Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Afternote Article for zinniaafternote.com: “Knowing you is loving you”

Dear folks,

Do take time to read my article on the above matter. Very touching and down-to-earth write up.



Raymond Anthony Fernando
Feature Writer



When a loved one has passed on, relatives will have to start rebuilding their lives. What is so important is for family members to cherish and honour those who have left us. To keep their memories alive for the commitment and selfless support and love they have given to their families and the community who include their employers, co-workers and friends.


Every human body, dead or alive must be cared for and treated with reverence and respect. We are talking about people – those with families and friends, people who were loved and were loved.  We are talking about people who may have died through natural causes and people who have died prematurely, either through sickness or through unforeseen circumstances such as tragedies or accidents.


While an obituary will inform people of the passing of someone, here at Zinniaafternote, they fervently believe that it is so important to give some insightful peeks into the lives of those who have died, so that they will be fondly remembered.  Basically, to know the person and to love him/her. 


This brings to my mind a lovely song made popular by a pop group, The Teddy Bears, way back in the early years, entitled To know him is to love him”


The opening lyrics of this lovely tune go like this:


To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him
Just to see him smile, makes my life worthwhile
To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him
And I do (and I do, and I do)”


True to every sense of the word, when we get to know someone, we can learn to love him or her.


Therefore, when we provide an afternote alongside the obituary, even people who do not know the deceased will be able to somehow or other have connectivity. And through connectivity, beautiful bonds can be developed – over time.


Cases in point are the afternotes which I wrote for both my wife and my sister.


For Doris, I have, and will always cherish her till the end of time as she had given me 40 best years of my life, and this is clearly documented in the afternote. For even when I pass on, anyone can still read and cherish the beautiful memories Doris and I once shared as a couple. And such memories will live on and on.  Doris had special needs and to a large extent, people will admire her for the love she has so unselfishly gave to me.  This can so easily spur others to cherish and care for their loves ones who will include their spouses or parents or grandparents.


In the same vein, I have honoured my only sister with an afternote, remembering Veronica as outstanding and model worker in the giant telco, Singtel where she worked for 35 long years. Additionally, her remarkable selfless dedication and commitment as the sole caregiver to my 95-year-old mother, Veronica can certainly be an inspiration to others to embrace caregiving as a noble job.


We have many unsung heroes in our midst who feel for the needy, but go unnoticed.  They do not crave for glory, but they do their bit to lift the human spirit – and that in itself is commendable.


I was chatting with my downstairs neighbour a short while ago and while touching on the subject of honouring the dead, I thanked him for the kindness he often shows to me. Let’s just call him “C.”  C looks rather stern, but he has a heart of gold.  I got to know C as I adore children, and he has two well brought up kids. They are polite and respectful and so is his wife.


C knows I enjoy reading the newspapers, but unselfishly shares The Straits Times with me every single day as he is fully aware that being without a full-time job means I have to cut corners.


C is in his own special way doing charity work by showing compassion, empathy and support to me as he knows that as a widower, I could do with some kind of support, even if it is for a friendly half an hour chit-chat.


There are many kind-hearted people like C around, and they all ought to be remembered when their journey ends.  On all accounts, zinniaafternote.com is the right platform to do so.


Raymond Anthony Fernando



Monday, November 20, 2017

An awesome website in ZinniaAfternote

Dear readers,

Do take time to visit this beautiful website which I have collaboration with. I thank the Good Lord and my beloved wife for opening new doors into my life – bringing this new website and her owners into my life. Here’s where I have the opportunity to express my writings in a constructive and positive way.  And I am very uplifted!

I have placed my late wife and sister’s obituaries here to honour – both of them whom our families loved deeply.

I am also a feature writer here and you can read my articles here – every month.

What ZinniaAfternote believes in

ZinniaAfternote leads the social movement to empower people to freely express their emotions.

We believe that both written and spoken expression of tragic life events will aid emotional closure and improve the overall well-being. ZinniaAfternote will provide our community with indefinite access to live obituaries and drafting of wills without an expense.

We acknowledged that time is the only constant that allows us human beings to rationalize humanity.

Obituaries will be permanently stored in our SmartOrbit-Obituaries platform to enable users with unprecedented access to post, edit, and share heart-felt words for the deceased in the most private moments. Family and friends are encouraged to participate altogether; as in such difficult times, we believe that social support is essential for recovery from grief.

We will look deep into our society, sending missionaries to the far-reached communities to capture the greatest legacy stories of our time and publish on ZinniaAfternote.

We would like to extend our invitation to established pro-social organizations, public and private social support groups to join our efforts to promote a collective learning and overall well-being.

A beautiful tagline

Life is a book. We fill the pages.


Happy reading & have a great day, folks😊  Do pass the word around. Thanks & God bless!



Raymond Anthony Fernando


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Reduce train services during off peak periods; run buses parallel along MRT routes: A public suggestion to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan & the cabinet

From the desk of

Raymond Anthony Fernando


15th November 2017

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan has set the right direction in showing his appreciation to MRT staff who work hard to run the rail network, but took to task the small group who did not carry out proper maintenance work that resulted in the Oct 7 underground tunnel flooding (“You deserve our respect and gratitude', Khaw tells public transport workers”; November 14, 2017, MediaCorp’s Today Newspaper).


What Mr Khaw pointed out is very true –  that in every organisation there will be a few black sheep, who, because of their poor work attitudes spoils the reputation of the company. Rightly, so as opined by the transport minister, these unproductive workers should be identified and counselled to improve themselves or they would have to leave the organisation.


Public sectors officers can help make the lives of our citizens better


Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean who is also the minister in charge of the civil service has recently reminded public sector officers to fine-tune policies so that the public can be better served. This is timely given that many Singaporeans are in dire need of support. I am glad that DPM is listening to feedback, some of it which comes from me – be in through my press letters, my emails or proposals on my blog. I will continue to provide constructive feedback and useful suggestions as an active citizen so that Singapore can be the BEST home to live in.


Everyone from the community, whether they are from religious bodies, neighbours, relatives, schoolmates, grassroots leaders and advisors have to do their part to lend support and rally around the needy.  Much more has to be done in this area.

More engineering hours need to fix MRT woes

The Transport Minister has mentioned that more engineering hours will be required to rectify the ageing rail assists which has to be upgraded quickly (“Comparing Singapore's newest and oldest MRT lines”; November, 14, 2017, MediaCorp’s Today Newspaper). He is spot on!


With the school holidays commencing next week, it will be timely to undertake the intensive maintenance work.  

But safety must be a top priority when transporting thousands of passengers every day. SMRT staff also need to work in a safe environment.

A collective prayer for MOT Minister, injured passengers and for SMRT & LTA staff to overcome problems

I have full of empathy for our Transport Minister, the SMRT staff & the LTA staff. All work extremely hard and it is a very demanding job to get the trains running on time and efficiency. I was therefore deeply saddened to get news today that 23 passengers were injured and had to be sent to hospital after an MRT train collided with another at Joo Koon station.

Let’s all join hands and say a collective prayer for the injured passengers to recover quickly and also for the SMRT to overcome any problems coming on-stream – and for all of them to succeed in the maintenance work.  

Shut down train services for 2 - 3 hours

Given that it has now become necessary to undertake what appears to be somewhat of a critical maintenance, perhaps the train operating hours can be cut to say 2 to 3 hours either on weekends or 3 times during week days, during off peak periods when people traffic is relatively lower. But we also have to take into account that given the rainy seasons in November to January, maintenance work may be held back during heavy downpours. 

As practically all Singapore and foreigners are heavily dependent on the MRT trains for their transport needs, reductions in train operating hours could be carried out at different MRT lines and at different times.

To ensure that commuters will be more accepting to the reduction of trains services which they are so accustomed to, there is a need to comprise a little. 

(a) As a temporary measure, it will be necessary to run public buses parallel along the same routes that the trains run. 

(b) Where feasible, reduce the bus fares by half or better still, provide free bus services during the periods when trains operations are curtailed.  This could be a way to record MOT’s appreciation to passengers who will have to put up with some disruptions to their daily travel patterns, and it’s a good way to rebuild the image of the SMRT.

If we able to look at the big picture, we will be able to see the long-term benefits when the thorough maintenance works can put the trains back on track – again.   So, let us exercise more patience and allow the maintenance crew to sort things out. 

For I have every confidence that in time to come with this intensified maintenance work and the expertise from the seconded engineers from DSTA, we can look forward to less train breakdowns and inconveniences. When this scenario takes place, we can certainly look forward to a Happy New Year in January or February.

In closing, I hope everyone, including the government can take a few steps back to ponder if we are moving too fast where stress levels are becoming overwhelming. Where tempers flare up so easily – on the roads, in our schools and even at nightclubs. A case in point was when a minor scuffle in a nightclub at St James Power Station turned into a large-scale fist fight last Sunday morning.




Saturday, November 11, 2017

Raymond Anthony Fernando's letter to The Life Section of The Straits Times: St Andrew’s values still in play today

My letter to The Straits Times Life Section on the above subject is published today, Saturday 7th November.
I refer to May Seah’s feature in St Andrew’s family of schools in Potong Pasir (Built For The Boys, Nov, Life) 
Every time I travel pass by St Andrew’s Village, I would recall that song, Up And  On that we used to sing in school. It is a tune that is synonymous with St Andrew's. 
In the 1950s, when St Andrew's was built in Woodsville, it was the only Christian school beside the Kallang River offering education to children of farmers, hawkers and lower middle-income families living in what are now Balestier, Toa Payoh and Potong Pasir areas. 
Although not all the teachers at St Andrew's were Christians, they all recognised that a good education meant imparting good values and knowledge to produce an all rounded student.
Out of this education at St Andrew’s, values such as honesty, integrity, equality, fair play, friendly competition and sportsmanship nurtured a strong bond. Such values are practised until this very day.  
Raymond Anthony Fernando

Friday, November 10, 2017

SMRT and LTA needs to create a conducive work culture with regular dialogue sessions; feedback mechanism in place: A proposal to Transport Minister Khaw Bon Wan

It is timely that the SMRT group’s chief executive Desmond Kuek has encouraged his staff to learn from the flooding incident and the breakdowns so that they can come out stronger and better (Desmond Kuek urges SMRT staff to come out 'better and stronger' after 'collective shame' from tunnel flooding incident”; November 9, 2017, TODAY Newspaper).

Enlightened leaders today make it a point to engage in a way that resembles an ordinary person-to-person conversation. By speaking with employees, rather than just issuing orders, top management can obtain feedback to make improvements to the rail system where staff can propose useful suggestions.


To this end, I propose that the management of SMRT and the LTA organises monthly breakfast sessions with their employees where a free flow of ideas can come naturally. Such dialogue sessions in a friendly setting will also help to improve relations with top management and fellow colleagues. As friends we tend to be more giving and we would want to help one another. That’s the culture that ought to be created.


Team work is vital for productivity. Another way to help resolve issues the SMRT and the LTA is facing is to encourage their staff to actively participate in the staff suggestion scheme where employees from different departments can team up to identify problems and then propose useful suggestions where some rewards can be given.


Such communication tools will shift the focus from a top-down distribution of directions and information to a more comfortable bottom-up exchange of ideas. At the end of the day, open communication can manifest in various ways – gaining trust, listening well, being receptive to good ideas and providing a more personalised culture.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Provide more support for students studying abroad: An open proposal to the Education Ministers

For a young foreign student who was all excited to be given the chance to study at the National University of Singapore (NUS), it was certainly a tragedy that undergraduate Ms Jung Haelin had to end up falling to her death (Undergrad falls to death after being locked out; November 3, 2017, The Straits Times).

Working or studying or abroad comes with a wide range of emotions. Happy, excited and thrilled for the opportunity to live in another country and meet people of different races and cultures, but at the same time feeling homesick and grappling with separation anxiety later when the excitement wears down.  

For foreigners, the most crucial part of adjusting to life in a different country is during the first three months. Some students will begin to show signs of homesickness after a while, and if NUS counsellors or lecturers are trained to spot these troubling periods, then the affected students can be given the emotional support they badly need.

It was reported that the undergraduate had the habit of using an object to wedge the door open when she was out. Perhaps if someone had been brought this to the attention of the counsellors, the tragedy could have been avoided. 

It would thus be timely to caution students during their orientation as well as send reminders periodically to them that climbing through windows where their safety will be comprised will not be tolerated.

While local students can easily reach out to their families, it is more difficult for foreigners to do so as some could be bottling pent-up emotions. Thus, it’s vital for counsellors to constantly keep in touch with foreign students to give clear guidance and support, as well as to provide a buddy system so that they do not feel all alone.

In addition, security should be enhanced at NUS. For instance, surveillance cameras could closely monitor the areas where students have been known to climb through windows whenever they get locked out of their rooms. Sensors can be placed near the windows so that security personnel will be alerted if anyone attempts to climb through the windows.  Security personnel should also patrol the hostels frequently – especially during the periods when lectures are over.


Raymond Anthony Fernando

Opinion: Use model workers to mentor and motivate unproductive workers

I share the view of reader Patrick Tan Siong Kuan that both the Government and the SMRT must be held accountable to the many problems affecting our train systems that has caused frequent breakdowns, resulting in much inconvenience to passengers (SMRT incident: Holding leaders accountable is not ‘politicising’ the issue, October 26, 2017, MediaCorp’s TODAY Newspaper).


Every day, thousands of people rely on the MRT to travel to work, go to school, attend to their medical appointments and to see to their other needs. Thus, it is necessary to identify the problems that is causing the frequent breakdowns and then take remedial steps to ensure that the system is running smoothly; otherwise productivity will suffer.  In addition, the SMRT will lose revenue.


It was revealed recently by the SMRT Management that some of these problems such as the unprecedented flooding in the tunnel between Bishan and Braddell stations were caused by poor maintenance. Employees from the SMRT's building and facilities department, which oversees areas such as MRT tunnel ventilation, and flood and fire protection measures at train stations has admitted to lapses in their work.


The 6 staff who had falsified the maintenance records at Bishan are being taken to task and would be disciplined, while a probe is being carried out on 7 managers.  While some people including a forum, writer are of the view that those responsible for the breakdowns ought to be sacked, I do not share that view given that jobs are so hard to come by these days. And if the affected staff are dismissed, they as well as their loved ones will sink into depression – sooner or later. We should avoid taking this route.


On a more positive note, it was encouraging that Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan and the SMRT Management has made a public apology for the poor maintenance, promised more improvements to the rail network and have offered an amnesty for workers who were guilty of not doing proper maintenance.  


I have much empathy for Minister Khaw as it is no easy task managing the transport ministry. We have to understand that the MRT trains are old and just like our seniors, will slow down. So, it’s only fair to exercise some patience in his unenviable task of getting the trains system to run smoothly again.  Moreover, most of the MRT staff are hardworking and they should be commended for moving commuters from one point to another – in double quick time.


A conducive working environment is vital for productivity. One has to understand why the SMRT workers who did poor maintenance were not up to mark. Were they demoralised in any way?


Instead of breeding negativity all the time, there needs to be positive traits to motivate all of us, including workers at all levels, to excel. 


Several years ago, when foreign domestic workers (FDW) were poorly treated by some employers, I had proposed to the then-Manpower Minister Dr Lee Boon Yang and to the press that Singapore introduces a Model Employer and a Model FDW award scheme; and although there are still a handful of errant employers who still abuse maids, there is so much improvements between employer and FDWs following the scheme which has been implemented annually. By enlarge, now most employers of FDWs are more understanding to their maids. 


In a somewhat similar vein, an effective way to ensure that workers who adopt poor work attitudes do not continue to do so, SMRT can allow her model workers to mentor unproductive employees and in the process, motivate and inspire colleagues to give their very best. While this is being done, concurrently, the HR staff should counsel them and give them encouragement.


The SMRT has been put into the spotlight time and again – for all the wrong reasons.  It is therefore crucial that its image has to be rebuilt. In every organisation, performance has to be linked to productivity. It was reported that in the press that the remuneration of the top management of SMRT will be reviewed.


One way SMRT’s image can be rebuilt is to provide a one-off transport voucher of anything between $30-$50 for the needy from part of the savings generated from the savings derived from pay cuts of the top management.   These transport vouchers can be handed to the grassroots advisers’ island-wide for onward transmission to those with disabilities and unemployed Singaporeans aged 60 and above.