If not for Covid-19 and what is unfolding in Myanmar, I would describe the last 14 days as a slow news fortnight. There was also the yearly March school break, with many people more preoccupied with family and staycations than the news. Few use the month to make serious decisions, hence, the mixed bag of curious happenings.
The Football Association of Singapore’s Unleash The Roar to get Singapore into the finals of FIFA World Cup 2034 had already made for some animated discussion. After hearing nothing from the FAS for a while about the state of Singapore football, soccer fans were told out of the blue that “we have a plan”. No, not the East Coast Plan but a plan to beat the likes of Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran to get into the finals 12 years from now.
Can? Or is a lot of bola?
It is feasible only if Asean gets to host the 2034 tournament which the regional bloc is bidding to do. I am not entirely sure but as collective hosts, maybe more than one Asean country will be automatic qualifiers. Japan and South Korea were joint hosts for the 2002 finals, the first World Cup to be hosted by more than one country. The second such multiple-country finals will be the 2026 World Cup to be hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada. So there is precedent – and hope.
The second conversation-worthy piece of news was the findings on the disruptions to the MRT’s North-South, East-West and Circle Lines on 14 October last year. An investigation showed that a cut in the insulation layer of a power cable along a rail extension and a rusted component in a circuit breaker led to the massive breakdown which left 6,700 commuters stranded for three hours and affected some 123,000 commuters.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said a lot of work and money has gone into rectifying the defects identified in the disruption. Alstom, the main contractor, replaced all the faulty components and is bearing the costs of these works, which have led to early closures and late openings on the East-West Line, and full Sunday closures at some stations till May.
Impressive. There is now less of a sense of chaos and almost helplessness in the running and the maintenance of the MRT. Ong emphasised that there can be no cutting of corners.
While maintenance expenditure per place km has doubled over the last decade, he said there is no need to “gold plate” maintenance: “Instead, we need to understand how small, simultaneous glitches tend to be the causes of big disruptions. Let’s spend where we need to spend, and where it matters, to ensure safety and reliability.
“Train our workers well, equip them with the skills to spot and rectify problems, to feel safe to whistle-blow where necessary, to proactively improve (on) how maintenance work is done.”
Agree. Deep technical competence and an unrelenting checking culture to prevent errors.
And finally, Count On Me.
When the story first broke, I sent a message to a friend for his valued reaction, mainly for the sheer fun of it. He used to be with a company holding top-item shows and concerts. He has a circle of friends who are well-known Singapore music composers and celebrity musicians. He replied: “Storm in a teacup”.
I thought he was right. There was this video of a group of Indian nationals giving a rather nice rendition of our beloved Count On Me, Singapore which I myself used to sing when it first appeared in 1986. All of us would remember Clement Chow belting away the song for that year’s National Day (and Parade). It has become one of the three most sung national songs besides Stand Up For Singapore and the national anthem, Majulah Singapore.
We Can Achieve, which was the title for the India version (where “Count On Me, India” replaced “Count Me, Singapore” in the lyrics) seemed cute. And it would have been taken as a compliment, as the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth at first said. But when Indian national Joseph Mendosa claimed he had composed it in 1983 (three years before 1986) and had sold his version to Pauline India, a Christian book and record store, in 1991, feathers were ruffled.
MCCY said Pauline India has since publicly acknowledged that We Can Achieve “appears to have been substantially copied from Count on Me, Singapore…They have since apologised and removed the song from their platforms.”
That would have been that. Everyone would have a good laugh in a lacklustre week.
Because of Mendoza’s claim of being the composer, the original composer of Count On Me, Singapore, Hugh Harrison had to defend his integrity. Harrison, who is Canadian, hit back at Mendoza: “The fact that he is claiming now in 2021 that he is the original creator of the song, implying I copied the song from him, is a direct attack on my integrity and professionalism and for that he could be sued for slander and/or libel.
“As it stands now, I have written (to) him and given him the opportunity to rescind his claim and am awaiting his response.”
Enters Jeremy Monteiro, who arranged the song and was pretty much involved in the song’s writing process which started in late 1985. He spoke to The Straits Times and said the sessions started at the now defunct B&J Recording Studios near Ayer Rajah which he owned with radio personality Brian Richmond: “As Hugh Harrison was writing the song, I was sitting right next to him. He is a lyricist and melodicist, and so I was there attaching the harmonies, almost in real time, to everything he composed in terms of lyrics and melody. The sound engineer was there as well, and he saw the both of us sitting at the piano for hours on end… there was a four-hour period during one of those sessions when the entire song was written.”
So whatever Mendoza claimed to have been swept away in the big floods of Maharashtra in July 26 2005 could not have been the copyright version or scripts of We Can Achieve (his coincidentally twin version of Count On Me, Singapore)
Best not count on it.
Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company.
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