make money.

Mr Paul Adams, the chief executive of intangible asset specialist EverEdge Global, said he recently dealt with a company that had been around for 30 years and was in the process of being sold.

The business owners had been advised by other consultants that the company would likely garner a sale price amounting to about four times its operating profit.

"But when we looked at their business, we realised that there was a very valuable asset that nobody had realised was there - the data," Mr Adams said.

Over the past 30 years the company had collected a lot of data related to its particular area of business. "So we helped to run that sales process, focusing on the value of the data, and we targeted buyers that might not be interested in buying the company per se but who would really want that data, and we ended up selling that business for 32 times operating profit."

Other companies may be fully aware of the assets in their hands, but face different stumbling blocks.

"It's one thing to come up with an idea, it's quite another to turn that into a successful, growing business," Mr Adams noted.

"So what you find a lot of the time is that, for example, people will come up with a great idea for a product or service and they will charge out into the market without thinking, 'What's the best way of protecting this? If we deploy this in the market, how do we ensure that people don't simply copy it?'"

Others might charge into a new geographical market without checking to see whether there are any IP risks - does their product or service infringe on the IP of a company already in that market, for example?

IP: GAPS IN ECOSYSTEM AND A THREE-PRONGED SOLUTION

These problems reflect some of the gaps in Singapore's IP ecosystem.

Mr Tang describes the healthy IP life cycle within a company or a nation thus: They have ideas that they research which become IP, that become products and services that go out to market, generating revenue, which then goes back into R&D reinvestment.

"Singapore has done well in the top half of this cycle - we have built a great R&D ecosystem in the last 20 years and we are the top-ranked IP regime in Asia but what we need to focus on going ahead is the latter part of the cycle, dealing with IP commercialisation," he noted.

"How do we translate all this IP into things that can go out to the market and create companies, create jobs and drive the economy?"

The solution, he said, is three-pronged:

Build a pipeline of IP experts with an understanding of law, technology and business, who can help companies unlock their intangible assets and get the right IP strategy in place,

Change the general mindset towards IP - it is not just a legal right that should be enforced and respected, but also a business strategy, and

Bring together financiers, IP professionals, lawyers and other experts to create that flow in the innovation cycle.

Ipos' big event two weeks ago laid out how it is taking some of the first steps towards this vision.

It announced, for example, that Ipos and the Ministry of Law have updated the IP Hub Master Plan. It aims to double the number of skilled IP experts in Singapore to 1,000 and train more working professionals in IP-related issues, so they can help their companies on this matter.

IP ValueLab, the enterprise- engagement arm of Ipos, has begun collaborating with EverEdge, aiming to reach out to more than 150 local companies over the next three years to provide intensive and customised assistance on such issues - IP strategy, management and commercialisation - and help them with their long-term expansion plans.

Meanwhile, the $1 billion Makara Innovation Fund, a partnership between Ipos and home-grown private equity firm Makara Capital, marries Ipos' expertise in IP with that of private equity specialists, to source companies that have strong intellectual property internationally.

The fund will invest $30 million to $150 million each in 10 to 15 young companies that have high-growth potential and own globally competitive technologies, helping them use Singapore as a launchpad from which to grow regionally.

More initiatives will follow.

In its February report, the CFE recommended, for example, developing a standardised IP protocol for all public agencies and publicly-funded research performers, to simplify the commercialisation process.

This is in the works, Mr Tang said.

So the time is ripe for Singaporeans to get over the simplistic understanding of IP as something only to be concerned about if you are watching a pirated film. If these moves are any indication, it may not be too long before IP becomes the next hot trend to jump on.


COMMERCIALISATION OF IP

Singapore has done well in the top half of this cycle - we have built a great R&D ecosystem in the last 20 years and we are the top-ranked IP regime in Asia but what we need to focus on going ahead is the latter part of the cycle, dealing with IP commercialisation. How do we translate all this IP into things that can go out to the market and create companies, create jobs and drive the economy?

MR DAREN TANG, the chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos).

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Boosting energy efficiency to curb carbon emissions

Straits Times
22 May 2017
Audrey Tan

Floods, heatwaves and other disasters induced by climate change have been plaguing the world for years.

But only in December 2015 did countries agree to tackle it, after decades of wrangling. The historic event in Paris saw delegates from nearly 200 countries - including Singapore - agreeing to go on a carbon diet.

The pact, the first universal, legally binding climate deal, came into force on Nov 4 last year, and aims to keep the global temperature rise this century to below 2 deg C.

Under the pact, Singapore pledged to become greener economically and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to achieve each dollar of gross domestic product by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, come 2030. It also pledged to stop any further increases to its greenhouse gas emissions by the same timeline.

Last July, Singapore unveiled its plan to meet its targets.

A pivotal strategy is to cut carbon emissions by improving energy efficiency across all sectors, namely power generation, industry, buildings, transport, households, waste and water.

Singapore has moved to do it on all fronts.

Changes made to the Energy Conservation Act in Parliament last month will require large polluters to step up green efforts or face higher penalties.

Companies have to adopt a structured measurement and reporting system for their greenhouse gas emissions - a move that will pave the way for the carbon tax scheme that the Government plans to impose in 2019.

Large emitters - such as power stations, refineries and petrochemical and semiconductor manufacturers - will likely be taxed in the range of $10 to $20 per tonne ofgreenhouse gases they produce.

For vehicles, the National Environment Agency has introduced a new Vehicular Emissions Scheme , starting on Jan 1 next year. It will be much stricter on carbon dioxide emissions and will include checks on four other pollutants: hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

National water agency PUB is also testing new technologies that will help cut energy use in water-treatment processes.

Besides curbing emissions, Singapore's climate action plan will also set out ways for the country to deal with climate change in six areas, including coastal protection, managing the water supply and improving food supply resilience.

For example, one project is to build Changi Airport's Terminal 5 at 5.5m above the mean sea level - higher than the level that PUB stipulates for other areas in Singapore. This measure is to protect against floods.

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Injunction hearing on Rickmers' proposed US$113m asset sale adjourned

Business Times
16 May 2017
Tan Hwee Hwee

Singapore's High Court on Monday adjourned for a week the hearing of an injunction filed by a noteholder against the proposed US$113 million sale of the entire fleet of insolvent shipping trust Rickmers Maritime.

The injunction has been filed by a single noteholder. Being the first legal proceeding of its kind commenced against a listed shipping trust in Singapore, this may turn out to be a test case of how far noteholders can push for recourse against insolvent entities.

Rickmers Trust Management said that the hearing has been adjourned to May 22 with directions to the parties to exchange affidavits before the new hearing date. Also, no interim injunction was ordered pending the adjourned hearing.

BT understands that the adjournment was granted after Rickmers Maritime sought time to respond to the summons which was served on the trust on May 12. The trustee-manager had said that the injunction application - by noteholder Peter Kwok Kian Tow - was completely unanticipated by the trust.

The injunction, though filed in Mr Kwok's name, represented the legal action pursued by a group of noteholders who acted on the advice of their lawyers, a statement issued to BT said.

This group argued that Rickmers Maritime's proposed deal with Navios Maritime Partners LP would see all vessels held by the trust sold at "a steeply under-valued price" that is "significantly detrimental" to noteholders.

Noteholders said that Navios' offered price of US$113 million compared unfavourably against an estimated valuation of US$137.6 million from Vesselsvalue for the trust's vessels.

They also pointed out that Rickmers Maritime's proposed sale to Navios would result in upfront cash recoveries of just a fraction of the approximate "8 per cent to 10 per cent" the shipping trust claimed may go towards unsecured creditors.

Instead of the lump-sum sale, they argued for the winding up of the shipping trust "in an orderly manner" so that positive cash-accretive long-term contracts on five of the 14 vessels in the fleet can run their full course. Under this scenario, they estimated the returns to noteholders will far exceed what the shipping trust estimated to be recoverable as upfront cash for unsecured creditors.

A group of about 40 noteholders have already raised some of these issues in a correspondence addressed to the board of directors of Rickmers Maritime Trust on May 9. But in a May 12 response sent to the noteholders, the management allegedly asked noteholders "to wait for the announcement after the completion of the sale to Navios" and "rejected any request for meeting".

Noteholders thus pointed to a lack of communication from the trustee-manager of the process leading to the proposed sale to Navios and the distribution of sale proceeds.

Rickmers Maritime, in a statement to BT, counter-argued that the proposed disposal of the vessels to Navios was part of the trust's winding-up process, "which was made in light of an unsuccessful restructuring given no other possible alternatives to restructure the trust's debt".

The shipping trust was referring to its failed bid to win noteholders' approval for a debt-to-equity swap tabled for a proposed notes restructuring exercise. This was the pre-condition set by the trust's senior lenders in extending support to restructuring the outstanding bank loans.

It reiterated that the Navios transaction was the only deal on the table and that it would allow the trustee-manager to meet the objective of delivering upfront cash value on an accelerated basis to all creditors.

It also cited the trust's acute liquidity position as heightening the possibility of vessels on the fleet being arrested by creditors.

Beyond this sparring of words, the verdict on this injunction filed by noteholders against a shipping trust may guide the legal remit of future notes restructuring exercises.

Robson Lee, partner of law firm Gibson Dunn, said: "This is probably the first test-case for the court to decide if a noteholder of a registered business trust has the locus standi (or the rights) to take direct legal action against the trustee-manager."

Singapore's Business Trust Act does not make any provision for noteholders of notes issued by a registered trust to pursue legal actions against the trustee-manager, quite unlike unitholders, Mr Lee explained.

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YuuZoo seeks legal advice on former exec

Business Times
10 May 2017
Kenneth Lim

YuuZoo Corp is seeking legal advice on the statements and actions of former group financial controller Thai Youn Fatt after his exit from the company, the social commerce company announced on Tuesday.

YuuZoo said that Mr Thai's service was terminated on May 3 due to "generally unacceptable behaviour in the workplace", and alleged that Mr Thai had harassed other staff.

The company also noted that Mr Thai had signed a termination letter acknowledging and accepting the reasons for his firing, as well as a confirmation that he "did not and does not have any issues, problems with or concerns in relation to the company's accounts, accounting records or accounting policies".

Mr Thai had previously disputed YuuZoo's characterisation of his actions while employed there as "harassment", saying that if he had rubbed any co-workers the wrong way, it was while investigating possible wrongdoing.

He told The Business Times that he had submitted a resignation letter before his service was terminated.

He also said that he was willing to sign the termination letter because the company was paying him two months' salary, which YuuZoo executive chairman Thomas Ziliacus described as a goodwill exit payment.

YuuZoo is currently in the midst of its annual audit, which is being performed by RT.

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Heritage East condo MC has 4 months to fix carpark system

Straits Times
22 May 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Frustrated by an 18-month shutdown of a Katong condo's faulty mechanised carpark system, a resident sought redress from the Strata Titles Board.

Last month, the board gave the Heritage East's management council (MC) a four-month deadline to fix the system.

The board, which heard the application of Ms Ker Lee Ping, rued the "unsatisfactory" situation.

"(It) is in contradiction to the (MC)'s mandatory statutory duty to maintain the common property in a state of good and serviceable repair," said the board in decision grounds issued last month.

Ms Ker had sought an order for the MC to rectify the system and pay damages for her loss of use of the carpark, estimated at $20.42 per day.

After hearings earlier this year, the board, presided by Mr Alfonso Ang, ordered the MC to restore the system, pointing to its duty under the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act. But it dismissed Ms Ker's claim for damages.

Ms Ker, through her lawyer Joel Quah, argued that failure to repair the system caused severe inconvenience at the condo, a multi-storey apartment block off East Coast Road near Telok Kurau.

The condo has a fully automated mechanised carpark that is built within a unique twin tower structure - served by a common lift transporter - and contains 34 of the condo's 39 parking spaces.

In September 2015, water from a fire sprinkler that was activated by smoke from a condo unit resulted in the carpark being shut down for the second time in three years and it has remained closed ever since.

Ms Ker added that the temporary parking arrangements posed safety hazards as these temporary spaces allowed cars to be parked at places which blocked "crucial firefighting points".

The board heard that the MC had entered into negotiations with the carpark's sole agent, Chris-Ray Engineering, for the restoration works, but these came to a standstill as both parties could not agree on maintenance terms.

The MC, through its lawyer Simon Tan, denied it had been negligent, pointing to its earnest efforts, such as seeking the expertise of third parties and other temporary measures.

The board observed that after the carpark had been shut down, the MC had taken various steps to restore the system, including directly contacting the China-based manufacturer's engineers to restore the system.

But the MC had difficulty getting the help of manufacturer Hangzhou Xizi-IUK Parking Systems and as the system was password protected, third-party contractors could not get it restored, noted the board.

Making clear that its role was not to adjudge or get embroiled in the contractual spat between the MC and Chris-Ray, the board stressed that such disputes cannot justify the MC's "inordinate delay in restoring the carpark to working condition".

"Such matters cannot be left in a limbo until the (MC) finds, at its own time and pace, a solution. The (MC), having taken one year and six months (and counting) in attempting to resolve the matter, reflects a lack of a sense of urgency on their part in tackling the problem."

The board called for the MC to explore other options instead of becoming embroiled in disputes with Chris-Ray. It also ordered the MC to pay $5,000 in costs to Ms Ker and her filing fees for the case to be heard by the board.

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Insurers dragging their feet over new accounting standard: PwC

Business Times
16 May 2017
Claire Huang

Time is running out for insurers here and abroad who have been slow to prepare for the reforms that are on the cards to improve transparency and comparability of profit reporting.

The new accounting standard, International Finance Reporting Standard or IFRS 17, may only take effect from Jan 1, 2021, but PwC Singapore said insurers have little time and much to do to update existing systems and prepare their staff for the inevitable reforms. IFRS 7 is to be issued sometime in May this year by the global accounting rule maker, International Accounting Standards Board (IASB),

Chen Voon Hoe, accounting and reporting advisory leader at PwC Singapore noted that insurers here have been slow to move as they are "still in denial" and some are hopeful that the changes will be delayed.

The problem with this is that the bigger players need at least three to four years to get ready for the changes, while it is easily a two-year exercise for smaller insurers to review contracts, quantify the impact, make accounting decisions, before they decide on tweaks to current systems, he explained.

Given that insurers' products are "bespoke", there is no off-the-shelf solution available in the market that can facilitate the transformation to IFRS 17, he said, adding that insurers can work with partners and vendors to develop such solutions tailored to their needs.

In the works for more than a decade, IFRS 17 aims to provide some form of consistency as to how all insurers classify and measure insurance contracts - something that is now lacking.

The new standard is also expected to give clarity on where changes in an insurer's profit in a certain year are coming from, Mr Chen said.

IFRS 17 will require current valuation of all insurance liabilities, not just life, but also non-life. The intention is to increase comparability between insurers themselves, as well as between insurance and other parts of the financial industry such as banks and asset management.

But insurers, worried about the greater volatility in their profit and loss statements and greater scrutiny on some of their products, have been resistant to the changes.

PwC Singapore's insurance industry leader Woo Shea Leen told The Business Times that insurers are concerned about the granularity required under IFRS 17, particularly for participating funds, which they have argued, goes against the concept of risk pooling.

The problem is compounded as insurers' existing systems "will not be able to cope with the changes", Mr Chen said, adding that this is because their accounting, actuarial and underwriting systems are not equipped to generate data with the level of granularity required.

Another obstacle, said Ang Sock Sun, regulatory advisory services partner at PwC Singapore, is the issue of retrospective adjustments.

"Life policies can be incepted 20, 30 years ago and IFRS 17 will require insurers to go back to 20, 30 years ago to assess the implications arising from the standard. The key question will be - is the data available? How do they get around it in terms of retrospective adjustments?" she said.

The new standard, which is already proving to be a massive challenge for the industry, is also expected to be an expensive affair.

For a global insurer, total implementation cost of IFRS 17 including accounting, actuarial modelling and finance transformation, is estimated to range from "at least hundreds of millions", PwC said.

In Singapore, insurers' tax assessments are carried out based largely on their regulatory returns and these are similar to that in their financial statements. But these elements will change under IFRS 17.

Ms Woo pointed out that regulators here will continue to work on the revised risk-based capital framework or RBC 2 independent of IFRS 17. "Now IRAS (Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore) is using both to assess tax. Going forward, if the divergence continues, how will it assess tax?"

Despite the overwhelming issues, the new standard is expected to create jobs in the industry, PwC said.

This, as resources such as finance transformation talent, accounting technicals and actuaries who can run required models, will be in demand, even as the training of staff on the new standard is an uphill task.

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Tan Cheng Bock goes to court over reserved election

Straits Times
09 May 2017
Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock has filed an application in the High Court to question the Government's decision to reserve the upcoming presidential election for Malay candidates.

He wants the court to decide if the Government's counting of the five presidential terms needed to trigger a reserved election is consistent with constitutional amendments to the elected presidency.

In his application, which includes a statement from top British constitutional lawyer David Pannick, Dr Tan contends that the counting of five terms should start with Mr Ong Teng Cheong. The Government had started counting from the term of Mr Wee Kim Wee, the first president vested with the powers of the elected presidency.

A Supreme Court spokesman said yesterday that the High Court had accepted Dr Tan's filings on Section 22 of the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Act 2017.

In a Facebook post last night, Dr Tan , 77, said he filed the application last Friday, and a pre-trial conference has been fixed for May 22.

His legal challenge follows a press conference in March, when he spoke on the Government's decision to implement changes to the elected presidency this year.

Last November, Parliament passed changes to the Constitution to ensure the presidency reflects Singapore's multiracial society. A provision was included for presidential elections to be reserved for candidates from a racial group that has not been represented in the office for five continuous terms.

In January, the Presidential Elections Act was amended. The Government, on the advice of the Attorney-General (A-G), started counting the five terms from Mr Wee, who was in office when the elected presidency took effect in 1991. After him were Mr Ong; Mr S R Nathan, who served two terms; and current President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

At the March press conference, Dr Tan called on the Government to refer its decision to the courts, saying: "I am concerned that the changes were introduced to prevent my candidacy."

He had announced his second bid last year, while a review of the elected presidency was ongoing.

Yesterday, he said he had not heard from the Government about the points he raised.

"Since this is a matter of national importance, I sought to find the legal answer and consulted the best constitutional lawyer I could find," he added.

He turned to Lord Pannick, a Queen's Counsel who is also a member of the House of Lords.

Dr Tan said he sent Lord Pannick, among others, the report by the Constitutional Commission that reviewed the elected presidency, the Government's White Paper on its recommendations, and parliamentary reports.

He said Lord Pannick disagreed with the A-G's advice, and said Section 22 of the Act was unconstitutional. "I could not keep his legal opinion to myself. It would be in the public interest to have the court decide which legal view is correct," he said.

Lord Pannick led the successful legal challenge to stop British Prime Minister Theresa May from triggering Britain's exit from the European Union without a vote in Parliament.

Dr Tan is represented by law firm Tan Rajah & Cheah.

"I believe this question can be answered without confrontation or hostility. Both the Government and I have the nation's best interest at heart. It is in nobody's interest to have a reserved election that is unconstitutional," he said.

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Ex-detainees launch book to mark 1987 arrests, call for ISA to be abolished

Straits Times
22 May 2017
Danson Cheong

A group of former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees have launched a book to mark the 30th anniversary of their arrests, and called for the ISA to be abolished.

The former detainees are part of a group of 22 activists rounded up under Operation Spectrum in 1987 for being part of what the Government called a Marxist plot aimed at overthrowing it.

The book titled 1987: Singapore's Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On, was launched at an event at The Projector cinema at Golden Mile Tower yesterday afternoon, organised by civil society group Function 8.

It contains essays from 36 contributors, including detainees who detailed their experience being interrogated and detained without trial.

A documentary on the events surrounding the arrests titled 1987: Untracing The Conspiracy was screened before the launch.

Among the 200 people present were civil society activists and opposition politicians, including Workers' Party MP Chen Show Mao and Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan.

After the film screening, four former detainees - Ms Low Yit Leng, in her 50s; Ms Chng Suan Tze, 68; Mr Vincent Cheng, 70; and Mr Kenneth Tsang, 64 - took questions from the audience.

"After all the experiences that we have, even 30 years after the episode, we (Singapore) still are not in any way attempting to abolish the ISA," said Mr Cheng.

Mr Tsang said Singapore should learn from Asian countries such as South Korea and Taiwan, which have become "great powerhouses" both economically and in terms of democratic freedoms.

Other civil society activists also spoke, among them historian Thum Ping Tjin, who urged the Government to release evidence for the Operation Spectrum arrests.

He said: "Thirty years is a reasonable amount of time where we begin to get perspective on the past."

In their statement released yesterday, the former detainees of Operation Spectrum also elaborated on their call to abolish the ISA.

"Many have been forced into exile because of the fear of arrest and the terrible prospect of indefinite detention without trial," they said, calling on the Government to allow political exiles to return home.

The Government had previously said that it would not scrap the ISA as it remained "relevant and crucial" to keep the country safe and secure.

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Govt has duty to ensure consistency when upgrading laws, penalties: Voices

TODAY
16 May 2017

It is natural for citizens to compare sentences for similar offences, especially high-profile cases, though they have limited knowledge of the legal niceties or technicalities.

The public expects consistent law enforcement and sentencing, although their perception of consistency could differ from that of judges.

And in “Penalties for crime must reflect public opinion: Shanmugam” (April 24), the Law and Home Affairs Minister was attending to the disquiet among citizens about what they believe is inconsistent in the legal system.

The Government has a duty to update and improve the legal system, considering changes in technology and in sociopolitical and economic settings, as well as citizens’ expectations of a fair system. Other steps may also help us to achieve this.

Judges could make the decision-making process more transparent by pointing out precedents or benchmarks they used or did not use.

Prosecutors should challenge judgments if they find the penalties to be inconsistent with precedents for similar cases.

If more objective analyses of cases are done and published in various media, citizens would gain a better perspective on our legal system and the judicial process.

The Government’s credibility is also at stake if it does not address public concern over the consistency issue.

It should constantly review whether a law contains loopholes or inadequacies and make amendments whenever necessary via our parliamentary mechanism.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

MPs get more time to consider Bills, amendments

Straits Times
09 May 2017
Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

Changes will help strike a balance between different demands on parliamentary time

Members of Parliament will have more time to consider Bills and amendments after Parliament yesterday unanimously accepted changes to the rules governing proceedings and conduct in the House.

There will now be a minimum 10 full working days between the introduction of a Bill and its debate, instead of seven days.

Among other things, Parliament can also choose to consider petitions together with the related Bill or motion, instead of sending it to the Public Petitions Committee.

Leader of the House Grace Fu said the changes to the Standing Orders would refine a system that has worked well, and help strike a balance between the different demands on parliamentary time.

Some of the changes also flesh out constitutional amendments to the elected presidency passed last year.

Over the past 10 years, the average time taken for parliamentary sittings has crept up. Between 2006 and 2011, each sitting lasted 5 hours and 8 minutes on average.This has gone up to 6 hours and 23 minutes in the current term of Parliament.

Ms Fu said the increase was not a matter of serious concern, noting that it is a result of having more MPs and also more complex issues facing the country.

But she urged MPs to keep speeches short, saying: "Good time management does not mean that members should pull their punches or mute their criticisms of government policy. But it does require members to focus and deliver their key points succinctly and sharply."

On the rules to do with the elected presidency, Ms Fu said they dealt with two narrow, procedural issues.

One requires that the Clerk of Parliament publish a notice in the Hansard and the Gazette if the President fails to exercise his custodial powers on measures passed by the House, such as Supply Bills, within the prescribed time limits.

Under the Constitution, the President is deemed to have agreed with the proposed measure if he does not decide within the time limit.

The other procedure concerns Parliament's power to overrule the President if he exercises his veto power against the advice of the Council of Presidential Advisers.

In such a situation, the President's grounds and the council's recommendations must be made available to Parliament for at least two full working days, to give MPs time to study them before a motion is moved to override the President.

Ms Fu said yesterday's debate was not about amendments to the elected presidency, which were passed last year and came into force last month. She added: "We had hearings and a report by the Constitutional Commission, a White Paper in Parliament, and a full debate in Parliament last November. The opposition made its points, and the Government responded."

Speaking on the motion, Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) noted that the change in the rule regarding petitions would allow them to be considered more fully.

But Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) said it must not be seen to curtail the public petition process.

Ms Fu said there were now two avenues for petitions to be considered, adding that it would be advantageous for Parliament to consider all the different viewpoints.

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) questioned a rule relating to parliamentary questions. MPs must indicate within an hour whether they want their questions postponed or withdrawn if they were not answered during question time.

He asked if postponed questions will be prioritised in the next sitting.

To this, Ms Fu said: "There's actually no rocket science involved in the sequencing. If there are lots of questions on the topic, they get put in front. If a question concerns a topical issue, it gets put in front. And a balance is struck between questions from all sides of the House."

Ms Fu also announced that the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) is starting a project in July to make available tracked changes when Bills are drafted. This will more clearly show which parts of the main Act are being changed.

The AGC will review its usefulness before making it a permanent arrangement, she said.


RIGHT FOCUS

Good time management does not mean that members should pull their punches or mute their criticisms of government policy. But it does require members to focus and deliver their key points succinctly and sharply.''

LEADER OF THE HOUSE AND MINISTER FOR CULTURE, COMMUNITY AND YOUTH GRACE FU

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Singapore joins global panel to regulate drone use

Straits Times
22 May 2017
Karamjit Kaur

Set up by UN civil aviation arm, 15-member group aims to develop framework to address stakeholders' concerns

Singapore has joined a 15-member group set up by the United Nations' civil aviation arm to draw up global rules and regulations for the safe use of unmanned aircraft, including drones.

The team, formed last year, comprises eight countries, including the United States, France and China, as well as industry bodies like the global pilots' association.

Singapore is an "active member" of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Advisory Group, a spokesman for the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) told The Straits Times.

In December last year, the group came up with an online toolkit to provide the aviation authorities and regulators with information on unmanned aircraft and how they can be safely operated.

The next step is to develop a more comprehensive global framework that will address concerns that pilots and other stakeholders might have.

"In the near future, an overhead drone delivery or even a flying taxi may enter your daily life," said the ICAO.

"It's in everyone's interest to determine sooner rather than later how and where they can safely operate, so as to minimise all related noise and privacy concerns."

The sooner this framework is agreed upon internationally, the sooner the industry will be able to align their developing UAS businesses within harmonised systems, the ICAO said.

These and other topics will be up for discussion at a symposium which will be held in Montreal, Canada, in September.

In Singapore, where the rules for operating such systems were tightened a few years ago, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has recorded 103 violations since June 2015.

Mr Tan Kah Han, senior director for safety regulation and director for airworthiness and flight operations at the CAAS, said that such incidents typically involve flying within 5km of aerodromes, which is not allowed, and flying within restricted and security-sensitive areas without a permit.

The authority has also received four reports from pilots sighting such activity near Changi and Seletar airports.

So far, the CAAS has issued several warnings and suspended permits for some operators, Mr Tan said.

In general, permits are required for flying unmanned systems that are heavier than 7kg.

For lighter drones, approval is needed if these are operated for business purposes or within restricted zones.

Since June 2015, more than 2,300 applications for permits have been received, said the CAAS.

More than eight in 10 were for the purposes of aerial photography, videography, surveillance or inspections, Mr Tan said.

Those who operate without the required permits can be fined up to $20,000.

Repeat offenders can be fined up to $40,000 and jailed for up to 15 months.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Don't study law

Straits Times
16 May 2017
Simon Chesterman

Dear Simon,

Don't study law.

I mean it. Law is hard. Law is rarely fulfilling. And there's a reason people make jokes about lawyers having a chasm that separates their head from their heart.

You most certainly shouldn't study law just because you got the grades. A fistful of As could equally see you pursue politics or literature, business or science. Medicine maybe. (Ah, but you had to drop chemistry, didn't you?) Remember the time you thought seriously about enrolling in veterinary science just because it had the highest cut-off? Don't. Do. It.

Don't study law for the money. You've met enough lawyers already who earn big salaries without having time to spend them; lawyers who hit a mid-life crisis at 35, with an eye to a heart attack by 50.

Also, don't study law because you hope to be powerful. Lawyers can have influence, yes, but it can be baleful as well as beneficent. Carl Schmitt was a law professor, after all.

And for heaven's sake don't study law because you think you will earn respect. See the earlier reference to lawyer jokes. (For example: What's the difference between a jellyfish and a lawyer? One's a spineless, poisonous blob. The other is a form of sea life.)

So, instead, study something in which you are interested, about which you are passionate, and through which you think you can make a difference.

Really? You still think that might be law? You're even more stubborn than you are now.

Fine.

If you must study law, then do it because you want to understand how power in society is held to account. The rule of law stands between organised society and the rule of the jungle. One day, even as great a country as the United States may find that the rule of law is the only protection against a reality TV star who becomes its 45th President. (I know you haven't heard of reality TV yet - you aren't missing much.)

Study law because you love what it entails: doctrines that confront all the vagaries of human experience, theories seeking to uncover hidden forces that shape those doctrines, the strategies and tactics of legal practice. Law in the books as well as law in action. Language that proves on a daily basis that the pen is mightier than the sword because we as a community choose to believe it to be so. Then focus your research on the hardest of those cases, where rulers turn on the ruled, where the institutions of society break down, and the bonds of human civilisation are revealed to be at their weakest. Ethnic cleansing is another term that hasn't yet been invented, but it will be when genocide returns to Europe in a few years.

And, despite all this, keep on studying law. Research, teach, practise in the hope that doing so might make the world a little safer, a little more just. Remember that, even as a student, you can help in the Aboriginal Tutorial Assistance Scheme and by volunteering at the Fitzroy Legal Service. When you get the chance, encourage more and more students to do pro bono work. (You might think it's an oxymoron to make pro bono work compulsory, but keep an open mind about that.)

Above all, never stop questioning why you chose law, and what the privilege of being offered such a choice now obliges you to do next.

Cheers, Simon

p.s. The 4D numbers for May 10, 2017 will be 0563. Just saying.


The writer is dean and professor at the National University of Singapore faculty of law. Letters of the Law is a student-led initiative that aims to promote positivity in the legal community. The website publishes letters written by law graduates to their younger selves, and can be found at www.lettersofthelaw.org.

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Apex court to hear City Harvest case on Aug 1

Straits Times
09 May 2017
Selina Lum

The case involving the misuse of millions in City Harvest Church funds, which has landed founder Kong Hee and others in jail, will be heard by a five-judge Court of Appeal on Aug 1.

The criminal reference for the case has been fixed for hearing before Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Judith Prakash, and Justices Belinda Ang, Quentin Loh and Chua Lee Ming, a Supreme Court spokesman said in response to queries from The Straits Times.

The decision of the court is final.

Last month, Kong and five others had their jail terms slashed for criminal breach of trust (CBT) by the High Court.

They were cleared of the more serious form of CBT as agents and instead found guilty simply of CBT.

As a result, their initial jail terms of between 21 months and eight years were reduced to between seven months and 3½ years.

Prosecutors then applied for a rarely invoked criminal reference, to seek a definitive ruling on questions of law of public interest as well as to ask the apex court to reinstate the original convictions.

Kong, 52, deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng, 44, former finance manager Serina Wee, 40, former finance committee member John Lam, 49, and former finance manager Sharon Tan, 41, started serving their jail terms on April 21.

Former fund manager Chew Eng Han, 56, was allowed to suspend his sentence. He has applied for permission to file his own criminal reference covering 10 broad areas, including the meaning of misappropriation. Chew's application is fixed for hearing in early July.

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Commentary: Can governments stop fake news?

TODAY
22 May 2017
Han Fook Kwang

Fake news is in the news, again. This time it is mostly about governments planning to introduce new laws and penalties to stop their spread.

The German authorities are targeting Internet giants like Facebook, and plan to require them to take action against fake news posted on their sites failing which fines of up to 500,000 euros can be imposed.

In Britain, there is a parliamentary committee looking into the issue. The Singapore Government announced last month it is studying the matter and looks likely to introduce new laws. Why are governments stepping in, and will they succeed?

Their concerns have mounted following the presidential election in the United States where the volume and intensity of fake news reached new heights.

Even more alarming for them was the possibility that foreign governments might have been involved in attempts to influence the outcome of the polls. While there has been no conclusive evidence of this, the mere suggestion that future elections anywhere could be similarly targeted has made governments anxious to be seen doing something. So, what can they do?

An obvious target are the large social media sites like Facebook, Google and Youtube. These platforms are powerful aggregators of news – genuine and fake – and spread them virally through users posting and re-posting them.

It has been reported, for example, that the fake news of Pope Francis endorsing the American presidential candidate Donald Trump was shared on Facebook a million times.

By focusing their attention on these companies, governments hope to use their resources and technical know-how. They know their own capabilities are limited, and, in any case, many of the questionable sites are based outside their jurisdiction. Faced with impending new legislation, these tech giants will want to be seen responding though their actions are unlikely to amount to much.

So far the plans they have announced are mainly about flagging dubious content. But it is a laborious process trying to verify the spurious deluge and they will end up with token efforts on a handful of the most blatant cases.

You can be sure, though, even these will find their way elsewhere, somewhere, somehow in the vast expanding cyberspace.

In fact, Facebook isn’t the most prodigious multiplier of news. The distinction belongs to instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Line and others.

They are harder to police because they do not operate any sites, only multitudes of chat groups formed and re-formed instantly.

But there is a more fundamental reason why government action is unlikely to succeed. It is that fake news is not like an illegal product bought and sold on the quiet, like fake watches or illicit drugs and firearms. If it were, it can be dealt with similarly, with laws, enforcement and public vigilance.

Fake news is loud and wants to attract attention to itself and is happily passed around not by misfits and people on the fringe but the average citizen of the online world.

UP AGAINST THE INFORMATION REVOLUTION

To understand why this has happened, you have to understand the revolution that has taken place in information and communication which has completely upended the traditional world.

Much has been written about this new media landscape that has made news and information available to everyone 24/7, turned mainstream media business on its head, removed the traditional gatekeepers of information and made authorities everywhere more accountable for their words and action than ever before.

But the more profound effect has been on how people consume and respond to news and information.

They no longer do so passively but want to be active participants, posting and re-posting them to their social circles, acting as gatekeepers.

They become active filters, deciding what to pass on and what to suppress depending on their interests and biases. What drives this transformation from passive consumers to active broadcasters? It comes from the greater autonomy and independence from authority the digital world confers to everyone.

People everywhere have embraced this freedom and made use of it in many ways. Much of it is highly positive, in commerce, education, social activism and community building. Of course, there is also more pornography, Internet scams and hate content than ever before. But the good overwhelmingly surpass the bad.

Think back, for example, on your own experience online over the past 24 hours and it is likely you wouldn’t want to go back to pre-revolutionary time, even with all the unsavoury parts included. In this milieu, enter so-called fake news.

But what is fake? It comes in all shapes and sizes, from the ridiculous to the sick and harmful. For example, there are countless versions of how using your mobile phone can fry your brain cells.

Or conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre being the work of US intelligence to create an excuse to attack Islamic terrorists.

There is a lot of it going round every day, with or without an important election happening, and they exist alongside all the other stuff that inform, educate and entertain.

But they have not slowed down the popularity of the online world because the consumer decides what to do with them – whether to delete, filter or re-broadcast it.

And in deciding, it reinforces his or her sense of autonomy and independence, and they will not give that up lightly. Government action to censor or filter, on the other hand, subtract from this freedom.

Tech companies know this, which is why they have confined their action so far to only checking and flagging the more questionable material. But it also means their impact will be limited.

It is important for governments to understand this when they think about what action to take. The reality is that they will be not just be taking on the producers of fake news but the millions of consumers who want to be their own gatekeepers. That’s the real revolution that has taken place. It is not fake.


Han Fook Kwang is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He is also Editor-at-Large with The Straits Times. This piece first appeared in RSIS Commentary.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

ADV: SAL - Senior Executive / Executive (Academy Administration), Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy (Sidra)

Singapore Law Watch
16 May 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

Call for Asean to work on dispute resolution

Straits Times
09 May 2017
Charmaine Ng

Asean needs to develop a more comprehensive way to resolve disputes, said senior Singapore diplomat and former Asean chief Ong Keng Yong.

This includes reviewing and making recommendations to improve a 2004 protocol, which covered enhanced dispute settlement mechanisms to resolve economic disputes, said Mr Ong, who headed Asean from 2003 to 2008.

Another way is to ensure that a 2010 protocol to the Asean Charter on dispute settlement mechanisms would apply in future instruments, so as to encourage its use in resolving non-economic disputes.

Speaking at the start of a regional forum yesterday, Mr Ong made the suggestions as part of his call to turn the South-east Asian grouping - known for the "Asean way" of making regional decisions based on consensus - into a more rules-based body.

"To move forward to become a more rules-based Asean, it is important to see the Asean way as having a symbiotic relationship with a rules-based Asean. Achieving consensus and adhering to international law are both critical aspects of maintaining regional cooperation."

The ambassador-at-large was speaking to more than 70 academics and experts from the region, including Mr Walter Douglas, US deputy assistant secretary of state for public affairs, public diplomacy and regional and security policy in East Asia and the Pacific.

The two-day conference focuses on legal issues of importance to the Asean region, such as the transboundary haze issue, territorial water disputes and the rights of women and children. It was organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, The Asia Foundation and the United States Embassy here.

Mr Ong noted that the 10-member Asean - which marks its 50th anniversary in August - also needs to implement and enforce its legal obligations if it wants to be an effective regional body. Instead of signing on to as many legal instruments as possible, it is more important for Asean to implement its legal obligations, he said.

To aid this goal, Asean should streamline its large body of agreements by reviewing existing treaties and dispute settlement mechanisms, and prioritise and use them accordingly, he suggested.

While Asean is not perfect, building a regional community is an ongoing learning process, he added.

"Implementing regional obligations is as crucial as signing on to them," he said. "In this pursuit, we need law, rules and systems to strengthen Asean as an open, inclusive and peaceful region to ensure a secure and prosperous future."

Since its founding in 1967, Asean has relied more on consultation, consensus and declaratory statements, rather than treaties with binding legal obligations. This changed in 2007, when the Asean Charter was established.

The conference was opened by Mr Douglas, who said the new US administration under President Donald Trump remained focused on Asia, citing recent visits to the region by US Secretary of Defence James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this year as examples.

Mr Douglas said Asean is a strategic location for the US, as it includes countries that are "up and coming" and places where a significant number of Americans' parents or grandparents originate from.

"We're deeply committed to the region and have been for quite a few years... We're here to stay, we're going to be very involved in the most positive way that we can."

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Baltic Exchange outlines its growth plans

Straits Times
22 May 2017
Jacqueline Woo

Maritime info provider intends to add LNG indices and more freight market benchmarks by this year

The London-based Baltic Exchange has bold growth plans in the wake of its acquisition by the Singapore Exchange (SGX) last year.

Among other things, the maritime information provider plans to introduce more freight market benchmarks as well as new liquefied natural gas (LNG) and container indices by this year.

The Baltic Exchange provides independent rate assessments for various bulk carriers, notably the Baltic Dry Index, as well as assessments for a range of tankers moving crude and products of oil.

Expanding its offerings will allow the exchange - with a history that dates back to 1744 - to "remain at the heart of the bulk shipping industry for the long term", chief executive Mark Jackson told The Straits Times in an e-mail interview.

"The next steps will be taken in close collaboration with our shipbroking panellists and end-users to identify the best reporting model, routes and vessel descriptions," said Mr Jackson, who was appointed head of the exchange in January.

On top of rolling out more container routes, there is potential to develop derivative-based risk-management tools for the container sector as well, he said, adding that both the LNG and container indices are ideally suited to being published from Singapore.

"Singapore is at the heart of the rapidly developing LNG infrastructure in Asia, and we hope to add value to SGX's current offerings and play our role in developing Singapore as Asia's leading LNG trading hub," he said. "Adding a freight element to existing LNG pricing would help develop this market."

Industry players such as dry bulk shipping consultancy IBulk (Singapore) believe it will be good to have access to new sectors from the convenience of the Baltic Exchange as all shipping markets are interrelated, said managing director Sencer Sahinkaya.

Still, Mr Teo Siong Seng, managing director of shipping line Pacific International Lines, believes it could take some time before a new container index can take off here, given that the market already has several such indices, including the highly cited Shanghai Containerised Freight Index.

Meanwhile, the Baltic Exchange has also set up a Baltic Asia Advisory Committee, which will meet on a regular basis and advise the exchange on maritime matters - such as code of conduct, new routes, vessel descriptions and maritime digital infrastructure - with a focus on the region. The Asia-based committee comprises 14 members, including the Baltic Exchange and SGX.

"Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai are fast-growing maritime service hubs... It is vital that the Baltic Exchange is able to understand their needs," Mr Jackson said.

He added that the committee received useful inputs at its inaugural meeting on April 28, in relation to its proposals to develop the new indices, launch an escrow service, improve its debt-collection service and develop post-trade tools.

The escrow service, for example, will be used for sale and purchase transactions, although the Baltic Exchange hopes to eventually expand it to include financial securities in cases of ship arrest or disputes.

At last month's Singapore Iron Ore Week, Mr Jackson noted that the acquisition by SGX, completed in November last year, has "reinvigorated" the Baltic Exchange.

"The SGX investment has come about at a time when seaborne trade has become more Asia-centric and at a time when technology is challenging the way in which we all work," he told a forum.

"I believe that the new structure of the Baltic Exchange, now with a single shareholder who is interested in long-term goals, allows us to grow our leadership profile, to play a bigger role in setting standards, building consensus and leading change in the shipping markets."

Staying relevant in the global maritime industry is key, added Mr Jackson. "It means reacting to the shift in geographical importance as seaborne trade becomes more and more Asia-centric. It is about being proactive about the way the marketplace conducts its business, especially as technology, disruptive or otherwise, brings about change."

SGX chief executive Loh Boon Chye, who also spoke at the forum, noted that the industry has seen "unprecedented price volatility and global headwinds that have made risk management increasingly relevant in shipping and commodities".

"Our strategic acquisition of the Baltic Exchange last November seeks to integrate the risk management of cargo and freight, and link the two liquidity pools, while bridging the global shift in seaborne trade towards Asia," said Mr Loh.


ADDING VALUE

Singapore is at the heart of the rapidly developing LNG infrastructure in Asia, and we hope to add value to SGX's current offerings and play our role in developing Singapore as Asia's leading LNG trading hub. Adding a freight element to existing LNG pricing would help develop this market.

MR MARK JACKSON, chief executive of the Baltic Exchange, on its plans after being acquired by SGX last year.

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No ABSD on $6.6m unit for charity: Court

Straits Times
15 May 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Taxman ordered to refund $987k in duty, late fees paid by trustees

The High Court, in a landmark case, has ruled that property bought by a charitable purpose trust was not subject to the additional buyer's stamp duty (ABSD), and ordered the taxman to refund the $986,965 in duty and late fees paid last year by the trustees on the deal.

The Commissioner of Stamp Duties had imposed the 15 per cent ABSD on the $6.56 million unit in Goodwood Residence condominium in Bukit Timah Road, bought by trustees of the Chew How Teck Foundation in 2015.

ABSD was introduced in 2011 as part of measures to moderate property price increases in Singapore.

The foundation, a registered charity established by Mr Chew Chee Thong in 1994, was meant to promote medical research and provide financial help in hardship cases both here and in Malaysia, among other things. Mr Chew died that year.

He left a will that provided for a property in Chee Hoon Avenue to be used by his widow, Madam Zhao Hui Fang, but with eventual ownership to reside in the charity foundation he established.

In 2014, the High Court authorised the will executors to sell the property for $22.8 million and use part of the monies to buy the Goodwood unit for Madam Zhao's use in the name of the foundation. She still lives in the unit.

The balance was lodged with the foundation, and the Goodwood deal was also cleared by the Commissioner of Charities in 2015.

Under the law, ABSD is payable where property is transferred to beneficial owners who are entities or foreigners. Madam Zhao is a Singaporean.

The trustees, represented by KhattarWong lawyer Joanna Yap Hui Min, appealed to the High Court against the commissioner's decision last year, arguing that ABSD should not be paid as the foundation was not an entity per se and stood to inherit the unit for charity eventually.

Counsel for the commissioner Julia Mohamed disputed the appeal for various reasons, pointing out that those factually benefiting from the charity work of the foundation are the beneficial owners of the Goodwood property, which in this case may include research institutes and Malaysian researchers.

Judicial Commissioner Aedit Abdullah clarified that there was a difference between beneficial ownership and getting a factual benefit from something.

"It goes against the very concept of a charitable trust to find that beneficial ownership is vested in factual beneficiaries of the charity.

"If that were the case, it should follow that all the persons factually benefiting could, if they so desired, get together and dispose the subject matter of the trust. But that is simply not the law," he said in judgment grounds issued last week.

He added that those factually benefiting from the objects of the charity, whether here or in Malaysia, were not the beneficial owners of the property. He said properties held under a charitable purpose trust do not have "identifiable beneficial owners" for ABSD to apply.

Judicial Commissioner Aedit made clear that there is nothing in principle to stop ABSD from being imposed on property deals by charities, but this was a policy matter for the authorities to decide on.

"There just needs to be stated clear imposition under the relevant statutory instrument," he said.

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Firms must put in place sufficient cybersecurity measures

Business Times
09 May 2017
Steve Tan

With increasing access to mobile devices and the Internet, the amount of data created annually worldwide is predicted to soar to 180 zettabytes (180 trillion gigabytes) in 2025, with some 80 billion devices connected to the Internet.

As organisations look towards data to track consumer patterns and guide business direction, they should also be mindful of the legal regulations that govern the protection of data and the possibility of a data breach. In the past year, we have seen some of the largest data breaches in history with millions of accounts compromised and the release of personal data such as addresses and telephone numbers for sale on the black market.

Such high-profile data breaches have been increasing in size and prevalence in recent years, with cyber criminals (and even state actors) taking keen interest in obtaining sensitive corporate and personal information. Besides such hacking attacks, a data breach can also arise from employee mischief or neglect, an inadvertent leak, lack of or failure in security measures, just to name a few.

Regardless of the cause, the threat of data breaches is imminent and can have severe repercussions for organisations, especially if they are found guilty of failing to take sufficient measures to secure their data.

Singapore's data protection law has one of the highest fines in Asia with each breach subject to a potential fine of S$1 million. Similarly, breaching Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation can result in a fine of the larger of either 20 million euros (S$30.7 million) or 4 per cent of the organisation's global annual turnover.

Beyond financial penalties, a data breach can cause irreversible damage to a company's reputation as well as potentially significant damages payable in civil liability to third parties, not to mention possible personal criminal liability for senior management.

Ensuring compliance in an evolving landscape

Organisations should be well aware of the prevailing legal regulations that govern ever growing popular technology solutions such as cloud storage, collection, analysis, and offshore storage of customer data.

Here are a few tips for organisations to ensure that they comply with the legal regulations where they operate in.

Have a clear understanding of how personal data is used and managed in the organisation

Some questions that business leaders need to ask include what personal data has been collected, who has access to this data, whether the purposes of processing of such personal data are lawful, where and how it is kept and secured, and how long such personal data is kept on file. In some instances, data storage and protection is managed on behalf of an organisation by an outsourced service provider.

Organisations need to ensure that they understand the level of protection to the data provided by the outsourced service provider and ascertain whether regulations, including sector-specific ones, permit offshoring or cross-border data sharing. In some countries, there appears to be a growing trend of data localisation which means organisations are not permitted to transfer any such data overseas. Data protection regulations in Asean countries are also set to develop in future in light of commitments arising from the formation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in end-2015 and the continued digitalisation of everything. Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines are currently the only countries with dedicated robust data protection laws, and it is only a matter of time before the rest of the Asean countries follow suit, with significant implications for foreign organisations operating in those countries.

Conduct regular audits and penetration testing

The authorities do recognise the fact that cyber criminals often use sophisticated measures in their attacks. However, as seen with the many data breaches around the world, it is most often the case that the organisation itself has failed to have sufficient security measures in place. It is also a known fact that many organisations are not doing enough to protect customer data or their important data. At the bare minimum, organisations need to meet the regulatory standards for data protection and compliance. Beyond this, they should also conduct regular audits and security assessments such as penetration testing, to ensure the integrity of their security framework and that employees are abiding by set guidelines, especially when handling sensitive information.

Be willing to seek external advice

By working closely with professionals such as specialised lawyers with the relevant expertise, organisations will be able to have a better understanding of other factors that could affect their business decisions, such as a digital transformation initiative to move data to the cloud. Legal advice is also important for organisations that operate in a highly regulated industry, such as financial institutions, which could have sector-specific laws that add on a further layer of compliance by the organisation. In the event of a data breach or cyberattack resulting in leaked data, that organisation would suffer the brunt of not only data protection laws but also sector-specific laws.

Ultimately, the burden of cybersecurity falls on the organisation itself, and regulations call for them to ensure that sufficient security measures and practices are put in place. The proper use, storage, and security of data should not be seen solely as the responsibility of "a few good men" within the organisation such as the IT head or the data protection officer, but rather as a culture that permeates throughout the entire organisation.

New technological innovations have the potential to disrupt current practices and pose challenges for security management, but with the right data protection measures in place, organisations will be able to take full advantage of these to drive their business forward.


The writer is partner and deputy head, Technology, Media & Telecommunications, at Rajah & Tann LLP. He will be speaking at CommunicAsia2017 Summit on May 24 on the topic "Grappling with the Internet of Things, Disruptive Technology, Cloud of Things and Data Privacy"

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

ADV: SAL - Manager / Assistant Manager (Marketing Communications), Business Development

Singapore Law Watch
22 May 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

Shipping firm involved in North Korea dealings gets reduced fine of S$100,000

TODAY
15 May 2017
Siau Ming En

A Singapore-registered shipping firm, Chinpo Shipping Company, had its fine reduced from S$180,000 to S$100,000 after the High Court cleared the firm of transferring money that could have contributed to North Korea’s nuclear-related programmes or activities.

The judges – made up of Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justice See Kee Oon – had partially allowed Chinpo’s appeal against its convictions and sentences on two charges on Friday (May 12).

The firm’s earlier conviction and sentence of running a remittance business between April 2009 and July 2013 without a valid remittance licence remained.

The firm had begun remitting money when its shipping business started to dry up.

On July 8, 2013, Chinpo had transferred US$72,017 (about S$101,000) from its Bank of China account to CB Fenton and Co, a Panama shipping agent. The money was for the transit expenses for North Korean container ship, Chong Chon Gang, to pass through the Panama Canal from Cuba.

Three days later, an arms shipment, hidden under a cargo of sugar, was seized from the ship. The weapons found included two Cuban fighter-jets in perfect condition, missiles and live munitions.

Separately, between April 2009 and July 2013, Chinpo had also applied to its bank for 605 outward remittances, totalling about US$40 million, on behalf of North Korean entities.

Chinpo later claimed trial after being slapped with two charges, and the firm was convicted of both charges in December 2015.

For its charge under the United Nations (Sanctions – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Regulations, Chinpo was fined S$80,000. For the other charge under the Money-changing and Remittance Business Act, it was fined S$100,000.

Delivering the findings of the appeal on behalf of the judges on Friday, Justice See said the transfer of about US$72,000 fell outside the mischief of the regulations relating to North Korea.

“A reasonable person in the position of Chinpo would not have appreciated that the transfer could have had the effect of contributing to the (nuclear-related, ballistic missile related, or other weapons of mass destruction related programmes or activities of North Korea),” he said.

The transfer went purely to the payment of port fees and related charges for the ship to pass through the Panama Canal, said the judge.

And although a shipment of weapons was found on the ship, this was not known to the firm when it made the transfer. Hence, the transfer was “at least somewhat removed” from a transfer of funds in direct support of North Korea’s nuclear-related programmes, he added.

On the remittance offence, Justice See noted that Chinpo had blindly received money from North Korean entities. It then paid the money to the intended payees, which were for matters unconnected with the firm’s ship agency and ship chandelling services.

The firm also engaged Bank of China to facilitate the 605 remittances and did so in its own name, concealing the identity of the North Korean entities.

“This was the very mischief that the (Act) sought to avoid, and which Parliament sought to address through the licensing regime for remittance businesses under the (Act),” he said.

Adding that Chinpo had, without a valid licence, provided remittance services of an unprecedented volume and over an unprecedented duration in Singapore, Justice See noted that the maximum fine of S$100,000 that was initially imposed was warranted.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

More powers for MAS to tackle failing institutions

Straits Times
09 May 2017
Wong Wei Han

Regulatory changes have been tabled to strengthen the powers of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to resolve the position of distressed financial institutions in an orderly manner.

Resolution essentially involves the restructuring of a failing financial institution to ensure financial system stability.

Proposed changes to the law introduced in Parliament yesterday will consolidate MAS' powers to require pertinent financial institutions - such as banks, finance companies and collective investment scheme trustees - to prepare and maintain their recovery plans and submit information for resolution planning.

The new amendments will also temporarily stay the rights of a financial institution's counterparty to terminate contracts when the MAS has exercised its resolution powers.

"This would provide the MAS with sufficient time to implement resolution measures, such as a transfer of business functions to a bridge entity," the central bank said.

Another part of the amendments will introduce a framework for MAS to recognise all or part of any resolution action taken by foreign authorities on financial institutions in Singapore.

Meanwhile, a framework will be implemented to establish resolution funding arrangements, which will be used to meet the costs of implementing resolution measures, MAS added.

These included "the provision of loans to a financial institution under resolution, initial capital for a bridge entity, administrative costs and creditor compensation claims".

The Bill yesterday followed a round of public consultation in 2015 discussing enhancements to MAS' resolution regime. The changes were then proposed in April last year.

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Controlling prices of formula milk may cause more problems: Forum

Straits Times
21 May 2017

The Price Control Act has been used only twice in Singapore's history.

The first time was in 1973, when licences were introduced for the import and export of rice, following a wave of panic-buying when the international oil crisis caused prices to soar.

The second was in 1990, after a few suppliers cornered the pork market and manipulated prices.

The Act was not invoked even when inflation hit more than 6 per cent in 2008.

It seems that for the Act to be invoked, there must be an element of crisis and a staple item consumed by the majority.

Formula milk powder, unfortunately, does not fall into these categories (Place formula milk under Price Control Act, by Dr Daniel Ng Peng Keat; May 17).

The Act is meant to curb profiteering, but the Competition Commission of Singapore found no evidence of illegal price-fixing among formula milk producers (Aggressive marketing of 'premium' formulas driving rise in baby milk powder prices in Singapore; ST Online, May 10).

Singapore has to ensure that the milk powder market remains open and competitive, and that information is readily available for consumers to make informed decisions.

If used liberally, price control can have a negative impact on the market.

When suppliers cannot set their own prices, they will be discouraged from producing more of the item, causing the supply to decline.

The quality of the products may also drop, as producers have fewer financial resources to reinvest in their business.

The result is less choice for consumers.

The correct approach, therefore, is for the Government to diversify its sources and offer cheaper versions of formula milk.

Francis Cheng

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Singapore can help finance projects, says Lawrence Wong

Straits Times
15 May 2017
Chong Koh Ping

BEIJING • Singapore can play a complementary role in financing projects in the Belt and Road initiative, particularly those in South- east Asia, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

As an international financial centre and one of the largest offshore yuan centres, Singapore can join Hong Kong and London in facilitating lending to the major infrastructure projects aimed at improving connectivity between China and countries along the trade routes linking Asia, Africa and Europe.

Mr Wong suggested roping in private and commercial partners to help make projects more bankable or more acceptable to lenders.

Besides finance, Singapore also has a wide range of high-quality professional services in urban master-planning, engineering, project advisory, dispute resolution and legal services, which can help make infrastructure projects more bankable, he said at a session on financial connectivity at the Belt and Road Forum yesterday.

Financial institutions are also welcome to tap Singapore's capital markets and institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurance companies, to raise funds, he added.

Mr Wong represented Singapore in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the Belt and Road initiative with China.

The MOU notes that cooperation on the initiative will "enable the two sides to enjoy better bilateral relations, more substantive economic ties and closer people-to-people exchanges".

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Bill passed to impose death penalty for nuclear terror

Straits Times
09 May 2017
Chong Zi Liang

The threat of a nuclear and radioactive terror attack in Singapore must be taken seriously, even if the likelihood is currently remote, Second Minister for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said.

This is why a mandatory death sentence will be imposed on those who carry out a lethal radioactive attack, Mr Lee added yesterday, when Parliament passed the Terrorism (Suppression of Misuse of Radioactive Material) Bill.

He also said the chances of a nuclear terrorist attack in South-east Asia are low as regional terror elements are not known to have the capability to build nuclear devices and are more likely to use conventional explosives.

But the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has heightened the global threat of nuclear or radioactive devices, he added.

ISIS had said in 2015 that it intended to attack the US with a nuclear device or explosives.

It also has access to funds and a global network of supporters that conceivably can build a crude improvised nuclear device, he said.

"As such, we cannot discount the possibility of ISIS or its supporters getting hold of nuclear material to carry out a terror attack against us or other countries," he added.

This is especially so when many countries, including those in this region, use or are actively exploring the use of nuclear energy, he added.

For instance, Malaysia arrested eight people in February for the theft of iridium-192, a radioactive material that can be used to make dirty bombs.

Mr Lee said Singapore is a signatory of the United Nations' International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which seeks to prevent nuclear terrorism by making such acts a crime.

The Terrorism (Suppression of Misuse of Radioactive Material) Bill will thus ratify, or give domestic legal effect to, the convention.

The legislation, among other things, makes it an offence to use radioactive material to threaten, injure or kill, or cause damage to property and the environment.

Nominated MP Mahdev Mohan asked why Singapore was ratifying the UN convention now when it was signed in 2006.

Mr Lee said the authorities have been working to meet the convention's requirements.

For instance, the National Environment Agency and the Singapore Civil Defence Force have developed the required capabilities to deal with the illicit use of nuclear and radioactive material in Singapore.

Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) asked what measures are in place to deal with a nuclear terrorist attack, while Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) asked about the threat from other types of hazardous material such as chemical and biological agents.

Replying, Mr Lee said there is an inter-agency committee to oversee nuclear safety and security and it continually assesses the threat.

Likewise, there are similar committees looking at the biological and chemical threat.

Should an attack occur, all government resources will be mobilised, including the Singapore Armed Forces, he added.

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Legal test on doctors' negligence: MOH, AGC studying impact

Straits Times
20 May 2017
Linette Lai

The Health Ministry (MOH) and Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) are studying the impact of a new legal test used by the Court of Appeal to determine if a doctor has been negligent in giving medical advice.

The test - in which the average patient's opinion on the advice received carries more weight than the opinions of a doctor's peers - was used in a landmark decision last week.

MOH said it initially had concerns that a legal test that does not take into regard doctors' views would "create uncertainty" in the profession. "(This) could lead to defensive medical practices and ultimately result in additional procedures and costs for patients," an MOH spokesman said.

However, the spokesman added that the courts have accepted that "the expert evidence of doctors on matters of medical practice and judgment will continue to be of some significance".

The new test, a modified version of what is known as the Montgomery test, was used by the Court of Appeal in a case in which a businessman sued a surgeon and the National Cancer Centre Singapore for allegedly providing wrong advice ending in unnecessary surgery. The businessman lost the appeal.

Previously, Singapore's courts had used only the oft-cited Bolam test, which states that a doctor is not negligent if his actions could be supported by other doctors.

National University of Singapore law faculty professor A. Kumaralingam said the new test marks a "fundamental shift" from giving weight to what doctors believe is relevant information, to what patients think about the matter.

"Ideally, it should lead to a culture of collaborative autonomy where doctors and patients are equal partners in managing the patient's health," he said.

Experts say the new test is unlikely to significantly change the way doctors practise, but could get them to pay more attention to how they get their message across.

Said Dr Jeremy Lim, a partner in Oliver Wyman's global health practice: "The new test should ideally encourage doctors to reflect and be even more thoughtful about how and what they communicate to patients and their relatives.

"It should clarify the expectations and standards of care in communicating the pros and cons, and risks of any proposed treatments."

An oft-cited concern with the new test is that to protect themselves, doctors may provide too much information, thus making it more difficult for their patients to make sound treatment decisions.

Dr Desmond Wai, who practises at Desmond Wai Liver and Gastrointestinal Diseases Centre, said the balance between disclosing enough information and sharing too much can be a tricky one. He personally tailors his consultations to the specific details of each case.

"We need to understand the patient's socio-economic background and education level, and adjust our explanation accordingly," he said.

"For patients with big families, I usually call for a family conference to ensure each and every member of the family is aware of the medical diagnosis and options, before coming to a consensus."

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ADV: SAL - Programme Manager for Legal Technology Vision

Singapore Law Watch
15 May 2017
Singapore Academy of Law

Govt looking at how small firms can enforce rights at less cost

Straits Times
09 May 2017
Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

Helping smaller businesses find a less costly way to enforce their rights over their designs is one of the things the Law Ministry is looking at, said Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah yesterday.

Her ministry has appointed a committee, with representatives from sectors such as the judiciary and academia, to review the intellectual property dispute resolution system in Singapore, Ms Indranee said.

She made the point in her wrap-up of the debate on the Registered Designs (Amendment) Bill, which was passed by Parliament in the first major change to the legislation since its enactment in 2000.

"The committee has made recommendations on how enforcement costs can be reduced," she said.

"My ministry is currently considering these recommendations in conjunction with our ongoing broad-based review of Singapore's civil justice system," she added in her reply to Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC).

He noted that infringement cases must be filed in the High Court, a move that may be too costly for small businesses and freelancers.

A key change passed yesterday broadens the scope of protected designs by clarifying that items designed by hand or otherwise - not just by industrial process - can be registered. Mr Tay had said: "Businesses and freelancers offering bespoke handcrafted products are usually smaller players in the market who would not have been able to seek protection under the Act as their designs are not applied to articles by industrial process."

Another change is the shifting of ownership of the design from the commissioning party to the designer, minimising instances of designers losing the rights over their designs.

But, said Mr Tay, efforts to widen the scope of protection will come to nothing if members of the public remain unaware of their rights.

Out of 4,268 designs filed at the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (Ipos) in 2014, only 818 were filed by Singapore-based or local applicants, he noted. He urged the Government to work with the labour movement to raise designers' awareness of their rights.

Ms Indranee said Ipos regularly partners industry and design associates to raise awareness of registered design protection, and is also working with the Design Singapore Council on such efforts.

She will ask Ipos to work with the National Trades Union Congress' various units on raising awareness.

Ipos will also explore issuing guidance notes to address gaps in knowledge, such as the overlap between registered design protection and copyright protection, she added.

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17 years' jail, 24 strokes of cane for MacRitchie rapist

Straits Times
20 May 2017
Ng Huiwen

Bangladeshi worker's conviction the first in new framework for sentencing rapists

Bangladeshi Pramanik Liton was yesterday convicted and sentenced to 17 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane for abducting and raping a woman at knifepoint in broad daylight at MacRitchie Reservoir.

Justice Choo Han Teck found the 24-year-old construction worker guilty of two counts of aggravated rape, one count of sexual assault by penetration and one count of abduction for illicit intercourse.

His was the first case to fall under a new framework for sentencing rapists, which was spelt out by the apex court last week .

The framework sets out three sentencing bands, corresponding to the severity of the rape and various aggravating factors. Deputy Public Prosecutor Stella Tan noted that Liton's offences would come under Band 2, where there are two or more aggravating factors. This band carries a sentencing range of 13 to 17 years in jail and 12 strokes of the cane.

"Taking into consideration Terence Ng and the prosecution's sentencing submissions, I am of the view that the global sentence should reflect the seriousness of the offences," Justice Choo said, referring to the case of cobbler Terence Ng Kean Meng, 46, who appealed against his sentence for statutory rape. The chance to review the framework arose from that case.

The previous framework divided rapes into four categories: Those with no aggravating or mitigating factors, those with specific aggravating factors, multiple rapes, and those committed by offenders who will remain a threat to society. But the four categories did not cover the full spectrum of circumstances in which rape may be committed, the apex court had said.

DPP Tan, in asking for a total sentence of at least 20 years in jail and 24 strokes of the cane, listed six aggravating factors specific to the offences. They included how Liton had further violated the victim, a 39-year-old Chinese national, to get rid of any semen as he was afraid she would get pregnant. This caused her significant pain and left her deeply scarred, she said.

Delivering his verdict after a three-day trial, Justice Choo said the victim's evidence was "clear, cogent and consistent", while Liton's was "bizarre and incomprehensible".

In an unusual turn on Thursday, Liton told the court he did not have sex with the victim because she had died from fear. This, despite the fact that she is alive and testified that Liton attacked her. He was in court when she took the stand.

Addressing Liton, Justice Choo said: "Clearly, she had not (died) or this would have been the world's first supernatural trial. I see nothing supernatural, only a traumatised woman who has convinced me that you committed the offences upon which you are being tried."

Liton's sentence will be backdated to his arrest. For each charge of aggravated rape, he could have been sentenced to between eight and 20 years in jail and at least 12 strokes of the cane.

On the new framework, criminal lawyer Sunil Sudheesan said it allows the court more flexibility to consider the specific facts of a case in sentencing. "My sense is that punishments may now go up, as cases of rape in the lowest category can now get up to 13 years," he said.

In the old framework, the benchmark for the lowest end of the sentencing spectrum for rape was set at 10 years.


About the case

On the afternoon of Feb 8 two years ago, Bangladeshi Pramanik Liton abducted a 39-year-old Chinese national along a trail at the park at knife-point.

He raped her and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

He was arrested at his worksite two days later, after Gurkha trackers located the crime scene and found a jackknife with his thumbprint in the forest.

His semen was also found on the woman's panties, swabs taken from her body and tissue paper recovered from the crime scene, which was 14m off the trail.

The rape victim's Singaporean husband had told the High Court during the trial that she was "unlike her usual cheerful self" when she told him over the phone on Feb 8 that she needed help. They were not married at the time.

When he met her at the Mushroom Cafe at MacRitchie Reservoir, she was in a state of shock and her voice was shaky as she told him she was "nearly killed in the forested area" and had been "violated".

Two workers at the park also took the stand to describe her as being distraught when they came across her that day.


CLEARLY GUILTY

Clearly, she had not (died) or this would have been the world's first supernatural trial. I see nothing supernatural, only a traumatised woman who has convinced me that you committed the offences upon which you are being tried.

JUSTICE CHOO HAN TECK, addressing Liton, who had told the court that he did not have sex with the victim as she had died from fear. She is in fact alive and testified that he attacked her.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Public Prosecutor v Pramanik Liton [2017] SGHC 110

Court adopts new legal test to determine if doctor was negligent

Straits Times
13 May 2017
Ng Jun Sen

In a landmark decision, the Court of Appeal has adopted a new legal test to determine whether a doctor has been negligent while dispensing medical advice.

The apex court used the detailed new test in dismissing an appeal by Malaysian businessman Clement Hii Chii Kok, according to the written judgment released yesterday.

In 2013, Datuk Seri Hii had sued Singapore surgeon London Lucien Ooi and the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) for misdiagnosing him and giving him wrong medical advice. He lost his case last year.

The court used the new test for negligence, which involves seeing whether there is material information about the patient that the doctor should know and if the doctor is aware of this information.

The test also considers whether a doctor is justified in withholding such information, including in emergencies or when giving the information would cause more harm.

Previously, Singapore's courts had used only the oft-cited Bolam test, which states that a doctor is not negligent if his actions could be supported by other doctors.

In this case, the courts decided to use a modification of the so-called Montgomery test, which considers whether the patient is receiving useful medical information, rather than whether it is the common practice.

The new test includes a three-stage inquiry to determine if the doctor had fulfilled his duty of care to the patient, lawyers said.

Patients, in general, now have access to more information and are expected to participate more actively in the consultation process with doctors, said the five-judge panel including Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, Judith Prakash, Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong.

The court also held that while there were concerns the new test could lead to more litigation and encourage "defensive medicine", there was not enough evidence to show these concerns overrode the patient's autonomy.

Legal Clinic LLC director, Ms Kuah Boon Theng, who was the NCCS' lawyer, said the court is saying it is time that "doctors should instead empower patients to exercise their autonomy by giving them the information they need in order to make meaningful decisions about their own care".

If the traditional test were used, doctors could simply claim that it is their practice to not reveal certain information, she added.

While Britain's courts have adopted the Montgomery test since 2015, the test does not have a three-stage inquiry.

Because of this, there has been criticism about whether doctors would prioritise protecting themselves, overloading the patient with unimportant information, rather than to provide them with accurate guidance, said Ms Kuah.

With the modified Montgomery test, doctors can withhold information too, but they will have to prove that doing so will protect the patient from harm, she explained.

She told The Straits Times: "It is a remarkable and thoughtful decision that goes further than Montgomery ever did in providing guidance to the medical profession on informed consent."


About the case

Prominent Malaysian businessman Clement Hii Chii Kok had undergone complex surgery in August 2010 to remove parts of five organs.

He alleged he had been told by Singapore surgeon London Lucien Ooi and the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) that he suffered from "pancreatic cancer" and that surgery was the only option.

But both defendants deny the claims and said they never told him he had cancer of the pancreas. They said there were multiple specialist opinions that showed that the cancer could not be ruled out in his case and surgery was recommended.

Datuk Seri Hii, who studied law, sued the NCCS and Professor Ooi for damages, claiming that they had failed to provide proper advice, did not consider the results of various other tests and failed to get his informed consent.

But Justice Chan Seng Onn in a judgment in February last year ruled in favour of the defendants, saying this claim was not borne out by the evidence.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Hii Chii Kok v Ooi Peng Jin London Lucien and another [2017] SGCA 38

Tighter controls on outlets for public entertainment

Straits Times
09 May 2017
Seow Bei Yi

Penalties for errant operators raised; quick suspension of licence in case of illegal activity

Parliament yesterday approved changes to the law that will impose tighter requirements on public entertainment outlets and raise penalties for errant operators.

But Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin said a "lighter touch" approach will be taken for the majority of licensees who are law-abiding, allowing them licences for longer periods.

Currently, about four in five public entertainment spots have "good track records of complying with licence conditions", he said.

Speaking in the debate on the Public Entertainments and Meetings (Amendment) Bill, Mr Amrin said there were more than 600 instances of operators breaching public entertainment licences last year, although about 90 per cent of them had to do with minor issues.

Some 540 entertainment establishments, out of a total of 2,700, accounted for the breaches, he said. These may include nightclubs, billiard saloons and gaming centres.

Major breaches included issues such as overcrowding, which pose a public safety risk, while the minor ones included failing to maintain a proper record of all employees.

A total of 11 MPs spoke in support of the Bill, which changes the title of the Act to the Public Entertainments Act. This reflects earlier changes which saw the regulation of meetings, such as rallies, talks and forums, coming under the Public Order Act enacted in 2009.

Mr Amrin said the amendments will strengthen the regulatory framework for public and arts entertainment, and keep the law relevant as the public entertainment industry evolves.

Among the changes is one that will see more people being assessed in deciding whether a public entertainment licence should be granted.

The police will assess not just the applicant, but also related people who have a substantial interest in, or have control or direction over, the business.

This ensures that no one is working "behind the scenes to operate the (public entertainment) establishment", said Mr Amrin.

To deter people from providing public entertainment without a licence, the maximum fine for those doing so will be doubled from $10,000 to $20,000.

The authorities can immediately suspend licences if the licensees or people related to the establishments are charged in court for "serious crimes arising out of, or in connection with, any activity" in the establishment. These include drug offences and human trafficking.

The changes will also give licensing officers and police officers the power to enter the premises "using necessary force".

In addition, "suitably trained individuals", who may include auxiliary police or retired police officers, can be appointed as "authorised persons" allowed to conduct inspections of establishments and events.

And there will be a new provision to take into account the Urban Redevelopment Authority's plans for land use - such as to maintain the character of historic districts - before approval is given for entertainment outlets to set up shop.

Mr Amrin said the public entertainment industry had been consulted on the changes, with close to 180 establishments giving feedback and backing the changes.

While the Ministry of Home Affairs regulates public entertainment spots and events under the Act, arts entertainment such as plays, musicals and exhibitions are regulated by the Ministry of Communications and Information.

The amendments also cover arts entertainment.

Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary said the amendments will not result in any change to the existing arts entertainment content standards or to the Infocomm Media Development Authority's (IMDA) classification and licensing processes.

For instance, the IMDA may refuse to classify arts entertainment held at public entertainment establishments or events which exceed the maximum R18 rating.

Such entertainment, if not classified, cannot be staged. This is already done for arts entertainment held at other venues.

IMDA may also impose conditions on arts entertainment held at public entertainment outlets, and licensees may appeal these decisions. Previously, IMDA could not do so for arts entertainment events licensed under the police's public entertainment framework.

Dr Janil said: "The conditions are akin to the existing arts entertainment licensing condition."

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Worker hurt while 'moonlighting' wins negligence claim

Straits Times
20 May 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Court rules employers were liable for injuries despite worker's lack of proper permit

The High Court rejected an employer's defence that an injured construction worker should not benefit from a negligence claim as he had been moonlighting at the time, which is against public policy.

Judicial Commissioner Audrey Lim ruled the defence "blatantly" ignored the fact that the employers themselves breached the law for hiring the worker. He did not have a valid work permit to work for them.

The judge in decision grounds last week held company director Chen Yongbiao and the company Dongwu Steel Industry liable for the injuries suffered by Mr Mohd Shohel Md Khobir Uddin while moving a metal plate at the worksite in Tuas Road. The nature of the injuries was not indicated.

Mr Shohel, a Bangladeshi national who was hired by SPG Marine under a work permit, had accompanied a dormitory room-mate named Sujan to work at the Tuas worksite on Sept 21, 2014. It was a Sunday and his day off.

Sujan told him he would be paid $60 a day.

Mr Chen picked the duo up at Joo Koon MRT station and took them to the worksite. While working, Mr Shohel fell into a hole while carrying the large metal plate with Sujan.

Mr Chen, who was not present when the accident happened, took him to West Point Hospital. He was later transferred to National University Hospital for treatment.

Mr Shohel, represented by lawyer Subbiah Pillai, sued Mr Chen and the company for damages, claiming he suffered injuries because of their negligence.

The defendants, through lawyer Eu Hai Ming, denied the claims, alleging that both workers had entered the premises without knowledge or consent.

The judge found Mr Shohel to be an "honest and reliable witness", while she said Mr Chen was "evasive and dishonest" and provided "inconsistent evidence on key matters".

Citing two past cases, Judicial Commissioner Lim said if Mr Shohel were not allowed to make a claim because he did not have a valid work permit for moonlighting, then employers might believe "they can discriminate against such employees whom they choose to hire despite knowing that it is illegal". For instance, they could provide such workers with little or no safety equipment, she added.

The judge said to do so would "run counter to the policy of protection of these workers at the workplace and may even encourage or embolden employers in employing foreign workers illegally, knowing that the employer would be absolved from any liability to compensate a worker who suffered injuries through the fault of the employer in the course of that employment".

She said Mr Shohel's illegality "did not fall within the limited range of cases where an injury was directly incurred in the course of committing a crime".

The judge held Mr Shohel 20 per cent to blame for not keeping a sufficient lookout while walking and ordered the defendants pay 80 per cent of the damages to be assessed separately.

The defendants are appealing.


Judicial Commissioner Lim said if Mr Shohel were not allowed to make a claim because he did not have a valid work permit for moonlighting, then employers might believe 'they can discriminate against such employees whom they choose to hire despite knowing that it is illegal'.

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3 bands for sentencing rapists spelt out

Straits Times
13 May 2017
Selina Lum

Court of Appeal's new framework requires judges to size up 'offence-specific' factors

The Court of Appeal yesterday laid down a comprehensive framework for sentencing rapists, in a move to promote a more consistent and transparent practice in meting out appropriate punishments.

The three-judge apex court - comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Andrew Phang - set out three sentencing bands that correspond to how serious the rape is.

The levels of severity are based on the number and intensity of various aggravating factors in a case.

The sentencing range for Band 1 is 10 to 13 years' jail and six strokes of the cane; Band 2 is 13 to 17 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane; and Band 3 is 17 to 20 years' jail and 18 strokes of the cane.

In doing so, the court dismantled the previous framework, which divided rapes into four categories: those with no aggravating or mitigating factors; those with specific aggravating factors; multiple rapes; and those committed by offenders who will remain a threat to society indefinitely.

This framework, set out by then Justice V.K. Rajah in 2006, had largely guided sentencing for rapists in the last 10 years.

Yesterday, Justice Chao noted that the old framework was a response to the "limitations" of the single benchmark sentence of 10 years' jail and six strokes of the cane set in 1993, which did not provide enough guidance.

The framework has "brought a measure of consistency" in the sentences imposed in rape offences but "suffers from several problems" that needed reform, he said.

For one thing, the four categories did not cover the full spectrum of circumstances in which rape may be committed, resulting in a "clustering of sentencing outcomes", he said.

Also, Category 2 lacked "conceptual coherence" and covered a wide range of situations of varying gravity. Cases can run the gamut from the violent rape of a young toddler to the rape of a domestic helper by her employer.

He noted that good sentencing guidelines should ensure consistency, maintain a level of flexibility and discretion for sentencing judges, encourage transparency in reasoning, and create a "coherent picture of sentencing for a particular offence".

As such, a "fundamental change" to the way the sentencing framework for rape is structured is required.

A judge who is sentencing a rapist should now look at "offence-specific" factors related to the way in which the crime was committed and the harm caused, to decide which band the offender falls under. Aggravating factors include group rape, premeditation, an abuse of trust, violence, and rape of a vulnerable victim.

Cases with no or very limited aggravating factors fall into Band 1; cases with two or more aggravating factors fall into Band 2; and extremely serious cases, based on the number and intensity of aggravating factors, fall into Band 3.

After determining the band, the judge should look at the circumstances of each offender to calibrate the sentence upwards or downwards. "Offender-specific" factors include whether there was remorse and the age of the offender.

Justice Chao made it clear that the benchmark sentences applied to convictions following trial. In cases where the offender pleads guilty, the court can assess the value of the plea as a mitigating factor. He noted that the new framework "does not effect a radical change in the sentencing benchmarks".

"For the most part, it seeks only to rationalise existing judicial practice to promote a more systematic, coherent, consistent and transparent approach towards sentencing in this area," he said.

The chance to review the sentencing framework arose from the case of cobbler Terence Ng Kean Meng, 46, who was appealing against his sentence of 13 years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane for statutory rape. (He had another sex charge and the total sentence was 14 years' jail and 14 strokes but he did not appeal against the other charge.)

In 2013, when he was 42, he befriended a 13-year-old schoolgirl and invited her to his flat.

After finding out she had run away from home, he offered to be her godfather. Her parents agreed.

They began spending time together and she agreed to have sex with him.

Applying the new framework to Ng's case, the court found the original sentence was appropriate and dismissed his appeal.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Ng Kean Meng Terence v Public Prosecutor [2017] SGCA 37

Digital trading platform for spot LNG starts up in Singapore

Business Times
08 May 2017
Andrea Soh

The strong cluster of liquefied natural gas (LNG) players in Singapore has attracted a platform company aiming to disrupt the way trading of the commodity is currently done.

The Global LNG Exchange, better known as GLX, has launched in Singapore a digital platform that allows LNG traders to buy and sell spot cargoes through online auctions.

The platform, which went live in the first quarter of this year, should see its first trade by the end of the current quarter, its CEO Damien Criddle told The Business Times over the phone.

GLX hopes this platform can replace the current system of buy and sell tenders in the spot and short-term market that are currently communicated through emails, instant messages and phone calls.

The opaque nature of the industry currently means that it operates somewhat as a club, "where if you're not part of that club it is very hard to understand what's happening in the market," said Mr Criddle.

LNG buyers or sellers who sign up as members can post offers to sell or buy cargoes on the platform, and other participants will then bid anonymously. When the auction is finished, the winning bidder and the seller will be connected if the bid meets a reserve price.

The company, headquartered in Perth, decided to move its operations to Singapore in October last year because of the vibrant community of LNG players here, said Mr Criddle.

"The market, from a spot and short-term LNG point of view, is very much located in Singapore now," he said.

Also, the city-state's strong flight connections with the rest of the world would make it easier for its employees to head to different parts of the world.

Nevertheless, with most players here, its staff simply needs to "go down the road in a taxi" instead of having to jump on a plane, said Mr Criddle. "It saves us a lot of logistics and time...That's the whole point of a hub - it is about connecting people in an efficient manner."

Adding to Singapore's appeal was its well-respected regulatory environment, he added.

The platform already has some members, comprising a mix of buyers and sellers, and is also in discussion with other interested players.

In the longer term, the data that GLX collects from completed trades would give the firm information that is useful for forming price indices for various locations around the world. This, however, remains just a possibility as the firm is focused on building up its platform for now, said Mr Criddle.

Industry observers are keenly watching GLX's moves.

Deloitte global LNG leader Bernadette Cullinane said actual physical trades on GLX's platform will provide a strong indicator of the value of LNG cargoes.

"As a platform for physical transactions, GLX will provide additional price transparency for both buyers and sellers and can co-exist with and support the financial benchmarks, and vice versa," she said.

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Drug trafficker hanged after exhausting avenues of appeal

Straits Times
20 May 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Singaporean drug trafficker Muhammad Ridzuan Md Ali, 31, was executed at Changi Prison yesterday, having exhausted all avenues of appeal.

Ridzuan, and accomplice Abdul Haleem Abdul Karim, were found guilty in the High Court of trafficking in 72.5g of pure heroin. The former was sentenced to death by the court on April 10, 2013. His accomplice, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane.

The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount of heroin trafficked is more than 15g. But in 2012, changes were made to the law to give judges the discretion to not impose the death penalty on drug couriers who receive a certificate from the prosecution stating that he had substantively assisted in disrupting drug trafficking activities.

Abdul Haleem, who was 30 then, was the first to receive such a certificate. Before being spared the noose, he had asked to be hanged if his friend was sentenced to that fate. But the judge told him: "You have certification from the Attorney-General's Chambers, he does not."

Ridzuan's appeal against conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on Feb 27, 2014, in another landmark case.

Because of its impact on revised drug laws, which give judges the discretion to not impose the death penalty in specific cases, the case was heard before five judges - the first time this happened in the Court of Appeal in nearly two decades. Ridzuan was also assigned three lawyers to argue his appeal.

In April that year, Ridzuan sought leave from the High Court to start judicial review proceedings against the public prosecutor's decision not to grant him a certificate of substantive assistance. The High Court dismissed the application on July 17, 2014, and, in October 2015, the Court of Appeal rejected his appeal.

On Jan 8 last year, Ridzuan took his case to the Court of Appeal for the third time by way of a criminal motion for the court to review its decisions on his appeals, on the grounds that the Misuse of Drugs Act provisions under which he was sentenced to death were unconstitutional.

The apex court dismissed the criminal motion on Dec 2 last year.

He submitted a petition for clemency to the President, which was unsuccessful.

The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said yesterday: "Muhammad Ridzuan was accorded full due process under the law, and he was represented by legal counsel throughout the process."

CNB said that 72.5g of diamorphine, or pure heroin, is equivalent to about 6,004 straws, which is sufficient to feed the addiction of about 864 abusers for a week.


CNB said that 72.5g of diamorphine, or pure heroin, is equivalent to about 6,004 straws, which is sufficient to feed the addiction of about 864 abusers for a week.

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Toby Landau becomes first Queen's Counsel to be admitted to the Singapore Bar

Straits Times
13 May 2017
K.C. Vijayan

Prominent English lawyer Toby Landau has become the first Queen's Counsel to be admitted to the Singapore Bar - a move that reflects Singapore's growing stature as a global legal hub.

High Court Justice Quentin Loh, in welcoming Mr Landau and other new lawyers on behalf of the Chief Justice and the Bench on Thursday, described his admission as a "historic occasion in the legal history of Singapore".

"He is an advocate who has already made his mark on the world stage. An advocate of great renown, a great reputation and with forensic skills that are acknowledged by many professional directories," added Justice Loh.

The judge noted that while QCs have been admitted on an ad hoc basis to argue particular cases, "Mr Landau has chosen to throw in his lot, so to speak, with us".

English QCs are an elite and eminent group of lawyers appointed by the Queen based on merit and are largely made up of barristers.

Justice Loh's address was highlighted by Essex Court Chambers where Mr Landau has an independent practice.

Mr Landau, 49, will be based in Singapore and has met the pre-conditions for general admission to the Bar here, including residency requirements.

Justice Loh said the move showed that "Singapore is not going to be a small little pond where we practise" and the country was "open more and more to international pressures and international work".

He looked forward to Mr Landau imparting some of his "very considerable knowledge and skills and values" to younger members of the Bar.

QC Landau has previously been admitted to the Singapore Bar on an ad hoc basis to argue in the high-stakes Astro v First Media and Lippo litigation before both the Singapore High Court and Court of Appeal, among other matters.

He has also appeared in arbitrations in Singapore alongside local lawyers. Mr Landau has been on the Panel of Advisers of the Attorney-General since 2012, and was part of the team that represented Singapore in the Railway Land Arbitration against Malaysia in 2014.

He will not be joining or establishing a full-service law firm in Singapore, said Essex Court Chambers.

But he will work alongside other Singapore lawyers as part of his existing international practice.

Mr Landau said he was "deeply appreciative of the opportunity to contribute to Singapore and its legal fraternity".

Rajah & Tann partner Paul Tan says that Mr Landau played the role of his mentor when he spent two years working in London in 2011.

"Of all his qualities, Toby's willingness to engage and debate with his juniors in cutting-edge cases was inspiring and formative in my earlier days. Till today, I still count on him as an invaluable source of advice. I have no doubt that especially the younger members of our Bar will benefit immensely from his work in Singapore," he said.

Welcoming his admission , a Law Society spokesman said the society "considers this one-off, sui generis admission as a boost to Singapore's growing stature as a legal hub with world-class lawyers".

The chairman and Senior Partner of WongPartnership, Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo, added: " The admission of Toby Landau, coming on the heels of the arrival on our shores of other prominent practitioners such as Lucy Reed and Judith Gill QC, is testament to the growing prominence of Singapore as an international centre for arbitration and dispute resolution."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

About time Parliament’s processes get updated

TODAY
08 May 2017
Eugene K.B. Tan

In Singapore’s system of constitutional government, Parliament’s standing as the focal point of political life and governance is vital. As the primary law-making institution, Parliament plays a critical role in endowing the nation’s laws and national policies with authority and legitimacy.

This is achieved through Parliament’s scrutiny function vis-a-vis the Executive, primarily through the examination of the Government’s policies and decisions. For example, Government ministers are regularly questioned in Parliament on their ministries’ policies and decisions.

Today, Members of Parliament (MPs) will debate a motion on the amendments to Parliament’s Standing Orders (SO), the written rules of procedure that regulate Parliament’s proceedings. Article 52 of the Singapore Constitution empowers Parliament to “make, amend and revoke Standing Orders for the regulation and orderly conduct of its own proceedings and the despatch of business”. The last time the SO were amended was in 2010.

One of the key changes to be debated today is the proposal by the Standing Orders Committee to raise the minimum interval between the introduction of a proposed legislation and the ensuing debate in the Second Reading from seven to 10 “clear days”.

Since 2006, an average of about 30-odd Bills (proposed new laws or amendments to existing laws) are introduced each year. What this figure belies is the significance of some of these laws, including the Pioneer Generation Fund Bill, the Public Order Bill and major constitutional changes.

Given the gravity of the proposed changes, many MPs joined in the various debates in Parliament. As such, the proposal to increase the minimum interval between a Bill’s introduction and its Second Reading debate is to be welcomed. This will give MPs more time to study a Bill and to prepare their speeches and raise pertinent questions.

Occasionally, our courts also consider the Government’s responses to MPs’ speeches and queries during such debates to help interpret the laws. One recent example concerned the Protection from Harassment Act and whether it applied to protect entities or organisations from harassment.

The larger point is that any proposed law must be carefully scrutinised, particularly those that provide the Government with significant powers such as the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill in the wake of the 2013 Little India riots, and the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act which has to be renewed every five years.

Another set of proposed amendments by the Standing Orders Committee to improve parliamentary procedures arises from last year’s constitutional changes relating to the Elected Presidency. Under the Constitution, Parliament can overrule a presidential veto that is contrary to the recommendation of the Council of Presidential Advisers.

The proposed amendments call for both the President’s grounds and the council’s recommendation to be made available to Parliament at least two days before the motion to overrule the President. This is after the Speaker of Parliament has determined and is satisfied that the President’s decision in the exercise of his custodial powers was in fact contrary to the council’s recommendation.

Before overruling a presidential veto, the issue must be carefully studied and debated robustly by Parliament. Such an overruling must be done on a principled basis and should have the support of Singaporeans.

Otherwise, Parliament’s overruling of a presidential veto can divide the country.

In this regard, the proposed requirement of a minimum of two days to study the documentation is too parsimonious to fully consider a contentious and weighty issue where public opinion may be split.

The Standing Orders Committee also considered whether to increase the length of time for parliamentary questions, which is currently fixed at 90 minutes per sitting day.

But the 10-member committee — which includes Parliament Speaker Halimah Yacob, Leader of the House Grace Fu, Government Whip Chan Chun Sing and Workers’ Party MP for Hougang Png Eng Huat — decided that there was no need to increase the duration of Question Time. The basis was that the Government had, from time to time, extended it to three hours.

This is a missed opportunity by the committee.

Question Time is a valuable platform for Parliament to hold the Government to account, and for the Government to explain and justify its policies and decisions, and the use of public funds. MPs file in advance, questions for oral or written answers by the various ministers on the various subject matters they are responsible for.

Questions for oral answers are different from those for written answers as the former enables the MPs to ask supplementary questions in the House.

A case can be made for Question Time to be increased to two hours in every sitting. In 90 minutes, Parliament seldom goes beyond 20-25 questions, leaving about two-thirds of all questions filed for oral answers in a sitting either to be deferred to the next sitting (with no guarantee again that it would be answered during Question Time) or a written answer provided.

As governance becomes more complex, a timely airing of Singaporeans’ concerns can highlight issues and elicit effective and efficient responses. After all, governance requires not just a whole-of-government perspective but a whole-of-society approach.

Question Time is also a platform for the Government to explain its policies and position on alternative views.

It is this iterative process of questions and answers, the articulation of diverse views, that forms an integral part of Parliament’s role as a check and balance.

How supplementary questions are responded to is often revealing as well. Are answers pro forma? Do they get to the core of the issue and address the MP’s concerns? The form and substance of the Government’s response is often indicative of the mastery of the minister with regard to the topic under scrutiny as well as the coherence of the policy and its implementation.

Government and governance are fundamentally about the ability to exercise power, including the processes for making and implementing decisions. It is not simply about making correct decisions, but also about how robustly decisions are made. Are they in tandem with Singaporeans’ growing aspirations for inclusive and purposeful representation and democratic ownership of governmental processes?

Parliament’s role in the nation’s governance cannot be underestimated. As such, its processes and procedures must continuously strive to attain higher levels of relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy.

Eugene K B Tan is associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Gallop Stable fined $9k for cruelty to horse

Straits Times
20 May 2017
Elena Chong

Company failed to provide adequate veterinary attention to wounded mare

Gallop Stable, which manages between 120 and 150 horses across three stables in Singapore, was fined $9,000 yesterday for cruelty towards one of its animals.

The company was found guilty last month, after an eight-day trial, of failing to provide adequate veterinary attention to a 17-year-old chestnut thoroughbred mare at its Pasir Ris Green ranch on or before May 15, 2013. This caused unnecessary suffering to the mare, named Sharpy.

The horse-riding provider, represented by its director Mani Shanker, is appealing against the conviction and sentence.

A veterinarian from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) found Sharpy in poor condition when she paid an unscheduled visit to the Pasir Ris ranch on May 15 that year.

Sharpy was lying down, and its right hind leg was about three times the size of a normal leg.

The horse was also bobbing its head in a bid to get rid of the flies in its eyes.

The vet advised the stable to seek immediate veterinary attention for the horse.

The next day, another vet taught stable staff how to wash Sharpy's wounds twice a day.

Two days later, Sharpy's condition seemed to have worsened when the AVA vet, Dr Wendy Toh, visited the horse again.

Sharpy was lying on the ground and there were maggots in its wounds.

When offered water and food, the horse drank non-stop for two minutes and ate continuously for up to half an hour.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Gabriel Choong Hefeng asked for the maximum fine of $10,000 to be imposed.

He said there was a need for greater deterrence of such offences and for wrongdoers to be more severely punished.

While penalties under the Animals and Birds Act were last increased in 2012, the number of animal welfare and cruelty cases investigated and feedback received have increased steadily over the past year.

Among the aggravating factors Mr Choong cited in this case were the magnitude and long duration of Sharpy's suffering.

Gallop's lawyer, Mr Simon Tan, said his client was adamant about saving Sharpy, despite veterinary advice for the horse to be put down.

He added that Gallop spent close to $16,000 on the treatment and care of Sharpy, which is now healthy and still owned by the stable.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

NUS, NTU hit by cyber-attacks aimed at govt and research data

Business Times
13 May 2017
Amit Roy Choudhury

No evidence points to student databases having been targeted; the daily operations of the two varsities were also unaffected

Breaches to the IT systems of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University were discovered last month, said the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Cyber Security Agency (CSA) in a joint statement on Friday.

The cyber-attacks, which appeared aimed at stealing government information and research documents, were what is known as APT (advanced persistent threat) attacks - carefully planned cyber intrusions executed over a considerable period of time, and which are not the work of casual hackers.

Singapore has faced APT attacks before, but this is the first time this kind of attack has been directed at institutions of higher learning.

Investigations by the CSA appear to indicate that the attacks on the two institutions were not coordinated.

The agency also found no evidence to suggest that information or data related to students of the two universities had been targeted.

The daily operations of both institutions, including critical IT systems for student admissions and examinations databases, were also unaffected.

David Koh, CSA's chief executive, said: "We know who did it, and we know what they were after."

He added, however, that the details could not be revealed for "operational security reasons".

The intrusions into NTU's networks were detected when the university ran its regular checks on its systems on April 19.

NUS detected an unauthorised intrusion into its IT systems on April 11, during cybersecurity assessments by external consultants engaged to strengthen its cyber defences.

Both universities have since stepped up their vigilance and adopted additional security measures beyond those already in place.

CSA has notified other autonomous universities, critical-information infrastructure providers and the government sector about the attacks and advised them to be on alert and to monitor their systems.

Instances of malicious activity detected in other institutions, government agencies and other industries were found to be isolated ones and have since been cleaned up, the agency said.

Giving some background on APT attacks, Sanjay Aurora, Asia-Pacific managing director for security company Darktrace, said the critical word in "APT" is "persistent".

"These are sophisticated threats that are getting into your network... Perpetrators often acquire legitimate user credentials or gain access through unprotected software or hardware, which enables them to easily bypass traditional security tools like firewalls."

He added that once these threat actors are in the network, it becomes extremely difficult to distinguish their behaviour from that of legitimate network users.

"These attackers can then move laterally and silently within the organisation's network for weeks or months, conducting reconnaissance and searching for critical information, before eventually executing an attack or exfiltrating data."

He added that it can take up to 230 days for a company to realise it has been breached and its critical systems, compromised. "At Darktrace, we once started working with a customer, only to find that there was a sophisticated threat inside this client's network that had been there for eight years."

Nick Savvides, Symantec's security advocate for the Asia-Pacific including Japan (or APJ), noted that complex APT attacks are not a recent phenomenon. He cited the Banswift attacks of last year, in which banks using the Swift network were targeted; US$81 million was stolen from the Central Bank of Bangladesh.

Bill Taylor-Mountford, the APJ vice-president at LogRhythm, noted that hackers are no longer just targeting the usual suspects in Singapore, such as the financial institutions, government and critical infrastructure.

Bodies like the universities hold valuable data, "including intellectual property that can bring about financial gain". LogRhythm is a US-based security intelligence company.

Research agency IDC's Asia-Pacific head for government and education Gerald Wang commented that APT attacks will continue taking place, given that operational silos still exist when it comes to securing IT systems and digital data.

"Most public-sector organisations that IDC has spoken to take a rather reactive stance when it comes to securing digital data... With widespread reactionary mindsets to IT security, where remedial action is taken only after the discovery of an attack, APT attacks will only continue to endure."

CSA's Mr Koh said cyber threats are rising in scale and frequency, and the perpetrators are becoming more sophisticated.

"They are looking for the weakest link, any vulnerability they can exploit. Attackers are not just targeting government systems but are also looking for any kind of network that's connected or remotely related to the government. Hence, private-sector organisations also need to pay more attention to cybersecurity."

He added that it was through the regular checks by NTU and NUS that the malicious activity in their IT systems was uncovered.

"We urge all organisations to be vigilant and to proactively check their IT networks for malicious and unusual activity. This way, we can all work together to secure our networks."

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Better insurance coverage for foreign maids from Oct

Straits Times
08 May 2017
Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh

Premiums likely to rise by between $7 and $15; coverage across insurers will be standardised

Employers will have to provide better insurance coverage for their foreign maids under new rules that kick in on Oct 1.

They will need to buy personal accident insurance policies with coverage of at least $60,000, up from $40,000 now, Minister of State for Manpower Sam Tan said yesterday at a May Day carnival for maids organised by the labour movement.

With the higher coverage, annual insurance premiums are expected to go up by between $7 and $15.

Coverage across insurers will also be standardised to ensure all maids get the same protection throughout their employment in Singapore.

Personal accident protection for maids was last reviewed in 2008. Mr Tan said the NTUC's Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) - set up last year - had been asking the Government to do another review as domestic helpers' salaries, as well as the cost of living in their home countries, have increased since then.

"The current level of protection... is no longer sufficient in the event that an accident happens and the foreign domestic worker is no longer able to provide for her family," said Mr Tan. Some employers have also asked if more can be done to protect the families of injured maids.

Different insurers now provide different coverage for personal accident insurance. Some spell out a narrower definition of accidents and have more exclusions. This means some workers get compensation for certain accidents while others do not - even though the circumstances and injuries are the same.

From Oct 1, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will stipulate that personal accident insurance for maids must cover any sudden, unforeseen and unexpected incident that results in permanent disability or death. Insurers will not be able to impose exclusion clauses other than what the MOM specifies, such as pre-existing conditions and suicide.

Another change to the rules will clarify the period of insurance cover for maids: this must be from the date they arrive in Singapore till the date they return home at the end of their employment contact.

If a maid changes employers, the existing insurance coverage should last until the day the new work permit is issued, said Mr Tan.

To speed up the compensation process, maids and their legal representatives will be able to file claims with insurers, instead of relying on their employers to do so. If they are unable to do so, an MOM-appointed representative can act for them.

Mr Tan said the changes help employers to better protect their maids at a slight increase in premiums, and give maids greater peace of mind. He also thanked maids for their dedication and support, which he said had allowed Singaporean families to better manage their responsibilities at home.

"We trust that these changes will further facilitate a harmonious working relationship between employers and their foreign domestic workers," he added.

CDE chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said the centre was happy with the raised minimum coverage, noting that maids' starting salaries had risen from an average of $300 in 2012 to $550 last year.

The CDE also urged the Government to consider raising the minimum $15,000 medical insurance coverage, he added. This has not changed since 2010.

There are more than 230,000 foreign maids working in Singapore, and rules have been progressively ramped up to better protect them.

Employers will have to buy personal accident insurance policies with the new requirements when they apply for or renew work permits from Oct 1.

Further details of the changes will also be sent to employers and employment agencies, and will be available on the MOM's website.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Stiffer sentence sought for card cheat

Straits Times
20 May 2017
K.C. Vijayan

SMU graduate given 14-day short detention order and 220 hours of community service

Prosecutors wanted a credit-card cheat to be put behind bars for three months, but the court decided instead to give the newly minted Singapore Management University (SMU) graduate a short detention order of 14 days and 220 hours of community service.

The prosecution is now appealing against the sentence given to Goh Bing Kun, 27.

Goh had admitted using a debit card found by an accomplice at Zouk on Jan 24, 2015 - both men used it to buy drinks. The next day, they used the card again to buy other items, including two iPhones from a store in Bencoolen Street.

Goh , who was once awarded National Serviceman of the Year while he was with the 1st Commando Battalion, was then studying at SMU. He recently graduated and is now a management trainee.

The police nabbed him and his accomplice J Xander Roslan, 28, about two weeks after the card owner, Mr Evan Kong, 24, reported the unauthorised transactions. Roslan is due to be dealt with separately.

Goh admitted to three charges - two for cheating and one for misappropriating the debit card. Eight other charges were taken into consideration. All were for cheating to induce the delivery of property.

Goh paid back the total sum lost by Mr Kong, which amounted to $3,945.95, in July 2015.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Bryan Leow argued that the offences were serious enough for Goh to be jailed for three weeks and two months respectively for the two cheating charges, and one month for the misappropriation charge, with the latter two terms to run consecutively.

But Goh's lawyer James Ow Yong countered that rehabilitation should be the dominant sentencing consideration.

"Deterrence is well achieved through community-based sentences (CBS)," he said, adding that Goh is progressing well in his career, among other things.

In judgment grounds issued earlier this month, District Judge Low Wee Ping agreed that CBS was appropriate.

It "can achieve an even stronger deterrent effect with a short period of incarceration, while not extend to such a long period as to jeopardise the accused's career and future prospects", the judge said.

He noted that Goh had voluntarily sought counselling and taken ownership of his mistakes, and he accepted that Goh was "significantly remorseful".

Goh's sentence has been stayed pending the appeal.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Singapore latest target of ever-growing cyber threat

Straits Times
13 May 2017
Irene Tham

Hackers using advanced persistent threats require much sophistication and resources

Cyber attacks on governments and institutions have become a weapon of choice - and Singapore has not been spared the threat, said the Cyber Security Agency (CSA) of Singapore.

"Attackers are not just targeting government systems; they are (also) looking for any network that is remotely related to the Government," said Mr David Koh, chief executive of CSA. "Attackers are... always looking for the weakest link to exploit."

The attacks by hackers on National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), discovered last month, were aimed at stealing government and research data, CSA revealed yesterday.

The breaches were said to be advanced persistent threats (APTs) in which hackers gain unauthorised access to and lurk within computer networks undetected for a long period of time.

State-sponsored APTs have plagued the French presidential election, which concluded last week, and last year's US presidential election, said security software firm Trend Micro.

Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron's campaign team was repeatedly hit by phishing e-mails to trick his staff into parting with their passwords. Confirming the attacks, Mr Macron had said no campaign data was compromised. The same hacking group, dubbed Pawn Storm, was also believed to be behind the attacks last year on the e-mail accounts of the US Democratic National Committee to undermine Mrs Hillary Clinton's presidential bid.

Trend Micro said that one in five US organisations has suffered a cyber espionage-related attack in the past year.

Mr Nick Savvides, a security advocate for Asia-Pacific and Japan at cyber security software firm Symantec, said cyber attacks are either financially or politically driven.

"State-sponsored attacks are highly sophisticated and capable of obfuscating their source," he said.

Money could also be a motive.

Mr Aloysius Cheang, executive vice-president of global computing security association Cloud Security Alliance, said: "There is definitely valuable research data of commercial value."

In the case of NUS and NTU, hackers may have also assumed that the universities' systems had links to government systems, Mr Cheang added.

Mr Bill Taylor-Mountford, American security intelligence firm Log- Rhythm's vice-president in Asia-Pacific and Japan, said: "Any entities using APT need to have considerable resources."

Such threats demand a lot of sophistication, he added.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim urged everyone to do their part to defend important data. For instance, individuals can practise good cyber hygiene.

"As we become more digitally connected, such threats will continue to increase in sophistication, and both public- and private-sector organisations are equally vulnerable," he said.


CYBER THREAT

Attackers are not just targeting government systems; they are (also) looking for any network that is remotely related to the Government... Attackers are always looking for the weakest link to exploit.

MR DAVID KOH, chief executive of CSA.


ST Explainer: What is APT?

Advanced persistent threats (APTs) are stealthy and continuous computer hacking processes to gain intelligence or steal information from another party.

The hackers gain unauthorised access into and lurk within computer networks. They exploit vulnerabilities in systems with sophisticated techniques using malware.

Once the malware is planted in the network, it gives hackers a back door to remotely monitor and extract data from the target network or system.

In 2010, the Stuxnet worm, designed by the United States and Israel, made its way into Iran's Natanz facility and infected specific industrial control systems through an infected USB drive.

The malware quickly propagated and temporarily crippled Iran's nuclear programme, though computer screens showed nothing amiss.

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Updating rules on jackpot machines

Straits Times
08 May 2017

The bonanza struck by Tiong Bahru Football Club has spurred calls to review the framework which allows clubs to profit from slot machines. Last year, its revenue of almost $37 million from such machines was greater than the budget of the Football Association of Singapore for the same period. Tiong Bahru, like several other clubs leveraging one-armed bandits, is not in the top-flight S-League. Another example is Sinchi, which last played in the league in 2005 and was reportedly using jackpot money to settle its debts.

The issue is whether jackpot machines should be tolerated outside the casinos, and if so, what social, recreational and sporting objects are worthy enough for clubs to be granted dispensation to milk this form of betting. Framed this way, a flutter with gaming machines is not "harmless fun", as some put it, for adults of a registered society holding a private lottery permit. Rather, all forms of gambling must be seen as capable of generating both useful income and potential social ills. Thus, careful regulation is necessary.

One must ensure gains go to the right hands, and not to illegal bookies, external economic competitors or indeed two-bit club operators. Casinos help to boost tourism and create jobs. The Singapore Totalisator Board channels surpluses from legal forms of betting, as well as the casino entry levy, towards vulnerable groups and other good causes. And betting taxes, which are estimated to form 3.9 per cent of the Government's operating revenue this year, are used for national purposes.

While non-casino gaming machines occupy a small slice of the gambling market, their use should also serve desirable broader purposes. The rationale for this is that lax supervision of gambling could pose dangers like their grip on the young (via pervasive gaming apps, for example), the financial ruin of addiction and its effects on families, and the rise of crimes like loan-sharking.

With these considerations in mind, it's appropriate to review not just slot machines in football clubs but also their wider insinuation into other clubs, many situated close to mass housing. There is no doubt profit-churning machines help to subsidise other operations run by NTUC Club, Safra National Service Association, HomeTeamNS club, Civil Service Club, alumni clubs, country clubs, recreation clubs, and international association clubs. But should the clubs be weaned off an unhealthy dependence on betting money?

Singaporeans have the dubious honour of displaying a high cultural propensity to gamble, according to H2 Gambling Capital, which monitors the global gambling industry. Although the proportion of pathological gamblers here is low - 0.2 per cent in 2014 - and there are measures in place to combat problem gambling, it's proper to keep close tabs on how gambling money is being raised and applied here.

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New laws will help ailing firms stay afloat

Straits Times
20 May 2017
Grace Leong

Sources estimate 5 to 8 firms here will seek protection under new debt-restructuring laws

More distressed companies in the oil and gas, shipping and offshore marine sectors could seek protection under a new insolvency framework to come into effect soon.

The framework - adopting some elements of the United States bankruptcy code - aims to give troubled entities greater flexibility to restructure and survive.

Firms in these ailing industries have been hit hard by the oil price rout so a fair number are set to seek protection to restructure under the new rules, TSMP Law restructuring partner Alexander Pang said.

Industry sources estimate five to eight ailing firms, which have either raised finance here, or have creditors, operations or offices here, could seek the new protection.

One possible candidate is Ezra Holdings, which sought Chapter 11 protection in the US in March, given a lack of such protections here. There is talk the firm could apply for local protection as well, under the revised debt-restructuring laws here.

The move would be motivated by the fact that Singapore parties not doing business in the US have little to fear in not complying with a US order. But they will have to comply with a Singapore court order, TSMP Law joint managing director and senior counsel Thio Shen Yi said.

The amendments to the Companies Act - passed by Parliament in March - are set to take effect soon. After that, the High Court will be able to order a moratorium in favour of a firm proposing a scheme of arrangement for debt restructuring.

The moratorium, a temporary protection barring creditors from claiming a firm's assets,will be issued automatically upon application for up to 30 days - with worldwide effect.

The changes are being made now as Singapore companies will have to repay about $38 billion worth of local bond debt over the next four years, Mr Pang said. "In this environment, the possibility of some defaults occurring is high," he added.

If there is no strong, effective debt-restructuring framework, the oil and gas sector could face severe issues as the industry recovers, said Mr Patrick Ang, deputy managing partner at Rajah & Tann Singapore.

"The key players could disappear. But debt restructuring helps preserve company value, and keep the industry alive, so that those with the relevant industry skills can look forward to keeping their job in future. This is critical for our economy."

Another critical change is empowering the High Court to issue a judicial management order when a firm is likely to be unable to pay its debts, and not when it is unable to pay its debts. This allows the judicial management process to start earlier.

"In the past, Asian firms tended to shy away from getting into debt restructuring, or wait too long and then do it when it is too late. I think this amendment will change that mindset," Mr Ang said.

Small and medium-sized enterprises may be able to seek help through a scheme of arrangement under the revised rules. But larger firms will likely be under pressure to opt for judicial management, as creditors may prefer an independent third party to manage the distressed company, Mr Pang said.

One key change is that the court will also be able to give rescue financing "super-priority" over all other debts. What that does is help distressed businesses by attracting investors to pump in money earlier.

Current laws have no provisions for white knights to put in money earlier. But the new rules can help as banks or investors may be willing to inject fresh capital into a distressed, but economically sound business, if that capital has priority over existing debts, Mr Ang said.

These changes are part of efforts to establish Singapore as a global debt restructuring hub for Asia.


EARLY INTERVENTION

In the past, Asian firms tended to shy away from getting into debt restructuring, or wait too long and then do it when it is too late. I think this amendment will change that mindset.

MR PATRICK ANG, deputy managing partner at Rajah & Tann Singapore, on how the new laws will help firms get help earlier.

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Ministry proposes changes to GST law

Straits Times
13 May 2017
Samuel Chan

The Government proposes to tighten the goods and services tax (GST) collection process in the sale of goods commonly used in fraud schemes, such as mobile phones and memory cards.

Under a proposed amendment to the law, GST-registered sellers would no longer be allowed to charge GST on the sale of these goods to GST-registered customers, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said.

Instead, these customers would account for the GST chargeable by dealing directly with the Comptroller of GST, which means the registered customers would report the GST amount due in their GST return forms on behalf of the registered suppliers.

This will deter fraud schemes where the seller absconds after collecting the GST while businesses down the supply chain continue to claim input tax, which is GST incurred on business purchases and expenses.

Mr Koh Soo How, Asia-Pacific and Singapore's indirect tax leader at PwC, said: "With this change, the risk of the first party running away with the tax collected from the second party is eliminated as the obligation to account for the tax will be passed down to the customer."

MOF is seeking feedback on this and five other proposed changes to the GST Act aimed at easing business compliance, clarifying existing legislation and improving tax administration.

A $200 monthly penalty for late submission of GST returns immediately after the filing due date is proposed. The penalty is currently imposed only on outstanding returns starting from one month after the filing due date.

Also, GST tax notices are to go digital unless taxpayers opt out.

MOF also proposes electronic record-keeping and additional invoice details for selected businesses to beef up tax administration. To ease business compliance, it is proposed that customer accounting on the supplier side for the sale of non-residential property to Reits or their Special Purpose Vehicles be extended to movable assets sold with the property. Lastly, there is a proposed change to GST treatment regarding the sale of government land on which there are buildings to be demolished.

Details of the proposed changes can be found at mof.gov.sg.


CLOSING GAPS

With this change, the risk of the first party running away with the tax collected from the second party is eliminated as the obligation to account for the tax will be passed down to the customer.

MR KOH SOO HOW, PWC's Asia-Pacific and Singapore indirect tax leader, on the proposed change to GST collection.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

 

Your wealth and how to 'trust' it

Straits Times
07 May 2017
Lorna Tan

Trusts can serve a variety of needs, including making provisions for special needs kids and preserving one's assets

Most people know that making a will is an essential step towards distributing our wealth to our loved ones when we are no longer around, but an increasing number of us are realising that it is no longer enough.

There are other steps you can take as well, including a Lasting Power of Attorney, which is effective when you are still alive but may have lost your mental faculties, or an Advance Medical Directive that kicks in if terminal illness strikes.

Some people might even want to set up a trust for a variety of reasons, such as making provisions for their special needs children.

Mr Henny Liow, chief trust officer at DBS Private Bank, says not every family needs a trust; it depends on the circumstances and needs.

For example, a trust may be appropriate if a person "wants to avoid probate formalities and freezing of his assets after his lifetime, provide for vulnerable dependants after his lifetime, protect the family's wealth from creditors and spendthrift heirs, pay for medical and other emergencies in the event of his disability, benefit charities and other social causes after his lifetime", notes Mr Liow.

What is a trust? In her book, Instant Legal Protection For Your Family, Ms Lie Chin Chin, managing director of local law firm Characterist, explains that a trust is a legal arrangement where an individual (settlor) places assets into a trust for the appointed trustee to manage and administer for the benefit of others (beneficiaries), such as family members, friends or charitable bodies.

The assets can include property, cash, investment portfolios, shares, family businesses and jewellery.

Ms Lie says that the trust document will contain specific instructions for the trustee to manage, protect and distribute the assets and income. It will also set out the trustee's duties and responsibilities.

The trustee has a statutory obligation to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. A protector can be appointed by the settlor to safeguard the trust and prevent a trustee from abusing his powers, adds Ms Lie.

What are the main reasons for setting up a trust? Trusts serve a variety of purposes and are typically used for wealth accumulation and asset protection.

Ms Chin outlines five reasons why a trust will be useful:

1. PROTECTION FROM CREDITORS

For a person who is exposed to debt risks due to investments or businesses, a trust can protect his personal assets from creditors. Since the trustee becomes the legal title holder of the trust assets, creditor access to the assets may be limited to the settlor's beneficial share.

2. WEALTH MANAGEMENT

A person who wants to distribute assets to his dependants who are incapable of managing their own finances or wealth can use a trust to control the distribution.

3. PRESERVATION

A person who does not want his assets to be dissipated can use a trust to consolidate them for continuity of administration and preservation of growth potential. The settlor can also use a trust to preserve assets for future generations, even for beneficiaries who do not yet exist when the trust is formed.

4. FAMILY UNITY

If you want to preserve and enhance relationships within families or to prevent disputes over the inheritance of your assets, you can use a trust to promote family togetherness or shield assets from becoming the object of disputes.

5. TAX EFFECTIVENESS

A person who wants to protect his assets from being depleted by income tax can use a trust to channel asset income or profits to family members on lower income tax brackets, thereby subjecting that income or profits to lower tax rates. Similarly, a trust can be used to protect assets from capital gains or death taxes that may be applicable in other jurisdictions.

What are the common types of trusts?

In Mr Liow's experience, an inter vivos revocable discretionary trust is the most common type of trust in Asia.

"Inter vivos means the trust is set up during the settlor's lifetime. The settlor retains the power to revoke or terminate the trust at any time. The trustee is given the discretion to determine the entitlement of the beneficiaries but guided by the settlor," he says.

Ms Lie notes that there are two common types of trusts - testamentary and family.

A testamentary trust is formed in a will to take effect only after the settlor's death. It is often used to preserve assets from immediate depletion or mismanagement, to maintain family unity and to assist family members who have little or no financial management abilities.

Family trusts (also known as living trusts) can be formed during the settlor's lifetime by executing a trust deed together with the transfer of assets to the trustee. Such trusts are commonly used for tax effectiveness and protection of assets from creditors.

What are the costs involved in a trust?

The fees for setting up a trust vary according to the complexity of the trust, for example, whether it holds operating companies and if special accounting is required for certain tax filing purposes.

Ms Lie says: "A simple trust for the distribution of insurance payouts could cost about $2,500. A trust covering a few assets and beneficiaries with straightforward instructions to trustees typically costs a few thousand dollars to set up.

"A trust to provide for the family over multiple generations requires a long-term management and usually involves careful planning, discussions, design and legal advice. Such complex trusts could cost much more."

Professional trustees usually charge annual fees as a percentage of the trust assets. These could range from $8,000 to a maximum of $15,000. This fee kicks in only when the trustee's duties are activated, she adds.

Mr Liow says: "A simple trust may cost around $10,000 to set up and the annual fees will be between 0.10 per cent and 0.50 per cent of the trust asset value. Some trustees may also charge fees on a time-cost basis for additional work."

Apart from professional trust firms and banks, there is the non-profit Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC), which was set up by the Government to provide affordable trust services to people with special needs, which include physical and mental disabilities. The set-up fee is $1,500 and it is 90 per cent subsidised. A minimum of $5,000 is required to set up an SNTC trust account, compared with $50,000 at a private trust firm.


Real-life examples

CASE 1

Mr and Mrs George Tan (not their real names), both 67, have a pair of 37-year old autistic twins. The twins have completed their education in a school for people with special needs.

Mr Tan left his job to look after their sons when they were very young, and Mrs Tan has been the sole breadwinner. Last year, she retired from teaching to look after Mr Tan, who has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Mr Tan has focused on investing the family's savings to provide for their own retirement and for their two sons. He bought various types of insurance policies, including a mortgage protection policy so that their property will be free from any loan encumbrance upon their deaths.

Despite having done some financial planning, the couple did not have peace of mind because they had no one to manage the financial affairs for their two sons after they die.

When the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC) launched its trust service in October 2009, Mr and Mrs Tan decided to set up two trust accounts for their sons, so that SNTC could safeguard the money the couple intended to leave behind for them.

Mr and Mrs Tan met SNTC's case manager to develop individual care plans for their two sons. Each care plan made provisions for each son's daily living, medical and residential care needs, and projected the amount required to provide for them after the death of both parents.

The parents also set out their wishes in the Letter of Intent to SNTC, detailing how the trust funds were to be used to care for the two sons.

The trust accounts were set up in 2009, and Mr Tan continues to meet the SNTC case manager to update the care plans periodically to reflect his sons' changing needs. During these reviews, SNTC's case manager advised the couple to take the necessary action to ensure that upon their deaths, the trust would receive the assets they have earmarked for their sons.

Since then, the Tans have made their wills to give instructions to the executors to liquidate their property and inject the proceeds into the two trust accounts. They have also made nominations of future payouts from the various insurance policies to the two trust accounts.

The Tans also managed to find two friends to be appointed as successor deputies for their two sons. Also, the couple drew up their respective Lasting Power of Attorney forms to appoint donees to manage their affairs in the event that they lose their mental capacities.

They are aware that their two sons will not be able to live independently in the community after the death or incapacity of either parent.

SNTC will continue to work alongside the couple to find a suitable residential home for the twins. This provides them with peace of mind that they have put in place plans for the personal and financial affairs of their sons.

CASE 2

Mr and Mrs Michael Chong (not their real names) had successful careers and have accumulated substantial assets over the years.

They have two children, aged 22 and 24, with special needs and who are incapable of caring for themselves or managing their inheritance.

The couple are clients of local law firm Characterist.

Ms Lie Chin Chin, the firm's managing director, said: "Mr and Mrs Chong finally enjoyed peace of mind when they formed a trust to care for their children beyond their own deaths and for the lives of the children."

They appointed three people as joint trustees over a substantial pool of assets. The trustees could utilise money for the monthly care and support of the children, capped at $2,500 per child.

The cap increases by 4 per cent each year to keep up with inflation. The trustees could also utilise funds for the children's medical needs at their discretion.

Mr and Mrs Chong directed their trustees not to sell the family home for as long as any of the children are alive. Upon both children's death, the trustees are to donate all remaining assets to a designated charity.

For accountability, the trust accounts are to be audited by chartered accountants.

CASE 3

Mr Damien Sim (not his real name) rose from poverty to become the owner of a successful business and a substantial portfolio of properties.

He formed a testamentary family trust through his will for the preservation of family unity and to provide for multiple generations after him, said Ms Lie.

The trust requires his children to work together and dis-entitles any beneficiary who contests it. It sets aside money for family gatherings, permits discretionary allocation of income for educational and living needs, while requiring the assets to be preserved for decades to ensure future generations are provided for.

CASE 4

Mr Henny Liow, chief trust officer at DBS Private Bank, recalled the case of a successful Taiwanese entrepreneur who wanted to give back to society.

Mr Mark He (not his real name), formed a trust with instructions to fund eligible tertiary students in Taiwan as well as to pay for Taiwanese students to study in overseas universities. The trust is a charitable one and can last perpetually.

CASE 5

A Singapore family has children who are extremely successful in their respective careers but have little interest in managing the wealth their parents built up.

The parents established a trust with DBS Private Bank with a specific distribution plan to take care of the well-being of their children and future grandchildren, while leaving the management of the assets in the hands of a professional investment manager.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Family violence is everyone's business: Forum

Straits Times
20 May 2017

The report on the abusive stepfather (Man kicked, punched and stepped on 4-year-old stepdaughter; May 18) highlights how young children can be abused severely behind closed doors over a prolonged period.

As a specialist organisation working with children and families who experience violence, Pave believes this case shows why anyone who is aware of family violence needs to raise the alarm early.

The little girl suffered no fewer than 29 injuries over two months. Could she have been spared the worst of it, had someone raised the alarm sooner?

Our experience tells us that once violence starts, it may not stop. It can persist and lead to serious consequences for victims, including severe injury or even death.

Children who are victims or witnesses of violence are especially vulnerable.

Traumatised young children are among the hardest to help and may need a long time to recover from the physical, psychological and emotional scars.

Children need adults to protect them, but sometimes a protective parent may be experiencing spousal abuse herself and is living in fear of the abuser.

Anyone who is aware of the abuse or suspects abuse can help.

Extended family members, neighbours, friends, teachers and schoolmates can play their part in alerting the authorities.

The tragedy of the young child in the news this week tells us we have to stop thinking that family violence is a private matter. It is everyone's business to be concerned and to help stop the violence.

Adisti Jalani (Ms)
Acting Principal Social Worker
Pave

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

New cap on tenants for private homes

Straits Times
13 May 2017
Ng Jun Sen

From Monday, landlords can rent out to no more than six unrelated persons; no change to HDB cap

When she moved out of her family home last year, Ms Yvette Lim, 34, thought she could eventually sublet her old bedroom to help her family pay the rent.

With a floor area of 4,500 sq ft, her spacious Choa Chu Kang house, where six of her family members now live, could easily accommodate a few more tenants, she calculated.

But her plans have been dashed.

From Monday, landlords can rent out private homes to no more than six unrelated persons. If there are six related people living in the residence, no tenants are allowed.

The move reduces the occupancy cap from eight previously.

Existing tenancy agreements with seven or eight tenants will be allowed to run their course until May 15, 2019, but after that, the rules will kick in regardless of the contract's expiration date, said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in a letter on Thursday to registered property agents .

For HDB flats, the maximum sub-tenants allowed for a three-room unit and a four-room or bigger unit remain unchanged, at six and nine respectively.

Ms Lim, an administrative assistant, told The Straits Times: "Eight was just nice for us, but it's a pity now because the house will be quite empty. One of the five bedrooms will be unused."

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, a URA spokesman said the rule change ensures that residential premises are "consistent with the character of the local community and integrate better with the neighbourhood".

He added that it takes into account "the strong supply of alternative accommodation" that caters to non-familial groups of occupants, such as hostels for students and dormitories for company employees.

Some residents and property watchers The Straits Times spoke to welcomed the move, saying it will reduce disruption and noise caused by overcrowded units.

PropNex Realty chief executive officer Ismail Gafoor said: "Private properties are meant to be exclusive, with owners of the development having the quiet enjoyment of the facilities and lifestyle. In order to maintain this exclusivity, the cap of six tenants is reasonable."

However, landlords such as Mr Peter Chia do not agree. The retiree, who is in his 60s, relies on rental income from his four-bedroom unit in Pacific Mansion in the River Valley area. He lives there with five tenants and hopes to get two more.

Mr Chia will have to take down his advertisement if he is unable to rent out the empty bedroom in his 1,500 sq ft apartment by Monday. This is a loss of $900 to $1,200 in potential monthly rent, he said.

The new rule will also affect home-sharing such as Airbnb. The URA is studying the option of creating a new category of private homes that will allow short-term rentals.

An occupancy cap of six means that future home-sharing hosts will not be able to lease out an apartment to, say, two large families, said International Property Advisor CEO Ku Swee Yong.

Some analysts wondered if the occupancy cap could have better reflected the size of the home.

Said Cushman & Wakefield research director Christine Li: "A better implementation could have been to peg occupancy caps to the number of bedrooms, similar to that for HDB flats."

URA said this is not the case as there are various types of private property, from small apartments to bungalows. Said a spokesman: "We have simplified the control for greater clarity to the public by not adopting a stratified occupancy cap control based on unit sizes."

Thursday's announcement gave three days for real estate agents to react and could trigger a surge in rental contracts being renewed or signed over the weekend, said ERA Realty key executive officer Eugene Lim.

On social media, some agents have started asking landlords with a sizeable number of tenants to quickly renew their tenancy pacts.

Said Mr Lim: "We have not seen any surge of sign-ups yet, but we do not rule out that some landlords will try (to do so) over the next few days, before May 15 arrives."

Mr Lim believes HDB occupancy caps may soon follow suit.

"There is a possibility that HDB may align the caps accordingly since the spirit of this rule change is to prevent overcrowding within residential units," he said.


REASONABLE NUMBER

Private properties are meant to be exclusive, with owners of the development having the quiet enjoyment of the facilities and lifestyle. In order to maintain this exclusivity, the cap of six tenants is reasonable.

PROPNEX REALTY CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER ISMAIL GAFOOR

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Ensuring lifelongcare for dependants with special needs

Straits Times
07 May 2017
Lorna Tan

Most trusts are set up by individuals with more than $2 million in assets and usually through professional firms and banks.

These firms charge a set-up fee of about $3,000 to $10,000, and a minimum initial capital of $50,000 is typically required. There is also an annual fee - usually a percentage of the assets held - which kicks in once the trust is activated, usually when death or incapacity occurs.

Fees vary among firms and depend on the nature of the assets as well as the complexity of the trust.

However, such an arrangement may be unsuitable for some families with special needs members who require particular attention.

For these families - especially those who cannot afford private trust firms and banks - their top concern is how such family members will be cared for after the caregivers die.

This is where the Special Needs Trust Company (SNTC) can step in.

Set up in 2008, SNTC is the only non-profit trust company in Singapore with a charity status to provide affordable trust services to people with special needs and who are unable to manage their finances independently.

It allows family members to set aside money and assets in SNTC accounts to support these loved ones, and aims to safeguard these assets to enhance the beneficiary's financial security and well-being.

The trust fund stood at $18.4 million as at April 30 and 468 SNTC accounts have been opened. Of these, 22 have been activated, with funds disbursed monthly to pay for the living expenses of beneficiaries.

Supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, SNTC partners the Public Trustee Office, which manages and invests the trust funds. It should be noted that the principal value of the SNTC trust funds is guaranteed by the Government.

SNTC general manager Esther Tan says: "We want to help our target group of low- to middle- income families to understand that the SNTC trust service is affordable and they can use the infrastructure to safeguard their monies for their special needs dependants."

Who are the target customers of SNTC?

SNTC trusts can be set up by parents who have children with special needs, or by children whose parents have developed disabilities in old age or through accidents.

The person with special needs - physical, intellectual or mental disabilities - must be a Singaporean or permanent resident residing here.

Says Ms Tan: "The target group would be low- to middle-income families with modest means, but have no suitable immediate family members or friends to manage the monies they intend to leave for their special needs dependants."

SNTC's priority is to reach out to elderly parents or caregivers to work with its social workers to develop a holistic care plan for their special needs dependants. This will help address the dependants' accommodation and care needs.

Even if parents are reluctant to set up a trust, SNTC can still work out a care plan at no charge to provide an idea of how much they need to set aside.

How does it work?

SNTC case managers, who are trained social workers, work with caregivers to identify and assess a dependant's needs and develop his case plan.

The firm places great importance on a "holistic needs assessment" to identify the special needs person's requirements across his lifespan. To do that, the case manager is required to understand the family background, including the income level and social support.

The detailed case plan projects the amount of trust funds that caregivers will need to set aside so that the beneficiary can enjoy a similar quality of life when the caregivers are no longer around.

SNTC is the trustee, but the power of investment and asset management is given to the Public Trustee.

A Letter of Intent will outline the caregivers' wishes on how the trust funds should be used for the dependant's care, such as accommodation and daily living and medical expenses.

The trust will also name the residual beneficiaries who will inherit the trust funds after the special needs person has died. They could be siblings, relatives or charities.

After the trust is set up (but not yet activated), the case manager will conduct reviews with the caregiver at least once a year.

These reviews will note any changes to contact details, the person's needs, Letter of Intent and residual beneficiaries.

SNTC will work with the caregivers to guide them to take the necessary action to make their wills, Central Provident Fund (CPF) and/or insurance nomination to ensure that money will be injected into the trust after their death.

Another action plan is put in place once the trust is activated. SNTC will follow up on all assets willed or nominated by the parents or caregivers to SNTC trust, to ensure that the executors and/or insurance companies will hand the funds to the special needs beneficiary's trust account.

The case manager will regularly meet and perform post-activation reviews with the person named by the caregivers who have died or become incapacitated as the one primarily in charge of the special needs person. Home visits will also be conducted to check on how the beneficiary is doing.

Any request for payment of expenses not stated in the Letter of Intent will be reimbursed only if SNTC is satisfied that the expenses were incurred for the benefit and in the best interests of the special needs beneficiary.

What are the set-up and activation fees?

The fees payable to SNTC are heavily subsidised. For instance, the set-up fee is $1,500 and it is 90 per cent subsidised. There is an annual pre-activation fee of $250, which enjoys a 100 per cent subsidy, so there is zero charge.

The one-time fee when the trust is activated, which is when the caregiver dies or becomes incapacitated, is $400. This is 90 per cent subsidised, as is the annual post-activation fee of $400.

The subsidies are from the Ministry of Social and Family Development and they are offered with no requirement for means testing of the household, which makes it very affordable.

What can form the trust's assets?

As part of the case plan development process, the case manager will discuss with the caregivers on the trust funds that can be topped up over time. The sources include personal savings, insurance death payouts and benefits, and CPF savings. Caregivers are encouraged to pledge the proceeds from the future sale of their homes upon their deaths as well.

There is a minimum sum of $5,000 to set up a trust. However, if the caregivers are cash-strapped and meet SNTC's donation criteria, it will use the donation funds to provide them with the initial capital to set up the trust.

Special Needs Savings Scheme

The SNTC's services are complemented by the Special Needs Savings Scheme (SNSS), which enables parents to set aside CPF savings for the long-term care of children with special needs.

Rolled out in 2012 and administered by SNTC since 2014, it was developed in response to parents worried about the long-term financial security of their special needs children, but who had little in savings outside of their CPF.

SNSS allows them to nominate these children to receive a regular stream of fixed payouts upon their death. No fees are levied on the CPF members and the same interest rate as the parents' CPF accounts will continue to be earned.

The minimum monthly CPF payout is $250 for each nominated child with special needs. Parents are free to decide on the monthly amount but it must be at least $250.

There is no minimum balance sign-up for SNSS. However, a participating parent's CPF savings upon his death must be sufficient to support a year's worth of payouts or at least $3,000. If this condition is not met upon the parent's death, the CPF savings will be disbursed as a lump sum to the nominee.

To qualify as a nominee under SNSS, a person should require assistance in at least one activity of daily living (washing, dressing, feeding, toileting, mobility and transferring) or be attending or have attended a special education school.

As at the end of last month, 399 SNSS applications have been approved.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Court to rule if lawyer who evaded tax is fit to practise

Straits Times
19 May 2017
K.C. Vijayan

A lawyer who was jailed for tax evasion will have to face a court of three judges, which will rule if he is unfit to continue practising.

Mr Ong Cheong Wei, 52, is now working as an Uber driver.

A disciplinary tribunal recommended Mr Ong be dealt with by the court, which is the highest body to deal with errant lawyers.

Mr Ong, who used to run his own firm, was convicted and jailed for four weeks on each of the two tax evasion charges in 2015. He also paid a penalty of $118,341.

Among other things, he declared his income for assessment years 2007 and 2008 as $93,000 in total, and underdeclared $306,305.

Mr Ong, who was called to the Bar in 1995, continued to practise after his release from jail until April last year, when the Attorney-General's Chambers objected to his bid for a practising certificate. Lawyers have to apply for one every year.

Mr Ong pleaded guilty before a tribunal last December to a single charge pursued by lawyer Daniel John for the Law Society that the criminal convictions "imply a defect of character" making him unfit for the profession.

The tribunal appointed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and comprising Senior Counsel Andre Yeap and lawyer G. Radakrishnan said not every criminal conviction made a lawyer unfit to continue practising and noted there was no precedent case here where disciplinary action had been taken against a lawyer convicted of an offence under a similar section of the Income Tax Act.

The tribunal in decision grounds last month ruled that tax evasion was a dishonest act that made Mr Ong unfit to be a lawyer.

Mr Ong urged the tribunal to show mercy, noting he had paid his dues and served jail time. The tribunal ruled that the case be referred to a court of three judges, where he can be struck off, suspended or fined, among other things.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Why carbon tax is needed and what it means for Singapore

Straits Times
12 May 2017
Euston Quah & Christabelle Soh

The effects must not be considered in isolation, especially as low-income households may need help in coping with higher costs

Carbon taxes will be implemented in Singapore from 2019. These taxes will be levied on the largest direct emitters of greenhouse gases, such as power plants.

Consultations with industries have been completed and the authorities are in the midst of public consultations.

When it comes to considering the appropriate size of the carbon tax, the overarching balance that needs to be struck is between the economic concepts of efficiency and equity.

On the efficiency front, a measure to reduce carbon emissions is necessary if Singapore is to have any chance of meeting its carbon-reduction obligations under the Paris agreement to curb fossil fuels that harm the planet.

As things stand, global carbon emissions are on track to increase global temperatures by more than 2 deg C, the limit beyond which a catastrophe is very likely to happen.

Too much of the world's resources are being allocated to producing goods and services that result in overly high carbon emissions. A high carbon tax is often seen as necessary to discourage carbon emissions.

The superiority of a carbon tax over other measures such as tradable permits - another form of carbon emissions pricing in which firms are given a permit to carry on carbon activities - lies primarily in the fact that carbon taxes are easier to understand and implement.

Unlike tradable permits, they result in stable carbon prices that enable firms to make necessary plans for adjustments, such as in making future business investment decisions.

On the equity front, things are more complex. First, while the carbon tax will be imposed only on large direct greenhouse gas-emitters, there will be knock-on effects on the rest of the economy.

Power plants will pass on the tax, at the very least partially, in the form of higher electricity prices. This will affect all households and firms, whose electricity bills will rise. The higher costs for firms may be passed on in the form of higher prices for goods and services. One further upshot is that the carbon taxes, if sufficiently large, may stimulate inflation.

LOW-INCOME HOUSEHOLDS HIT

The extent of the price increase will depend on the extent to which firms can pass on increased costs of production as higher prices.

Here, unfortunately, lies one source of inequity. Necessities, for which consumers have the lowest sensitivity to prices, would see the largest increases as households do not have the option of going without them.

In contrast, luxury items would see little rise in prices as firms are less able to pass on cost increases as consumers have the option of simply going without them.

Furthermore, the lowest-income households spend the largest proportion of their income on necessities.

According to the 2013 Household Expenditure Survey, households in the bottom income decile spent 9.9 per cent of their monthly income on food. The figure for households in the top decile, in contrast, was just 4.2 per cent.

Expenditure on electricity and gas showed a similar picture, taking up 4.1 per cent and 1.9 per cent of the monthly incomes of households in the bottom and top deciles respectively.

In short, carbon taxes may result in the largest erosion of the purchasing power of the poorest households.

This tension between efficiency and equity will affect the so-called optimal amount of tax. Efficiency concerns would demand a higher tax to reduce carbon emissions and push the carbon tax towards the upper limit of $20 per tonne that the Government had publicly stated.

Equity concerns, meanwhile, would demand a lower tax to minimise the impact on low-income households and push the eventual carbon tax towards the lower limit of $10 per tonne.

A further consideration would be whether there are accompanying measures and how well they would work. For example, the carbon tax is not the only measure in place to reduce carbon emissions.

The restructuring of diesel taxes, the extension of the carbon emission-based vehicles scheme till Dec 31 this year, and the enhancement of early turnover schemes encouraging early replacement of older and more pollutive commercial diesel vehicles all work towards reducing carbon emissions. The better these schemes work, the lower the carbon tax required in meeting carbon-reduction obligations. Hence, there is a need to take a holistic or inclusive approach in determining the optimal level of carbon taxes to be implemented.

Similarly, the impact on low-income households must be assessed carefully.

The effects of the carbon taxes must not be studied in isolation. The sum of the effects of higher water prices, increased U-Save rebates, GST vouchers and the like should be studied jointly to determine the net effect on low-income households, and whether carbon taxes should lean towards $10 per tonne or if another layer of rebates is necessary.

Between the two, it is probably better to keep the carbon taxes high enough to achieve its efficiency objective and introduce a separate rebate to deal with the consequent inequity, if necessary.

THE IDEAL TAX

Any form of carbon-emission reduction costs money as firms and households are compelled to use more expensive energy and newer technology and incur mitigation costs as in carbon pricing.

The revenue collected from a carbon tax may be used to reduce other taxes, and this benefit itself may partially offset the costs of carbon-emission reduction.

The carbon tax rate will rise over time. The optimal or ideal tax should be calculated based on the link between carbon content and damage to health, productivity and the economy. Studies will be needed to try to quantify this link between carbon content and societal damage. In that way, people can readily see the need for a carbon tax and the amount levied.

A carbon tax is definitely necessary and post-Paris is the best time to implement it as other countries' implementation of their carbon-reducing measures would mean that Singapore's carbon taxes would not reduce its relative international competitiveness.

However, in working out what should be the quantum levy for the carbon tax, a more broad-based and inclusive view of the efficiency and equity impacts must be taken. Only then can the two be weighed and an informed decision made.


The superiority of a carbon tax over other measures such as tradable permits - another form of carbon emissions pricing where firms are given a permit to carry on carbon activities - lies primarily in the fact that carbon taxes are easier to understand and implement.


Euston Quah is professor of environmental economics and head of economics at Nanyang Technological University. He is also president of the Economic Society of Singapore. Christabelle Soh is an economics teacher with the Ministry of Education.

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Russian woman charged over alleged role in foreign vice ring

Straits Times
07 May 2017
Lester Hio

A Russian woman was charged yesterday over her alleged involvement in a "high-class" vice ring which offered escort services starting from $500 an hour.

Traskovskaya Evgenia, 39, was charged with three counts of knowingly living in part on the earnings of two foreign prostitutes.

Between April and May 7 last year, and from January until late March, Evgenia allegedly lived in part on the earnings of a purported Russian prostitute, Natalia Kapskaya, 31.

Evgenia also allegedly lived in part on the earnings of a purported prostitute from Uzbekistan, Asalya Abdurakhmanova, 30, between September last year and April.

Evgenia is one of four women, aged between 26 and 39, arrested last Thursday after police officers from the Criminal Investigation Department carried out simultaneous raids in the vicinity of Raffles Boulevard, Tanjong Katong Road and Cairnhill Road.

The four women are suspected of making use of their valid Singapore work passes to commit prostitution-related crimes.

The police said preliminary investigations revealed that the vice syndicate used at least 10 different online platforms - including Backpage, Skokka and Yelp - to advertise the sexual services of women, starting from $500 an hour.

Evgenia arrived in court in a grey T-shirt and later changed into a white T-shirt. Her blonde hair was tied in a ponytail.

She was expressionless as a Russian translator read out her charges.

Evegenia did not enter a plea. Bail was set at $30,000.

Her case will be mentioned again on May 19.

Under the Women's Charter, anyone who knowingly lives entirely, or in part, on the earnings of the prostitution of another person can be jailed for up to five years and fined up to $10,000.

In a separate police raid last Thursday, five women aged between 29 and 39, and a 21-year-old man, were also arrested for prostitution-related activities in residential areas in Yishun and Sengkang, the police said in a news release yesterday.


Between April and May 7 last year, and from January until late March, Evgenia allegedly lived in part on the earnings of a purported Russian prostitute, Natalia Kapskaya, 31.

Evgenia also allegedly lived in part on the earnings of a purported prostitute from Uzbekistan, Asalya Abdurakhmanova, 30, between September last year and April.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Lawyer faces discipline over dodgy fund transfers

Straits Times
19 May 2017
K.C. Vijayan

He is accused of abetting money laundering based on info hacked from his computer

A lawyer whose computer was hacked and the material used to show he acted in dubious cross-border money transfers will have his case referred to a court of three judges, in decision grounds released on Wednesday.

The court will decide if Mr Allan Chan Chun Hwee can continue to practise law or be suspended or fined.

Mr Chan had pleaded guilty last year to four charges of misconduct before a disciplinary tribunal.

The tribunal probe followed an anonymous complaint to the Law Society in 2014 that he had allegedly abetted money laundering activities for two companies.

The letter included material from the hacked computer.

This is the first reported case of a lawyer being taken to task before a disciplinary tribunal for accepting and sending foreign currency without verifying source backgrounds.

Mr Chan, a lawyer of 18 years who ran his own firm, admitted he did not carry out background checks on the two companies - Institute of Business Management and Financial Services and Investment Suisse.

He had been asked by a man claiming to be a "Sir" Robert Cowley in 2006 to advise on Singapore law and to act as an escrow agent for the receipt and transmission of funds as directed by Mr Cowley and the two companies he chaired in return for a percentage fee.

The title "Sir" was self-appointed by Mr Cowley, a 73-year-old Australian who has faced legal trouble in his home country.

The complaint letter spelt out one transaction of US$1.5 million and eight transactions of over US$20,000 each. The transactions stopped after 2011.

The tribunal noted an e-mail from Mr Cowley in July 2008 which said transactions of up to €5 million could take place and Mr Chan stood to gain from fees for "no or very little legal work".

The Law Society did not accuse Mr Chan of money laundering but argued that the deals amounted to breaches of the "know your client and know your client's business" rules.

Mr Chan, who represented himself, admitted he did not verify Mr Cowley's identity beyond meeting him on a few occasions. He also did not carry out background checks on the two companies. He added that no "red flags" went off in his mind to do further background checks, explaining that as a "much younger and impressionable lawyer", he felt "privileged" to serve Mr Cowley.

The tribunal, appointed by the Chief Justice and comprising Senior Counsel Roderick Martin and lawyer Teo Weng Kie, noted he did not challenge the authenticity of the e-mails attached to the anonymous complaint, among other things. Mr Chan was ordered to pay $5,000 in costs to the Law Society.

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Group launches drive against sex trafficking

Straits Times
12 May 2017
Kok Xing Hui

Kalinga Fellowship aims to run programmes in rest of Asia too

A 10-year effort to reduce the trafficking of women in Asia, and sexual assault against them was launched in Singapore yesterday.

Called the Kalinga Fellowship, the programme has its roots in India and aims to reduce trafficking and sexual assault by having governments, companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) work together.

Kalinga Fellowship kicked off with a pilot in March this year in the eastern state of Odisha in India. Over five days, 120 attendees from NGOs, and the private and public sectors tackled topics such as fighting sexual harassment at work and educating Indians on trafficking.

Attendees from March's pilot were split into work-groups with specific agendas that have to be met in a year's time. One group, for example, will develop a television show to educate viewers on trafficking and sexual assault.

Next year, the group intends to focus on Telangana state in south India and then Bangladesh in 2019. Other countries it will launch programmes in include Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand and Nepal.

Organisers decided to launch the programme here since Singapore is a "heart of commercial strength" and businesses have "a profound role in stopping the trafficking of girls in Asia", said Mr Simon McKenzie, chief operating officer of non-profit Bridge Institute, one of the five partners behind the Kalinga Fellowship.

"While sexual abuse happens less in Singapore, its ability to create a platform is much greater," said Mr McKenzie.

In March 2015, Singapore enacted the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act.

In February last year, a 25-year-old man was sentenced to six years and three months in jail, and fined $30,000 for forcing two teenage girls into prostitution - the first case to be prosecuted under the Act.

In a 2015 report on human trafficking, the US State Department gave Singapore a Tier 2 position on a four-tier ranking, meaning that the Republic had not fully complied with US laws on human trafficking but is making "significant efforts" to do so.

Yesterday's launch was attended by more than 80 people, including business leaders, activists and educators.

GETTING THE WORD OUT

While sexual abuse happens less in Singapore, its ability to create a platform is much greater.

MR SIMON MCKENZIE, chief operating officer of the Bridge Institute, one of five partners behind the Kalinga Fellowship.

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Competition watchdog looks into infant milk formula prices

Straits Times
06 May 2017
Tiffany Fumiko Tay

CCS says it will reveal more in due course; move comes as several MPs express concern about spike in prices

The Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) has looked into the rising cost of infant milk formula, an issue that several Members of Parliament have voiced concerns about, and will reveal more in due course, it told The Straits Times yesterday.

In March, ST reported that the average price of a 900g tin of formula milk had increased 120 per cent over the last decade to $56.06, outstripping the increases for other dairy products and household staples.

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Chia Shi-Lu said in a Facebook post earlier this week that many families in Queenstown on assistance have asked for help with the cost of formula powder over the years.

"In families with several young children, especially those with special formula needs, this can come up to be quite a considerable monthly expense," he wrote.

MacPherson MP Tin Pei Ling plans to ask about the rising cost of infant milk powder when Parliament sits on Monday.

MP Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) was not able to secure a slot to deliver her speech but said in an interview that the issue is of particular concern to her as Punggol Town has the highest number of births and young children in Singapore, with nine babies born every day to residents last year.

"While we promote breastfeeding, the fact of the matter is that sometimes mothers have to supplement," said Ms Sun, 37, who has two daughters aged four years old and five months. "When I had my first daughter, the cost was about $44, and now I buy the exact same one for about $55."

Infant formula suppliers have been taken to task elsewhere. In 2013, China fined six companies a total of US$110 million (S$155 million) following an investigation into price-fixing and anti-competitive practices by foreign producers.

The price of infant milk powder here has increased at nearly twice the pace of the nominal median monthly income of residents over the last decade, said Ms Sun.

Conducting an online survey on her Facebook page that drew over 2,500 responses over three days, she found that parents with children under a year old spend an average of $191 a month on formula.

"The overall point is about the cost of bringing up a child, and infant milk formula is quite a significant portion," she said, noting that a similar tin of infant milk formula can cost up to more than twice as much in Singapore than in Malaysia, Australia and Britain.

Milk powder companies have told ST the price hikes are due to research and development and rising overhead costs, though economists say it boils down to suppliers having the upper hand as it is seen as a necessity and a short-term expense.

According to market research provider Euromonitor International, Nestle, Abbott, Mead Johnson Nutrition, FrieslandCampina and Danone made up more than 60 per cent of the fortified milk formula market share globally last year, and more than 99 per cent in Singapore, with Abbott making up nearly half of the local market.

The market for milk formula in Singapore grew 17 per cent to $203.4 million over the last five years, and is projected to increase further to $209.2 million by 2021.

On the issue of the marketing of infant milk formula, Ms Sun said of choosing a cheaper brand: "Price is one factor, another is the perception of what that brand and milk powder can do for their child. Obviously parents want the best for their children, so they're willing to spend."

She found on a trip to the supermarket that some brands imply on their labels that consuming their product may make children smarter, she said, raising questions about the evidence for such claims and rules around the marketing of infant milk powder.

Given that infant milk formula is a necessity for many parents, the introduction of a $1.5 million milk scheme in February to give 7,500 low-income families vouchers to buy milk powder is timely, she said.

But more aid may be needed.

"If there are people who need infant milk formula for their child and the price is out of their reach, then we have to find a way of getting that help across to them," she said.


ESSENTIAL FOR MUMS

While we promote breastfeeding, the fact of the matter is that sometimes mothers have to supplement... When I had my first daughter, the cost was about $44, now I buy the exact same one for about $55.

MP SUN XUELING (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC)


HEFTY EXPENSE

In families with several young children, especially those with special formula needs, this can come up to be quite a considerable monthly expense.

MP CHIA SHI-LU (Tanjong Pagar GRC)

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

Rule of law is about ensuring robust legal processes: Voices

TODAY
19 May 2017

I am concerned about the conception of the rule of law in “Reinforce religious ideas of love, forgiveness to support rule of law” (April 17).

The letter’s central theme is the importance of mutual respect and understanding among people from diverse backgrounds within Singapore.

The writer goes on to emphasise the role of the rule of law in ensuring order here, concluding with the exhortation to Singaporeans to “reinforce the positive ideas, such as forgiveness and love ... the rule of law aims to support”.

This oversteps the doctrinal boundaries of the rule of law to encompass values such as forgiveness, love and mutual understanding, which bear little relation to its core elements.

The heart of the rule of law is about ensuring robust legal processes by upholding the following principles: Clarity and certainty in legal rules; transparency and accountability in legal processes; and equal access to the law for all citizens.

Our leaders have adhered to these conceptual boundaries.

In “Rule of law a game-changer for S’pore: PM” (April 1), the Prime Minister spoke of ensuring that individuals trust all are equal before the law and that businesses know they operate in a transparent, rational environment.

Crucially, he said the rule of law stood for the upholding of individual rights and freedoms while balancing them against society’s need to maintain law and order.

To be clear, I believe that voices espousing virtues such as forgiveness, love and mutual understanding should be lauded.

Nonetheless, only with a proper understanding of the rule of law, a principle critical to Singapore’s success, can there be meaningful debate about its elements and practical operation in our society.

Copyright 2017 MediaCorp Pte Ltd | All Rights Reserved

Global mindset vital as maritime industry transforms

Straits Times
12 May 2017
Jacqueline Woo

Staying relevant in terms of both skills and knowledge is vital in an industry that is seeing a huge transformation, said Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) chief executive Andrew Tan.

"We are in a phase of industrial transition - some may even call it post-industrial - where it can no longer be business as usual for businesses, industry and even governments," Mr Tan noted, speaking at the annual MPA Global Internship Awards ceremony yesterday.

"This is why the MPA Global Internship Award is such an important initiative in building up a strong pipeline of skilled talent with a global mindset for the maritime sector," he said, adding there is an increased need for Singaporeans and enterprises to operate in overseas markets as the economy here continues to internationalise.

"Notwithstanding the current challenges facing the industry, the maritime sector continues to invest in future talent. As we continue to build up Singapore as the global maritime hub of choice, we will equip our young with the necessary global mindset, networks and skills to take on more leadership roles in the maritime industry."

A record 39 students received the award at the event held at Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel, well up from 23 awards given out in 2014. A total of 27 companies, such as Maersk and K Line, are also set to participate in the programme.

Under the programme, they will be given experiential opportunities for internship at local and overseas offices of companies in the maritime industry, covering sectors such as shipping, technical management, shipbroking, offshore, finance and marine insurance.

The award, launched in 2013 to provide local undergraduates in their penultimate year of study with the opportunity to gain practical insights into the global maritime industry, was expanded in recent years to include students from non-maritime disciplines such as law, finance and computing.

One of the recipients this year was Ms Jesslyn Zeng, 21, who is pursuing a double degree in economics and law at the National University of Singapore.

Ms Zeng will be interning at BW Offshore's Norway office for three weeks. "I believe the internship with BW Offshore's in-house legal team will give me a new perspective on the job scope of a legal counsel who serves the oil and gas business," she said.

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Lum Chang snags first en bloc site this year for S$65m

Business Times
06 May 2017
Lynette Khoo

It plans to turn the freehold development One Tree Hill Gardens near Orchard Road into landed homes

The price translates to a land rate of S$1,664 per square foot (psf), based on the site area of 3,629.1 sq m (39,063 sq ft).

The option to purchase all 13 strata units and common areas in the residential property was exercised on Friday by Lum Chang Auriga Pte Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the group. The transaction is subject to approval by the Strata Titles Board.

Owners at One Tree Hill Gardens are expected to receive between S$4.3 million and S$9.1 million in gross sale proceeds.

Lum Chang Holdings non-executive director Kelvin Lum, a son of Lum Chang managing director David Lum, said the group is planning to build "bespoke landed homes to suit the needs and tastes of individual buyers".

The freehold site is expected to accommodate up to 15 landed units, with the launch date likely to be next year.

The purchase price is below the owners' asking price of S$72.8 million, but marketing agent Knight Frank's head of investment and capital markets Ian Loh said the psf pricing on land area is comparable to those in recent transactions of landed homes in the vicinity.

But because the developer's offered price is lower than the confidential reserve price, owners had to go through another round of garnering the requisite 80 per cent consensus.

"While developers are seeking to replenish their land bank, they are expected to be price sensitive and selective about sites," Mr Loh said.

The plot of land now houses six maisonettes and seven apartments. Under the 2014 Master Plan, it is zoned residential for two-storey semi-detached houses. Located at the junction of One Tree Hill and Jalan Arnap, the site is 300 m from the upcoming Orchard Boulevard MRT station on the Thomson-East Coast Line.

Mr Lum said: "Landed homes in the area are hard to come by, so we think there is a market for this landed housing. We think it's a good opportunity to be active in development in Singapore."

Lum Chang's last residential development projects here were two executive condominium projects which it jointly developed with Frasers Centrepoint Limited, namely, Twin Fountains (launched in 2013) and Esparina Residences (2010). Lum Chang had minority stakes in both.

The collective sales market has turned around from the doldrums of 2014-2015, stirred to life by the 2016 success of three residential en bloc deals worth more than S$1 billion.

More property owners are thus embarking on the collective sale process this year. Owners at Lagoon View, a leasehold project in Marine Parade with a land size of over 500,000 sq ft, have set up a sales committee and are looking to engage consultants. The current plot ratio of the 480-unit project is 1.9, below the maximum plot ratio of 2.8.

Projects farther along in the pipeline for en bloc sale include the 12-unit, freehold Dunearn Court, which is said to be close to garnering an 80 per cent consensus from its owners. Amber Park in Katong is said to be at the halfway mark of the requisite consensus level; progress is being made in Cairnhill Mansion in District 9, Villa D'este in District 10 and Florence Regency (a former HUDC estate in Hougang Avenue 2).

The tender for Rio Casa, a former HUDC estate in Hougang with a 36,811.1 sq m area, closes on May 23. Owners are expecting offers of more than S$450.8 million.

CBRE director for investment properties Galven Tan said developers are generally hungrier now and thus more willing to compete for sites with good attributes "based on their views of what the right market value is".

JLL regional director for capital markets Tan Hong Boon noted that owners' pricing has to be reasonable to attract competitive bids from developers and to secure the best price. If owners are asking for higher prices, it may take longer for them to conclude a sale, he said.

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Use Case's model agreement to deal with contractors: Forum

Straits Times
19 May 2017

We thank Mr Kong Peng Sun for his feedback (Unfair renovation contracts hurt home owners; May 11).

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) frowns on the practice of renovation contractors asking consumers to pay a substantial advance deposit before the work begins.

From 2014 to 2016, Case received at least 713 complaints in which renovation works were delayed or stopped halfway.

Most of the consumers who were affected by such delays were those who had paid at least 80 per cent of the contractual value. This is clearly unacceptable.

Consumers are advised to ask renovation contractors to commit in writing to the payment schedule as well as the key project milestones and deliverables, with completion dates clearly documented, and pay accordingly.

Consumers should also not pay a large deposit upfront.

In this way, they can limit their losses should the contractor delay or stop work. It will also be helpful should there be a subsequent dispute.

We also encourage consumers to use our model agreement on home renovation, which can be downloaded from our website (https://www.case.org.sg/pdf/model_renovation.pdf).

It provides fair guidelines for consumers to negotiate terms with contractors.

Samples of a payment schedule with key project milestones and deliverables can also be found in the model agreement.

When choosing a renovation contractor, consumers should consider a contractor under the CaseTrust accreditation scheme for better protection and faster resolution of issues, if any.

Lim Biow Chuan

President
Consumers Association of Singapore (Case)

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