The following is a report by Channelnewsasia which reported MCYS minister Dr Vivian Balakrishan’s response to questions in Parliament about the homeless issue. The minister said: “Some irresponsible websites have also caused these falsehoods to circulate widely on the internet. Now that the facts are out, let us see whether those who have been propagating these falsehoods have the courage and the honesty to set the record straight.”
It is unclear what these “irresponsible websites” which the minister was referring to are. We assume The Online Citizen, which ran a one-week focus on the homeless, is one of these “irresponsible websites.”
We will respond to the minister’s comments in due course.
Here is the Channelnewsasia report:
Govt takes Al Jazeera to task for misreporting on homelessness cases
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan stressed that homelessness is a complex problem and that the government will continue to enable people to be self-reliant.
A video titled “Government Policies Force Some Onto The Streets” was produced by Al Jazeera.
It featured a couple camping on the beach, claiming that they had been homeless for nearly two years as a result of divorce proceedings.
The government then made some checks and found a different story.
The man in the video had made a tidy sum of over S$220,000 from the sale of three flats. Meanwhile, the woman still owns an HDB resale flat with her ex-husband.
She was also getting financial help from the South West Community Development Council.
Dr Balakrishnan said: “Despite these circumstances, the social workers and the FSC then offered sheltered housing for this couple. However, the couple rejected the offer and other services offered by MCYS.
“This is a clear example where a foreign media has failed to ascertain the facts. Some irresponsible websites have also caused these falsehoods to circulate widely on the internet. Now that the facts are out, let us see whether those who have been propagating these falsehoods have the courage and the honesty to set the record straight.
“Homelessness or potential homelessness is a universal threat all over the world. The question is how best to fix this.
“In Singapore, we have given housing, cheap affordable rental housing as well as heavily-subsidised first-time entry into home ownership.
“The people we have who insist on staying in beaches and parks are not first timers and not people who have bought their first flat or first rental flat. These are people who have almost always sold their second flat or a third flat, have unfortunately dissipated the subsidies and cashed them and now have run into problems.
“Members would have faced this problem which almost become emotional blackmail.”
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera has ceased to operate its channel on mio TV.
This prompted Nominated MP Viswa Sadasivan to ask about the talk that this is linked to the report on the homeless.
Acting Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, Lui Tuck Yew, said: “On the speculation that recent critical or negative reports by Al Jazeera were the reason why the channel was taken off mio TV service, this is unfounded. In a report by TODAY, Al Jazeera itself was quoted as saying that “it was a ‘mutual’ decision between Al Jazeera and SingTel for the broadcaster to drop out of the latter’s pay TV service.”
Mr Lui noted that Al Jazeera’s contract with SingTel was coming to an end and was looking into other distribution avenues in view of its low subscriber households. – CNA/vm
Here is the Al Jazeera report which the minister was referring to: