These are topsy turvy times.
Who would have thought that you could be hauled to prison for up to six months and/or fined up to $10,000 for queuing or sitting less than one metre away from another person.
And who would have imagined that while the law compels that you keep one metre apart, more than 2.6 million people could be made to vote en masse in a general election.
The virus might even have a say in Singapore’s leadership renewal.
This was the exchange in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, 29 March.
Fareed: Prime Minister, there are a lot of people in Singapore, who tell me that they wish you would stay on, your plan to leave office. You have elections, at some point (that) have to happen. Could this crisis make you decide to postpone that decision to leave politics?
PM Lee: I think this crisis keeps my hands full. Let us just focus on that for now.
PM Lee declined to give a straight answer to a straightforward question. All of a sudden, he was coy when previously he was categorical about stepping down before turning 70 (he’s now 68) for the sake of leadership renewal.
We have been led to believe that sometime after the next general election, Heng Swee Keat and the 4G team would take over the leadership of the country
Thanks to the virus, will we now see PM Lee staying longer in office?
We have to wonder when there is ever a right time for the 4G team to take over. The crisis could take a long time to play out. PM Lee himself predicted in the same interview with CNN that it would take several years for the coronavirus to run its course.
What the virus also shows us is that there is no such thing as a sure bet and an iron rice bowl. Remember, people used to say: At least I have a driving licence, worse come to worse, if I lose my job, I can drive a taxi. Sad to say, taxi drivers no longer make ends meet.
Even the once venerable Singapore Airlines is – horror of horrors – in need of a massive multi-billion dollar bailout.
The virus also opened our ears to what Singaporeans are thought of as – idiots for hoarding and panic buying.
The penalties for not keeping one metre apart are quite something else. Six months jail and/or a $10,000 fine! No wonder international media went to town with it, CNN calling the penalties “draconian.”
Singaporeans are once again made to look like the kind of people (idiots?) who can only be trusted to follow rules and guidelines under threat of “draconian” penalties.
There’s going to be a lot more that the virus will let out. Stay humble and stay tuned.