Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Start a culture of praise | Cat Welfare volunteers build Singapore

ST Forum, 11 July 2006, Tuesday (Online edition)
Unsung heroine who helped nab cat abuser

Madam Sharifah Khamis played a key role in the nabbing of cat-abuser David Hooi who was sentenced to three-month jail in November last year.

He was arrested again on June 27 at 2am for abusing a kitten whose injuries were so severe that it had to be euthanised at the SPCA. It is fortunate that Hooi was arrested before his destructive behaviour was extended to the human residents.

In the process that led to Hooi's two arrests, Madam Sharifah put her personal safety aside with frequent patrolling in the dead of the night in the vicinity of Hooi's block of flats so as to catch him in the act. This public spiritedness dispels a common notion that Singaporeans are apathetic.

She also intermingled with many residents in the estate to strategise surveillance plans. These residents cut across different races and consisted of men and women, young and old. Surely this kampung-spirit type of cooperation is what the Government is hoping to achieve with ad hoc inter-racial harmony fairs graced by the presence of MPs.

Perhaps identifying common platforms in the community such as concern for the welfare of community cats, is more effective in enhancing long lasting interracial harmony?

I think ordinary people can identify easily with Madam Sharifah, an ordinary person living in the heartland than with a PBM recipient on a full page announcement in the newspaper.

She may not have received a PBM award but surely she deserves public recognition for her extraordinary display of courage and public spiritedness. Let not her heroism be unsung.

Dr Tan Chek Wee

Dr Tan refers to the Pingat Barisan Masyarakat, or the Public Service Medal. The Medal may be awarded to any person who has rendered commendable public service in Singapore or for his achievement in the field of arts and letters, sports, the sciences, business, the professions and the labour movement. If you look at the list of previous recipients here, you'll notice that there's a trend to it. Mostly, they have titles that end in CC, RC, Council, or have the word "Church/Mosque/Sacred Tree" inserted somewhere. For that alone, Mdm Sharifah and the other volunteers aren't going to be standing on the podium anytime soon. And she should, really. Or at least receive something. Not just a commendary letter that didn't make it to the print edition of the ST.

An expat made the observation the other day that Singaporeans don't seem to like to praise people. Efforts on her part to do so resulted in the company reluctantly going "Yeah, I guess it's ok." And heavens knows that we're allegedly famous for complaining. A cursory survey of the better read blog entries suggest that bitching does go around the world faster than praise. It's completely understandable - after all, rage makes for a better muse, as Alanis Morrisette displayed, and critical commentary is vital in a society where the MSM is muzzled.

But ultimately, it doesn't help Singapore towards becoming a gracious society. It's Singapore's birthday soon, and if I had a wish for her, it would be that we would become better at praising people. Praise and positive rewards are the best incentive of all (I've read books. i've also tried it on the Partner. It works) and I think we could do better as a society if we just got better at telling people they did the right thing.

And Dr Tan is right. What Madam Sharifah, and the other volunteers of the Cat Welfare Society did was fantastic. They cut across all racial and economic barriers, and organised a neighbourhood watch patrol that went on through the night. Through their efforts, they saved a kitten, and they got a potentially dangerous man the therapy he needed.

And most amazing of all, in pragmatic Singapore, these volunteers did it knowing they would get nothing for it. Of course, volunteer work is generally unrewarding, but if you save the elderly, the AIDs patients, or abused children, people generally praise you and eventually recommend you for the PBM or the Home gives you their own award plaque. You see, helping juvies through state-sponsered organisations is hardcore "real" volunteerism.

They help animals. There is really no tangible reward to helping animals; it doesn't go down on your CV, nor is it ever going to be a factor in your candidacy for MPship, cos people think it's fluffy and bit odd. They help animals because in many ways, animals are the ultimate marginalised group anywhere. In the process of doing so, they engaged a community, crossed barriers of faith and race without a CC-sponsered event, raised social awareness, bounded people on either side of a widening economic divide - in short they set about creating the society that so many of the bloggers and other Singaporeans dream of living in.

Is it so hard to take time out of your busy day, and email them to tell them they're doing a great job?

If we want a better society, one that our children would be happy to live in, the best that we can do is cultivate a habit of praise, and encourage those unsung heroes and heroines amongst us who are quietly, without fanfare or reward, building that society one day at a time.

To contact the volunteers, you can email Cat Welfare at Alternatively, Dawn Kua blogs for the Cat Welfare society, so you can head over there and drop her a note. (Cat Welfare)

To read about the cat abuse case, go here.

To read about politics and animal welfare, go here.

Excerpts from ST March 11, 2006
Neighbourhood patrol helped send cat killer to jail;
Bedok residents started night patrol to nab man killing strays

FOR five months, a group of Bedok residents took turns to patrol their neighbourhood over seven hours every evening. Their mission - to catch the man they suspected of torturing and killing the area's stray cats.

One of them, Miss Ngiam Mui Wah, 46, finally caught him in the middle of another attack and had enough evidence to make criminal charges stick. That ended David Hooi Yin Weng's reign of terror. The 42-year-old packer was this week jailed three months for animal abuse.

They set up a neighbourhood patrol. Ten residents - backed up by young boys who often cycled in the area - came forward. Each team did a two-week shift from 6pm to about 1am.

Team member Sharifah Khamis, 40, also started taking a census of the neighbourhood's strays. If one cat or kitten went missing, patrol members were asked if they saw it.


At 7:39 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PBM is pingat bakti masyarakat. bakti=service. oh, and yes, i must commend you for a heart-rending post. why not write in to the forum? - ptnr

At 3:04 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

kudos to you for starting a culture of praise!!! yay!!!!! ;)

At 2:04 am, Blogger Mezzo said...

Anonymous #1: Shy lah. But you're right, i should. Bit hypocritical of me if i didn't. And thanks for pointing out my typo - that was so embarressing!

Anonymous #2: hey, thanks for getting the ball rolling hahahahaah

At 9:45 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Straits Times
Aug 11, 2006
5 heroes lauded for nabbing molester

FIVE Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) men, whose quick-thinking led to the capture of a child molester, received the Police Public Spiritedness Awards earlier this week.

Four of them are full-time national servicemen: Sergeant Fairuz Suhami, 23, Corporal Taufiq Jasni, 22, Lance Corporal Mohamed Fairuz Ahmad, 21, and Private Ismadi Ismail, while the fifth is SCDF regular Sergeant Kamarul Naquib, 25.

They were conducting a fire hydrant test along Chin Bee Avenue in Jurong on May 9 when they heard a commotion.

About 20m away, they saw about half a dozen uniformed primary school students chasing a barefoot man in his thirties.

Thinking that the man must be a thief, the five men from Jurong Fire Station gave chase and caught him along Chin Bee Crescent.

When Sgt Naquib asked the man why he was fleeing, he could only say 'I'm sorry', repeatedly, which made them suspicious.

While his colleagues detained the suspect, Sgt Naquib questioned the students, who said the man had earlier molested two girls in their group while pretending to be a police officer.

The police were called, and the man was arrested. He was later found to be an overstayer.

Yesterday, the five heroes agreed they would have done exactly the same thing even if they were not uniformed officers.

Sgt Fairuz said: 'As Singaporeans, it's our duty to help the public.'


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