Despite the haze problem persisting for close to two decades, the Singapore government was nonetheless caught off-guard last week when haze levels climbed well into the hazardous zone, registering all time highs on the PSI scale. The government’s initial response to the haze was tentative and indecisive, the supply of masks ran out too quickly, and it was a few days before the government got its act together.
On a longer term perspective, the Singapore government must work closely with our ASEAN neighbours to bring diplomatic pressure to bear on Indonesia to reign in and punish the recalcitrant companies that have shown a scant disregard for mother nature and for human health.
The current political administration headed by Mr Lee Hsien Loong has been weak and indecisive in the foreign policy front, preferring instead to take the safe route of projecting power inwards rather than outwards. This has been exploited by the Indonesian politicians in recent days, who pointed out that Singapore has yet to address the issue of an extradition treaty with Indonesia, or deal the with case of corrupt money from Indonesia finding a safe haven in Singapore’s financial institutions.
Some have speculated quite soberly that at this rate, Indonesia’s rain forests will become severely depleted in the not-too-distant future, depriving both itself as well as the region of a precious resource of plant and animal life, not to mention the tragic destruction of forests which serve as the lungs of the region, keeping nature in harmony and supplying life-giving oxygen as well as other much-needed nutrients and resources.
ATL must therefore answer why it provided the comprehensive quotation to the Market Association. This is especially important because as ATL Maintenance is also the cleaning contractor hired by some PAP town councils, it should be well aware of the fact that hawkers never pay for spring cleaning, but only for their own canvas coverings to protect their stalls from falling debris and other dirt.
ATL Maintenance could have made a genuine mistake in sending a comprehensive quotation for the entire exercise, rather than a simple quotation for stall canvas coverings. There is no reason for ATL to attempt to double charge or overcharge hawkers, because they, of all people, will definitely know that hawkers are never asked to pay for cleaning whose costs are entirely borne by the town council.
The ATL quotation is the key pivot in the whole saga. It has led the hawkers and the NEA to claim that WP had tried to charge the hawkers for a cleaning exercise whose costs should already be covered under the routine conservancy fees paid. AHPETC has refuted these allegations by saying that no town council staff had asked hawkers to pay for anything. In this respect, AHPETC missed the crux of the matter. They should have addressed ATL’s quotation head on, because that quotation is the source of the confusion and the spark that ignited all the subsequent allegations.
A crowd of two thousand descended at Hong Lim Park on Saturday 08 June to campaign against a new licensing regime enacted by MDA that would require certain news sites to post a S$50,000 “performance bond” and take down what MDA deems as objectionable content within 24 hours of notice. The MDA has absolute discretion and authority to determine what constitutes objectionable content. The MDA is not answerable to the electorate or to the internet community on any take-down orders it may give. Indeed, the MDA can order a take-down of anything it pleases.
#FreeMyInternet Media Release 08 June 2013 #FreeMyInternet is encouraged by the success of our first campaign against the new MDA Licensing Regime, which many media commentators see as the turning point in Singapore’s media regulatory landscape in Singapore. More than 4,000 signed our online petition (and still counting), more than 150 blogs participated in our… Continue reading
The important point to note is not that blogs and websites fear having to comply with rules regarding responsible commentary. Everyone knows that with free speech comes responsibility. Instead, the angst arises from the arbitrariness with which MDA can decide what constitutes good or harmful content, and indeed, which sites should or should not be licensed.