Tan Kin Lian
Minister for Health Khaw Boon Wan suggested that some people can consider sending their elderly parents to a nursing home in Johor Bahru, where the cost is less than half of the cost in Singapore.
This created a big uproar. It attracted more than 300 comments in postings in The Online Citizen. Over 80% of the comments were strongly against the suggestion. Many of the comments were rude and abusive. They called the minister inappropriate names. I was shocked at this behaviour.
First, it was not necessary for people to give their views in a rude manner. They should show respect to the views of other people. I am not suggesting that a minister deserves more respect than any ordinary people. But he should not be given any less respect either.
Second, there is a strong perception that any suggestion by a minister will be implemented as government policy. If the reaction is likely to be irrational and negative, the government may decide that it is better not to engage the public. Surely, as citizens, we like to have the chance of giving our views before any decision is taken by the government leaders? Can we give our views in an objective manner, rather than behave badly?
Third, there seems to be a strong dislike and distrust of the government. This is unhealthy.
I wrote an article (https://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dcqjz7c8_97fcssgjgb&hl=en ) on this matter and carried out a survey. After three days, a total of 31 people responded to the survey. Here are the findings of the survey.
The respondents were asked to give their views to certain statements. The score is: 1=strongly disagree, 3=neutral, 5=strongly agree. The average score is calculated from tall the replies.
Here are the views on the nursing home suggestion by Mr. Khaw Boon Wan:
a) The minister is entitled to make the suggestion about using nursing homes in Johor Bahru: score = 3.00 (neutral)
b) It is insensitive for the minister to make this suggestion: score = 4.29 (moderately agree)
c) I lost my respect for the minster due to this insensitive remark: score = 3.66 (slightly agree)
It is clear that the majority of Singaporeans felt that the minister should not make this suggestion, and that the suggestion has somewhat diminished his standing among the people.
Views in TOC
Here are the views on the postings in The Online Citizen:
a) The strong reactions as reflected in the postings in the blogs are unwarranted: score = 2.94 (neutral)
b) The people posting views in The Online Citizen are an extreme lot and do not reflect the views of the general public: score 2.74 (somewhat disagree)
The findings suggest that the views posted in The Online Citizen do reflect the views of the general public. (But this is likely to be distorted as the commentators are likely to be the people participating in the survey).
Nearly half felt that the strong reactions are unwarranted, but the others disagree.
Here are the views on the policy-making process of the Government:
a) The Singapore Government is not willing to listen to the views of the people, as they think that they know best: score = 4.48 (somewhat strongly agree)
b) The Members of Parliament fail in their duty to debate policies in Parliament: score: 4.29 (moderately agree)
c) The Feedback Panel has not achieved the goal of providing a channel for citizens to give their views to the Government: score 4.45 (somewhat strongly agree)
d) People are unhappy about their inability to influence the Government and get them to modify unpopular policies: score 4.45 (somewhat strongly agree)
It is clear that the respondents are unhappy with the policy making process in Singapore.
Climate for discussion
Here is the view on the climate for discussion:
a) We need to build a more positive and constructive climate for free discussion in Singapore: score = 4.68 (strongly agree)
This is the clearest finding of the survey. We need a constructive climate for free discussion in Singapore.
I hope that Singaporeans can take a positive approach towards discussions affecting our future. We should keep an open mind and react objectively to any suggestion. If we are not sure, we should seek clarification, rather than jump to the wrong conclusion.
Whether we agree or disagree, let us give our views constructively and show respect to the views of other people. If we want the Government to listen to our views, we have to show that we are a mature and responsible people.
We should also be bold to give our views openly. We should not hide under anonymity and attack other people. If we are honest and constructive, we should not have to fear any adverse repercussion.
The Government has also got a lot to do to engage the people constructively and to change the unhealthy environment that they have built up over the years.
The author also blogs at: www.tankinlian.blogspot.com