Disingenuous of Tan Chuan-Jin to accuse others of running down Singapore
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Written by Ng E-Jay
08 August 2013
In a stroke of utter disingenuity, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said on Monday that Singaporeans who are not happy with the country should try to improve things instead of running down the country.
In his own words, “there may be things we are unhappy about, things can always be better, but that is very different from running down our own people, our own society“. This attitude coming from him is both adversarial and twisted.
It is an adversarial attitude because in one broad stroke, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin paints commentators and activists who have been trying to voice opinions and recommend changes as destructive. It must be remembered that his remarks come in the wake of a flurry of backlash by the government against bloggers and netizens in recent months.
It is also a twisted attitude because the examples that Mr Tan Chuan-Jin cited to bolster his claim were not about some anonymous trouble-makers shooting off from their hips (such people do exist, without a doubt), but about people with a genuine reason to be discontented or disgruntled.
Mr Tan had based his remarks on two letters recently published by Yahoo Singapore.
One of the letters was written by operations manager Brian Vittachi, who had asked his sister not to return to Singapore from Sri Lanka, saying that “Singapore has sold its soul“.
The other letter was written by public relations consultant Wang Su Lin who said she was not ashamed of being gay, but ashamed of being a Singaporean. She said that she had emigrated to Canada which she felt was more welcoming and tolerant.
Do these two people sound like trouble-makers or naysayers to you? Singapore has become so engulfed in materialism that it has indeed lost much of its soul. Sky high asset prices, overcrowding, and a loss of national identity are tearing at the fabric of society. These are real concerns, not some hogwash made up by a naysayer.
The letter by Wang Su Lin speaks about the bigotry still prevalent in Singapore society against the LGBT community. This is something we as a society should reflect on. Is raising this issue considered “running down” our country? Since when is fighting for human rights considered “running down” our people?
Some people are giving up on Singapore because the authorities have shown they are unwilling to change or address regressive attitudes and mindsets. Others are voicing out their concerns online because things have gotten harder in recent years, with an escalating cost of living and a widening income gap. If the government does not appear willing to listen, are these commentators expected to shut up and quietly accept the status quo?
We have also seen a rise in persecution of opinion makers, in the form of threats of legal action, and in some instances, genuine legal action. Does this not lead to general disenfranchisement? Does this not reinforce the climate of fear and cause people to become even more distant?
Rather than accusing others of running down Singapore, the government should reflect on the failed policies of recent years.
There was a time, not too long ago, when opposition politicians who criticized Singapore’s governance model were attacked by the media for being anti-Singapore.
It is sad that such a regressive attitude has re-emerged, this time, coming from the Acting Manpower minister.