In a national broadcast yesterday (20 Jun), Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that the current COVID-19 pandemic has brought Singaporeans closer together.
“COVID-19 has sharpened our sense of purpose, and brought us closer together as a society,” said Heng.
Indeed, during the Singapore Circuit Breaker which lasted almost 2 months from 7 Apr to 2 Jun, most Singaporeans were forced to stay home due to control measures implemented by the government, as COVID-19 cases began to explode in Singapore.
On a per capita basis, Singapore now has the highest number of confirmed cases among the first world countries, according to data from Worldometers site (7,152 per million pop as at yesterday).
So, literally, Singaporeans were brought “closer” together, being holed up at home. In fact, due to the close proximity among family members, tension rose in some families. It was reported last month that family violence actually went up since circuit breaker measures kicked in, according to figures from Singapore police.
Heng: No one is left behind
In the broadcast, Heng said to ensure that no Singaporean is left behind, Singapore must strengthen its culture of solidarity.
“The circuit breaker has revealed vulnerabilities in our midst. Some of our seniors found it hard to use digital tools and services. So Minister Iswaran launched the Seniors Go Digital programme, working with community partners, to help our seniors bridge the digital divide,” he said.
And to reach out to those who cannot cope with new stresses, he added that the government will launch the National Care Hotline so as to provide emotional and psychological support to Singaporeans, “The Government will continue to support you fully, and mobilise Singaporeans to support one another. Ministers Grace, Indranee and Desmond will oversee these efforts.”
“No one will be left to walk alone. You will be cared for if you fall on hard times. You will be part of our society’s progress, no matter your starting point or circumstances,” he added.
Actually, the phrase “no one is left behind” has already been mentioned by PM Lee a number of times in the past. Back in 2015 at the National Day Rally just before 2015 GE, PM Lee also told everyone, “We will continue to make sure that no one is left behind. There is an African saying which says: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ For the last 50 years, we have gone together and we have gone far. That is what we must do for the next 50 years.”
And now, Heng, who is slated to take over as the new PM under the PAP government, is also making the same remark about not leaving anyone behind to walk alone.
Heng: We want to hear from you (again)
Heng then talked about wanting to have another “conversation” with Singaporeans.
“We want to hear how the crisis has impacted you, and how we can work together on your ideas to take Singapore forward,” he said. “So we have started a series of Emerging Stronger Conversations.”
He said that these new conversations will lead to action. He explained, “We will set up Singapore Together Action Networks – to bring together partners across different sectors, and turn ideas into new solutions. We have already begun forming these networks, such as the Youth Mental Well-being Network, UPLIFT and the SG Cares Community Care Network. We will form new partnerships around issues that you care about, and to make a difference through action.”
In any case, it’s not known how this “Emerging Stronger Conversations” will be any different from “Our Singapore Conversation (OSC)”, which was conducted in 2012-2013. It was launched in the wake of the landmark 2011 GE that saw the incumbent PAP garnering the lowest percentage votes in the history of Singapore.
According to an archived copy of its website oursgconversation.sg, OSC was meant to listen to Singaporeans’ views on issues and challenges Singapore faces. Heng was specially appointed to chair OSC to “converse” with Singaporeans.
Some 47,000 people were said to have participated in OSC. At the end of the “conversation”, Heng thanked everyone, “Your voice and ideas count. Your constructive spirit to make Singapore a better home for all Singaporeans is invigorating, and makes us more determined to work for a better future.”
Not surprisingly, OSC turned up many anxieties over bread-and-butter issues such as jobs, education, public housing, cost of living and so forth.
Today, a quick check on the same OSC website revealed that it has turned into some sort of “Aircon Servicing Promotion” site.