"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, November 08, 2002

Word of the day: "G�tterd�mmerung".

Oh well. Over the last week, and over the upcoming one, work promises to be particularly brutal. Both my backups AND my authorising supervisors are on long leave. This is due to the fact that 1/3rd our department is Indian, who are all taking two weeks off for Deepavali season, and my direct (Chinese) supervisor just *happens* to be on mandated leave these two weeks as well. (Mandated leave: banking regulations state that each staff member has to take at least 10 consecutive days off a year - this is to catch any irregularities that he or she may have been covering up at work.)

I also just heard that buying new landed properties in Singapore, particularly for construction of bungalows (believe it or not, there *are* still plots for sale at obscene prices); or redevelopment of existing landed property (defined by URA as "complete demolition and rebuilding") actually requires the developer, under what is quaintly called the CD Shelter Act, to build bomb shelters in every new development. This applies to apartments as well, ironically. Bet you didn't know that your typical HDB apartment store room is actually a legally mandated architectural feature meant to shelter you from the impending holocaust, eh?

Apparently the requirements for a landed property's bomb shelter are somewhat stricter, whereas for HDB apartments the household shelter seems to be just for show - I mean, do you REALLY think that flimsy little pantry next to your kitchen can protect you from a nuclear fallout when the whole building probably collapses in a glowing pile of rubble?

The Powers That Be decree the laws of physics:

"Singapore�s apartment blocks are robust structures that will not easily collapse even after being hit by a bomb (although localised damage to the target is expected). However, because household shelters are stacked one on top of another, it forms a continuous vertical hardened tower with a firm foundation to provide added stability and resilience against collapse."

RIGHT - in the PAP universe of physics, the outer shell of the building collapses when bombed, leaving a hardened pillar standing amidst the rubble. Or, rather, *several* hardened pillars - not every single apartment in a block is stacked up directly over each other. (Try to vsiualize this - all the units on one side of the building will constitute one "continuous veritcal hardened tower", and the other side will have another "continuous vertical hardened tower." All of this while the corridors and elevator shafts collapse into the void deck.)

Even they acknowledge some fundamental facts of the universe.

"The concept of household shelters is not new. Houses in Switzerland, for example, have household shelters as well. The difference between Switzerland and Singapore, however, is that the Swiss build their shelters underground to:

� Protect against the powerful heat and blast effects of a possible nuclear threat.
� Last for protracted stays of several weeks to survive the lethal nuclear fallout period.

Aboveground household shelters cannot readily meet these requirements.
(Emphasis added)

NO SHIT, SHERLOCK!

"Even after being hit by a bomb, it is very unlikely that local buildings will collapse like a pack of cards to leave the household shelters standing on their on. From engineering studies and tests conducted, buildings damaged by weapon effects are usually localised in nature. While several floors of the building may be perforated, thus causing the collapse of the adjacent areas, the building as a whole will remain standing."

Notice - *a* bomb. If conflict reaches a stage where a plane can get through Singapore's pretty good air defence systems; it isn't just going to be one plane; it's going to be *squadrons of planes* dropping *bombs*. Plural. And this obviously doesn't refer to terrorist attack of a single bomb - because terrorists don't give advance warning leading to them sounding the air raid siren to send your whole population into shelters.

Further skinflintery:

"Shelters should be fully utilised even during peacetime to make it cost effective. Therefore shelters are not purely designed and built to be dedicated shelters, but to serve peacetime functions as well. As these shelters are integral to the dwelling unit, separate maintenance is not required."

Wasn't that one of the reasons why they built MRT stations underground? Granted, those would be a little crowded now considering the growing population. Still I think the government could afford to stump up enough for a few rations, some generators, and some supplies. (Although the engineering cost of building a new reinforced underground shelter may get a bit high, I'll admit).

To add insult to injury, HDB home-owners are obliged to pay for the incremental costs of building such deathtra... erm.. I meant, HOUSEHOLD SHELTERS.

"On the issue of who should pay for the incremental cost of building shelters, the basic principle is that owners should bear the cost of their own protection at home. ...This figure can be regarded as a one-off up-front lump payment of the premium for assurance of protection in war � which is a relatively small price to pay."

I agree with the basic principle they outline - ie, homeowners paying for the maintenance and construction of personal home protection. There is, however, ANOTHER basic principle - that a person should be free to risk being explosively turned into incandescent vapour if he feels the "premium for assurance of protection in war" does not match the actual risk of war occurring. And, given the kind of "protection" that is being offered here, HDB owners are not only being coerced into insuring a risk against their will; they're getting crap coverage for that risk to boot.

Although, once again, to be fair, someone else has pointed out that the shelters serve another purpose, like NS - as part of Singapore's psychological arsenal of deterrence against would-be invaders. "Bring on the war, our people are ready to hide in their storerooms." After all, Who knows what the local geopolitics will be like 20 years from now? Better to be prepared, than dead. I might also note admiringly that little touches like this help to preserve a barrier mentality in the population that increases their dependence on (and hence likelihood of voting in) a strong central government - ie. PAP

If economic free-riding was *really* an issue here ie, the government not wanting to give away for free something as unimportant and voluntary as, say, protecting the welfare of the people in times of war, they should at least collect that money they're levying on all HDB apartments, and use that pool of money to construct and maintain proper communal shelters instead. THAT would be more cost-effective than building storerooms-cum-bomb shelters in EVERY Singaporean apartment.

"By comparison, a communal shelter at the basement would take occupants a much longer time to reach from their dwelling units. This would considerably increase their exposure [to] weapon effects even before they reach the safety of the communal shelter."

So which is worse; ten minutes of exposure to alpha radiation or sarin gas as you run to the nearest MRT or void deck, and the waiting arms of properly-trained and equipped paramedics, or HOURS of slow exposure in your HDB shelter without professional medical care? I suppose one compensation with the latter scenario is the higher likelihood that your whole family will asphyxiate / irradiate / go into convulsions together - that way you won't have to worry about getting lost or separated while fleeing the building. Or dying alone, for that matter.

SCD estimates that a family can last up to 4 hours in a sealed HDB shelter. We can compare this against one's life expectancy in a mandated, *ventilated*, reinforced bunker beneath a Nassim Hill mansion - I guess it's more important that the "Issue Elites" (Microsoft internal documentation jargon) and the economically successful lawyers, politicians, bankers and businessmen be protected to rebuild the economy and society after the years of hiding underground to avoid the nuclear winter and radioactive dust storms (Freeway Warrior meets Mr Kiasu). The upper-crust of the expatriate population in corporate-provided bungalows will be preserved as well along with their respective harems of Filipino-maid look-alike girlfriends and SPGs, so that they can repopulate the nation with hardy, mutant half-breeds capable of carrying out the brutal manual labour of reconstruction that the genteel, radioactive-illness-afflicted Chinese won't be able to stomach, but somehow able to plan, administer and manage.

In contrast, heartlanders are expendable. A few million casualties might even raise the PAP's electoral margins after the nuclear blizzard. "And the votes are in - all 50 of them (surviving expats, PAP supreme council members, a few lucky MPs, Caldecott Hill residents, etc). Ooh, perfect vote turnout this time." (Not that there's much else to do in a bunker apart from round-robin Twister. Or, for the more adventurous, some cavorting amidst gamma-irradiated Shenton Way ruins.).

Someone I know was griping because he had planned to construct a wine cellar in a new house he was building, and the law apparently calls for a strict separation of one's wine cellar and one's designated bomb shelter, even going so far as to stipulate certain dimensions and structural criterion. Now, this new homeowner is justifiably upset because the wine cellar he planned to design has to be resized downwards considerably to make room for the bomb shelter, and for some bureaucratic reason, you can't combine the two of them into one general structure.

I wondered, "Why not?". I can think of worse things than getting pissed out of your head while the ICBMs are reducing the world above you to a giant radioactive parking lot (the badly paved, open-air kind with an old man sitting on a stool issuing tickets, not the nice multi-storey ones with autopay machines).
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