The frustration of Lawrence Wong, and others

The Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Lawrence Wong, has written a Facebook post lamenting the criticisms directed at various people who had participated in certain events.

You can read it here (and also below).

I can understand Mr Wong’s frustrations. They are not new and indeed the same sentiments have been expressed by other ministers as well. And perhaps some of these criticisms are unwarranted. Nonetheless, to brush them aside would be to miss the underlying unhappiness. 

The uproar over the “wayang show” put up to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, for example, is because of the lack of authenticity in the activities – at 3pm under a blazing sun. In Singapore. Every Singaporean knows no one exercises at that god-forsaken time.

The unhappiness with the National Conversation forum on TV stems from frustrations that they do not address the issues which others feel are important. Also, the constitution of the audience, with some 10% who are PAP members, adds to that perception that it is also all a “wayang”.

So, what do we do to remove such unhappiness and criticisms?

Be authentic.

Do not put up what would be seen as an artificial and fake representation of life here, or of who we are. Do not say that the National Conversation committee is not meant to be partisan, or that the NC is not a partisan exercise, and then the next minute have PAP members on the forum – and not reveal this. Worse, this comes after invitations to bloggers to participate in the forum were rescinded.

So, lets pause indeed, as Mr Wong said, and reflect on how things can be done better.

And really, it is not hard to do things better. All it takes is honesty and a desire to hear authentic views. I’m not, of course, saying that those who participated in the TV forum were not authentic. What I am saying is that the representation – both on the NC committee and the audience in such forums – should not only be non-partisan but also – just as importantly – to be seen to be non-partisan.

The good news is that there is still along way to go, as far as the NC is concerned. It is a one-year exercise. And to be sure, there will be more frustrations along the way, simply because each of us will hold different views of things. Which makes it even more important that a diversity of views are heard and seen to be heard.

So far, however, the NC is trudging towards irrelevance, to be completely honest. The discussions have not ignited the imagination as they should. This could be because they have not dealt with fundamental issues. What our society will be in 20 years must be based on foundational issues, principles and plans. But so far, I do not see any of these being discussed.

It seems the NC is a free-for-all, without any direction, with everyone and anyone raising anything and everything. Perhaps that is the aim for now. One hopes that as it moves along, it will be more focused – and deal with the issues which should be the focus.

As for Mr Wong’s frustrations, saying things like the following is not going to help, especially when in the same breath, he says that “we do not want to end up in a situation where every activity or conversation in this country becomes politicised, where our people are polarized by political beliefs”:

‘Look at what we have achieved together over the years. Our public housing, our schools and institutions of higher learning, our parks and museums, our container port and airport, and even the Pledge – these are national institutions that the PAP government has worked hard to put in place, with the support and contributions of all Singaporeans.”

Making a pitch for your party in this way will only raise more criticisms, especially when he also says:

“Politics can drive a wedge between us and divide our society.”

Odd.

Lets go back to basics of being honest, transparent and authentic. Otherwise, everyone on each side will be frustrated – as indeed we are seeing now.

—————-

Mr Wong’s Facebook posting:

I’ve been watching incidents unfold on the internet over the past few weeks with some heaviness in my heart.

When the British royal couple came to visit, PA and HDB organised an event at Queenstown to give them a glimpse of the diverse activities in our heartlands. Singaporeans young and old volunteered readily to be part of this event. Yet, they were mocked online for taking part in a “wayang” show.

When Mediacorp organized a TV forum with the PM, they invited a group of 50 people from all walks of life. Some had participated previously in Mediacorp’s TV programmes. Several were nominated by the unions and schools. Others came from a range of professional, voluntary and self-help groups.

No one was invited because of his or her political affiliation. But it so happens that among the group of 50, a handful were PAP members. They were a small minority. But on the internet, there was a campaign targeted against these PAP members, with their names being singled out and attacked, and their phone numbers publicised online.

The PAP has done a lot for Singaporeans over the past decades. But it is not perfect – no party is. We need to listen to criticisms and improve as a party, to serve our people even better.

This is why I and many others joined the PAP – because we appreciate what the party has done, we believe in the cause the party stands for, and we want to help the party do more to serve the interests of Singapore and our fellow Singaporeans.

I understand that not everyone will feel the same way about the PAP. Each of us is free to support any political party and choose the government we want. Indeed, the critics online clearly have their own political affiliations too, even though many have chosen to stay silent on this, or to hide their real identities behind anonymous online profiles.

Politics is important. But surely we do not want to end up in a situation where every activity or conversation in this country becomes politicised, where our people are polarized by political beliefs, where Singaporeans are set against Singaporeans based on creed or political affiliation.

More importantly, when decent people step forward to be part of a genuine national effort to welcome our overseas guests, or volunteer their time to be part of a national TV forum with the PM, and yet get vilified by their fellow citizens, then we really should pause and reflect, and ask ourselves whether this is the kind of society we want.

Politics can drive a wedge between us and divide our society. Or it can be a force for good, to bring our people together, and to build a stronger and better Singapore.

Look at what we have achieved together over the years. Our public housing, our schools and institutions of higher learning, our parks and museums, our container port and airport, and even the Pledge – these are national institutions that the PAP government has worked hard to put in place, with the support and contributions of all Singaporeans.

Let us continue to work together and keep our democracy healthy – by maintaining a basic level of civility in our public discourse, by treating all with dignity and respect, and by finding ways to bridge our differences and forge a common future together.

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10 thoughts on “The frustration of Lawrence Wong, and others

  1. Nice Mr Wong, on one hand you say, and I quote you” Politics can drive a wedge between us and divide our society”

    and then you can also say this ” these are national institutions that the PAP government has worked hard to put in place”

    Like please dun tell people to do or think differently because some of your kind have re-relentless shoved your politics in our faces.

  2. To another person, meeting someone in the lift who speaks Chinese makes his day. To others, it is definitely no so! So, not just be authentic, be empathetic.

  3. “But surely we do not want to end up in a situation where every activity or conversation in this country becomes politicised”

    OMG. *Every* thing in this country is already politicised to the max. Upgrading, Singles buying flats, NTUC, PA, … there is no area of life where the PAP is not involved in, either directly or indirectly.

  4. National Conversation = National Con.

    I expected a wayang. I got a wayang. Applause. Curtains down. Let’s move on.

    4G PAP has been massively disappointing – from Acting MOM Minister Tan Chuan Jin who reveals percentages but not absolute numbers in Parliamentary replies to Minister of State Lawrence Wong who can’t even tell the diff –

    We are mocking the PAP wayang staged for the royal couple, NOT the Singaporean actors in the wayang. Even Prince William saw through the phoney-ness when he asked the accompanying upcoming Minister of State for Law, Indranee Rajah, if Singaporeans do tai-chi in the heat of the afternoon sun. How damaging is that to Singapore’s reputation, Mr Wong?

  5. Way, PAP damn cunning hor. When netizens slam them for putting up wayang shows for both NAT CON and the royalties, they hide behind the cover of “ordinary” Singaporeans who “sacrificed” and “volunteered” for the occasions.

    Reminds me of the PAP government hiding behind religion (specifically arm twisting the religious leaders) to deny justice to them inhumanly detained under ISA.

    Reminds me of PAP/HDB hiding behind enbloc for “redevelopment” to evict flat “owners” so that the flats can be leased out to foreign “talents”.

    Reminds me of PAP using low birth rates as a “reason” to bring in massive numbers of foreigners.

    Psst. Here is a hint. The citizens are wised up to the shenanigans now that we are better educated. You might have scored more “A” during your A levels and got the scholarships and are fast tracked in civil service, but hey, we are not stupid either.

  6. When the Worker’s Party wants to organise a cycling event, no because it can be politicised. Law and order issue. People want to debate with the WP. When the MP of the constituency gets invited by residents to community events, the PA (yes an institution set up by the PAP) says no because this politicises the event. When PAP MPs get invited, no problem. PAP MPs get invited in their personal capacity or as union leaders, grassroots advisers, professionals in their fields and this does not politicise the events. CRAP! Ok? Understand. Continue the wayang. Maybe only ghosts will watch eventually. Preach to the converted and let the country stay divided. Rome burns while Nero plays the fiddle.

  7. i totally agree. i would go so far to say that if the NC is partisan, it is okay too, BUT say so. Be transparent. Something like we want to gather as much as possible so that we can have a better Singapore and win your votes. In that way, no one will be disapppointed, no one will lay blame and call it wayang, because you are open about it. Even non-PAP people may join in, and the opposition can have their own NCs too. In that way the market-place of ideas will surface good ideas. Let this be a contest of ideas. So PAP’s NC here and WP’s NC there. But right now, it left too many people confused disappointed and all kinds of unnecessary accusations.

  8. Of couse one should never politicise everything…… but I know for a fact that all the recent sex-for-reward case in court are the Government’s attempt to stop Singaporeans from producing & thus can bring in more FT!

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