Last week, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing conducted a closed-door meeting with a group of business leaders organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI).
In the meeting, he addressed a number of issues including people’s behaviour of panic buying and hoarding essential items in Singapore. He noted that this behaviour “has long term implications” on the country’s international standing.
Mr Chan was referring to incident of Singaporeans clearing out supermarket shelves as they stock up on rice, instant noodles, hand sanitisers and more after the country’s Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level was raised to orange as the coronavirus outbreak continued to escalate.
Describing the entire thing as “xia suay” or “disgraceful”, Mr Chan said, “We embarrass ourselves, disgraceful, we disgrace ourselves.”
Mr Chan added that he was “ashamed” at the behaviour of some Singaporeans who were stocking up on so-called essential items in fear that the country would run out due to supply chains being affected by the global outbreak.
Mr Chan then referred to the videos and photos circulating online showing people buying food and things like wet wipes in bulk, resulting to empty shelves at various stores.
He went on to say that he was reaching the limit of his patience, “cannot tahan”, and wanted to “scold people” for their behaviour.
He also noted his incredulity of Singaporeans panic buying not only food but also things like toilet paper.
He lamented, “No paper, water also can. So why do we behave so idiotically?”
He also went on to also complain about “selfish idiots” who bought up alcohol swabs and use them to “clean tables”. Mr Chan emphasised that alcohol swabs are for medical purposes, like for a diabetic person to use to clean their skin before checking their blood sugar level or injecting insulin.
Mr Chan then narrowed in on how the behaviour of Singaporeans during this time could affect the country’s standing on a global level.
He added when the society starts to panic, suppliers will use that opportunity to raise prices.
He said, “Already got people trying to raise the price. Then you all behave like idiots, the foreign supplier lagi raise their price.”
Mr Chan reiterated, “So some of us, just a small group behaving like idiots will kill all of us. It will kill our current price negotiation strategy, it will kill our future business opportunity.”
The minister went on, “Every country can behave like idiots, Singaporeans must not behave like idiots. Then we behave properly, then we show the world how different we can be. Then people will have confidence.”
Mr Chan then warned his audience, “If we continue to behave like that, the virus won’t kill us. Our own behaviour will kill ourselves.”
Upon reading Mr Chan’s remarks on the public’s behaviour, many netizens expressed their anger on the choice of words he used at the meeting.
Penning their thoughts on the Facebook page of TOC, they said that they are ashamed of him for making such a speech as it was the people who voted for him.
Calling Mr Chan “xia suay” himself, some said that he has “zero tact” as only in Singapore that a politician can say such things and get away with it, adding that he lacks “decency”.
Min Zheng called the Minister “rude and crude in how he dissed Singaporeans for many things from wanting masks to sanitisers”. As such, the online user said that Mr Chan came across as someone who is “militant, impatient, arrogant and lacking in empathy”. Although the Facebook user agrees that it’s not right for people to stockpile items, but Mr Chan should have addressed the issues “calmly and with some empathy” given that he is a senior minister.
“How could he as a Minister talk about our people in such a patronising manner and with an audience at an official meeting?” the netizen asked.
A bunch of online users also pointed out that people started stockpiling items because they have “lost confidence in the government” as they tend to contradict their words.
As an example, netizens explained that the government had previously said that there’s no use of panic buying as there are enough masks in the country for the people, but Mr Chan is now saying that the amount of masks is insufficient.
A small number of online users also mocked Mr Chan for his poor grasp of the English language. They said that it’s fine to speak in such a way to friends and family, but “as a leader this is utterly unacceptable”.
Jeremiah Tay suggested that Mr Chan should get his “script writers to prepare the scripts” when he speaks in public the next time.