Category Archives: Singapore

PAP Might Field 24 New Faces at the Next General Election

When Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was asked if the number of new (PAP) candidates in the next general election (GE) would be like the last two GEs, where there were 24 New faces each, Mr Lee said that it could be so.

“I think it is around that figure, but it is not confirmed yet,” Mr Lee said.

“I think there will be several, you have seen some of them, so you can do your own estimates.

Mr Lee also said, “Every MP should be able to work independently, and in principle defend his SMC. Every MP must make this consideration because they cannot be sure that the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee will not carve out his ward and turn it into a SMC.”

When Mr Lee was asked if “Ministers of State or other officeholders may be leading GRCs in the next election (instead of Cabinet ministers),” Mr Lee said, “If the situation calls for it, we might make such movements.”

“We definitely should not rule it out. Everyone should also be prepared for this possibility.”

Mr Lee was also asked if the PAP has identified its prime minister candidate and if the person is currently in Cabinet.

“Because you have said you want to hand over before you are 70 years old, so is it also likely that you hand over to your successor mid-way in the next term, so you have to give him a little time to prepare?” Mr Lee was asked.

In response, Mr Lee said, “Yes, he may already be in the Cabinet, but it is not entirely certain, because I will bring in some MPs and some new people with leadership calibre in the next General Election.

“Therefore, we should be able to find a successor between this election, the previous election and the next election.

Mr Lee also said that even if the prime minister candidate from PAP gets to enter parliament after the next election, “It need not be a stranger.”

“But my successor will not have as long a time to prepare as I did,” Mr Lee said.

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“I had 20 years to prepare. Twenty years later, I will be very old if I am still around, so he does not have such a long time. So this is a different situation, and we need to find an able leader.

“If you look at other countries, very few leaders had much experience,” Mr Lee also said.

“Perhaps the longest would be that of China because there is a system in place. But in other developed countries, like US, UK or Australia, leaders came in without any experience in leading the country – They became leaders overnight.”

However, there is no guarantee that the PAP’s candidate for prime minister will still become the prime minister.

It would still depend on who voters choose to form the government.

But by Mr Lee saying this, where politicians come in without any experience to lead the country and where he says the same could happen for the PAP’s prime mindset candidate, the same would then similarly apply for the alternative parties, where we could similarly see a prime minister candidate emerge from the alternative parties such as the Worker’s Party or the Singapore Democratic Party, to lead Singapore into the future.

 

Tan Chuan-Jin: Foreign PMEs Earn Higher Incomes because They are More Capable

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin claimed that foreign PMEs earn higher incomes because they are more employable than Singaporean PMEs.

Member of Parliament Patrick Tay had asked in parliament yesterday, “what is the breakdown for Singaporeans and permanent residents and foreigners who are professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) in Singapore’.

Mr Tan provided a table and showed that the gross monthly income of resident PMEs than Singaporean PMEs.

In other words, foreign PMEs earn higher incomes than Singaporean PMEs.

Mr Tan also said that foreign PMEs earn higher incomes because “Permanent Residents typically have to display good employability before they are granted residency”.

According to Wikipedia, “employability” refers to a person’s capability for gaining and maintaining employment.

However, Mr Tan’s logic was quickly called out and criticised by Singaporeans.

In the first place, what do incomes have to do with whether someone gets residency or not? 

Moreover, look at the way Mr Tan purposefully phrased his answer. He claimed that PRs need to have higher incomes to be able to become a citizen. However, this does not explain why other foreigners who are not PRs are have no intention to become a Singaporean also have higher incomes.

Moreover, by Mr Tan’s logic, does it mean that Singaporeans should have their citizenships revoked since their incomes are lower?

Also, does this mean that once PRs become Singaporeans, their incomes would become lower? What logic is there to Mr Tan’s claims? 

Netizens who commented on Channel NewsAsia’s Facebook page lambasted Mr Tan.

“The reason… Sounds unconvincing,” one commenter said.

Another asked, “Why should PRs earn higher pay than Singaporeans? Look like employers and government agencies still prefer to hire foreigners rather than locals.”

Another said, “That’s pretty unfavourable for citizens in Singapore.

“Now, you understand why its the citizens in Singapore that migrate to find better jobs and salary.”

But another commenter pointed out Mr Tan’s flaw in logic.

“Shouldn’t salaries be based on qualifications and experience instead on whether one is local or PR?”

Another pointed how Mr Tan was asked specifically about the breakdown for “Singaporeans and permanent residents and foreigners” but he only gave the breakdown for “resident” PMEs and Singaporean PMEs.

This led the commenter to say, “then it’s even more important not to lump citizens, PRs and foreigners together when presenting statistics”.

It is clear that if foreigners were to be a category by itself, foreign PMEs would earn even higher incomes than “resident” PMEs and Singaporean PMEs.

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Indeed, this is what a Singaporean observed.

“I personally experience and observe that those on Employment Passes earn relatively more than PR and needless to say, obviously more than Singaporeans as well,” the commenter said.

“This has to stop.”

Other Singaporeans asked if Mr Tan was referring to Yang Ying who had cheated an old Singaporean lady of millions of dollars and who was known to have a fake degree but was still granted a PR. 

“Frankly, we need to thank Tan Chuan-Jin for revealing this open secret that many Singaporeans have suspected i.e. foreigners are earning more than locals (please, locals exclude PRs)”, one commented said angrily.

“So, try guessing why property prices and COEs have skyrocketed so much in recent years that they are beyond reach of many Singaporeans?”

“The government’s biased policies have led to all these unhappiness,” one person said.

“It feels like we are betrayed by our own government.”

Indeed, the reason why foreign PMEs earn more than Singaporean PMEs is obvious, yet Mr Tan still tried to pull wool over the eyes of Singaporeans’ eyes.

Why Mr Tan is so brazen in doing so either mean that the government is in denial of the situation or the government do not care much about Singaporeans to tell them what the real situation is.

As someone asked, “Do you still think Singaporeans are dafts?”

 

SG50 Wastes $1.3 Million to buy 50 Ultra High-End "Single-Use" Pianos for Concert

You might have seen the headline already and thought, hmm, well done, supporting local music! The headline’s innocent enough: “$348k boost for home-grown music“. Wow! More money for starving musicians! Excellent!

The only problem? This.

The first initiative by the fund will be to buy 50 Steinway-designed Lang Lang pianos, at $26,000 each, for use at the Sing50 concert on Aug 7, which is organised by The Straits Times and The Business Times.

After the concert, the pianos will go to 50 primary and secondary schools for music education and choir practices.

Wait, what? 50 STEINWAY PIANOS??

If you have no idea what a Steinway is, here’s a short summary. A Steinway is a piano that sounds so good, most prestigious concert halls carry them. For example, the Esplanade Concert Hall has four Steinways that probably sound like God himself designed them.

Do any of the schools actually need the Steinways? And why 50 GRAND PIANOS, for —-‘s sake? Do any of them have concert halls as well designed as the one in the Esplanade?.. (A comment below pointed out that these may not be grand pianos, but upright pianos which are still double the price of a very good Yamaha upright. Thanks, Josephine!)

Here’s an idea: buy 50 pianos from a local company, and support a Singaporean business. Instead of China’s Lang Lang, brand the pianos with a local pianist’s name, and support a Singaporean musician (I randomly did a Google and found this lovely award-winning pianist, Abigail Sin).

Sing50 concert planners, JUST HOW HARD WAS IT TO THINK OF SOMETHING THAT ACTUALLY BOOSTS HOME-GROWN BUSINESSES AND MUSICIANS?

(I’m a wee bit pissed off now, yes.)

OK, maybe I don’t have the complete picture, and maybe having Steinways in schools will actually help home-grown music. Somehow. But here’s the thing — home-grown musicians are making sacrifices and suffering for their art, and they’re only getting very minimal support for it.

The family that scrimps and saves just so their beloved daughter can study music — they could use S$1.3m.
The rock band that’s good enough to play at overseas festivals, but can’t because they have to work at their day jobs — they could use S$1.3m.
The entire local music industry that few people pay attention to — it could use S$1.3m.

It’s true that “home-grown music” is getting some funding. But S$1.3m is a huge pile of money to most Singaporeans, and getting 50 Steinways that will probably end up being underutilized just sucks. And where’s the remaining S$1m gonna come from? I HOPE MY TAX MONEY ISN’T GOING TOWARDS THAT.

(Math:
Cost of 50 Steinway pianos is — S$26,000 x 50 = S$1,300,000
The fund currently has S$348,000.
Shortfall is — S$952,000.)


 

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Let me make a point in a more civilized manner.

The general elections in Singapore are coming soon, and our social media feeds will soon be full of GE-relevant articles and essays. But discussions about politics shouldn’t just be contained to election periods. All of us need to be politically aware and active so that we don’t end up having shit like this our taxpayer monies misused, or having policies enacted that few of us actually are happy with.

Everything is political. If we appear apathetic about our politics, politicians can and will assume that they can get away with anything, because no one’s watching, and no one cares.


I hope the Sing50 concert planners do something to redeem themselves. If they have big budgets to play with, perhaps they could spend the money in ways that actually help the nation. Perhaps I should complain less and actually contribute more.

Ah, I’m a musician, perhaps I could play for the concert!

sigh pie

The Sing50 concert FAQ

 

Oh. Sigh pie…


 

Edit:
I realize that some of this money comes from well-intentioned individuals and private companies. Generosity is a lovely thing, and anyone who gives a gift from the heart should be lauded. I am not finding fault with these generous donors. If you’re someone who contributed to this fund with the intention of helping local music, thank you. There are just so many other better ways to support home-grown music, and that’s what gets my goat.

Edit 2:
Let me be very clear about this, since some people seem to be misreading my writing. I’m not blaming the government for this. (The Sing50 concert people are the ones being a bit silly.) I’m implying that the power structures of our country allow for this kind of wastage, and that these structures exist because too many people are apathetic about politics. Everything is linked, but these links are very often invisible even to the people who use them.

 

Mr Seah

*The author blogs at http://mrseah.com

 

11 Companies Bid for First Tender under Bus Contracting Model, including SBS and SMRT

[photo credit: The Straits Times]

Eleven bus operators are bidding for Singapore’s new bus contracting model’s first tender. The tender closed yesterday.

Four operators are from Singapore – Aedge Holdings, Woodlands Transport Holdings, SBS Transit and SMRT Buses.

There was also a joint bid between Singapore’s Travel GSH and China’s Jiaoyun Group Co.

The others are foreign operators – Australia’s Busways Group, China’s Jinan Public Transport Corporation, French-based companies Keolis and RATP Dev Transdev Asia Holding, and United Kingdom’s The Go-Ahead Group and Tower Transit Group.

Under the bus contracting model, there are 12 bus packages, with about 300-500 buses each that bus operators will run. However, only three packages will be tendered. The other nine will be given to SBS Transit and SMRT Buses to run for at least three years. 

Under the first tender for the Bulim package, 26 bus services, operating from three interchanges – Bukit Batok, Jurong East, and Clementi, are being opened for bidding. A new Bulim Bus Depot, off Jurong West Avenue 2, will also be part of the package. 

SBS Transit and SMRT Buses have also submitted bids for the first tender.

SMRT said that it has a “track record of delivering safe, reliable and comfortable journeys to all commuters”.

“Having closely examined the Bulim package, we are confident that on the combined strength of our management, workforce and processes, we will exceed the performance and service expectations outlined in the tender. SMRT Buses looks forward to delivering a positive commuter experience to all residents served by the Bulim bus services,” SMRT Buses’ vice president Tan Kian Heong told Channel NewsAsia.

It is not known why SBS Transit and SMRT Buses are still allowed to bid for the bus package when the government has already given them nine out of the 12 packages to run.

If they win the only three packages allowed for tender, then bus services will still continue to be run as a de facto duopoly. There would not be any change from the current system, in spite of the claim of wanting the public bus services to more responsive to changes and to inject more competition.

Woodlands Transport, which is Singapore’s largest private bus operator, has also submitted a bid. It said that its bid is “convincing and sustainable”.

“We are very confident that we will win this particular tender as Woodlands Transport has been in the market for 40 years in Singapore. We believe that we understand the people and we understand the market. We are able to deliver all the service requirements required by LTA (Land Transport Authority) and we believe this tender submission will be a very competitive one,” Woodlands Transport Holdings’ general manager Roger Wong said.

Aedge Holdings which runs City Direct services to the Central Business District and a daily premium bus has also submitted a bid.

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UK’s Go-Ahead believed that its experience in running a contracting model similar to Singapore’s will be useful.

“Around two million people travel on our buses every day in the UK and we have consistently achieved passenger satisfaction scores of over 90 per cent,” Go-Ahead Group’s chief executive David Brown said. 

“We hope to introduce our innovative systems and solutions to Singapore to ensure that commuters here have positive passenger experiences, and also cultivate an excellent working environment for our bus captains.”

Australia’s Busways Group said that it is ready to invest in terms of finances and human capital, so that bus services in Singapore will be of quality. 

“We expect that, over time, Singaporean bus captains will move into non-driving management roles, empowered to manage the Busways Singapore operations with support from the Australian team, just as we have always operated in Australia,” Australia’s Busways Group’s managing director Richard Rowe said. 

According to LTA, the bids will be evaluated on similar criteria, in areas such as quality factors and price. 

LTA claimed that it is looking for the best value for money. 

The tender is expected to be awarded in the second quarter of this year.

LTA also said more information of the second and third bus packages will be announced later.

Questions should be asked as to why SBS Transit and SBS Buses are still allowed to bid for the remaining packages, having already controlled three-quarters of the bus packages available.

Moreover, even with the new bus contracting model, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew had already said that fares would still need to be increased ” to ensure the overall financial sustainability of the public transport system”.

“There is surely no free lunch,” he said.

 

Khaw Boon Wan: The Restrictions we Place on Speakers’ Corner Have Worked Well

Khaw Boon Wan, the minister for National Development noted that the rules and regulations in place regarding the use of Speakers’ Corner have all worked well in the past until the incident on September 27 2014 when two events clashed.

On September 27, activist Han Hui Hui organised a CPF protest at Hong Lim Park but was shocked to find that after her approval was granted to hold the protest, another YMCA event was allowed to book the same venue.

A conflict arose after the CPF protesters took their protest march, which they were previously approved to hold, across the area where YMCA was holding their event with guest of honour Minister Teo Ser Luck.

Since the event, Han Hui Hui, blogger Roy Ngerng and four others have been charged in court with public nuisance.

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In relation to the incident, MP Seah Kian Peng had asked whether there was a need to change the rules regarding the use of Speakers’ Corner.

Minister KHaw Boon Wan explained that as there was still a pending court case on the matter, it was inappropriate to comment on whether there should be any changes. 

He simply shared that in 2014, there were 136 registrations to use speakers’ corner while there were 169 in the previous year. He explained that since N Parks took over the management of Hong Lim Park in 2008, this was the first problem to arise.  

MHA: Australia, US and UK have Restrictions on Alcohol Sale, so S’pore Should Have Too

The government is using the liquor control measures in cities in Australia, the US, and the UK to justify the restrictions on the selling and consumption of alcohol in Singapore.

Yesterday, parliament debated a bill which will allow the government to have a blanket ban on the take-away sales and consumption of alcohol after 10.30pm every day. Only licensed premises will still be able to sell alcohol outside the stipulated timings but the alcohol has to be consumed with these premises, otherwise it will be an offence.

Singaporeans will not even be able to drink alcohol on the corridors of their flats or at barbecues from 10.30pm to 7am. If they want to do so, they would have to apply for a permit. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that it wants to implement a blanket ban because it is easier to enforce. 

But MHA is also taking the examples of other countries to justify the restrictions.

“MHA also studied liquor control measures in cities in Australia, the US, and the UK. Many have restrictions on retail sale for take-away liquor and the consumption of liquor in public places that have been in force for some time. 

“Most of them are significantly more restrictive than the proposed measures in this Bill,” MHA claimed.

Channel NewsAsia also reported on the restrictions and tried to portray the “partial” restrictions in Singapore, as relatively better to the “complete” restriction in cities such as New York City, Oslo, Perth and Brisbane.

However, several commenters on Channel NewsAsia’s Facebook page decry the government’s actions. 

“Now is the comparing phase,” one commenter said.

Another said, “Look at the reasons for their alcohol ban, and Singapore’s (restrictions) looks like a fat joke trying to join the big leagues. 

“Our reason? Because our police force can’t intimidate third world foreign workers from India.”

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“Take note when its applicable to New York City, it not to the whole state of New York,” another said.

“New York City is small compared to New York state.”

Indeed, the restrictions in Australia, US and the UK are only for parts of the country and cities and not for the whole country.

“Propaganda,” one person called the Channel NewsAsia out.

“Since like comparing so much, why not dear govt, pls compare our salaries to first world countries?? If you cant do that, dont yaya monkey see monkey do,” still one person said.

Indeed, what is worrying is that even as the government claimed that it “conducted two public consultation exercises between October 2013 and August 2014, and received close to 400 pieces of written feedback” and that “There was strong support from most respondents for measures to better manage retail sale hours for take-away liquor and the consumption of liquor in public places,” the government has not published any report on its findings.

Moreover, the methodology of the study and the selection of the sample study group is also not known. 

What’s more, a Straits Times poll with more than 9,000 respondents showed that 78 percent of Singaporeans disagree with the ban, which thus questions the so-called “consultation” conducted by the government. 

This has caused discomfort among many Singaporeans with the blanket ban on alcohol sales and consumption. Where Singaporeans feel that they do not have a say in the new policy and have not been adequately consulted on, the ban feels like another unfair policy forced down the throats of Singapore. 

It is also a silly excuse to claim that Singapore should follow because US, UK and Australia have similar policies. If this was a good justification for the rules, then Singapore should also abolish the death penalty and decriminalise homosexuality as these countries* have also already done this long ago.

(*Most states in the US have abolished the death penalty, there are just a handful yet to abolish it. All these three countries do not criminalize homosexuality like Singapore still does.)

 

Dr Amy Khor: More Childcare Leave for Parents will Hurt Businesses

In a response to Jurong MP David Ong’s Parliamentary question over whether the Ministry of Manpower will consider giving more statutory paid caregiver leave, the Minister of State for Manpower Dr Amy Khor believes that more leave entitlements would impact businesses.

Dr Amy Khor: “Businesses are still adjusting and adapting to some of these leave requirements. Let us monitor the impact of these changes before we consider legislating more family care leave.”

Despite the rapidly falling birth rate and ageing population problem, the Ministry of Manpower prefers not to legislate leaves but they “encourage” employers to attain work-life balance by giving their employees leaves beyond the minimal legislated number.

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Currently in Singapore, married employees with children below the age of 7 are entitled to a minimum of 6 days of paid Childcare Leave and 7 days of Annual Leave. This pales in comparison to Australia where paid parental leave is set at a minimum of 18 weeks and parents can continue to take unpaid Childcare Leave without the risk of employment dismissal.

Is 13 days of leave a year enough time for your children? Will your boss sacrifice his profits so employees will have more time with their family and less time with work?

 

Nobody Believes the “Wayang” in Parliament Anymore?

Patients treated based on condition, not subsidy status

According to The Real Singapore’s article “AMY KHOR: PUBLIC HOSPITALS DON’T DISCRIMINATE PATIENTS BECAUSE THEY ARE POOR” (Jan 20) – “Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor, said that Public Hospitals provide patients care based on their health condition, not their subsidy status.

In other words, hospitals don’t discriminate poor patients.” – How do we explain the fact that subsidised patients in Class C and B2 have been told that they have to wait for months and as long as years (for dental treatment) – and that they can be diagnosed and/or treated almost immediately if they choose to change to unsubsidised Class B1 or A?

Financial assistance for subsidised patients needing non-subsidised drugs

“She added that when there are low-income patients who need drugs which are non-subsidised, financial assistance can be provided.” – Sure not not – since when did MediFund allow applications for subsidised patients to apply for financial assistance for non-subsidised drugs?

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HDB: the more flats we build, the more money we lose?

According to The Real Singapore’s article “KHAW BOON WAN: HDB CONTINUES TO LOSE MONEY BUILDING HDB FLATS FOR SINGAPOREANS” (Jan 20) – “Minister Khaw again insisted that the government loses money when they sell HDB Flats to buyers.

He explained that the CPF housing grants are paid out by the government and the construction and land costs of the HDB flat are greater than the prices paid by buyers after grants.

He said that the Home Ownership Programme and the spike in supply and upgrading programs since 2013 has continued to make HDB’s deficit bigger.” – Does anyone believe this nonsense about HDB losing money anymore, when it consistently refuses to disclose the breakdown of the selling price into construction and land costs?

Nobody believes the “wayang” in Parliament anymore?

How did we deteriorate to the current pathetic state after 50 years of independence, whereby hardly anyone believes what goes on in Parliament anymore?

 

Win battles lose war

TRS Contributor

 

ST Poll Shows MHA’s "Public Consultation" was Wrong, Most Disagree with Alcohol Laws

Before proposing the new alcohol restriction laws, the Ministry of Home Affairs had apparently run a public consultation exercise and found that 83% of people agreed with the proposed laws.

The laws include the total ban on public consumption of alcohol, even at parks and void decks after 10:30pm. (Read more: What you Need to Know about the New Alcohol Restrictions)

However, it seems that MHA’s “public consultation” was wrong as a ST poll on the issue after the law was announced showed that most (78%) of readers disagreed with the law.

At 9am, the poll had received over 9000 responses with 78% saying that they did not support the new restrictions:

The MHA public consultation exercise on the other hand only interviewed 1,200 people.

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Many netizens explained that they felt the restrictions were too high handed and an overreaction to the riot which occurred at little India in 2013.

Others explained that it was silly to target all consumption when there are many Singaporeans who enjoy simply drinking a beer while walking home after an extra-long day at work and they never cause trouble.

There were of course some who supported the proposed laws saying that it would reduce the number of fights and disturbances caused by those drinking.

The biggest concern is that MHA can just enact laws after a public consultation with only 1,200 people and ignore the disagreement from the vast majority of Singaporeans who do not support the law.

 

Related:

Does the Proposed Alcohol Ban Have Genuine Public Support?

 

Japan Will Simply Allow their Two Captured Citizens to be Beheaded by ISIS

 The Islamic State (IS) group has threatened to kill two Japanese hostages unless it receives a US$200 million ransom within 72 hours, but Tokyo vowed on Tuesday (Jan 20) it would not give in to “terrorism”.

IS has murdered five Western hostages since August last year, but it is the first time that the militant group – which has seized swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq – has threatened Japanese captives.

In footage posted on militant websites, a black-clad militant brandishing a knife addresses the camera in English, standing between two hostages wearing orange jumpsuits.

“You now have 72 hours to pressure your government into making a wise decision by paying the US$200 million to save the lives of your citizens,” he says.

The militant says that the ransom demand is to compensate for non-military aid that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to support countries affected by the campaign against IS during an ongoing Middle East tour that on Tuesday saw him in Jerusalem.

But the Japanese government said it would not bow to extremism. “Our country’s stance – contributing to the fight against terrorism without giving in – remains unchanged,” chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo.

An official in the foreign ministry’s terrorism prevention division had said earlier that the government was investigating the threat and the authenticity of the video.

Since August, IS has murdered three Americans and two Britons, posting grisly video footage of their executions. US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, American aid worker Peter Kassig and British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines were all beheaded.

The militant who appeared in the video threatening the Japanese hostages spoke with a very similar southern English accent to the militant who appeared in the footage posted of the executions of the Britons and Americans.

ABE IN MIDEAST

Abe, who was due to give a Jerusalem news conference, pledged a total of US$2.5 billion in humanitarian and development aid for the Middle East on the first leg of his tour in Cairo on Saturday.

He promised US$200 million in non-military assistance for countries affected by the IS group’s bloody expansion in Iraq and Syria, which spurred an exodus of refugees to neighbouring countries.

The first hostage – Kenji Goto – is a freelance journalist who set up a video production company, named Independent Press in Tokyo in 1996, feeding video documentaries on the Middle East and other regions to Japanese television networks, including public broadcaster NHK. He was born in Sendai, Miyagi, in 1967, according to the company’s website.

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The second hostage appeared in previous footage posted last August in which he identified himself as Haruna Yukawa and was shown being roughly interrogated by his captors. Another online video that appeared at the time showed a man believed to be Yukawa test-firing an AK-47 assault rifle in Syria.

The same video could be seen on the website of Tokyo-based private military firm PMC, which listed Yukawa as its chief executive. Calls to the firm at the time went unanswered and it was unclear if the company had other employees. Its website said the firm has branch offices in “Turkey, Syria, Africa”.

Japanese nationals’ involvement as combatants in foreign conflicts is limited, although the country’s extensive media is usually well-represented in hot spots. Japan has been relatively isolated from the Islamist violence that has hit other developed countries, having tended to stay away from US-led military interventions.

The country was rocked in early 2013 when militants overran a remote gas plant in the Algerian desert. The four-day ordeal that involved hundreds of hostages ended when Algerian commandos stormed the plant. Ten Japanese died, giving the country the single biggest body count.

The hostage-takers said they had launched the raid in response to military action against extremists in Mali. In response, Tokyo pledged US$120 million in fresh aid to help stabilise the militant-infested Sahel region, which runs across North Africa.

Source: AFP