Mixed signals from PAP: Tharman says fight diabetes while Yong gives free chocolates

At an international Ministerial Conference on Diabetes in Nov last year, the Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that war on diabetes has to be waged on multiple fronts (‘Diabetes must be fought on multiple fronts: Tharman‘, 27 Nov 2018).

He said that employers, citizens and the whole of government need to chip in to fight a condition that not only compromised an individual’s quality of life, but was also a huge drain on national resources.

“It has been estimated that the global annual healthcare expenditure on diabetes was over US$700 billion (S$961 billion) in 2017,” said Tharman. Today, almost half a million of Singaporeans are already living with the disease.

The only way to keep the disease at bay is to change mindsets across the board, with a sustained effort at putting out information on the health risks of diabetes, said Tharman.

“The pleasures of a slice of chocolate cake are immediate, while the costs to health are hidden and set in much later, but with potentially severe consequences,” he said. Parents could also play a critical part in teaching children to eat healthy, he added.

At the conference, World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said that the essential first step in fighting diabetes is “prevention, prevention, prevention”.

Tharman said that the effort to fight diabetes could not be confined to health ministries. “The levers or influences that governments have go well beyond the healthcare sector,” he said.

That is why, in Singapore, the food and beverage sector had been persuaded to switch to healthier ingredients, with almost half the hawker stalls offering at least one healthier option last year. More water dispensers were also being installed at hawker centres to encourage people to drink plain water instead of sugary drinks.

It has also been reported that Singapore is currently examining the idea of implementing a sugar tax in Singapore.

Minister says one thing, MP does another

While the ruling PAP government is telling Singaporeans through Minister Tharman that diabetes must be fought on multiple fronts with mindset changes across the board, PAP MP Melvin Yong was dishing out free chocolate bars to many elderly residents at the Pek Kio market yesterday (16 Jun) in “celebration” of Father’s Day.

Yong’s “generosity” came to light when residents mistakenly saw the expiry date on some of the chocolate bars. Photos of the said bars quickly spread online.

Yong then took to the social media in the evening accusing people of spreading falsehoods in social media. He noted that the claim was untrue as the date shown on the packaging clearly shows that the chocolate bars only expire in 2020 instead of the alleged 2011 date.

“It has come to my attention that someone has deliberately circulated a falsehood following our Father’s Day walkabout this morning,” Yong said. “The social media post and Whatsapp message falsely allege that the chocolate given out by our PAP activists at Pek Kio Market had expired in January 2011.”

“The photo that accompanied the false claim clearly shows that the expiry date on the chocolate wrapper is 9 January 2020. The wrapper also indicates that the format for the BEST BEFORE date is ‘DD/MM/YY’ (e.g. 09/01/20),” he added.

However, what is interesting is that on the chocolate bar wrappers, a PAP logo with his name was pasted on it, sending the message that the free chocolate bars actually come from Singapore’s ruling party, the PAP.

It then begs the question if eating chocolates is the new way of fighting diabetes by the PAP government.

Perhaps MP Yong was thinking that the “pleasures” of a chocolate bar are immediate but with no costs to health nor consequences?

Note that many residents living in Pek Kio are elderly.