Sunday, March 05, 2017

Involving the State - First or Last Resort?

Recently, quite a bit of a stir was caused by the uploading and circulation via Facebook of a video recording which showed an imam allegedly making religiously inflammatory remarks while giving a sermon at a local mosque. Responding to this incident, Minister for Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said in Parliament that a police report had been lodged and investigations were ongoing. Separately, the Minister also commented via his Facebook page that the individual who have uploaded the video in question should have reported to the police, instead of circulating the video via social media. The circulation of the video could lead to a groundswell of emotions and increased tensions. This view was echoed by Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-charge for Muslim Affairs and Minister for Communications and Information, who said that for "such sensitive matters, it would be better to go to the authorities in the first instance".

Although I agree that it would have been wiser for the video in question to not have been circulated online, I am sceptical with regards to whether the first and best remedy was to involve the authorities. While involving the authorities would be an effective way to resolve the matter, I think it would have been wiser and better in the long run if involving the authorities was the last resort, rather than the first resort, in such matters. I am keenly aware of the concern that if such matters are not quickly referred to the authorities, they could quickly spiral out of control and potentially cause significant harm. However, if state involvement persist as the first and only method we can think of employing to resolve such matters, I worry whether this could impede our growth as a nation and stunt the maturing of our civil society. Just imagine, if a child always turn to his or her parents to solve his or her problems, how would the child ever learn to solve problems by him/herself?

Perhaps it would have been better if the "whistleblower" in this case had spoke to the imam to express his disagreement/disapproval and attempted to resolve the matter face-to-face on an individual basis. If that did not work, he then could have refer the matter to the mosque authorities and so on. In sum, there were perhaps many other ways the matter could be amicably resolved before resorting to involving the authorities.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

NUS Orientation Activities Suspended, Now What?

Firstly, a disclaimer: I am a NUS graduate and I have not participated in any NUS orientation activities, be it as a freshman or organiser.

So what do I think about the recent reports of improper orientation activities in NUS which led to NUS deciding to suspend "all student-organised freshmen activities" with immediate effect?

Well, while I was in NUS, I did not hear of any complaints against orientation activities from my friends and acquaintances. I do know of friends who have went for orientation and have fond memories of it. But admittedly my circle of friends and acquaintances in NUS was not the most representative or widest.

Some have criticised the media for sensationalising the issue and playing up rare isolated incidents as widespread and representative of all orientation activities. Some have also expressed disappointment with how the relevant authorities have handled the issue as the authorities' actions, including the decision to suspend orientation activities, are perceived as evident attempts to cover a certain part of their anatomy.

Perhaps it is true the media has sensationalised the issue. And maybe the authorities' actions are indeed knee-jerk in nature. However, with media and public attention (not to mention the strong statement by a person of authority on his Facebook page) so focused on the issue, I suppose the authorities had to quickly act to pacify concern and unhappiness from different parties.

However, I hope with this suspension (which will be temporary, I hope) of orientation activities, the authorities would have the necessary time and room to conduct a full, proper and thorough investigation into whether all the claims/allegations of improper activities are indeed true, whether they were isolated incidents and determine culpability. Perhaps they can start by calling for students who have went through orientation to come forward to provide their feedback, positive or negative, about orientation (instead of depending on complaints and feedback made anonymously or indirectly through the media and social media). And hopefully, once the investigation is done, the authorities would come out to announce their findings and follow-up actions.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Response to "Leaving Our Internal Security Back Door Wide Open"

Earlier this week, I came across a post, written by Dr. Chee Soon Juan, which argued that the sizable presence of foreigners, particularly those who are working here, in Singapore is a potential security risk. He also argued that one way to mitigate this risk is to effect better screening of foreigners before they are allowed to work here in Singapore.

While I can somewhat agree that the influx of foreigners into Singapore has resulted in social tensions which need to be better managed, I cannot help but find Dr. Chee's suggestion of putting in place better screening of foreigners simplistic and wrong-headed (and perhaps somewhat "Trump-ish").

Dr. Chee argues that Singapore needs to "do a better job at screening those who wish to come into Singapore to work". But what exactly does he mean by "better job at screening"? That the authorities require every foreigner (expatriates, domestic helpers, labourers and et cetera) wishing to work in Singapore to complete security clearance forms and be thoroughly vetted before they are allowed to work in Singapore? The amount of effort, time and resources necessary would be tremendous, I would imagine. And the amount of effort, time and resources expended would likely only marginally improve our security situation. Better that the effort, time and resources be expended on initiatives of greater efficacy.

Dr. Chee cites the possibility of nationalistic Chinese nationals causing trouble within Singapore. So are we to reject foreigners who express nationalistic sentiments? How are the authorities supposed to screen for nationalistic sentiments?

Dr. Chee also cites again the example of radicalised Bangladeshi foreign workers who were recently arrested in Singapore. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe most of these Bangladeshis were radicalised after they arrived in Singapore and not before. So how would pre-emptive screening have helped? And I suppose the authorities would already have a list of dangerous individuals who are denied entry into Singapore.

It also seems strange to me that while many have criticised Denise Phua's reference to foreign workers as "walking time-bombs", not many appear to object to Dr. Chee's reference to foreign workers as a potential security risk.

In the end, while Dr. Chee's argument might be appealing on the surface, it is simplistic and erroneous in my opinion. He may dispel counter-arguments as straw man arguments but it is because his position is unclear and lacking in details that straw men are easily constructed out of it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Quick Response To The NLB Book Pulping Incident

"First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience."

-- J.S. Mill, "On Liberty"

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"Being rich is not about how much we have, but how much we give"

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Put Your Phone On Friend Mode

Friday, October 25, 2013

"'Intellectual inoculation’ the best defence"

"'Intellectual inoculation’ the best defence": "It is time Singaporeans stopped looking to systems to safeguard children. Such overreliance on the state spells trouble. If a child were to go to a country without such checks, the affinity for the virtual world may take over. In the war of minds, every young mind needs to be educated to erect its own barriers. This is primarily the responsibility of the family. The state can only do so much."

Other related similar articles/posts:

1. "Why censor when you can regulate?"

2. "In response to a parent's plea for censorship"

Anti-poverty groups in Singapore: One too many or the more the merrier?

For those who did not know yet, Caritas Singapore, "the official social and community arm of the Catholic Church in Singapore", had launched "Singaporeans Against Poverty", a social project "to raise awareness about the poor in Singapore".

Although I am somewhat concerned that this new initiative may end up duplicating the efforts (or worse, eat away at the existing resource pool) of other anti-poverty groups in Singapore such as One Singapore and World Vision, it will hopefully be a case of the more the merrier with regards to fighting poverty in Singapore.

Hopefully, all these different groups would coalesce together into an anti-poverty alliance - pooling together resources (instead of competing with one another for them) and leverage upon one another's efforts & expertise. After all, although there may be differences in their philosophies and approaches, the common goal of these groups is to fight poverty; this commonality should over-ride any differences.

"387,000 low-income Singaporeans would gladly swap their problems with yours because they can barely afford a roof over their heads."
Other similar videos here.

"I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil." -- Robert F. Kennedy