By Ravi Philemon
I sent the following letter to The Straits Times Forum page on Saturday, 21 July 2013, and it is written in response to Mr Peer M. Akbur, Director, Corporate Relations, Ministry of Communications & Information (MCI_, titled ‘Blogger’s ‘explanations’ are astonishing’ (link) .
To date, the newspaper has not published my reply to the MCI’s Director of Corporate Relations. In the polemic arguments about if I had reposted a friend’s post on Facebook verbatim, or if I had falsely reported, regarding the availability of N95 masks on Friday, 21 June 2013, I have so far only presented facts. My responses are here: “Yaacob, in a crisis isn’t it good to engage the blogging community?, “Response to Minister for Communications & Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, mentioning me twice in parliament and his subsequent posting about me on his facebook“, and “‘Seeking clarifications’ online: Blogger replies”
I wonder why Mr Peer is puzzled by my explanations? I also wonder why my putting forth of facts to bring more clarity on the topic has been dismissed by MCI’s Director as trying to explain my deeds away. I feel compelled to respond to Mr Peer’s letter to the Straits Times Forum page in a measured and appropriate manner to ensure that his serious charges against me do not remain unrebutted.
Unpublished Letter to ST Forum
I am puzzled why Mr Peer M. Akbur in replying for the Ministry of Communications & Information in his letter, ‘Blogger’s ‘explanations’ are astonishing’, would infer meanings to my repost on the availability of the N95 masks during the haze crisis.
The facts are, I quoted my Facebook friend verbatim. My Facebook friend, the originator of the post, has now come forth to say that his post is “an actual word for word recount of a conversation (his) dad had with a medical supplier in an area where (he lived)”, and that his doubts arose because of “the mismatch between the government announcement on Thursday, 20 June 2013 and the actual situation on the ground throughout Friday, 21 June 2013”.
At the height of the haze crisis, when the N95 masks were unavailable in many retail pharmacy chains as promised by the Government the day before, my friend was not the only one questioning the availability of the masks.
For example STOMP, a website owned by the Singapore Press Holdings with 1 million unique audiences and 71 million page views, posted an article on 21 June 2013 reporting some people’s expression of similar sentiments. It is a sentiment which was expressed by other people online, as anecdotal evidence showed.
Contrary to Mr Peer’s suggestion that I was trying to explain away my post, I had readily accepted that I reposted that comment of my friend’s with his permission on my Facebook.
I used Facebook because that’s what people use Facebook for; for sharing (and re-sharing) personal experiences (frustrations included); not primarily to make assertions.
I appreciate that the Ministry has now clarified why N95 masks were not available in many pharmacies throughout 21 June 2013. I am also glad that more N95 masks were pushed out to retail outlets for public sale and that one million masks were distributed to some 200,000 needy households after 21 June 2013.
It is however unfortunate that in this clarification, citizens were singled out as “rumour mongers”.