Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two Souls

The Arab manning the hotel souvenir shop invited us to come in out of the cold, no purchase necessary. After learning we were from Singapore, he said his name was the equivalent of Peter, as in St Peter. Not exactly something one would shout from the top of the roof in a 99.9 percent Muslim country.

Peter said business throughout Egypt was in the doldrums, following the departure of Mubarak. Would he consider Mubarak a good guy? Yes, said Peter, he was a strongman, but he was getting old (in the head). The new set of leaders are wimps by comparison, and have yet to earn the confidence of the people. Uh uh, we know the feeling, but discretion kept our opinions to ourselves.

Raul the bellhop was from Mumbai. He heard from friends Sentosa World Resort was hiring. Where are the Dubai nationals, we asked him. From the waiters in the coffee shop to the guy in charge of the internet kiosk, everyone was from the Philippines. Only the drivers for the shuttle buses to the city shopping center were not speaking in Tagalog. And practically all the sales staff at the shops were filipinas. One of them said she recognised our "Singapore accent" - maybe she was a former domestic who relocated for the higher pay in Dubai. One up for our distinctive "national identity".

Raul said the drivers were likely from Pakistan or similar. There was the odd bearded guy with a burkha draped missus (or two) in tow. Maybe our hotel was not in the same class as the ones Thaksin hangs out at. Maybe there are more local born and bred there. Maybe.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blood On His Hands

The Mumbai terrorists were targetting Americans and British citizens. So why was Singaporean Lo Hwei Yen, 28, shot? Lo is a Chinese lady married to an Indian Singaporean. Her death was confirmed on 28 November 2008 at 9.35 pm Singapore time. She first spoke to her husband at 2 a.m. on Thursday 27 November, informing him hotel staff had told her to move to another level in the Oberoi Trident Hotel. Later, at 6 a.m. she told him she was taken hostage.

An Indian news channel had reported earlier that the terrorists had held the woman at gunpoint and ordered her to tell the Singapore Government to tell the Mumbai authorities to refrain from acting against them or she would lose her life.

Perhaps the clue lies in the ill choice of words in the following communication from one prime minister to another:

HE Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister
Republic of India

27 November 2008

Dear Prime Minister,

I was shocked to learn of the series of terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26 November 2008. On behalf of the Government of Singapore, I convey our deepest condolences to you, the Government of India and the families of the victims .
The terrorists have taken several people of different nationalities as hostages, including a Singaporean . We are already working closely with the Indian authorities on this. Singapore stands ready to assist the Indian authorities in any way to secure the safe release of the Singaporean and other hostages .
I am confident that the Indian people will rally around your government as it deals with the Mumbai terrorist attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice . The Mumbai attacks are another reminder that terrorism continues to be a common threat to all of us. We strongly support your government's efforts in fighting the scourge of terrorism .

Yours sincerely,
Lee Hsien Loong