As TOC’s contributor, Augustine Low accurately observes, some Singaporeans are very uncomfortable with their fellow citizens criticising the government.
A common refrain used to slap down people who call the government to task over issues (apart from those already stated by Low) is “Do you have a better solution”? It is as if one needs to have a solution before one has a right to have an opinion?
How does that make sense?
I think many critics of those who opine on the government may be confused between legitimate criticism and nonconstructive complaints.
Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an example, many people have taken the government to task for having dropped the ball in relation to the spread of the infection within the dormitories.
Just because the government is now working hard to contain it does not mean that it did not drop the ball earlier. It is not mutually exclusive. If someone points out that the government had dropped the ball earlier does not equate to the government not currently working hard.
We need to point out mistakes and remind the government of its mistakes in order to keep it accountable.
After all, it is not as if the government has hitherto apologised for its inaction in February in relation to the migrant worker infection? Reminders do not make us ungrateful.
In Singapore, we do not have strong opposition representation in government or a robust press to do keep the government accountable. As such, we the citizens need to fulfil that role until such a time when we do have greater opposition representation and a more robust press. The government is neither my family nor my friend. We have a professional relationship. They are paid to do a job. They are well remunerated for their hard work and as such, we reserve the right to remind them that they have dropped the ball when they have. In fact, we should keep reminding them until there is redress.
Some citizens also seem to have conflated asking a question with criticism.
Let’s take an inquiry panel convened to investigate a particular incident as an example. The panel will ask questions as part of the investigation process. Yet, are all members of the investigation panel subject matter experts?
No, they are not but yet they ask questions because it is only when questions are asked that answers can be obtained. Questions are therefore an important and integral part of the thought and improvement process in its own right. In other words, you do not have to have the answer before you have the right to speak up.
Those who criticise fellow citizens for asking questions may want to reflect before reacting. A question is not a criticism and a reminder is not ungrateful.