On 14 July, Lim Jialiang, beer distributor and former chocolatier, took to Twitter to point out how a civil servant has been attacking the Workers’ Party (WP) MP-elect for Sengkang GRC Jamus Lim over a post he made on Facebook on the same day in which he defended his party’s minimum wage policy presented in their manifesto.
Even when Pritam becomes leader and resources from Civil Service are seconded to him, they still have to overcome the bias and hostility from within the service. See below, who’s currently all over Jamus’ recent post on min wage. I’ll bet he’ll never take this tone with a PAP MP. pic.twitter.com/RqWtxl9WKr
— Lim Jialiang (@lim_jialiang) July 14, 2020
Lim, whose opinion is often cited by local news, said, “Even when Pritam becomes leader and resources from Civil Service are seconded to him, they still have to overcome the bias and hostility from within the service.”
The tweet included several screenshots of the comments left by on Hu Ching in which he questioned the MP-elect’s proposal for being presented without any “concrete evidence” and said, “if bad policies are implemented, we will all pay for a very costly lesson with out jobs and our families’ future”.
Mr Lim who tweeted the screenshots said, “See below, who’s currently all over Jamus’ recent post on min wage. I’ll bet he’ll never take this tone with a PAP MP.”
A follow up tweet also included a screenshot of Mr Hu’s LinkedIn profile showing that he works with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). The linked in profile has since been removed, but his title there was listed as “manager (policy)”.
MSF please come and collect your 2009 OMS scholar thx. pic.twitter.com/r3mc8yu0jE
— Lim Jialiang (@lim_jialiang) July 14, 2020
A couple of days later, Mr Lim followed up his Twitter thread with a longer post on his Facebook page detailing how he noticed Mr Hu’s comments on the MP-elect’s post and what he found about the civil servant.
Mr Lim noted, “There were also statements from Hu Ching that suggested that he was involved in policymaking and that he found Jamus’ proposal of a minimum wage un-viable in Singapore (without really providing any supporting evidence).”
Explaining that he “keeps tabs” on a group of PAP supporters called “Silent No More”, Mr Lim said they “resolved to AstroTurf whenever policy was discussed by any WP member” following a perceived loss of popular support after the general election.
Mr Lim said a little research on Mr Hu turned up that he was a civil servant, noting that “There are very strict codes of conduct about talking about politics on social media, much less trolling an MP-elect.”
He said about his earlier Twitter thread, “I put it up on twitter, noting how Civil Service hostility will invariably play to the disadvantage of the WP when Pritam assumes the role as leader of the opposition.”
Mr Lim then went on to make several “observations” about the incident with Mr Hu, starting with his opinion that civil servants should be allowed to comment about politics on social media and be play the role of private citizen. However, he added that this is made difficult due to the “asymmetry of power as well as the complete ideological capture of the PAP’s fiscally conservative, neoliberal slant towards policymaking in the civil service.”
This asymmetry, said Mr Lim, is complicated by the fact that “the opposition parties in Singapore don’t have access to meaningful data to make good alternative policy.”
“Seeing that Hu Ching is in a position of influence in the Civil Service, his private trolling of Jamus certainly didn’t bode well to access of information, and suggested to me that obstructionism would be the name of the game,” added the netizen.
He then suggested that this should be internally reviewed, stating that “Echo chambers are very salient, so calm hearts and clear minds need to be first and foremost to repair a frankly ossified and toxic method of engagement.”
Mr Lim went on to say that he feels it is “extremely justified” to put Mr Hu under the spotlight in this way as this sort of trolling behaviour, especially from a policy manager, “should be nipped in the bud”.
“Hiding behind relative anonymity, in a sea of comments, will only embolden behaviour like this,” he emphasised.
Following all this, Mr Lim also said that Mr Hu had attempted to reach out to him via various platforms such as on Facebook and by calling his phone to say that he “realised his error” and asked for the screenshots to be taken down.
Mr Lim said he largely ignored the messages and hung up the call after a few minutes, resorting to blocking the other man on WhatsApp.
Mr Lim said, “Never once in any of the three communications that he had made discussed an apology to Jamus, or made any attempt at restitution. They were all, quite frankly, an attempt to save his own skin.”
“When people are in power, hiding in relative anonymity, they have the derring-do to make toxic comments, to poison the well of public discourse, and to snipe at people from relative safety. “
“It is no surprise to me that they would want to seek a private solution and appealing to people emotionally.”
Mr Lim says he has no doubt that Mr Hu’s comments will be “flagged for internal review” and suggested that he wanted to wipe all traces of it from the internet for fear that it would leave a “black mark on his service record”.
Addressing Mr Hu directly, Mr Lim said, “Hu Ching, you’ve made your bed, so sleep in it. If you want to troll, own it. Apologise for your behaviour, let people see your foolishness, and make genuine amends. That’s the best way to make internet controversy go away.”
Mr Lim concluded his post by appealing for more “boldness and ideological diversity”, noting his hope that civil servants would be “more receptive to ideas from a different ideological spectrum.”