Haze 2013: What’s Happening Behind The Scenes in Singapore?

The Haze Came At An Opportune Time For The Government

The haze came at the right time, right after Vivian’s badly-mangled politicking with the Worker’s Party over the cleaning of the hawker centers, as well as with the Aim saga. If the haze drags out long enough, this would be just the thing needed that the PAP hopes could wash clean their slate and allow them to start anew, to launch towards the next general election.

The People Were Not Going to Take It Sitting Down

But what the PAP didn’t count on were the people’s reactions. It might have been easy to say that the haze was an act of nature and that the government was helpless towards it. If the government could play the victim, say that Indonesia didn’t want to play ball and that they simply had no choice, they might be able to get away with it. If this strategy had worked, they would be able to gain the sympathy of the people and hopefully, the trust of the people, and they could walk towards the next general election more confidently.

But the people were not going to have none of it! The people had a lot more to pick with the PAP – their stagnant incomes, income inequality, increasing prices and their lowering purchasing power. All in, the people’s anger was only further exacerbated by the haze.

The seeming slowness to react served to reinforced among the people that the PAP is incapable. And thus the PAP is now caught in their own making and they are now caught with their pants down.

Having to now need to develop an actual plan to tackle the haze, in view of the people’s anger, they didn’t seem to be able to perform. And so it was only after several press conferences before they could get their act together. Yet, in the most seemingly unimportant episode as the haze, the real capability of the PAP shown through.

The PAP didn’t see it coming. They didn’t know what hit them.

Roles Reversed Between The Government And The People

And because they couldn’t show their cards, they played into the people’s hands. The haze might now actually work in the people’s favour, and finally give them the upper hand that they had needed all along to break free from the control of the PAP after all these years.

In this time of the seeming lack of leadership of the PAP, the people took among themselves and rallied among themselves to help one another, and to advocate for one another’s rights.

From a government which was supposed to have foresight and the best people to serve the country and ones paid millions, the politicians seemed to be scurrying around trying to look like they are the better man.

Stop it already, Singaporeans said. While we were waiting for you to get back into the game, we decided to get in ourselves. And you know what, we didn’t realise that we could do quite a good job as well! We didn’t realise that, you know what, we might actually have a decent chance at running the country by ourselves and, without you around.

Singapore’s Destiny: A New Beginning

What would PAP do next? It would now be in their best interest to get rid of the haze as soon as possible. The haze had turned around and bite them in the bum instead and couldn’t give them the political clout and leverage that another government would have. Instead, it was empowering the people.

For Singaporeans, it is a win situation for us. After the haze, we would come together stronger. And yet, when the government cleans up its act, we would have cleaner air. Ironically, the haze episode has also drawn together people who used to be on two sides – those pro-PAP and those seemingly not pro-PAP. For the first time, the immensity of the haze and the shocking inaction of the PAP had disillusioned even the PAP supporters who deem such behaviour wanton and unbecoming.

Unfortunately, for a PAP which has learnt to spend time “fixing” others, they have forgotten that if they simply do their job and make the people’s lives right, all will be well. Unfortunately still, they believe that the only “right” that the people should do is to “read the right thing”.

Whether they will wake up to their senses is completely up to them. But the haze has cleared the people of their fears and their doubts. The people will now go ahead even more strongly and united. And if the PAP doesn’t come on board, it can get ready to be dislodged, hopefully, gracefully.


  1. Sgcynic

    In the press conference that LHL chaired, he outlined his hazy approach for tacking this crisis.

    1. Convene a Haze inter-ministerial Committee.

    2. “It will review guidelines for protecting vulnerable groups, make sure society and business continue to operate, and issue clear guidance on the protective measures at each PSI threshold”.

    Reading between the lines, this means that they are not sure the existing guidelines, if they exist, are adequate.

    3. “I don’t think there is any single point where we turn action on or off on stop-work because it will depend on what people are doing, what their exposure is, what our assessment of the situation is in the past 24 hours and the outlook…”

    Simply put, here we have a leader who could have told us “we have no fixed criteria, it depends on a lot of factors”. 
    I hope if and when we are faced with the prospect of war, we do not have to convene some committee and declare something similar to the above quote.
    If any country were to put forth a similar response to when it would launch a per-emptive nuclear strike, what do you think the belligerent nation’s response would be? Test waters right?
    If the foot soldiers do not have any inkling what their general’s response would be in clearly defined scenarios, what would be their morale?

    This is a government which does not even dare to commit itself under clearly defined parameters, e.g. If the the hourly PSI rises above the hazardous level of 400, all non public services shall temporarily halt and the public are to stay indoors. This is at least to give the public a clear sense what to expect and do while awaiting for further advisory as the government then assesses the situation and the outlook. No testicular fortitude.

    The following illustrates the reactionary ineptitude of this government.

    Tan Chuan Jin: “I understand the desire for immediate answers. It is not the bureaucracy or the briefings that drive things. It’s the substance of the next steps. These events are scheduled for when we anticipate some of the details would be ready, so that we can announce and explain and clarify accordingly.

    Our areas of concerns remain focused on those working outdoors, especially if under strenuous conditions and/or being outdoors on a prolonged basis. We also need to ascertain essential services and how best to provide these in a manner that is safe for our workers.”

    I am not sure what are the details that this government needs but it couldn’t even give the public a heads up on the next steps. And the one that takes the cake: “we also need to ascertain essential services and how best to provide these…”. My humble advice to all organisations which have yet to put in place a business continuity plan – please identity the critical services in your organisation before a crisis strikes.

  2. Sgcynic

    Oh, a state that really like by the Online Citizen editorial:

    Some are calling for a “wait-and-see” approach before taking action that would affect entire industries.

    This is dangerously misguided.

    How is it conscionable to advocate a “wait-and-see” approach to see if any workers are maimed or injured?

  3. Anthony Sim

    First of all, Roy, well written and my thoughts exactly mirrored in this article.

    I have been reading the updates of this horrific haze and there is no clear solutions to this except to wait for the rains to come and the change of wind direction.

    What is pissing me off is the PAPs indifference to Singaporeans. I look at it and would consider this haze be it at 100 or 400 PSI are hazardous levels on prolong exposure. At least, apart from reminding the public to stay in doors, what difference will it make unless everyone has a air purifier /air conditioning in their homes. This government is run by a bunch of inconsiderate elites. With so much in reserves, they could easily deploy our NS men at strategic locations to provide masks and make sure those elderly and poorer citizens are given special attention to. The money they spend now is worth every cent.

    And of course, our government is paranoid. Instead of making friends with our neighbours, their actions and higher than almighty god attitude are not well received. LKY was the aggressor, his son a green horn. This is how I feel.

    However, there is a positive side to this. In times of crisis will we only know who our friends are. The true colours of our leaders will either shine or blind. Fortunately, our leaders are blind and I hope the pro-PAP supporters will remember and consider wisely in the next GE.

    • Anthony Sim

      Just read at TRE masks will be distributed. They should have done this exercise earlier. Too little too late.

      • Wj

        Hahahahahhaa comments like yours amuse me. Complain that government is not giving out masks. And when they do, complain that it’s too late. Maybe you will like to comment on the color of the masks as well? There’s a section of hell reserved for armchair warriors like you.

  4. Pingback: Haze 2013: What’s Happening Behind The Scenes in Singapore? | Wicked Raven
  5. Kaffirlime

    Years ago, when he was still a BG, Hsien Loong was put in charge of dealing with the cable car
    breakdown. There were a lot of people literally hanging in the air. HL was indecisive and dithery.
    One of the oldtime, old guard-like civil servants(not sure about this, but Someone had to) had to
    step in and Take Action. I wonder how long and what it will take before the govt decides on stop
    work orders at construction sites. When people go on strike?

    Perhaps it will help the govt to reach decisions faster if meetings were held in the open, at a construction
    site, in the haze. No fans. No aircon, no air purifiers…. preferably at a time when the PSI is at a high.
    Little things can help one get one’s priorities right and drive home a message.

  6. Christopher Dore

    I sometimes wonder why Singapore is so reluctant to give its own people freedom of speech, and then I come across articles like this, and it all starts to make sense. If you are unhappy with your government because of the weather, then clearly you do need to be kept quiet. If you want to criticize, at least be constructive and factual in what you say.

    First and foremost, It took one day after people started handing out masks before the government did. How is this a complaint? Its like complaining that you had to wait 2 minutes for your train. Every government has bureaucracies and red tape. One day to react is not a long time. Singapore is many things, but the one thing it is not, is inefficient. Please compare public services/banks/transport overseas to our own Island home, and you should have your answer. I have actually lived in both 1st and 3rd world countries as a result of work, and Singapore in comparison to them is many things, but the one thing it never has been is inefficient.

    Also, Cloud seeding is actually a pretty common sense approach, not something they need to hear about in the papers before they decide to do it. Our government is elitist, yes. Often fascist in its administration, Yes. But stupid? Or incapable. Absolutely not. Please remember, this is the political party that turned a 3rd world island in to one of the more affluent states in the world in the space of 50-60 years. 50 years later and Barisan Nasional still has their people in the dumps, playing racial politics and a infrastructure that is a global walking joke. Based on this article, you actually think the PAP sat around scratching their heads, with ABSOLUTELY no idea what to do? Governments are complicated and bureacratic. Things take time. The suggestion that our government solves their day to day issues by looking for ideas in the local newspaper sounds like a comedy skit, because it is that ridiculous.

    Also, the idea that our Govt used the haze to their own advantage is also incredibly naive. Please remember, our newspaper is STATE OWNED. It is not independent. If there are things the government does not want to report. It will not report it. Simple. I have worked for the singapore civil service, and when my agency wants to release a press release, it is because IT WANTS to, not because of external pressure. People do not have a inkling of what is happening, until the press release is released.
    If the govt does not want you to know something, you wont know. Considering that SPH is policed by the Govt. think about it.

    Could the way our Govt handled the situation be better? Certainly, Of course. But before getting fiesty and angry with the PAP please consider that IT IS A NATURAL DISASTER. Natural Disasters screw things up for EVERYONE. All that can be done is damage mitigation, in ALL cases. There is no cure. They happen. No single country or government handles any natural disaster 100percent.

    Also, on the topic of natural disasters. How many people died as a result of the haze? How many people have been seriously injured. Compared to the SARS epidemic, How serious is the risk to your health? Are you cowering in fear of death and serious injury, or are you simply pissed off and inconvenienced, which based on my facebook feed. That seems to be the case.

    Its also of particular interest that we are now so concerned about our own health and well being. If the sanctity of human life was really that precious to us as a society, we would not be underpaying foreighn workers and forcing them to live in horrible conditions, we would not be abusing and underpaying our maids, we would not have such liberal labour laws. You cant support that, and then when your well being is at stake cry foul. Double standards.

    Really, how bad is the haze? Really, it sucks not being able to play football, or go for a run, but 1 week indoors so painful izit?

    You are angry with your government because they were not able to alleviate your annoyances with the weather. You should talk to the Iranians, Malaysians, Americans, Brits and compare your reasons for disliking your ruling party with theirs. You would be very entertaining I am sure. As in, if this was a deadly infectious disease. I understand your point. In this case, I dont. At all. The haze is a serious annoyance. Not an epidemic.

    I am not a PAP supporter at all in the slightest. The PAP are conniving, overpaid and see the lives of their citizens as a means to an economic end. Singaporeans to the PAP are replaceable. I get it. But at the very least. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Dont throw rubbish at the PAP just for the sake of it. I have read plenty more informative, educated and well thought out criticisms of our government, but this REALLY takes the cake for shallow, cheesy self indulgent complaints.

    • Sgcynic

      Do distinguish natural disasters that are unprecedented (not just in terms of scale) and those that recur. Even if floods that occur “once in 50 years”, one should be prepared for a recurrence. It is total unpreparedness when one does not have a business continuity plan, not bureaucracy putting delays in implementation. What are the essential services that should continue in the event of a chemical spill, biological attack, “natural disaster”? We will ascertain them when the time comes? It is unpreparedness when the highlight of a press conference is to announce that you are doing a review of plans and not announcing the plans you have in place.

    • Sgcynic

      Oh, and they had the benefit of hindsight to prepare for this recurring man-made “natural disaster”, knowing fully how badly the haze levels could reach across the causeway (860). A 16-year heads-up, and the highest paid planners should know all it takes is just a fickle change in wind direction.

    • Ming Zheng

      Actually they are forced to issue press release. Not whether they want or not. At this day and age, information spreads quickly on the internet, including misinformation. You have to be fast to correct errors and misperceptions. If not, the government will really look bad, and pretty quick too.

      And no, this is not a natural disaster. It is man-made, and predictable too. Don’t tell me the past 10-20 years of haze hasn’t been any haze. We are lucky we dodge the main bullet, but not this time round. So, it is correct to say that NEA is ill prepared. And worst still, they have the satellite photos. Don’t tell me they can’t predict the seriousness of the situation. Oh, unless they are sleeping on the job of course. The haze takes time to reach here. Takes time to accumlate there. And I am truly disappointed that NEA can’t even forecast that the situation will be better today. You see, if from satellite photo, you can’t see that there is a big opening and therefore not much haze today, you aren’t fit to be at the job of weather forecasting.

      Please don’t try to downpay the situation. Hourly PSI they should provide. They never do. What is the point of having 3-hour averages when what matters most is the situation now? I went to the Taiwan website, they can do forecasting, they provide hourly data. They are transparent about everything. Here, we have Grace Fool telling us to focus on the 24hr PSI instead. You think our PAP government competent? Think again before you spout rubbish.

      And all that achievement of PAP were the past, please don’t tell me how good they WERE. I only care about NOW and the FUTURE. I see no hope in the current batch, especially Lee Hsien Loong. He should step down and let others take over. He is not a leader and don’t behave like one. Truly disappointed with these people.

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