This is how Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong should have addressed Singaporeans on the issue of haze.
Good morning, Singaporeans.
I know your concerns and the government is equally concerned as well – the haze has gone beyond PSI 300 and we are taking immediate steps to resolve the matter.
I’ve just gotten over the phone with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this morning, and has sought his assistance and cooperation in tackling the haze with us. President Yudhoyono has also signalled that his government is equally concerned about the health of their citizens affected by the haze.
We will be sending down some of our jets and helicopters to help put out the fires in Sumatra. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen is coordinating the logistics and we will update you on the plans later today. I’ve also discussed with the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and this will be a joint operation, with the Indonesian government, to put out the fires.
A separate team, headed by Senior Minister of State for Defence Chan Chun Sing is working with our scientists to devise ways for cloud seeding. We hope that these interventions will be able to clear our skies soon.
Law and Home Affairs Minister Shanmugam is also working with his Indonesian counterpart to identify the companies which are involved in the current haze occurrence. We will be engaging with these companies to seek their cooperation and immediate response in assisting to put out the fires. Minister Shanmugam is exploring the options available to find the best recourse forward with these companies. We do not rule out legal action, but for now, we hope to engage in negotiations.
As the PSI has gone over 300, I’ve issued a 3-day stop work ruling for all outdoor worksites. The workers should still be remunerated fairly. Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin is in discussions with employers on the compensation.
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat and Health Minister Gan Lim Yong are also monitoring the situation very closely. As of now, we have advised all schools to stop outdoor activities. Our hospitals have also set aside more beds and are bringing in more stocks to manage the possible increase in the number of people who might seek treatment for related illnesses.
Minister Gan is also working to purchase another 30 million N95 masks into Singapore, to ensure that there are enough masks for Singaporeans. I understand that some Singaporeans have started rallying one another to distribute the masks to our elderly. I applaud our citizens for being proactive. The government will work with these groups to ensure that the masks reach the groups that need it the most.
I understand your concerns. We would like to also seek your understanding in this matter. The number of hotspots in Sumatra was unanticipated, and we are doing our best to resolve the matter with the Indonesian and Malaysian governments.
Please continue to take care of your health. We have also released a list of steps that you can take to protect your health.
The haze is the worst that we’ve seen in Singapore so far. After this episode, we will develop long term haze management protocols and we hope to work with the Indonesian government to devise environmentally-farming practices, for the betterment of the region.
I would like to thank you for your understanding and patience in this matter. Together, we will be able to manage the haze successfully.
Right now is not the time for the government to start being paranoid that Singaporeans are using the haze episode to attack them. Right now is not the time for the government or our civil service to accuse Singaporeans of not trusting them.
The people are nevertheless worried about the haze conditions in Singapore and without consistent information, they would be in disarray. Right now is the time for the government to assure Singaporeans – not to counter-argue with the people.
Right now is the time for the government and for the Prime Minister to show leadership. Now is not the time to release carefully-crafted statements. The people aren’t looking forward to the government to make themselves look good. The people want leadership.
The people want the government to act and to lead. Not to wonder how their reputation will be affected. Like, c’mon.
And if the government doesn’t act decisively and boldly during this episode, I can only assume that something more sinister is in the making.