Rants and raves about stuff happening in and around my life in Singapore

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Calm before the Storm

There's a rumbling recently in Singapore. A small yet persistent background noise that is almost too soft to hear, but not quiet. A gentle noise that you can almost ignore if you try hard enough but try as you might you still know it's there and it inevitably it creeps back in.

It seems more and more people are putting a voice to their frustration across a whole range of issues here in Singapore. From foreign talent and the huge number of debates and online blogging on the issue to the education system within Singapore and pretty much everything else in between. It seems nothing is taboo and the voices of criticism are slowing rising. When I compare Singapore today to the Singapore I first knew 18 years ago it's a very different place.

So what's changed?

Gen X has grown up and Gen Y is not far behind. And their voices are definitely getting louder. These generations have had a much broader exposure to the world, a wealth of information at their finger tips so to speak and unparalleled ability to connect in the growing world of the internet.

It must surely come as no surprise therefore that the MDA is looking to license sites that provide news stories about Singapore in what many see as the first step in an attempt to limit these same voices, an attempt that the MDA has denied. It has the power of course to restrict access to certain sites (as we've seen already in the recent case of the website Ashley Madison), so there's no doubt it has the ability to block any wayward sites that break these new licensing agreements too. Only time will tell how it will actually implement it's policies in this area.

It seems as though more and more fingers are pointing at the government to change, to represent the people as much as it does the country and not to make it's citizens feel so disfranchised and marginalised. And while those voices may only appear as a ripple for now, even a tsunami has humble beginnings.

"Daring S'pore vice-principal speaks up" was one of the headlines that greeted me this morning with respect to vice-principal Pushparani Nadarajah, who was responding to speakers and teachers’ discussions of making every school a good and has been quoted as saying "How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their home? (Only) until they actually do so are parents going to buy (it)." The headline in of itself says so much, not only about the perception of the climate here in Singapore, but also about how people are finding their voices and speaking out. Although that said, there’s already some quite mumbling online about the future of said Vice Principal as a result. Watch this space on that one I guess.

Indeed there are now many places to turn too on the internet where these voices can be found from "The Real Singapore" with it's often probing commentary to my own personal favourite "The Heart Truths" a blog to keep Singaporeans thinking by Roy Ngerng. Indeed the amount of research and material offered in Roy Ngerng's posts on a wide variety of topics is staggering and very well presented. I highly recommend you take the time to pay it a visit.

It seems people have grown up and can no longer be fobbed off with anecdotes, they are finding their voice and if the last general election is anything to go by they are not afraid of using it.

Maybe we’ll even see another change to the GRC setup. In the last election held in 2011 the current government won slightly over 60% of the overall vote yet still managed to take 81 out of 87 seats. From that result it was clear that the GRC system did not seem to reflect the way people voted, a fact that has not been lost on the voting population.

The next general election in 2016 will prove to be very interesting. Of course all the signs are that it would take a monumental shift to force a change in government which on the whole is unlikely to happen. Although, that said, if the government doesn't listen a little more to the voices of it's own citizens it will be an interesting election to watch.

Yes there's a gentling rumbling in Singapore.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Dear Anonymous

Let me begin by saying I like many Singaporeans applaud your efforts, but I hope they do not backfire on you. The Singapore government will not take your threats lightly and as I'm sure you know will bend over backward trying to uncover who you are to shut you down.  In the end they may even tighten internet restrictions further blaming your efforts for the need to do so in an attempt to ensure public opinion is swayed against you.

I know many Singaporeans share your views, but Singaporeans in general tend not to voice those opinions much since they know that they will have very little effect and many are scared of what the potential backlash might be if they do. Maybe that last statement isn't as true today as it has been in the past but it's still an undercurrent that remains. It will be interesting to see on the 5th of November how many people wear red and black, although in truth I'm not expecting these silent voices to become any more visible.

The Singapore Government may have it's faults but then what government doesn't. It's true that they have done a good job as far as the country is concerned but in doing so they have, as many people would argue, neglected the needs of it's own citizens. Indeed there are many posts around the internet on how Singaporean citizens are starting to feel like second class citizens in their own country not only as a result of the Governments stance on foreign talent but also as a result of it's clear favouritism to PAP supporters. Let's not forget Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's open admission that PAP wards are favoured for HDB upgrading exercises for example. "Between the people who voted and supported the programme and the government, and the people who didn't, I think if we went and put yours before the PAP constituencies, it would be an injustice" he is reported as having said to 1,200 students who were attending a Ministerial Forum organised by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Students' Political Association.  Just one example of many that could be drawn from.

You've taken the Straits Times to task over the mis-reporting of your own message. Although at the same time I doubt they will take you seriously given that they have been known to stand by their reports and reporters regardless of how factually correct or incorrect a report may have been. The media in general is out to sensationalise, it makes for better reading after all. And the words "media controlled state" have been used many times in reference to Singapore by many sources.

You've also left a message for Mister Lawrence Khong (assuming it's a real message from Anonymous). I have always found his views laughable and I find it hard to believe that any sane individual can actually believe some of the rubbish he comes up with, or that he has the nerve to attempt to interfere with social policy.

But let's get back to your original message and the rationale behind it which was to "protest the implementation of the internet licensing framework". Your protest is noted, but lets face it that framework is going to go ahead regardless.

You then go on to say that "We demand you reconsider the regulations of your framework or we will be forced to go to war with you. For every single time you deprive a citizen his right to information, we will cost you financial loss by aggressive cyber intrusion." Again lets face it, there is going to be no reconsidering of the framework based on those demands. It's simply not going to happen.

Let's be honest, no country or government is going to let itself be held to ransom, and any such ransom demand will be dealt with by the full weight of the many resources (internal and external if need be) at it's disposal. I have no doubt as I post this such action is already underway and it will lead to the inevitable conclusion. The only question is how long it will take.

I'm sure I'm not saying anything that you don't already know.

Although that said let me also add that your efforts have not gone unnoticed by the many Singaporeans who happen to agree with you. But you are fighting a war that you cannot possibly win. And while many may see your actions as supporting a silent majority, according to some proclaiming war against the Government could actually contravene the penal code, and the possible penalty for that in Singapore could be as extreme as death.

The message is clear, somethings are worth fighting for. It's an important message for anyone to understand and one that I believe many Singaporeans (if the flurry of tweets and Facebook post are anything to go by) have heard.

I guess we won't really know until 2016 how well that message has been understood.