Monday, November 11, 2013

Postcards to Our Dear Prime Minister

It has been 20 years of field experience in our forest and many a moment I have been spellbound and moved beyond words to express my love and joy in paintings. But words are beautiful too. Why not combine both? The idea of transforming my paintings into postcards was borne. This is surely a novel way to reach out to fellow Singaporeans and provide them a simple platform to enter into a meaningful dialogue on an important issue close to home - our rain forest.

As you already know, Cross Island (MRT) Line has been proposed and according to the initial pronouncement, the track will cut straight through our rain forest belt north of MacRitchie Reservoir - in a part of Central Catchment Nature Reserve that has been rigorously studied and reported to be significantly rich in biodiversity. Fondly known as MacRitchie North, this lowland Dipterocarp forest which comprises a unique freshwater wetland, is immediately east of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve; the two only recently joined by a $17 million dollar bridge designed specifically to facilitate animal movement across BKE expressway which for 20 years have seperated the two reserves.

Since the launch of my humble postcard project, I have entered into numerous conversations with people. Many like to write but asked how. My short and spontaneous answer has always been to write from your heart. Thinking back, I can't help smiling. That's how I write. I think I do owe people the long answer.

Writing should never be a chore. It must spring from purpose and conviction which must in turn spring from personal experience. Remember the happiness and that deep sense of being you found in Nature? When you write, Happiness will bring with her two great friends - Hope and Dream - of a better world. When you write genuinely from your heart, your words will flow with the under- current of these three. So, to start with, reflect on these and believe why you want to write.

Now that you have set the foundation rock solid, you are ready for the practical. Take out a piece of paper and scribble all the thoughts you have on the issue for a week. By then, you would have spun a spider web, and you would have found your inner voice chord. You will be pleasantly surprised to find how well note-taking helps in conceptualising thoughts.

Now that you have found your voice - those key ideas and words - put that piece of paper far away. Have faith and write straight away. Start with the first word, a first simple sentence, that comes to mind. The rest will follow for sure.

When you write, keep it simple. Be polite and respectful. Begin with appropriate salutation and end with a thank you and legitimise your voice with proper identification. A name just won't do. Put in your NRIC number or contact, and don't forget the date. The small space of a postcard is sweet and short and you will find it a great start to writing precisely.

Lastly, what is all this instruction (above) without leading by example? So, let me share with you some that I have written (below). My most profound wish is for people to participate in dialogue and speak for Nature before it is too late to do so. Wait no more. Write now!

If you like to acquire my postcards, please write to me at

Dear Prime Minister, Sir,
I feel humbled yet delighted in writing to you. I write from my heart with love for my homeland and my beloved community Singapore. I truly believe your job is not an easy one, and more so if citizen such as I do not speak up and participate in dialogue on important issues concerning our home. I care. Can MRT cut into the forest with absolute zero impact? Our forest is a living system sensitive to degradation and irretrievable lost to its complexity. I beseech you – humbly – keep our forest safe from any conceivable harm. Thank you. Yours Truly, Joseph Lai (NRIC no.) 4/11/13

Dear Prime Minister, Sir,
Water is gold. Our rain forest is our golden goose. It regulates the rain cycle and makes rain for us for free. Our forest streams sparkle with life – our life. The MRT line cutting into our precious forest will kill our golden goose. Surely, we must never forget our primary source. 饮水思源 No expensive and ever-costly ultra-filtration or desalination processes can ever replace this resource. Our forest gives us water... and much much more. Thank you. Yours Truly, Joseph Lai (NRIC no.) 4/11/13

Dear Prime Minister, Sir,
I have a 20-year love story with the rain forest and still walking with it today. It has also been 20 years of educating the young. What I have learned from Nature is beyond what I can see or think about, but what I can feel with my heart. The wind, the clouds, the sunrise, and sunset – all and more have given me a beautiful poetry to my heart and a song to my steps. I believe I must have rubbed off this spirit and lightness of mine onto all who walked with me. Trust Nature – the best classroom to nurture children with compassion, passion and dreams of a better world. Thank you. Yours Truly, Joseph Lai (NRIC no.) 4/11/13

Dear Prime Minister, Sir,
The best health insurance we can give to our future generations is an intact and healthy rain forest of unparallel genetic diversity. The frontier of bio-medical sciences lies in this genetic diversity. Surely, the road to a bright future is not by cutting an MRT line across our precious forest. It calls for sacrifice: preserving our fragile forest today. A little inconvenience in transportation is O.K. I humbly beseech you. Thank you. Yours Truly, Joseph Lai (NRIC no.) 4/11/13