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

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Calm before the Storm

7:31 PM By Barry Smyth No comments

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.

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