"As we progressed, we- and also, as I saw the decline of sales of the books, we felt that, you know, as a matter of diversification, we saw a need to establish early learning services. Early learning, when I said early learning, preschool. The demand was there by parents, and they wanted us to provide these services. And they also mentioned to us that they could not find good kindergartens. The only kindergartens, the popular ones, were the church kindergartens. And most parents, you know, could not either the church kindergartens was too far awiay, or limited in number. So they were the ones, the parents were the ones who were pushing us to provide these personalised, you know, tutorial or teaching or reading services, their homes, or why don't you start a kindergarten? So then it dawned on me and, I discussed with my people, and I say, "Since there is this decline in the sales of children's books, why don't we do education services?" That's how it all started. So we started as an enrichment centre providing reading, tutorial, phonic services."
"I took my songs and sent them off to get publishing deals because I didn't really see myself as a performer, as a- as an artist. First of all, I was in England and I don't think there'd be any chance of that there being Chinese and all that. So I sent my demos off and I got a reply from Warner Chapel, which was a big publishing company at that time, still is, right? And I went to meet them and the thing that happened was when I walked into the room, the executive, the A&R guy was like shocked to see that I was Asian. Because he said didn't sound like it at all. But he said, then he looked at me and he said, you know what, you you, the most interesting thing about you is that you're Asian. And why is that not reflected in anything you do? And this brought me back to the whole question of identity.That I was not conscious about during the fried rice paradise incident when I actually wrote the song to try to make a Singapore song. I didn't quite understand why I wanted to do it. I just felt that, you know, we have our own traits, you know, but we don't seem to reflect it. And then I very quickly learned that it was not worth doing, right, when the song got banned. So I just put it out on my mind, but then he brought it up. And that made me think because I was about to graduate and I was thinking in my mind, I'm never going home. I'm going to just stay in England, right? Because I was so active in my four years there, I became part of the scene. And then I thought, well, you know, maybe I need to do this because if I stayed on, I'll forever be seen as the Asian, you know, and there there are, there is a very limited space for, in the in the pop culture world for an Asian to... to exist, you know, that time the only one I could think of was Kenzo. And I actually, you know, had a deal, they were one of the people that- that interviewed me or were interested in me. I had- I had three offers to... three job offers. So I realised that maybe at that- at that time I thought, maybe he's right, maybe I need to find this thing. I'll never find it here, right? And I'm Asian, but I'm not Chinese, so I don't go back to China. At that time, China was what, communist, right? Go back to Singapore and maybe see what I can find there. And that's that spurred me on to go home."
Translation: When I started my broadcasting career at the end of 1979, programmes were still inclined towards literature and the reading of short stories. Letters from listeners were read out on air and we gave scripted answers. Most of the programming were also scripted, unlike the spontaneous style of hosting today. Due to this, every radio presenter followed a similar format and had no distinctive styles. From the 60s to the 90s, language use in broadcasting was very tightly controlled and monitored. However, this has relaxed with the changing times. In the 1980s, radio became frequently used for the marketing and promotion of commercial products. It was very interesting as we had many sponsors and revenue sources, but it also made the stations overly commercialized. The 80s and 90s also saw the rise of music recording companies, so radio became a popular platform for singers to promote their songs when they visited Singapore and Malaysia. This was the start of the era where radio started catering programmes to the needs of listeners, unlike in the past where programmes were dictated by the stations. Many broadcasting stations were also created in the 90s.
"So given that, you know, our strategy is strong, robust core and then, you know, reach diversity or international. So the first part is to sustain and enthuse enough of young Singaporeans about science and interest in research as a career. Because if we cannot sustain that, then over time the core will weaken. So this is why we work very closely with MOE, with the Science Centre to do outreach, to give opportunities to these young Singaporeans to let them stay in touch with science, with research, to spark their curiosity. And sustain their enthusiasm, you know, over many years, from primary school to secondary school, of course, the older they are, the more things they can do with us, the further they can go in terms of doing research in our laboratory. So this is an ongoing effort. It is an increasingly challenging effort because we have reducing population cohort, first thing. Second thing is that Singapore has been so successful in creating so many interesting career opportunities you know, that young Singaporeans, you know, they have their choice as to what they want to do with their life. They don't have to think about research, you know. So this is an effort that we have to stay very focused and stay in very close traction, work with the wider community and just got to constantly make ourselves interesting to young Singaporeans. And I would say that, you know, a large part of that have to appeal to their intrinsic interests and passion in this area. You know, obviously we cannot compete a market in terms of extrinsic or motivated. We can never pay as much as, you know, if they were to become a investment banker, you know. So that's why we got to make science interesting to them. We got to arouse their passion in science and research, and this will be a really ongoing effort."
"Now, so getting investments were important and top civil servants, Perm Secs, Sim Kee Boon, you know, one of the Hon Sui Sen, they all went out trying to get investors, to invest, and they began to listen to what American investors and European investors wanted. So yes, it was industrialisation, but what sort of industrialisation? My understanding was that in the early days, we were doing a lot of import substitution, but this was 1959. And very soon, Goh Keng Swee found that it didn't quite work, chucked it, and went on export orientation strategy, you know, not import substitution, but export orientation. And I think by the time, it was 1965, we already had that idea."
"Throughout the 21 years of, more than 21 of service for the late Mr Lee, three words always appear not only during his conversation with the media, but also you know when he met his friend overseas, and also how he treat(ed) his own cabinet colleagues. That is, once you committed, you deliver. That is the- that is the first things. Second thing is that friendship lasts longer than any other things. People's memory are short, but history is the one that kept all these things, good things, in your mind. And third thing is, no one is perfect. So, as a human being, you must be empathy. You must be open. And accept other people as who they are. Meaning that don't read the books by the cover. You must know them build up that kind of trust, and then this friendship really can last."
'So 2015, yup, we’re talking about the year that Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away. Do you remember when you were in Thailand, how you first found out about his death? Yes, so the thing is... oh, because I mean, I suppose the context first is that, I... as in, Lee Kuan Yew is one of the people on my list, right? Like I have a list of, like in my, in my whatever you want to call it, in my CV or my paper, like, I always include like these are the people who have, who I feel have shaped either my thinking, my way of living, or my values. So people like my mum is on that list. People like my grandmother is on that list. But at the same time, people like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Lee Kuan Yew is on that list. Goh Keng Swee is on that list. And so obviously as soon as—in fact I heard privately first that he had gone into the hospital. And then of course after that I’m just trying to keep tabs on what’s happening, how serious is it, is he going to get out of it? And also just, yeah, so I mean the whole time I was texting different people. I was getting different information from different so-called informants or whatever that were telling me, and I was actually looking through my WhatsApp messages and it was, yeah it was like, I think I first—I suppose it was like, like I think two days before it was actually announced or what, someone had texted me—“He’s passed on” or what—and I shared it with, as in I was sharing it with my close group of friends: “It’s come from a very reliable source”. And then immediately of course, “This is very sad, what happens?” Blah, blah, blah. But yeah for me what I wanted to know was what was the plan lah. As in what was going to happen. Because obviously I wanted to go and see him."
"I have to do it, I have to learn. But this learning the Zoom is stressful for me. So who taught you? Who taught you to do- to operate Zoom? Okay. Before that, before that, the first person who teach me to do this, do that, press this, press that, is my son. My son, my daughter-in-law, who is the closest in the office, every day. Everybody teach until 17-18 times, you know, so many times until it's either this or that. Either this or that. Whether you can see me or you can hear my voice. Or sometimes, people don't see me at all. They wait for me. Madam Som, press this press that. It was so stressful. You know why it's so stressful? Because at that time, when beginning, nobody can come to me. Nobody can visit me at home. Okay now I talk I tears a while sorry. It's okay. Because I just can't reach out. They cannot come to my house."
"Brands wasn't a big brand name, it was a local brand name. But Heinz was a world brand name. And Batchelors was another world brand name, and there were lots of these people. So what we did was we set the creative people the task, how can we communicate very effectively what this does in a way that doesn't show that we've proved it, but will convince people that we've proved it. And it was a brilliant copywriter who came up with the idea of having a voiceover commercial only, a lightbulb. And the lightbulb was glowing, and the lightbulb went dim, and the lightbulb came bright again. The simplest, one of the simplest commercials I've ever seen, and it made a huge impression on people, which was, which was all we needed. We didn't really want to give away our proof that it worked any more than we had to. And to this day, it's still, it's still used, that particular commercial from time to time."
"所以呢我们现在谈回到我2006年我回去会馆做什么。那个时候的那个林光景会长。他有一个很艰巨的任务。就是说，他要怎么样把会馆，这个，继续的革新，然后再继续往前走。那么，我们会馆的历史。我就这十多年来，我就因为要编九十周年特刊，一百周年特刊的时候，就翻阅了很多很多我们的旧的档案啊，历史， 我就很佩服我们的老前辈。那我们知道，我上次也说过了，会馆的成立是在一百多年前，为了要接待或者帮助南来的乡亲。虽然那个时候就成立了会馆。然后。。。对于后面，战前我们的那些资料，因为我们那时候在日治时期被消毁，但是我们还有保留一些。后来我们现在要谈战后的那段时间。战后的这段时间，就1945年我昨天还在会馆看到我们1945年，我们叫复新。就是，我们这个战后-复新是我们会馆拿，我们从日军手中把会馆拿回来的时候，重新启动会馆后，他们叫做复新，或者第一节，1945。 那个筹委会的文件夹，我看到很高兴。然后，他们那个时候其实很不容易，因为拿回来会馆，那个会馆那个时候是，你知道在日治手中是一塌糊涂了。所以他们重新的翻新，整顿。然后他们马上做两件很重要的事情。因为你知道战后的时候，最困难的时候就是什么，一个就是事业问题。没有工作，生活都有问题。另外一个呢，就是失学。学生没有学上。然后他们就成立了两个很重要的组织，一个是互助部，一个就是晋江学校。然后互助部就是帮助那些这个有困难的乡亲。"
Translation: So let’s talk about what I did when I returned to Chin Kang Huay Kuan in 2006. At the time, President Lim Guang Jing had the challenging task of renewing the clan association and leading it into the future. In the course of my research for the association’s 90th and 100th anniversary publications, I came across many old documents and records that filled me with great admiration for our predecessors. As I have mentioned earlier, the association was founded more than a hundred years ago to look after the welfare of fellow Jinjiang clansmen. However, many of our pre-war documents were destroyed during the Japanese Occupation. After the war in 1945, the association had to start anew and go through an arduous revamp. To address the urgent issues of unemployment and lack of education, the association’s executive committee immediately set up a relief section for social assistance, as well as the Chin Kang School to provide education.
"In monastry and all these, nobody, they have never done online classes at all. For him and the monastry, it's strict. If you see a student, if online, you off the screen I cannot see your face. Don't know what you're doing. As a teacher, he is that, he wants to maintain, there's this, what we call, Dharma pract- a good one that discipline, he want to see the student lazy or not. He's a very serious teacher. So he say, cannot see the face, that's a bit difficult right? Then... then what's the point of attending class, they're not listening. So he has that mindset. And then, yeah. So he says that yeah everybody off their screen maybe they're eating you know but he has that thinking he wants it discipline like army style, so. But, but he has his good point, right? So we manage commune because there's no way we can do anything now. So that's the situation now. So he thinks that COVID is not that serious. But along the way, he was, the neighbours got COVID he got locked here and many things. So he has his own preference and then, we respect him, let him decide. But with certain things that impact the regulations we have to follow, so we online. Eventually, after he started the first one, not too bad. The only things struggle with the mind all these things and we had to have someone come down to set up for him the first two time. Subsequently everybody come is staggered you cannot meet each other so all these was in place, then everybody goes work from home, so we spent a lot of time figure out Zoom."
"Given that the government decided to place the lives of Singaporeans first right? In introducing tight restrictions, how do you think that this specifically disrupted the MICE industry, like how did it disrupt the MICE industry differently compared to say, other kinds of industries that require face-to-face? Right. So, the MICE industry the events industry in general, thrives on face to face and human to human interaction. And when that is being severely curtailed will in face or removed, immediately the industry stops functioning. And face to face and human to human interaction involves travel, involves meeting people from different walks of life and backgrounds and countries. Which means that once air travel stopped, and events stopped, essentially the death knell of the industry. And therefore the MICE industry had to really think pretty quickly what does survival look like? Now as I mentioned, the crisis the COVID situation is a very long drawn affair. So immediately people were concerned. How long would this last? And a very natural reaction would be to compare it with SARS, and people took a- I would say, a few months perspective. And I would say rightly so. Because as we didn't understand the virus. And of course when more infomation came about and how to deal with it, we then shifted gears in turn to keep the industry, I would say, alive. So the first reaction was because there was a hard stop on travel, on gatherings, right? The industry literally fell off the cliff. The next point was what do we do to survive? So naturally the first pivot that needs to take place is Can we consider alternative arrangements? And that's where it led to the I would say accerlated adoption of technology. So technology came to the fore, where it became the well, the only alternative to face to face interactions and humans interactions."
"We talk about this green line of Singapore, so do you also work with societies like the nature societies or some other environmental groups? Right, to talk about bringing birds or…? It was very important for us to have the support of the green groups. Yeah, because initially when after reclamation there was a layer of greenery and wildlife that had developed, and they were very upset about having any development on these areas, but they also saw government does not reclaim land to sit idle. So, but, we brought them on board to see what are the things that they liked about nature, colonising, retained land. And we said we can provide these natural, environmental conditions that will create a kind of animal community, insect community to a very successful state. We actually try not to use any sprays and pesticides. You look at the leaves outside and you see all the holes and so forth. It indicates that we welcome wildlife even though they may damage some of the planetarium. So how much of the wildlife were sort of retained when you moved from the reclaimed land to the garden? I think the main wildlife that attracted everybody at that time were the wood ducks, the ducks that migrated and settled in the bodies of water. We now have some of them coming back. Where were they from? They were migratory on the way to China. So from where to where? Wood ducks, they come from actually the summer months in Alaska and so forth and they fly through down to the tropics in winter and then they go up to breed. So did you make special sort of plans to attract them or at least to make the conditions better? We were very practical in that the kind of environment we can create here is equatorial, so we don't try to go for temperate, vegetation or habitats. So if we could simulate some of the natural equatorial forest conditions, then we are quite assured that we will be attracting a lot of wildlife, and indeed this is what it turned out. So that in answer to people that saying that say that we are creating something very artificial, the animals are not looking at the artificial structures, but looking at the layer of life that we have managed to cultivate."
Translation: Back then, it's because I thought it was best to write about Southeast Asia; at the same time, I am more familiar with it, and it was also something that writers from the Mandarin literary world of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong were unable to write. If you wrote about China, they would be more familiar with the subject matter than you. Because [sic] writing poetry requires you to write about something that you are familiar with, something that others are not able to write about. That is why I went to Thailand — I wrote ""Fo Guo Chi Jia Ji"", about the journey of monks receiving monastic ordination; I also wrote ""Ze Guo Ri Ji"", because Thailand has so many bodies of water, there's water everywhere, especially if you walk into the outskirts, into the paddy fields, it is all water. So, these are the subject matters that Asian people [sic: East Asian] were less likely to mention. They didn’t just have water in the paddy fields; when the students went to school, they would ride little boats, sampans, between the paddies to commute. This was very very interesting to me that time. As [sic] they were going past the paddy fields; the paddies are all inter-connected. As they were all planted with rice paddies, the water was very deep. All those people, with those small models of motorboats, would ferry the students to school. These are the things I find poetic. The things we write must be something that readers find poetic. At that time, besides you, were there others who were also more focused on Southeast Asia, or... None! There was almost none. At most, they wrote about Singapore and Malaysia, they hardly wrote about, say, like I wrote about Philippines... so these were the things that caught people's attention. They often travelled to Southeast Asia for leisure; very few travelled there for cultural reasons. At that time, the tourism industry was not that prosperous yet; you would see it becoming popular only after the nineties. In the eighties, people hardly went abroad, not to mention those who were writers.
"How did I get myself involved? It’s in my – Mr Goh Chok Tong call me. He said, can you be the chairman of Skills Development Fund? I said my plate is very very full you know. I’m a Fudan professor, and my department is so big! He say, but why did you suggest Skills Development Fund? Actually I didn’t suggest, I suggest Economic Restructuring Fund, it’s a long story, how we change to Skills Development Fund. He said, maybe, you suggested it, we have the law passed in parliament, we have collected the money for Skills Development Fund, because out of the twenty percent wage increase, four percent will (…) you know, siphon the money off to the Skills Development Fund, it’s not just twenty percent, like that. Mr Lee Kuan Yew will not agree. This kind of… he’s a very pars… not parsimonious. He doesn’t want to encourage risk, loose spending among workers. He is the old-fashioned China man type. 勤(qin2), 啬(se4). Hardworking, and thrifty. Cannot just spend. He will never encourage our workers to behave, you know, that way. And he’s very strong on that lah. He encourage thriftiness, hard work. Then, so, but the money is taken to the Skills Development Fund, and we also suggest read the document, the more important is the discussion on that year... how the Skills Development Fund was born. (…) [0:55:30] [0:56:23] So we have to show them the payload, the payload… because of the boom, you know, and issue them a list of the investors coming in. They all came! They all came from Japan. And from USA. And also, all these from Germany. And they say we will take the risk! It’s hard you know, we cannot accommodate all, 20, 30 percent of them will still come, victory! They will celebrate! Before 3 years is over you know, celebrate, they will go golf course, play golf. The Chinese after a long, long… You look at all the minutes, in other words, one good thing about it is they talk their word they think thorough and they open, you know. They talk, talk and talk, until you convince them. But, how I convince these two American is, in my autobiography, shocking… in, I invited them at night to dinner… (background noise) That's one of my tactics. But I seldom had to use this one. I invited them for dinner. They say, they say that it's too high, we don't share your view, and we have long enough discussion, no point going on talk and talk. So I use another tactic. I say, well, we can still agree on so many things, except this one. Anyway, I give them the best Californian wine. It didn't work. And their beef, you know, not the Japanese one. American. US. It didn't work. So, I have to use another tactic. I say, I will arrange us to, ministry to, arrange for a separate conference only for you. So you explain to the American group why you will not sign the document consensus. You know that Japanese, that Germans, that locals have all agreed to sign, and the government side has also agreed, and the unions to the last man agreed. And they ensured there will be 100% industrial peace, they also agree. And now we won't quarrel. Okay? And a lot of training programmes and all that will come, because in it we have a lot of training programmes you know. And they said, what, what did you say? Did you say tomorrow? Thought that you said we continue to discuss! Maybe we heard you wrongly. If it is just tomorrow, no more. If there is a deadline, you normally don't have a deadline! I said but the deadline is so long! We have been talking talking so long, it must come to an end. Is that, in that case, we will agree."