As criticism of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic grows louder, they get more flustered.
They resort to name-calling – smart aleck, backseat driver, keyboard warrior, trash talker, disloyal, ungrateful.
Simply put, we as citizens of the country are told by some other citizens of the country that we have no right to criticise a government that’s working so hard in a crisis.
That stance and attitude smacks of hypocrisy.
In a crisis, we do not abdicate our right to hold the government to account. Especially when it’s so painfully obvious that the ball has been dropped (mildly speaking) or there has been a big mess-up (honestly speaking).
It is an inescapable fact that governments the world over come under intense scrutiny for their handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
In China, citizens and health experts have called for an overhaul of the system to save lives. The wave of criticism forced Chinese President Xi Jinping to acknowledge that the crisis is a “test of China’s governance system” and that the country needs to address “the weaknesses and shortcomings exposed by the virus.”
Remember, we are talking about a country with communist party rule.
Public criticism is rare in China but for this crisis, people summoned the courage to speak out and the almighty Chinese President hunkered down to acknowledge weaknesses and shortcomings.
And here in our democratic society, are we supposed to steer clear of criticising the government, even when it’s warranted?
Do not forget that the government jumped the gun in praising itself.
On 27 March, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared that the 4G leaders had “gained trust and rapport” with Singaporeans in their handling of the crisis.
Citing Lawrence Wong and Gan Kim Yong, the co-chairs of the multi-ministry task force, he said: “I think people have seen them and they have watched them respond. They have watched them answer questions, deal with emergency situations . . . I think they have gained experience and confidence.”
So it’s perfectly fine for the government to praise itself but when the situation took a drastic turn for the worse, we are to sit back and watch – no questions asked, no judgement passed?
To those who sneer at critics of the government for being disloyal, the message is: Get off your high horse. Do not confuse government with country. Loyalty to government is not patriotism, patriotism is loyalty to country.
The Turkish playwright, novelist and thinker Mehmet Murat ildan wisely said:
If your government keep making big mistakes and in return you keep supporting your government, then you are the biggest mistake for your country!