Our responsibility as citizens

by: Ghui/

The advent of the internet age has seen the prolific rise of websites such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube. Their usage has been diverse, from virals promoting various products to broadcasting the latest breaking news.

The impact of the internet in Singapore has most recently been seen in GE 2011. Videos of speeches were uploaded on YouTube, political thoughts were posted on Facebook and Twitter was alive with political discussion. This has of course contributed to Singapore’s political landscape tremendously.

For the first time, opposition parties were able to publicise their agendas effectively with relatively less restraint. PAP blunders were made public on a scale never before seen. I am sure Tin Pei Ling will attest to that.

Now that it is proven that the internet is indeed a useful tool for the transmission of information, it is time to take this one step further and use it as a means to hold the ruling party continually accountable. This is a process in which every citizen can be a part of. Indeed, I would go one step further and suggest that this is a process that is every citizen’s responsibility.

As a result of the Nightingale Nursing Home scandal, some have questioned why citizens were not informed of this incident before polling day. The abuse is indeed appalling. While I empathise with that sentiment, I cannot help but question whose responsibility it really is to make this information public.

Firstly, there may have been privacy issues at such disclosure. Residents at the nursing home or their relatives may not have wanted this information to have been made public. The Ministry of Health may have received the footage and suspended the admittance of new patients at the nursing home on 12 April but the investigations may still have been ongoing as of polling day. For the culprits to be caught and brought to justice efficiently, the last thing the investigators need would be a media circus. Ministry of Health, being a government agency, cannot be seen to be jeopardising investigations!

Secondly, Khaw Boon Wan may not have been aware of this incident as of polling day. While ignorance is not a justification for the occurrence such an atrocity, it is certainly an excuse (however poor). In the day to day running of a country, there is bound to be miscommunication, bureaucracy, red-tape and blunders. It is not ideal but unfortunately, mistakes will be made and they will continue to be made, no matter who is in charge.

As such, it is up to us as citizens who care about fellow citizens and our country to continually be alert. To harness the powers of the internet to publicise incidents that concern the welfare of Singaporeans.

This is an ongoing process. There appears to be a reliance on and indeed an expectation for the government to willingly disclose all and sundry to us. Of course, in an ideal world, that would be wonderful but as we do not live in such perfection, such expectation is not realistic.

Why would a government who wishes to be re-elected and who is used to having absolute power be willing to disclose information that would be to its detriment?

We would be naive to expect that. After all, if governments could be relied upon to disclose scandalous information of their own blunders and cover ups, there would be no need for organisations like Amnesty International or websites like Wikileaks.

Governments covering up their mistakes are the norm the world over and certainly not unique to Singapore.

Moving on from the watershed May 2011 elections, we the citizens should therefore continue to keep the pressure on the government. We should continue to question and engage the various government agencies in meaningful dialogue. What we should not do, is sit back and expect information to be fed to us and then blame the government for not being accountable when something goes wrong.

It has been proven that if we put continuous pressure on the government in a methodical, logical and well researched way, they will eventually have to release the information we are entitled to have.

Case in point being PUB. With sustained pressure on them, they have finally released vital information with regards to the amount of rainfall in Orchard Road. In the past, the government has been able to suppress the leakage of information but with the advent of the internet, this is becoming more difficult.

We should therefore seize this opportunity and use our initiative!

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