The following is the content of an email I sent to several ministers on 18 October 2013.
I write to express my deep concerns about the mainstream press promoting and stoking racism and xenophobia in their reports.
On 18 October, Minister for Manpower, Tan Chuan Jin, said, in reference to complaints about discriminatory job advertisements:
“It is important to not stoke up hate and ill will as some are doing. It does no one any good.”
Indeed, over the years, especially the last few, the government has taken pains to remind and urge Singaporeans not to fan the flames of hatred, in particular through racist or xenophobic expressions, among our people.
It is therefore with great concern that we are seeing such postings in the mainstream press which the government had described as “accurate, timely, and balanced” and “professional”.
On the same day that Mr Tan urged Singaporeans “to not stoke up hate and ill will”, The New Paper carried this on its front page: Read More…
What stood out for me with regards to the Fair Consideration Framework, announced by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on 23 September, were these two lines in the ministry’s press release, attributed to Mr Tan Chuan Jin:
“The framework is not about ‘Hire Singaporeans First, or Hire Singaporeans Only’. What the government is doing is to help them get a fair opportunity.”
The same minister had said, in May, that like TAFEP, he preferred to use the “moral suasion approach to tackle the issue of discrimination at the workplace.”
Mr Tan “was quick to add that for now, the Government prefers to stick to its approach of persuading companies to change. It “is working for us”, he said, as the root cause of discrimination in Singapore is employers’ mindsets.”
His latest about-turn seems to imply that the “moral suasion” route in fact is not working, but at the same time, he is reluctant to introduce legislation to protect Singaporean workers – and is only willing to pussyfoot around the matter by introducing instead a “framework”. One which he at the same time has to reiterate is not about “hire Singaporeans first”.
There are several things about the above two latest sentences in the MOM statement which are disturbing.
One, that the minister needed to clarify that the framework is not about hiring Singaporeans first. For all intent and purposes, the framework is indeed about hiring Singaporeans first, in fact. How else could it be? If it were not, then why even bother to go through this whole exercise?
Or is the minister saying that all he wants employers and businesses to do is for them to just “consider” Singaporeans first only? Like, you know, all you need do is to think this in your mind, the 2 weeks advert on the MOM Jobs Bank notwithstanding.
It is 4 days to Singapore’s 48th National Day. Unlike other years, however, this year’s occasion seems to be different. There is a palpable sense of … disinterest among Singaporeans. A walk around the neighbourhood and observations made elsewhere around Singapore show that fewer households have put up the national flag this year. Of course, this does not mean that Singaporeans do not feel anything for the country – but it does raise the question of whether they indeed do.
I recall earlier years when my block of flats, for example, was decked out in flags, and this was not because of any “coercion” by grassroots members. I know friends who personally went out to buy the flag to hang at their balcony. Besides, it was not only about hanging the flag which gave you the buzz that Singaporeans were excited by the nation’s birthday. It was also the chatter, the faces of the people you meet, the general atmosphere of the country.
Recently Singapore was ranked the most pessimistic country in the world. It is no surprise, although one person tried to rubbish the findings by saying that there is a difference between the Eastern and Western idea of happiness. A hilarious suggestion, of course. But I digress.
I myself am not surprised at the lesser sense of excitement about National Day this year. It is quite easy to understand. Life is not happy here. It is hard. And I am not just talking about the poor, the sick or the elderly. Even parents, especially single parents, are feeling the strain. Our PMETs workers, our SMEs. The erosion of our physical havens and heritage. Read More…
Besides the obvious campaign against the online community which the government (and the government mouthpiece, the mainstream media) is engaged in, there are several pressing matters which seem to have been given little attention by the authorities, the media and the public these last few weeks.
In the same period, we heard ministers extolling the virtues of “good politics”, of “integrity” in governance, of upholding public confidence and trust in our public institutions. The last of these has been a matter of great concern to the government, given how articles in its mouthpiece, the Straits Times, have urged the public to well, have trust in our public institutions.
The blame for the perceived erosion of this trust has been laid squarely – again – on the online community.
Kishore Mahbubani, for example, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, wrote in the Straits Times in April:
“I am extremely worried about the cynicism that the Singaporean blogosphere is developing towards…public institutions. Over time this cynicism could act like an acid that erodes the valuable social trust accumulated.”
2 months later, Straits Times “opinion editor” Chua Mui Hoong echoed Mahbubani’s sentiments.
“I understand the instinct to protect and uphold public institutions. I also agree with diplomat Kishore Mahbubani … that Singaporeans should support the nation’s public institutions.” Read More…
Zuraidah Ibrahim, who incidentally is the sister of Minister Yaacob Ibrahim who wants to censor the Internet, wrote a piece in the Sunday Times.
It would take much time to rebut the things she said. So, I won’t. (Jentrified Citizen has rebutted her here.) But to show you the carelessness and laziness with which she wrote that piece, I’ll just point out one of her assertions.
“This is not the first time that the WP has turned its back on a scrap. When the Aljunied town council’s finances were debated in May, clear evidence was presented to show that the WP did not go through a tender process when it appointed its managing agents, who happened to have close party ties.”
I don’t know where Zuraidah has been but if she had just done some simple research, she would realise that WP did not “turn its back on a scrap”, not the one she mentioned, anyway. Read More…
Minister for Communications and Information (MCI), Yaacob Ibrahim, accused “prominent bloggers” of not speaking up against what he described as false information being propagated online during the recent haze episode in Singapore. He gave some specific examples, including the incident where a screenshot of the PSI of “393”, for which NEA was accused of removing from its website, went viral. He also pointed to how Ravi Philemon had posted about how the masks were not going to be distributed to the public.
[Read Ravi's reply here. It is worth noting that the Health Minister, Gan Kim Yong, revealed - in today's Parliamentary sitting as well - that the 9.5 million masks were not meant for the general public, but that they were meant for healthcare workers, if the H7N9 should hit S'pore.]
The minister, understandably, would grasp at straws to hold up the set of MDA Internet regulations which have been found to contain many holes in it. And thus, we had expected that he would use the recent haze episode to prop up his arguments and justification for tighter Internet control. Read More…
“The Attorney-General’s Chambers (“AGC”) has today issued a letter of warning to Ms Lee Seng Lynn (“Ms Lee”), through her counsel, for her having committed contempt of court,” the statement from the Attorney General, released on 14 June, said.
The AGC went on:
“AGC has completed its review of Ms Lee’s conduct and has assessed that Ms Lee’s conduct amounted to contempt of court by creating a real risk of prejudice to the criminal proceedings which were pending then.”
I am no lawyer but I know that a person can only be guilty of an offence, or a crime, if he is found guilty by the courts.
A person is not guilty of an offence or a crime just because someone else – even if he is the Attorney General – says so.
For the AGC to state so unequivocally that “Ms Lee’s conduct amounted to contempt of court” and to conclusively say there was indeed “contempt committed” is puzzling. Surely, the AGC itself should be aware that a person can only be found guilty by a court of law, and not by the AGC.
So, perhaps the AGC would like to explain further how Lynn Lee is guilty without her being charged, without being allowed to defend herself in court, and without the court finding her guilty. Read More…
Pritam Singh, vice-chairman, Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC):
“We invite the Minister to a dialogue with the elected members of AHPETC to settle any outstanding matters, on this or any other matter in future, should he wish to do so.”
11 June 2013:
Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Environment and Water Resources (MEWR):
“At this point in time, my advice to the Workers’ Party would be to clean up the place, apologise to the hawkers. After the place is clean, NEA and myself will be inspecting the quality of work. At that point, I’d be happy to invite Mr Low Thia Khiang to have a cup of coffee with me.”
I will not delve into the nitty gritty of the quarrel between the 2 sides on the matter of the cleaning of the Bedok hawker centre. I think it is a sorry state of affairs to see our parliamentarians engage in such petty quarrels over municipal matters. And there is a high likelihood that things were raised (by the Hawkers’ Association and the minister) to score political points against the Workers’ Party. Read More…
In what is a bizarre turn of events, it now appears that the Acting Minister for Manpower, Tan Chuan Jin, will hold fort on Tuesday night’s Talking Point programme on Internet regulations.
On Saturday, Talking Point had announced that the CEO of the Media Development Authority (MDA), Koh Lin-Net, would be the guest.
On Monday night, however, Ms Koh was replaced by Mr Tan.
Some have explained that it is right for a minister to take the hot seat, as it were, because civil servants should not be put in the front line of policies made by politicians. There is some truth in that, certainly. Elected members must be held accountable. Read More…
MOVEMENT AGAINST NEW LICENSING REQUIREMENTS FOR ONLINE MEDIA
MEDIA STATEMENT – 1 JUNE 2013
The blogging community will be organising a protest and online blackout next week against the new licensing requirements imposed by the Media Development Authority, which requires “online news sites” to put up a “performance bond” of $50,000 and “comply within 24 hours to MDA’s directions to remove content that is found to be in breach of content standards”.
We encourage all Singaporeans who are concerned about our future and our ability to participate in everyday online activities and discussions, and to seek out alternative news and analysis, to take a strong stand against the licensing regime which can impede on your independence. Read More…
Looks like the CPIB did the trick. More accurately, the mention of the “CPIB” did the trick.
The childish bickering between the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the Workers’ Party (WP) was becoming a national embarrassment. It was not unlike quarrelling children at a playground pointing fingers and making funny faces at each other.
So, it was good that Ms Lim stopped the unbecoming behaviour in its aimless track when she challenged the PAP to report the WP to the CPIB for any transgressions the PAP might think the WP was guilty of. The PAP has since not said a word in reply. In fact, the PAP has not responded at all. Read More…
In April, the Government accused Mr Nizam Ismail, the former chairman of the Association of Muslim Professionals, of allegedly “[pushing] for racial politics”.
In a letter to the Straits Times forum page, Mr Ho Ka Wei, the Director of Corporate Communications, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), explained the danger in this:
“If any ethnic community were to organise itself politically, other communities would respond in kind. This would pull our different communities apart and destroy our racial harmony.” Read More…