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:
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: