Six more arrested for selling fake gold bars to pawnshops, public: Police

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SINGAPORE – Another six men have been arrested for trying to sell fake gold bars, just three days after two men were caught for the same offence.

The men, aged between 17 and 24, were arrested after simultaneous operations on Thursday (April 6) and Friday (April 7) at Joo Koon Road, Kampong Java Road, Yishun and Outram Road.

A total of 45 fake gold bars were discovered, the police said in a news release on Saturday (April 8).

The men had tried to sell the fake gold bars at several pawnshops and to the public, preliminary investigations have found.

The police had received several reports of men trying to sell fake gold bars between March 13 and April 5.

Two people had earlier been arrested on Wednesday (April 5) in relation to the same case.

Three men aged 17, 19 and 24 will be charged for one count of conspiracy to cheat, while investigations against the other suspects are ongoing.

Those found guilty of an offence of cheating can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

The police in their release reminded the public to be cautious and not buy gold bars from unreliable sources.


Source :

Non-flight services take off at Changi Airport

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From renting out Wi-Fi routers to selling city tours and rail passes, Changi Airport is doing a thriving business giving travellers what they want.

It started in 2012 with one store in Terminal 2 selling tickets and vouchers to places of interest, restaurants and shops in Singapore – as part of a tie-up with just 15 merchants.

Since then, the Changi Recommends initiative has grown to eight stores across all three terminals, and now serves both arriving and departing passengers.

More than 100 merchants in about 30 destinations, such as Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Britain, are on board – offering a plethora of services and products, including airport transfers.

Many of the services, which can be booked in advance online, are offered at discounted prices.

For example, an adult entry pass to Warner Bros Movie World in Gold Coast, Australia, costs $79, instead of the usual $90 if bought at the door. And a ticket to Tokyo Disneyland can be purchased at $93, $9 off the usual price.

Changi Travel Services – a Changi Airport Group subsidiary which runs the Changi Recommends services – receives an undisclosed cut from tickets and packages sold.

Changi Travel Services general manager Ng Yansheng stressed, however, that the priority is to meet the needs of passengers.

“We are, hence, focused on service quality and the growth of our services for now,” he said, adding that the inventory will be expanded in the coming months to include attractions in Europe and the United States.

Apart from tickets to places of interest, a popular service is the rental of Wi-Fi routers, which started in 2015, Mr Ng said.

These devices allow users to get data access without incurring overseas roaming charges or having to buy a new SIM card.

“For as low as $5 a day – charges vary according to destination – these can be used in Asean, North Asia, Europe and North America. In the coming months, we are looking at expanding our coverage to include India and the Middle East,” Mr Ng said.

With airports increasingly competing for travellers and vying to become key transit hubs, it is important for Changi to think out of the box, industry experts said.

Mr Ramanathan Mohandas, head of the diploma programme in aviation management at Republic Polytechnic, said: “Airports are no longer just for people to board planes. Travellers expect more – good shopping, good dining and, these days, good services.

“By providing such value-added services, Changi clearly hopes to delight passengers so that they want to come back.”

It is important, though, for the airport to work with reputable partners and merchants, especially those based overseas, so that transactions can be processed smoothly, he added.

Marketing executive Alice Tan, 45, said: “The rental of Wi-Fi routers is a great service. The device can be used for several gadgets, which is really convenient. I don’t like the hassle of using pre-paid SIM cards.”


Source : The Straits Times

Addicts turn to peddlers for sleeping pills

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In 2013, a Singaporean man was caught trying to smuggle 90,000 nitrazepam tablets at the Woodlands Checkpoint. He had attempted to hide the pills in a secret compartment in his car between the boot and rear passenger seat. He was sentenced to 16 months’ jail last November.PHOTOS: HEALTH SCIENCES AUTHORITY

Most people who need sleeping pills to help them sleep take just one, but some are so hooked they take up to 50 pills to get them through the day.

Whether to reduce their anxiety or to get high, addicts of these prescription drugs are fuelling a thriving black market for them.

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) told The Sunday Times it investigated an average of 200 cases a year in the last three years of the illegal importation or sale of benzodiazepines, the class of drugs under which many sleeping pills fall.

In the past three years, 46 people were convicted of this offence and the HSA seized about 170,000 sleeping tablets, such as Valium, Dormicum and Epam.

Most of those convicted were peddlers who sold the pills on the black market. As with most illegal drugs, one has to know other users to be referred to a peddler.

In the past three years, 46 people were convicted of the illegal importation or sale of benzodiazepines and the HSA seized about 170,000 sleeping tablets, such as Valium, Dormicum and Epam. Most of those convicted were peddlers who sold the pills on the black market. As with most illegal drugs, one has to know other users to be referred to a peddler.

The others convicted included those who had smuggled the pills into Singapore for their own consumption or for other people in exchange for a monetary reward.

The HSA spokesman said: “Smugglers have been found to have hidden the tablets inside vehicles or their luggage upon entry to Singapore.”

Drug addicts and counsellors say many of these pills are smuggled into Singapore from Johor Baru in Malaysia and Thailand. The latest case to be dealt with in court involved a 37-year-old Singaporean who tried to smuggle almost 4,000 nitrazepam tablets from Malaysia.

The man, who works as a supervisor, had bought the sleeping pills from a clinic in Johor Baru for RM$1,800 (S$570) and hidden them in his car but was stopped at the Woodlands Checkpoint by immigration officers in 2014.

He said loan sharks had told him the clinic sold sleeping pills which he could buy and sell in Singapore to clear his debt. He was sentenced to nine months’ jail on Jan 31.

Under the law, importers and sellers of benzodiazepines, which are prescription-only drugs, have to be licensed by the HSA.

In November last year, the law was amended to toughen the penalties for illegally importing or supplying medicine like sleeping pills. Now, those convicted face a fine of up to $50,000 – up from a maximum of $10,000 – or a jail term of up to two years or both.

Dr Dorothy Toh, assistant group director of HSA’s health products regulation group, said the stiffer penalties are to send a strong deterrent message.

The HSA says it works with law enforcement agencies to conduct targeted operations against the illegal supply chain, and monitors the sale of medicine through intelligence gathering and regular surveillance.

The largest number of pills seized in recent years was when a 38-year- old Singaporean was caught trying to smuggle 90,000 nitrazepam tablets at the Woodlands Checkpoint in 2013. He was sentenced to 16 months’ jail in November last year.

Drug addicts say the black market prices have shot up in the past few years as it is much harder to obtain sleeping pills from doctors now.

A tablet of Dormicum now costs between $8 and $10 – double what it used to cost five years ago.

Nitrazepam has also gained popularity in recent years as it is the cheapest sleeping pill around and easily available, those interviewed said. It costs between $0.30 and $0.40 per pill on the black market.

According to these sources, the profit margin is substantial, up to eight to 10 times the price at which the drug is obtained in Malaysia.

With enforcement tightened against doctors who overprescribe these drugs, it is now much harder to get even a week’s supply from a clinic, addicts said.

The Singapore Medical Council said of the 26 doctors disciplined between 2011 and 2014 for the “excessive or inappropriate” prescription of drugs, 19 were disciplined for overprescribing sleeping pills and all but one were suspended from practice and censured.

No doctor was rapped over sleeping pills in 2015, and one doctor was suspended from practising for four months last September.

•HSA said members of the public who have tip-offs on the illegal sale of sleeping pills or other medicine can contact its enforcement branch on 6866-3485 or e-mail


Source : The Straits Times

Finnair brings Airbus A350 to Hong Kong, Singapore

Finnair brings Airbus A350 to Hong Kong, Singapore

Finnair will begin daily Airbus A350 flights between Hong Kong and Helsinki this week, with Singapore slated to see the next-gen jetliner later this year.

Asia is a growing market for Finnair, and both of those business hubs double as gateways for Australians booked on the Oneworld airline and Qantas partner.

“Australia is by far Finnair’s largest ‘offline’ market,” says Geoff Stone, Finnair country manager for Australia and New Zealand. “In fact it generates more traffic and revenue than some countries to which Finnair flies directly.”

This underscores a continued preference by Australian business travellers to transit via Singapore or Hong Kong, with some travellers booking a route which takes in both cities.

“We have some customers who like to go up via Singapore and come back via Hong Kong, or vice versa” Stone recounts. “There are many companies that have offices in both cities, so this allows customers to visit those in each direction.”

Hong Kong “is becoming increasingly popular” as Finnair’s Aussie launching pad, Stone adds, driven by the higher number of flights between Australia and Hong Kong compared to Singapore.

“We have both Qantas and Cathay Pacific connecting through Hong Kong,” Stone says, with Cathay Pacific offering multiple daily flights from most major Australian cities, “whereas to Singapore we only have Qantas, so there is more availability.”

Finnair will expand its Hong Kong footprint to double daily flights across northern summer, with the A350 joined by an Airbus A330, while Singapore will switch from an Airbus A340 to the modern A350 “in the third quarter.”

“The two oldest A340s have also exited out fleet, so we have fully flat business class seating in all of our aircraft now,” Stone says.


Australian Business Traveller

The Big Read: Making Singapore a better place for workers who come from afar

TODAY takes a look at efforts in recent years to improve the lives of the foreign worker population here

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TWC2 staff and volunteers handing out meal coupons, apples and drinks to migrant workers. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY

SINGAPORE — It was not too long ago that stories abounded of employers ill-treating and exploiting foreign workers, some of whom were often made to live in substandard conditions. The 2010 case of the boss of a maintenance company — he was later jailed for three months — who left his dying foreign worker by the roadside still rankles, for some.

While much remains to be done to improve the welfare and protection of migrant workers, strides have been made in recent years, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and migrant workers themselves say.

They credit the improvement in the situation to a multitude of factors — including the advent of social media, which allow issues to surface faster, and enable groups and individuals to organise themselves faster, among other things — as well as the joint efforts by individuals, NGOs and the Government.

As International Migrants Day rolls around this month, TODAY takes a look at the efforts in recent years to improve the lives of the foreign worker population, which numbers around a million, and what more can be done. New laws have been passed, existing regulations tightened and cases are getting resolved more quickly. Ground-up efforts have also been intensified.

The Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC)’s FREIDA, or Forward Response, Engagement & Intel Deployment Asset, is a mobile office which helps the MWC reach out to migrant workers posted to smaller dormitories at more isolated industrial, housing and congregation zones in Singapore. Photo: Migrant Workers’ Centre

While they tended to suffer in silence in the past — either out of fear of repercussions or simply not knowing where to seek help — migrant workers say there is no shortage of avenues these days, be it via social media or the NGOs.

Stories and video clips of spontaneous acts of kindness by foreign workers — including a heroic act by two workers earlier this year who saved a dangling toddler stuck between the rails of a flat in Jurong East — have also touched Singaporeans, so much so that some have taken up the cause of improving the lives of this group of labourers. “I think as a society, most of us are well past that stage of shunning migrant workers… Barriers are slowly breaking down,” says Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) executive director Bernard Menon, who recalls how a 10-year-old boy approached him last month to ask for advice on treatment of foreign workers on behalf of his father who owns a construction company.

The 2012 SMRT strike by foreign bus drivers and the 2013 Little India riots have also galvanised Government action to address some of the underlying problems, observers say. These events have also brought issues faced by foreign workers into sharper focus and got Singaporeans thinking about them, Mr Menon notes.

Foreign workers whom TODAY spoke to laud initiatives such as better workplace-safety practices and mandatory itemised payslips. However, they feel that greater attention can be paid to areas such as living conditions, the quality of food catered for them —an issue that TODAY had highlighted in previous reports — and the clamping down on errant recruitment agencies, notwithstanding the fact that many of these operate in their home countries.

Bangladeshi construction worker Shishir Roy, 30, who has been here for the last seven years, says housing conditions remain a big issue for some foreign workers. “Rooms are dirty and crowded… And the food catering service is not clean, not cooked healthily,” he says.

Urging authorities to look into the payment of recruitment fees, he says new migrant workers have to pay almost S$16,000 to come to Singapore for work, compared with the S$7,000 he paid when he first came here.

Sharing his own experience, Mr Katakam Satish Kumar, 29, says there are errant employers around. He became injured during work and his employer failed to provide proper care. One day, he ran away from the workshop to file a complaint with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). “(Foreign workers) are still too scared to go to the Government (when they have problems),” he says.

Nevertheless, shipyard worker Sorwar Mohammad Golam, 26, adds: “It’s only some small companies (that are cheating people)… Singapore law is still very good.”

Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) executive director Bernard Menon (centre, white shirt) persuading workers from Akash Engineering in January 2014 not to stage an illegal strike. Photo: Migrant Workers Centre

Since 2008, an inter-ministerial committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, has been overseeing a whole-of-Government effort to improve the management of foreign workers here.

In recent years, the Government has taken a series of steps to enhance the protection of foreign workers and improve their welfare. New laws introduced this year included the amendment of the Employment Act to make it mandatory for employers to issue all workers key employment terms in writing and itemised pay slips. A new Foreign Employee Dormitories Act (FEDA) was also enacted this year to ensure that large worker dormitories meet the requisite living standards.

Following the Little India riots, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the Government is speeding up the construction of dormitories that provide adequate living space, and other amenities and recreational facilities to take care of the basic needs of workers. At the time, Mr Lee stressed the Government’s belief that foreign workers in Singapore “ought to be treated fairly and properly”.

He said: “We do not stand for ill treatment or unfair treatment of foreign workers. We have to make sure they are well treated, they are paid properly on time, their safety is taken care of, their living conditions are up to standard, and they are given full protection of the law.”

Apart from Government efforts, NGOs are also making their presence felt. Mr Menon recalls the example of a case last year where workers hired by Akash Engineering and Technology threatened to go on strike, alleging that their employer had not paid them salaries for up to four-and-a-half months and they had not been provided with food for almost two weeks. MWC staff, along with their counterparts from the MOM and Keppel Shipyard involved, swung into action.

“The MOM helped to talk to the shipyard to explain the situation, and they immediately stepped in to make good on the owed salaries. Meanwhile, we guaranteed payment to the caterer, who then promptly re-started delivery of their meals,” he says. Eighteen hours after MWC was first informed of the case, all 120 workers were paid their salary arrears in full.

Mr Menon says the case showed how everyone needs to “come together to work in concert” to achieve a satisfactory resolution for the workers.

Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST) volunteers at an event marking Foreign Domestic Workers’ Day on Dec 6. Photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY

Recently, some NGOs, including the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST), announced that they are looking to expand their scope of services to include mediation sessions for foreign domestic workers (FDWs). FAST executive director William Chew says employment agencies had suggested his NGO take on the role of a neutral party in disputes between FDWs and employers.

In terms of engagement and education, NGOs and the MOM are working in tandem to reach out to the migrant workers.

For example, HealthServe conducts weekly visits to workers’ dormitories to inform them of their rights and the resources available to them, says the NGO’s executive director Colin Chia. Since 2008, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) has been running its Cuff Road Project, which provides free meals six days a week for foreign workers who would also drop by to consult TWC2 volunteers on issues that they face.

In November last year, the MOM organised a workshop for the workers to help them gain a better understanding of employment conditions and regulations. Back at the workplace, the participants pass on the knowledge and information to their colleagues.

TWC2 staff and volunteers hand out meal coupons and donated apples and drinks to migrant workers during TWC2’s Cuff Road Project at Rowell Road on Dec 9. Photo: Jason Quah/TODAY

One of the most significant improvements that NGOs observe is the faster resolution of cases.

TWC2 executive committee member John Gee notes that in 2008 when Cuff Road Project was launched, the NGO used to regularly come across workers who had to wait a year or two before their cases were settled. Such instances would be unusual now, he says.

There are also fewer reported cases of forced repatriation, which could be a result of the authorities’ move to require an In-Principle Approval (IPA) letter, which contains important information such as salary details, to be sent to workers before they arrive here, Mr Gee says. Employers are held accountable for the terms stated in the letter.

In the past, many workers would be duped to come to Singapore on false promises made by their prospective employees. TWC2 executive committee member Debbie Fordyce says: “We’ve seen some action taken by the MOM to curb this sort of behaviour, but it still exists.”

Adding that there is greater involvement by the Labour Court to resolve disputes, she points out that there are still cases where companies fail to comply with the orders.

Mr Menon says his organisation are seeing fewer cases of disputes: It sees about 4,000 cases a year for the last two years. The number has dipped by about 10 per cent this year.  “To some extent, more Singaporean employers have started to realise they need to treat workers fairly,” he says.

While the number of disputes has gone down, it is unlikely that this is due to fewer workers coming forward. In fact, the opposite is true, says Mr Menon who observes that there is less reluctance on the part of the migrant workers to step forward and seek help.

He says: “It’s especially so for new workers, who tend to be fearful as their trust in government processes are not so high… In the last two years, word has slowly started to spread among the migrant community that it need not be that if you file a claim, you have to go home.”

Mr Gee adds that, anecdotally, more FDWs are asking for transfers to a different employer. “It may indicate greater readiness by workers seeking to assert their rights … including getting the kind of pay and conditions they were originally promised when recruited,” he says.

FAST senior executive (social support) Muhammad Nizam Bin Amlan says the NGO’s Befrienders Helpline currently gets about 150 calls a month, five times the number when the initiative was first launched in 2013. “There might be more awareness of what their (rights are), they don’t just say ‘yes’ to the employer, but know there are avenues they can turn to,” says Mr Nizam.

Ms Serina Sim, a senior manager at the MOM’s customer responsiveness department, says she is seeing more migrant workers approaching the ministry just to clarify information. Ms Sim, who has been working at the MOM for 13 years, says she has seen “how things evolved” first hand. Referring to the FEDA, she says: “From a situation where we only enforced land use, or (regulate) how many people live in one housing (compared with) now where we are willing to enact an Act like this… it’s a very strong (move) for the Government to step up and say it wants to enforce this.”

Through her interactions with the foreign workers, Ms Sim notes that many have sought help from the NGOs. “The Government, the unions, and NGOs have done their fair bit,” she says. “So (now) it’s for Singaporean individuals to know what role they can play… to show basic respect for another individual and better co-exist together.”

An MOM spokesperson says the ministry is “heartened by various efforts from the different groups showing their appreciation towards these workers”.

She adds: “Some Singaporeans have also reached out to some of these workers in their own ways through various ground-up initiatives throughout the year, or by volunteering their time with NGOs.”

“Workers who are being mistreated by their employer are in effect being enslaved by such a system, as the fear of losing their jobs are likely to force them to endure exploitation, and working and living under duress.” TODAY FILE PHOTO

Despite the improvements, NGOs say there is still some way to go to address challenges faced by migrant workers. Among the most pressing issues is the need for more effective regulation of recruitment fees. This would require greater efforts from the goverments of Singapore and the source countries, says TWC2 president Noorashikin Abdul Rahman. “As consumers of migrant workers, we should look into supply chain issues and exert our power to demand for a more ethical model for recruitment and training,” she says.

She also suggests that the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) look into the operations of its approved training centres overseas. Authorities here can also clamp down on Singapore companies which work with overseas recruiters who charge exorbitant training and recruitment fees, she says.

Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) executive director Jolovan Wham feels that workers should be free to change employers. Currently, they can do so only with their employers’ consent.

Mr Wham says: “Workers who are being mistreated by their employer are in effect being enslaved by such a system, as the fear of losing their jobs are likely to force them to endure exploitation, and working and living under duress.”

Mr Chia hopes to see greater protection for sick and injured workers. He has seen workers given only two days of medical leave plus light duties for fractures, for example. He points out that the workers do not usually get a copy of their medical certificates or reports. This may make it difficult for a worker to “provide evidence that he is being misdiagnosed or given insufficient rest for his injury”, Mr Chia says. Companies that fail to report workplace injuries and private practitioners who do not provide adequate medical treatment for foreign workers should be taken to task, he adds.

Foreign domestic workers at an event marking Foreign Domestic Workers’ Day on Dec 6. Photo: Wee Teck Hian/TODAY

NGOs feel that much more can be done for FDWs in particular. For example, there should be proper enforcement of the mandatory weekly rest day, said Ms Karen Fernandez, chief executive officer of female migrant workers’ welfare group Aidha. “Unfortunately, there are still many employers who don’t observe this, and some who think that paying their helper, instead of giving them the day off, is perfectly acceptable,” she says. “Employers should understand that (FDWs) are like any other employees and treat them accordingly. No one works seven days a week.”

Mr Nizam says he has seen two cases so far this year where FDWs attempted suicide because they were under overwhelming stress and were not given any days off. “Once helpers have a day off, they have better work-life balance, and can serve the employer better,” he says.

There is also a need to develop social activities to better integrate FDWs with Singapore society, says Mr Mark Goh, chairman of ACMI (Archdiocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People). “What they crave is the social bond… They just want to see a familiar face and have friends around them,” he says. ACMI is looking to start support groups for FDWs next year.

Mr Wham calls for FDWs to be included under the Employment Act. “Unlike other employees in Singapore, domestic workers are excluded from the country’s main labour law. Basic labour rights, such as guaranteed public holidays, annual leave, sick leave, limits to their working hours, are denied to them,” he says.

On its website, the MOM explains that FDWs are not covered by the Employment Act “because it is not practical to regulate specific aspects of domestic work, such as hours of work and work on public holidays”.

They are covered under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, which stipulates that all employers are responsible for the well-being of their FDWs. These conditions include provisions on personal safety, proper housing, prompt salary payment, and adequate food and rest.

Employers are also required to pay for a medical checkup for the FDW every six months. Employers who breach these conditions can be fined up to S$10,000, or be jailed up to 12 months, or both.

Mr Cai Yinzhou (R) leads a Geylang Adventures tour on Dec 3. For these people lacking social spaces in mainstream society, Geylang has morphed into their refuge of sorts, Mr Cai points out. Photo: Jason Quah

As long-time Geylang resident Cai Yinzhou weaves his way through shadowy alleyways of his neighbourhood, this reporter steals a glimpse of a sarong-clad foreign worker lingering by the doorway, while a few Chinese nationals crouch by the pavement, their faces illuminated by the screen of their mobile phones — a hint of life lived on the margins.

For these people lacking social spaces in mainstream society, Geylang has morphed into their refuge of sorts, Mr Cai, the founder of Geylang Adventures, points out.

The 25-year-old is part of a growing breed of individuals who are extending a helping hand to foreign workers here through various ways.

For Mr Cai, the Geylang tours organised by his company are designed to highlight the lesser-known side of an area — more known for its seedy reputation — as a cultural enclave.

There’s more to Geylang than just being a “stain on Singapore’s clean record”, he stresses, pointing to its beauty of having different nationalities and cultures converging there.

Although Mr Cai has lived in Geylang all his life, a game of badminton with a group of migrant workers behind his house last year changed his perspective. When he visited their dormitory later and helped prepare a meal of naan and curry, Mr Cai was struck by the surrounding buildings.

“This experience was right at my back alley, but (here I was) surrounded by a totally different culture and language … It felt like I was transported to a whole new world,” he says.

Inspired to share his experience with other Singaporeans, Mr Cai has since dedicated all his time and energy to his Geylang Adventures brand.

Since March, he has conducted nearly 110 trails around Geylang, for various groups, such as Kenyan government officials.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenneth Thong, 44, and his 36-year-old wife Adeline, are offering help in a different way.

After hearing stories of “urban slavery”, the Thongs decided to start a maid employment agency in 2012 to promote better practices for the sector. For their company, paperwork is done by their partner agency, while the couple do the “people work”, such as assisting the domestic helpers to adjust to life here.

In November last year, the couple launched English classes at their church to help the Myanmarese community assimilate here.

Some people are also using art to reach out to foreign workers, such as student Sean Cham, 21, who befriends migrant workers to learn more about their lives for his photography project Singapore Dream, which was featured at the Padang art carnival during the National Gallery’s opening celebrations recently.

Mr AKM Mohsin, editor of Banglar Kantha, also offers a platform — through his newspaper, or through Dibashram, a self-funded space in Little India — for workers to pen their poetry and stories, or join in cultural and literary events.

The unofficial spokesperson for the Bangladeshi community here, Mr Mohsin would also include in his newspaper the Ministry of Manpower’s guidelines on workplace practices, and even the list of names of unscrupulous agents.

“(This newspaper) is a way of upholding the values of our community and our culture,” he says.


Source :

Emirates upgrades Melbourne-Singapore-Dubai flights to A380

Emirates will upgrade its Melbourne-Singapore-Dubai flights to its flagship Airbus A380 aircraft from early next year, bringing with it an improved travel experience for all guests regardless of their seat number.

From March 2 2016, the superjumbo takes flight on EK405 from Melbourne (EK404 on the return) in place of the current Boeing 777-300ER.

Passengers can book the Melbourne-Singapore leg as a journey in itself or continue to Dubai and beyond to destinations across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Emirates’ daily service between Dubai and Melbourne, through Singapore has proven a popular choice amongst travellers,” said Barry Brown, Emirates’ DSVP, Commercial East.

The upgrade marks Emirates’ sixth-daily A380 flight to Australia and the sole superjumbo plying the Melbourne-Singapore skies, after Singapore Airlines dropped its daily A380 on the same route in late 2014 in favour of a Boeing 777-300ER.

The Emirates A380 brings with it two ‘shower spas’ for first class passengers…

… fully-flat beds in business class with direct aisle access for every passenger – an improvement to the Boeing 777’s ‘sloping sleeper’ seats in business class…

… an inflight bar and lounge for both business and first class passengers…

… and more shoulder room for guests in economy.

Emirates also flies the A380 on its non-stop Melbourne-Dubai flights (EK407/406), and will retain the existing Boeing 777-300ER on flights from Melbourne to Dubai via Kuala Lumpur (EK409/408).


Australian Business Traveller

Scoot to launch Melbourne-Singapore Boeing 787 flights

Singapore Airlines’ low-cost offshoot Scoot will begin Boeing 787 flights between Melbourne and Singapore next year, going head to head with Qantas’ budget carrier Jetstar.

The five times a week service will begin from  November 1st, 2015.

“We’ve heard loud and clear the demands of Scoot to fly to Melbourne, and we’re delighted to finally be able to answer them,” Scoot CEO Campbell Wilson said.

“Melbourne, with its world-class culture, events, dining and surrounding scenery has long been on our radar and the arrival of our new Boeing 787s gives us the chance to add it to our network.”

Scoot already flies to Sydney, Perth and the Gold Coast, and will take dleivery of its first Boeing 787 later this month.

Scoot has 20 Dreamliners on order, split into ten of the original Boeing 787-8 and ten of the larger, longer-range 787-9.

The airline will receive only Boeing 787-9s until the middle of 2015, at which point the first of 10 smaller 787-8s will arrive.

Scoot CEO Campbell Wilson believes the 787s will gives Scoot the flexibility to launch new routes, or add more flights to existing routes, where economics might not favour the larger and less fuel-efficient Boeing 777.

“They’re operationally interchangeable so there’s no efficiency impact, but the different capacities open more options with respect to network and deployment” Wilson said.

Scoot joins Jetstar as one of the low-cost carriers stumping for the Boeing 787, based on its reduced running costs via lower fuel consumption and longer time between major maintenance checks.

“The economic advantages of this later generation aircraft – including a fuel-burn saving of around 20% per seat – ensure that costs and thus airfares can be kept low so that more people can travel more often” Wilson promised.

Scoot’s Boeing 787-9 will be kitted out with 35 ‘all-leather’ premium seats in ScootBiz class, arranged in a 2-3-2 layout.

Each features include an extendable leg-rest and a ‘cradle’ recline position.

There’ll also be AC power sockets for every traveller.

The bulk of the bird will of course be given over to a sea of 340 economy seats in a 3-3-3 configuration, for a total head count – or should that be bum count – of 375.

Pleasingly, all seats from tip to tail will enjoy access to AC power and “streaming Internet connectivity.”


Source : Australian Business Traveller

Qantas pulls Boeing 747 off Singapore flights

It's bye-bye to the Boeing 747 on Qantas' Singapore flights

It’s a case of ‘Boeing, Boeing, gone’ as Qantas begins removing the Boeing 747 jumbo jet from all Singapore flights.

Brisbane’s daily service to Singapore will switch from the Boeing 747 to the smaller Airbus A330 from May 12, taking with it the jumbo jet’s option of premium economy seating in favour of the A330’s two-class cabin of business and economy.

Things don’t get better at the pointy end of the plane, as the A330s feature older business class seats which recline only to an ‘angled lie-flat’ position rather than stretch out to a fully flat bed.

Qantas has pledged to replace the A330’s ‘sloping sleepers’ with its impressive new lie-flat Business Suite towards the end of this year, although upgrading the airline’s 30-strong fleet with the new seats is estimated to take until mid-2016.

Sydney will see its own Boeing 747 flights to Singapore shuttered on October 1, again with a two-class Airbus A330 as the replacement aircraft.

Although Qantas is offering some Brisbane-Singapore travellers booked into the Boeing 747’s premium economy seats the opportunity to upgrade to business class for $500 each way, the airline currently lists no such provision for Sydney-Singapore flyers.

Qantas plans to retire six Boeing 747 jets over the next two years as part of an aggressive $2 billion cost-saving campaign which will weed out older fuel-thirsty aircraft as well as delay orders for new aircraft.


A Qantas spokeswoman confirmed that the Boeing 747 being pulled off the Sydney-Singapore route is one of those six being put out to pasture, adding that the aircraft changes are also intended “to better match capacity to demand.”

Qantas will also axe its Perth-Singapore service – the Flying Kangaroo’s last international route from the WA capital – on May 12.

The Singapore cutbacks come as Singapore Airlines downsizes its Sydney and Melbourne flights, pulling its flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo from one flight a day for each city in exchange for a Boeing 777-300ER with some 190 fewer seats and lacking the superjumbo’s deluxe private first class suites.


Source : Australian Business Traveller

Qantas to abandon Perth international flights from May


Qantas will close its final international route from Perth this year, leaving the WA capital without a single overseas flight on the Flying Kangaroo.

The QF77/78 service between Perth and Singapore will be axed from May 12 as Qantas seeks to “permanently reduce costs in all parts of the Qantas Group” in the face of a record $252 million loss for the six months from July to December 2013.


Qantas will temporarily resurrect QF77/78 from July 3-21 “to cater for additional demand over the peak holiday season.”

Qantas described the Perth-Singapore flights as an ‘underperforming route’ and will hand over all international travel from Australia’s resources capital to its partner Emirates.

The Middle Eastern airline has big plans for Perth, with a daily Airbus A380 tipped to take over one of the three daily flights between Perth and Dubai.

Qantas’ low-cost offshoots Jetstar and Jetstar Asia will continue to operate Perth-Singapore flights, currently offering three services each day between the two brands.

Meanwhile, competitors Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific will mop up direct full-service flights to Asia with their daily flights to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Both airlines also offer extensive onwards connections to Europe.

Virgin Australia partner Etihad Airways will also commence daily flightsbetween Perth and its Abu Dhabi hub from July 15.

Virgin Australia travellers will be able to book a single ticket from outlying WA cities to fly into Perth with Virgin and then onwards to the rest of the world with Etihad – earning Velocity frequent flyer points and status credits all the way.

“Our analysis shows there is a significant business opportunity on the Perth route” said Etihad Airways’ President James Hogan on the announcement of the first flights.

Hogan also identified a significant new opportunity for revenue growth from the business travel segment, citing that “eighty of the top 300 Australian companies have their headquarters in Perth and many of these have commercial interests in Africa and the Middle East.”

“Equally, many UAE businesses have a strong presence in Australia, particularly in the agribusiness, resources and tourism sectors. We anticipate that this will translate to strong demand for our new services.”

Source : Australian Business Traveller

Singapore passports now welcome at Australian airport SmartGates

Singapore passports now welcome at Australian airport SmartGates

Singapore passports can now be used at the automated SmartGate scanners at all Australian international airports under a trial program launched today.

Singaporeans with the appropriate smartchipped electronic passports will be able to use any of the inbound SmartGate lanes during the trial period.

Over 385,000 Singaporeans visited Australia in 2013 – an increase of 12.1% compared to 2012 – and Singapore will be the first Asian country approved for the SmartGate system.

New Zealand and UK citizens already enjoy SmartGate access on a permanent basis, while US and Swiss electronic passports are currently being accepted under trial arrangements.

Australia’s Customs and Border Protection agency plans to trial additional nationalities this year, with priority being given to countries that have the most regular visitors to Australia.

It’s expected that by 2018 more than 80% of all travellers into and out of Australia will hold a SmartGate-friendly ePassport.


Source : Australia Business Traveller