The Haze Has Strengthened And United Singaporeans

The Haze Has United Singaporeans

Over the past week, our nation has gone through one of our more challenging events in recent years. The haze has abated for now but is expected to return in the next few days. However, the amazing spirit of Singaporeans shone through – the haze has perhaps become the most important event to unify Singaporeans in recent years, and rallied Singaporeans towards one another.

Within days of the start of the haze, Singaporeans got together to donate masks, purifiers and water, and organised themselves to distribute these to the poor and elderly. Singaporeans had also come together to rally to protect our workers – to advocate to the government to issue a stop-work order for workers who are working outdoor when the haze would reach hazardous levels.

I am thoroughly impressed by Singaporeans and this has been truly one of the most exemplary things that Singaporeans have done in recent times.

Today, I Believe That Singaporeans Are Resilient

There were times in the past when I had looked at the other countries and looked at how the people had coped and managed when disasters struck, saw how their people were resilient, and wondered to myself if Singaporeans would be able to do the same – since we have not gone through any equivalent.

But today, I know Singaporeans can. Even though the haze isn’t on a scale of other major natural disasters, it is still one of the worst environmental crises to hit Singapore. Yet, our people showed courage and togetherness, and we showed one another that we continue to have heart.

Singaporeans Can Take Charge Of Our Own Country

Singaporeans can also take heart to know that when needed, we have the capability to also take charge of our country. And we can also count on our young to take action to protect our elderly. The swift actions of Singaporeans showed to me that even when we have a change of government, I am certain and confident that Singaporeans will continue to have the solutions to run our country.

Our Government Needs To Show Stronger Leadership

Some Singaporeans believe that our government needs to show stronger leadership in this time of one of Singapore’s most major environmental crisis. They believe that the government had not responded with as much immediacy as they should.

But perhaps this can be seen as a blessing in disguise for Singaporeans. If indeed we had felt that the government had responded too slowly, we should be gratified to know that if they hadn’t done so, that we wouldn’t have the chance to allow our potential to come through, as we have.

When the haze first began and some people started criticising the government, I didn’t join in because I had believed that if the haze was a result of natural wind conditions, I couldn’t possibly attribute it to the government for not being able to push the winds away.

However, as the days went on and the severity of the haze increased, I was shocked when the government did not react speedily, even though it would have, by then, days to plan for it. Shock turned to frustration when the air quality shot up twice to reach the highest readings that Singapore has ever seen, and even then, Singaporeans did not know what the affirmative plans for Singapore were.

The Government Needs To Give People Up-To-Date Information

It was the last straw for me when Minister of the Environment and Water Resources Vivian announced that the government would look into publishing 24-hourly average readings. He was joined in by the other ministers. At that point, I had thought – if the government wasn’t responding fast enough to the haze, then the least the government could do was to ensure that the most pertinent information gets out – the PSI readings.

There should also be regular information and consistency so that the people are not thrown off by a sudden change – which was why I did not take it lightly when at the height of the worsening of the haze, Vivian made this announcement for a switch. So, I wrote an article (link) to state that it is necessary that we continue to maintain hourly readings because Singaporeans need up-to-date readings to make informed decisions about how they should make adjustments to their lives.

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources had since made a rebuttal to the article. You can read the rebuttal here. I will leave readers to read both articles and comments to make up your own informed understanding of the matter.

I Welcome Feedback and Criticism About The Heart Truths

I had also been informed of another blogger, sgthinker (I am unable to locate the real person who stands behind this blog), who had in his article, “Dumb and Dumber Singaporean Reactions to the Haze“, linked his article to this blog, by saying:

“Of particular note is The Heart Truths, a site that claims to come across as a level-headed critique of the PAP, but is actually a site that uses half-truths and misquoted information. For example, the author tried to poke holes at VB’s claims that “other countries also use 24-hour averages for their air quality indices”. However, this claim was swiftly rebutted by MEWR, who honestly speaking should be concentrating on tackling the haze rather than rebutting unfounded online accusations. I would urge readers to boycott The Heart Truths. Life’s too short to read the lies of this author.”

I believe that sgthinker has his right to say what he believes is his understanding of who I am. It is unfortunate his beliefs about this blog. However, my stance has always been that when there is a diversity of views, this will only enrich the discussion.

sgthinker’s strident criticism of this blog is confounding and I believe that he has his reasons for doing so. And I am not upset by it.

I would like to invite sgthinker to read the other articles in this blog and I would be glad to engage in a face-to-face discussion with him on them. I have found and laid out information about how in Singapore, even though Singapore is the richest country in the world, has the highest reserves per capita, our people earn the lowest wages among the developed countries, have the lowest purchasing power due to some of the highest prices, live with the great income inequalities among the developed countries and have the smallest retirement funds among them, even as compared to other developing countries, like Malaysia and Philippines. Yet, our government spends the lowest public spending among the developed countries even though it can clearly afford to do a lot more. I wish that these weren’t true, and I wish the sgthinker is right, but the fact of the matter is that in Singapore, the people have been mistreated. Once again, I would like to invite sgthinker to discuss these issues with me. I stand by what I have put out in the articles and I believe in the integrity and conviction as to what I’ve been saying.

It is perhaps saddening, however, that in be face of feedback and criticism, that there our some in our country who might react to their insecurities and who would chastise others, so that they could protect their own reputation. But, if there is nothing to hide and if we are honest with ourselves, what is there to put others down for? If we are doing the right things for our countrymen, what is there to prevent them Singaporeans from reading or knowing?

I will continue to put out articles which I believe are for the interests and greater good of Singaporeans. I will continue to research on statistics and information which can help us gain a better understanding of Singapore. As I have been enriched from reading other websites and blogs, be it whether they are from the state-controlled media or from other Singaporeans, I will continue to contribute, so that we can all make discerning opinions about our own country.

This Is Why We Need To #FreeOurInternet

This is also one reason why I support the #FreeMyInternet movement. If we are able to read up more from different sources, we can only be better off having greater insights. This is why I believe that the Media Development Authority shouldn’t ask websites to pay a $50,000 bond and take their articles down within 24 hours.

During this haze period, many Singaporeans have been very concerned about what is really going on. Because of the lack of information, we thus had to seek out our own sources of information. In fact, many Singaporeans started to develop their own tools and their own solutions online on managing the haze – some with better successes than others.

It is thus very welcome that it is precisely because of how open our Internet is that even with the lack of information coming through from official sources, Singaporeans could very quickly learn more about what is going on from other Singaporeans who have gone online to pass on the information.

We thus need to protect the openness of our Internet so that in other times of crises, we would be better off being equipped with more information. This would also allow us to train our minds better to pick up on information that is more relevant and useful to ourselves.

The Government Should Not Be Insecure And Should Trust The People

The haze episode has shown many things. It has shown that Singaporeans are indeed resilient, responsible and caring individuals. It has shown that when the Internet is open, we would be able to allow more information to flourish and allow us to make better arrangements for our lives. It has also allowed us to come together and work together to help one another along.

I hope that our government would learn to see this as an opportunity, that Singaporeans can be encouraged to take action to secure their lives and to improve on our own lives.

There is no need for the government to feel insecure that Singaporeans are using our own abilities to help one another and devise solutions. There is no need for the government to fear that it isn’t able to show itself up better than other Singaporeans. There is no need to be scared that when Singaporeans learn to take care of our own lives, that the government will become irrelevant. In fact, the government should be happy that Singaporeans are able to create possibilities with the government!

Eventually, Singapore belongs to us one and all. Singapore is the people and we can make Singapore work. In time to come, a government which can lead the people towards greater independence will create a people who are many strong assets which can ride the wave with one another to create a fairer and equal Singapore.



I had posted a comment on sgthinker’s article:

Hi sgthinker,

I am Roy Ngerng and I am the blogger of The Heart Truths. I am not sure how I may address you, as I am not able to locate the real person who manages this blog.

I was perhaps slightly startled when I read this article. You know, it takes a lot of strength in belief and faith to be willing to put one’s face out, knowing that what you say is of even greater consequence. I believe in the need to speak up for ourselves and for Singaporeans and I believe that I need to be true to myself. This is why I put myself up. You might perhaps not understand this, seeing that you have chosen to remain behind the scenes, but I believe that your heart is in the right place as well.

I am comforted by the many comments here who had taken various perspectives on your criticism of The Heart Truths and I think this is healthy. Everyone should be given their own space to develop their own ideas and mindsets. And if readers believe that they should boycott The Heart Truths as you had recommended, they should be free to do so. However, I do believe that they should keep their options as even blogs like yours have useful information to read.

I would like to thank you for the opportunity for me to clarify my stance, and to give Singaporeans the space for independent and discerning thinking. The maturing and development of our Internet space can only be much welcomed.

This is why I believe that Singaporeans should take a firm stand towards supporting #FreeMyInternet. Our right to know and think lies in our hands. And we should keep an open exchange of information so that discussions like the ones we are having now will only serve to reinforce our knowledge better.

Meanwhile, I have written a new article, which has included mention of this blog as well:

Thank you.

Roy Ngerng


  1. octopi


    Singaporeans aren’t stronger. Shit just happened, that’s all.

    We now know that Singaporeans are going to hoard masks and profiteer in times of trouble.

    We now know that Singaporeans are going to kaopeh to the govt to do things that reasonable people know they can’t do (like stop the haze).

    To date, for all the citizen activism, there hasn’t been a (pardon the pun) smoking gun for who is actually responsible for the haze.

    The most informative piece of information about the haze did not appear on the Singapore media or the blogosphere. It appeared on a Malaysian newspaper.

    We know that nothing has been done about the haze since the last serious episode took place in 1997 16 years ago.

    You and Vivian aren’t getting the point. 24 hour readings or 3 hour readings, it doesn’t matter. You put your mask on at all times until the air clears, If you haven’t got the capability to monitor air quality up to date today, you aren’t going to get it tomorrow or next week because these things take time. That is common sense.

    We know that Singaporeans have been caught with their pants down, because they should have been prepared beforehand with their masks. This is not an acceptable level of disaster preparation.

    • Lim Wee Cheong

      It is possible to monitor air quality (at least particulate matter, if not other pollutants) on minute to minute basis. Please see which I setup using consumer equipment.

      From yesterday’s Straits Times article on how NEA measure PM10 and PM2.5; picture showed a Continuous Ambient Particulate Monitor from Thermos Scientific. The current model FH62C14 listed on Thermos Scientific can take measurements at 30 minutes intervals. I also googled for models from other companies, and all models I found is capable of taking hourly measurements. None restrict measurements to 3-hr cycles.

  2. vin8tan

    Hi Roy, thank you for this (again,very long…..) article, and Octopi has some valid points.
    We know that there will be people who will profit from a situation like this, and we know that our government is powerless (or choose to be powerless) in a regional disaster. We now know that the Met office is using a model based off a system from the 60s to measure our air quality, we now know that our government careless about it citizen, only choosing to deliver mask after the haze has dissipated.

    However, Octopi, it is perfectly normal for a few Singaporeans to want to profit from this, we are, after all a capitalistic economy, lest we forget the many others who stepped up to deliver mask, provide comfort and shedding light through the thick fog. We also know that over 90 companies care about their workers more than our government do, putting in stop work orders when it got really bad. So, far from not getting the point, I think Roy, choosing to focus on the positives out of this negative mess, have proven that there are capable people on this dot, that can, when engaged meaningfully, help make Singapore a much better place.

    • octopi

      No problem with what you said except that we shouldn’t be that tolerant of “capitalist” behaviour.

      Let me quote what Roy said in his blog post, and I don’t disagree with this:

      ” I have found and laid out information about how in Singapore, even though Singapore is the richest country in the world, has the highest reserves per capita, our people earn the lowest wages among the developed countries, have the lowest purchasing power due to some of the highest prices, live with the great income inequalities among the developed countries and have the smallest retirement funds among them, even as compared to other developing countries, like Malaysia and Philippines. ”

      All these things are – if you know economics – the natural consequence of people behaving in a “capitalistic” manner. It is a natural phenomenon, if everybody behaves in a “capitalistic” manner, that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The govt does not have to encourage this behaviour, it merely has to sit back and do nothing. OK it’s just a few people but I’m not going to excuse them.

      And hopefully Singaporeans are not idiots who will throw their masks away when the air clears and get caught with their pants down when the same shit happens next year.

  3. My Right to Love

    Hi octopi,

    May I understand the point that you are trying to make, so that I am able to clarify?

    I believe that there should be fairer income distribution and more wage parity, and the government has a key role to play to prevent inequitable distribution – through their investments in businesses, as well as the use of public funds.

    Thank you.


    • octopi

      Why ask when you’ve already said it. Rich getting richer and poor getting poorer is the natural state of things, sans govt intervention. The left and the right agree on this. What they do not agree with is what role the govt has to play in this.

      I was responding to vin8tan’s point that “we are a capitalistic economy”. This sort of behaviour is not acceptable.

      On another note, I don’t disagree with these points, except that it’s pretty curious – what do they have to do with the haze? This article is about the haze. Why am I talking about capitalism now? Life is very strange. I’m not going to make any more comments about capitalism because they don’t have to do with the main topic of this article which is the haze.

      • My Right to Love

        Hi octopi,

        We would fail terribly if we cannot appreciate the political, social and economic circumstances that have contributed to the haze, as well as the peoples’ responses to the management of the haze.

        The broad appreciation would enable to understand how the management of the haze is facing resistance from the Indonesian companies and relevant companies involved, as well as the people’s reactions to the government’s response.


      • octopi

        OK, let’s look at this same passage again:

        ” I have found and laid out information about how in Singapore, even though Singapore is the richest country in the world, has the highest reserves per capita, our people earn the lowest wages among the developed countries, have the lowest purchasing power due to some of the highest prices, live with the great income inequalities among the developed countries and have the smallest retirement funds among them, even as compared to other developing countries, like Malaysia and Philippines. ”

        Why don’t you draw a direct line between this passage (which I don’t disagree with) and the govt’s management of the haze, so that I don’t have to read the original post as “congratulations, my fellow Singaporeans, for having the ‘moral courage’ to join the lynch mob and continue giving the Singapore government shit even as it tries to unfuck the situation”, and so that we don’t have to continue “failing terribly”?

        More specifically, what does income inequality in Singapore (which lies within the jurisdiction of the Singapore government and is to a certain degree controllable by the Singapore government) have to do with the burning of jungles in Indonesia (which most certainly lies outside of the jurisdiction of the Singapore government?)

  4. Chiu

    It may be true that most countries publish 24 hour average readings on an hourly basis, and that may be appropriate where there is little change in the pollutant index from day to day, as in most countries that are not affected by the haze
    However in our case where the situation can deteriorate or improve markedly in the course of a day as it did last Saturday 22 June, then an hourly update is important. Clearly a 24 hour average is insufficient

    • Jeff Dickey

      Especially when that “24-hour average” is from a single reading taken at the most advantageous time of the working day (8 AM, NEA?) I don’t know if that was a misguided attempt to deny reality and calm people down by saying “look, things aren’t really that bad” or if it was pure “sit down and shut up” wayang, but either way, we deserved (and deserve!) better than we’re getting from this Government.

      The haze and the official response to it are merely the latest example of that problem.

      Oh, and the “price-capped” masks that PAP wayang last week said were to be available this week, after they’re not so critically needed? Two outlets in this part of Tampines East (Guardian and NTUC Unity, both in Tampines Mart) had child-sized masks on offer yesterday for $2.50 a pop. Normal free-market price for N95 masks in any size? About S$1.25 — and the Americans, Brits and Brazilians import theirs from the same places we do.

      • Yit

        Where did you get your info that the 24 hour average is from a single reading at 8am? So far NEA has issued values in a range at 6pm, and another at 8am for the 24 hour average, reflecting the higher and lower values. Don’t think your suggestion that the NEA is attempting to downplay things are really that valid imo.

        I haven’t done much research into prices of masks so I’m not commenting on it.

  5. Jason

    I will be honest. When I read your article on the PSI readings, it was in incredulity that somebody could point at something that’s so obviously a 24 hour average and says that it is hourly. I grant that there can be people who have never encountered the concept of moving or rolling or trailing averages made over the past 24 hours but published hourly, but to write a seemingly scholarly article about it and make claims about something that’s so obviously wrong?

    Perhaps we’re not the only country with 3 hour averages. Whatever. But if you got your facts wrong, shouldn’t you correct them instead of asking readers to read both articles (or more) and “make up [their] own informed understanding of the matter”? I find this profoundly hypocritical as somebody who purports to use facts as a basis for his arguments. If you want to make yourself be taken seriously, then substantiate CORRECTLY, and change where you are shown to be wrong. Don’t masquerade as an expert to mislead people.

    About the rest of the article, I have no comments. Only the part where you ask sgthinker to talk about current economic issues. I’ve looked at several of your posts where you posted graphs comparing several economic indicators across countries. I have problems with several graphs (in particular productivity where your source only has that of manufacturing but which you assumed applied to all sectors. The gini coefficient and income inequalities are also skewed by the minimum wage system employed by other countries where a janitor can earn 3k a mth. I am also highly against the welfare state having lived in France for 2 years and seen the extent of freeriding that occurs), but on the whole I agree with the statistics. Yes there might need to be a rethinking on the policies that have been adopted so far, and the general direction Singapore is heading towards. There should be thus instead a discussion of what to DO. The only conclusion I can see from your posts however is to chuck out the incumbent government. I’m sorry but I don’t see the opposition being able to do any better.

    • My Right to Love

      Hi Jason,

      (1) With regard to the PSI readings, I have offered readers a chance to read alternate analyses – I have read other comments so far and I have yet come to a firm conclusion yet on the necessity of publishing an article to further clarify, as there are various viewpoints. As I have stated several times – I will leave readers to make their own informed decisions after reading the alternate analysis and comments. The option of clarifying is there.

      (2) With regard to the statistics that I had brought out in the previous articles, there has been no attempt to apply one set of statistics onto other statistics, as you had suggested. I believe that you had made such assumptions based on your own perspectives, which I understand. As much as possible, I have also stated the sources of information where I had obtained the statistics and readers are able to find out more by looking through the statistics for themselves.

      (3) With regard to the high wages in some countries, I would like to point out that for wages in countries such as the Nordic countries, Switzerland and in Europe, high wages are not a result of minimum wages. They are a result of strong unions with strong collective bargaining power for the workers – all of these Singapore lack. There is no political will to implement a minimum wage, nor strong political will to allow for unions to fight for the workers’ wages. This is fine – if Singaporeans are paid equitable wages but as I have shown in the previous articles, we have the lowest wages in the developed world and wages have remained stagnant for several years now, and dropped for those in the lowest income groups. This is not acceptable and is a failing of the current government.

      (4) There is a need for the government to increase our public spending but to do so to the extent of that of the European countries is not advisable, as you have rightfully pointed out. But to continue at the low rate where our poor and elderly are suffering is equally unacceptable. If the government is not willing to increase public spending, then they would need to look at instituting laws and policies that protect the workers upstream.

      (5) Governments will change and governments will always be replaced – this is the natural state of social and political history. It is myopic to live in fear, holding on to a government which no longer meets the needs of the people but because of fear, that we choose to opt for which has been abusing our rights. As I have stated several times now, the people hold the power to their country. Regardless of who becomes the government, the people need to take ownership and control of their country, by proposing solutions for the country, and by helping to run the country. If we keep thinking that we have to put in place the “best” government, then the people are effectively allowing their rights to be given away. This cannot happen.


      • Jason

        1) Facts don’t have viewpoints. They either are or are not. There are no interpretations to something that is binary in nature. Facts are not like statistics, which can be twisted. It is as unequivocal as asking what have you eaten for lunch. You can’t possibly say, well, depending on how you see it, the meepok I had was vegetarian or it contained pork, can you? Are the APIs published in Hong Kong, US and the UK based on a 24hr average? The answer does not “depend” on how one interprets a sentence, and it certainly does not depend on something ambiguous like “taken from real-time data”. Have you looked at the sources referenced by the NEA?

        2) I apologise I read the source wrongly.

        3) You are right there is a logical fallacy in claiming that high wages for low-skilled jobs comes from minimum wages. There is a case to be made for the economy being linked to government policies. But I’m slightly confused. How is the government controlling your wages and artificially keeping prices high? In addition, I have never actually heard of any labour unions (here in France at least) lobby the government for a raise in wages. It is ALWAYS (from experience) the companies who are lobbied. From reading your posts, I am led to believe that the government is secretly hoarding an INCREASING percentage of wages so that even though real GDP per capita (which roughly translates to real average income) rose, wages remained stagnant (of which I also agree from first/secondhand experience). Looking at the same statistics, I would instead infer that COMPANIES are the ones making you work for longer hours and for the same pay, all the while giving out the increased growth as bonuses to the top echelons, or if they’re smart, investing in other assets.

        How is the government preventing the GDP growth from diffusing down to everybody? Let me remind you the CPF contribution percent has always been at 20%, I don’t see where the government is sucking away the money. Shouldn’t you be blaming the companies instead? I of course could be persuaded by the right statistics.

        4) If we have established that the welfare nanny state is to be avoided, then efficiency in selecting those that need to be helped is the best. I honestly don’t know much about this. A comprehensive study of the current options and and comparisons made with other countries (nordic and japan comes to mind) are in order.

        5) Your argument is confusing. I quote,

        “… the people hold the power to their country. Regardless of who becomes the government, the people need to take ownership and control of their country, by proposing solutions for the country, and by helping to run the country. If we keep thinking that we have to put in place the “best” government, then the people are effectively allowing their rights to be given away. This cannot happen.”

        Do you mean that we can put in place a lousy government (ie. not the best candidate) since the people can take ownership and control of the country by proposing solutions? By your definition the current government is failing and thus not the best candidate. Shouldn’t we then propose solutions and help run the country? If the proposed solution is to chuck out the incumbent, then… it’s just going to be a continuous cycle isn’t it? Does this cycle look familiar in the history of democratic societies?

        This is actually argued many many times in the past, so perhaps there’s no point in bringing it up, since the elections have showed me clearly that no argument is ever going to change another person’s political views. If you want to discuss what Singapore can do as stated in the above quote (ie. if you were the government, what would you do?) then I would gladly continue the discussion.

      • Yit

        Hi Roy,

        I would have to agree with Jason that facts are facts. Unlike opinions, there are no differing interpretations possible. I don’t think that you had intended to mislead people in your original article, you just did not do your research as thoroughly as you imagined. However, by saying that people should “read alternate analysis and viewpoints” when you’re called out makes you sound like you are glossing over your own mistake. This behavior is something you have castigated the political party you dislike for doing before, and it just seems incredibly hypocritical for you to behave this way. While you welcome feedback about your articles, your behavior suggests that you’re hearing, but not listening.

        As for the MDA thing, I haven’t really done enough research so I won’t really comment (in case I say something inaccurate). But, if the intent is to encourage major content providers to do more research to ensure that they don’t publish misleading factual articles, (as opposed to opinion pieces) I don’t see the problem. (well, maybe $50,000 is overkill.) I am not quite convinced by the slippery slope argument that so many seem to be using to oppose the regulation.

        As for the government being insecure, I don’t quite see that? If anything, their distant approach at first seems to suggest that they think Singaporeans are more than capable of checking out their table on what we should do during what PSI, and to take our own precautions. Their overreaction (masks! daily update! redundant envelope delivering!) seems have come in the wake of public resentment, which, I guess shows that we really do need some nannying after all.

  6. kit333

    haven u been proven to be liar regarding the PSI and AQI readings? no use trying to salvage your sullied reputation here

  7. Kojak Bt

    Hi Roy, don’t be too bothered about those calling for boycott of your blog. It just goes to show that you must be doing something right 🙂
    I think Singaporean netizens are a lot smarter than what our authorities would like to think. Singaporeans are smart enough to discern for themselves what is right and what is wrong, what to read and what not to… don’t worry, carry on blogging, you are doing a good job in sharing info with netizens 🙂
    Btw, have posted this on TRE:

    • octopi

      Now a boycott of a blog sounds pretty extreme, but suppose somebody were to say something pretty similar: “don’t listen to that idiot, he’s talking rubbish”. I’m sure you’d agree that it’s perfectly permissible under free speech. Especially if that guy were to go through the trouble of explaining why he thinks you’re an idiot.

      One good way of avoiding people saying things like that is to not be an idiot.

  8. Pingback: The PAP Shared On Facebook An Article That Called Singaporeans Dumb | The Heart Truths

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s