Every time I read about how a Member of Parliament (MP) or a minister has attempted to engage with citizens through social media, I am filled with hope. Hope that there will be a meaningful exchange of opinions which will facilitate change. Each time however, my hopes are always invariably dashed for every time an MP or minister replies, it is always needlessly defensive and self righteous. Lim Biow Chuan's (Lim) reply to Facebook (FB) user Gary Ho (Gary) is disappointingly no different.
Gary had taken to FB to lament the decline of The Old Airport Road hawker centre (Old Airport Road) which has recently been taken over my NTUC Foodfare. Among other things, Gary had mentioned the opinions of hawkers that he had spoken to. It is noteworthy to point out that Old Airport Road had been in the press lately for having had its dish washing fees increased by 40 per cent. after NTUC Foodfare took over. Lim defended this by saying that he had organised one dialogue session and no one had raised any concerns. Sorry but what kind of weak defense is this? You organised one dialogue session for hawkers who have been there for yonks and you consider your duty done? I actually laughed!
Hawkers are not politicians accustomed to sitting around at meetings to discuss things endlessly. They are working men or women whose trust you need to earn before you get the truth! If Lim is sincere in doing his bit, he needs to be more present. Not just organise ad hoc meetings where people are too uncomfortable to talk. Does he even understand his target audience? I literally gasped in exasperation when I read his rebuttal.
Lim then asserts that he did not insist that hawkers have to work super longer hours. While I appreciate that he did not actually say that hawkers must work longer hours, the fact that you have unwittingly permitted the increase in their operational costs would mean that they have to work longer hours to make up the shortfall right? Isn't that common sense? DUH.
Then there is the final self righteous statement of "My parents were hawkers and I know how hard they work." Sorry but this isn't about you Mr Lim so please don't make it about you. This is about the plight of the hawkers and their concerns. Whether or not your parents were hawkers in the past is, with all due respect Sir, not relevant. That's the thing about many of our politicians. They can't just make unreserved apologies or just listen. Nor can they, it would seem accept constructive feedback. As a start, please try and remember, when citizens voice their concerns, it is about their concerns - it has nothing to do with you or what your family did. In short, it is about them, NOT YOU.