Dear reader,

First, a quick update on the POFMA orders Jom received last Sunday. We sent an appeal to the ministers on Wednesday, and hope to hear back from them by today. If they reject us, we’ll then appeal to the High Court, as per POFMA guidelines. We’re confident of our position, as articulated here.

Since Sunday, we’ve had over 150 new subscribers to this newsletter, almost half of whom are paid. We’re feeling better than ever, thanks to your support. And with that, let’s get back to our usual jam.

What a week it’s been! As you know, four politicians have just resigned, while another has been arrested (and then released on bail). The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is facing a “severe crisis”, in CNA’s words. In “Singapore This Week”, our weekly opinionated digest, we try to make sense of all these tumultuous developments.

Part of me wishes our politicians would stop generating such soap-opera-worthy scandals. We’re all having trouble keeping up. My inbox has filled up this past week with numerous potential story ideas, from parliamentary speaker protocols to chicanery among the F1 elite. Friends from around the world have buzzed me to ask what’s going on in Singapore, that oasis of “political stability”.

We’re following things closely and will report what we hear every Friday. One refreshing thing is that Singaporeans haven’t forgotten how to laugh at ourselves. We’ve decided to collate some of the best jokes and memes of the past week.

Today we’ve also published two essays from two friends: Faris Joraimi and Lee Suet Fern. Faris is also my neighbour in Pasir Ris and colleague, as Jom’s history editor. He lives most of the year in New York City, where he’s completing his PhD, and when he first pitched the idea of a story about attending a 26-hour Moby-Dick reading marathon in New Bedford, we thought it was…interesting. In a whimsical sort of way.

There’s so much more. In “Postcard from New Bedford: listening like whales”, Faris combines observations on the event and book with meditations on ecology, whaling, racism, and the basic art of listening.

“As with each time I read Moby-Dick, I came away from the Marathon enlarged—oceanically, cosmically. But this time, what changed it was the act of listening. It’s how our ancestors experienced epics and sagas before the modern genre of the novel appeared in the last couple of centuries. Listening to a story gives more than the conviviality which reading alone doesn’t provide.”

Finally, when Lim Chong Yah, economist and founding chairman of the National Wages Council, died two Saturdays ago, political sensitivities meant that Singaporeans didn’t get to listen to one of the people who knew him best: his daughter, Lee Suet Fern.

I first got to know Fern when I began my investigations into Lee Kuan Yew’s last will. We’ve since hung out a few times. Last week Jom realised that her voice was being effectively omitted from the narrative about her father. And we knew that along with her husband, Lee Hsien Yang, and her son, Li Shengwu, she is persona non-grata amid the ongoing family feud. She couldn’t even return to Singapore to pay her last respects (for fear of arrest).

So we asked Fern if she’d like to write something about her dad. It’s impossible to expect family members to write any sort of regular magazine obituary. We were looking more for reflections, remembrances, something to colour in the drab outlines offered elsewhere.

Like Faris, Fern has produced a poetic piece, “Lim Chong Yah (1932-2023): in memoriam”, which, among many other things, honours her dad’s love of “the rhyme and the reason, the metaphor and the metre, the messages and meaning, the cadence as well as the economy of expression.”

In a week when we’ve been overwhelmed by news, here’s a moment to slow down. And just listen—truly listen—to Faris Joraimi and Lee Suet Fern.

Jom dengar,
Sudhir Vadaketh
Editor-in-chief, Jom

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