Government has changed how it engages Singaporea​ns, says PM Lee

Dear PM Lee,

I refer to the 4 Apr 2012 Channel News Asia online report “Government has changed how it engages Singaporeans, says PM Lee”.

No amount of engagement can substitute for substance in the government’s answer to the people. Engagement through false arguments, wrong facts or half truths only works for idiots. Dr Balakrishnan’s blaming of Orchard Road flooding on increased rainfall is one such example. Despite engaging an expert panel, the outcome has been the same old selective use of data to distort the truth.

The Bukit Brown saga is another good example where the government was merely patronising rather than engaging the public. Postponing the joint request by seven organisations for a discussion on Bukit Brown till after the government has announced the final plan [1] and then calling a meeting to explain that decision is not engagement. The various interest groups in the Bukit Brown saga do not need more of the same explanations from the government that neither addresses their concerns nor considers their superior arguments [2] such as:

– no point improving traffic flow from one congested area to another

– inadequacy of roads linked to Lornie Road including Farrer Road – Bukit Timah junction, slip roads from Lornie Road into PIE, Whitley Road, Bukit Timah Road

– traffic light serving cars leaving Singapore Island Country Club slows down traffic

The third point was also raised by a Straits Times reader [3] who gave other excellent suggestions. The perception seems to be that superior considerations have been brushed aside and that the government has once again bulldozed its decision through.

Some policy changes coincided with changes in election outcomes. It illustrates where the electorate’s chief responsibility and contribution lies in: driving policy change through the vote. Singaporeans contribute most towards the success of the nation by actively engaging in policy debates. We help make things right for Singapore by pointing out all that is wrong with your policies.

Toh Yi’s ‘not in my backyard’ saga is the result of the government’s tying of asset enhancement to voting outcomes. Toh Yi’s residents voted for the PAP. They deserve to have their assets enhanced, not diminished through the siting of studio apartments there. This is no more self-centred than it is a transaction between the government and them. Also, unless you lead by example by offering your own backyard to selfless causes, you have no moral high ground to criticise Toh Yi.

Everything “No” is no worse than everything “Yes”. Is Singapore a whole lot better because of the casinos? How much of the casinos’ takings come from Singaporeans’ pockets? How many jobs actually went to Singaporeans? How much of what the casinos make goes back to Singaporeans?

[1] Statement to the Ministry of National Development issued by the Community for Bukit Brown on March 19, 2012, http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=2530

[2] Bukit Brown at a Crossroad, Goh Si Guim, Nature Society of Singapore, http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=2617

[3] Straits Times forum, 29 Mar 2012, “Cheaper way to solve congestion in Adam, Lornie roads”, Lee Chiu San

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