Govt should not respond to only views it can control

The Voices Editor
TODAY newspaper

Dear Editor,

I refer to P N Balji’s commentary, “Why obsess about Govt response?” (TODAY, Jan 12).

Mr Balji suggested that I have a “fascination” and an “obsession” with government attention, when I argued that the Government should respond to online postings. He has misunderstood my comments.

This is what I wrote on The Online Citizen, where he had extracted my comments from:

The Government said that “it is not practical or feasible to respond to all blogs or forum postings”. No one is expecting the Government to respond to all blogs. But this should not prevent them from responding to some blogs, particularly those of serious socio-political bloggers who make cogent and rational suggestions in their posts.

It may be true that “not all bloggers welcomed the Government’s voice on their private blogs”, but there are some that do welcome a response.

I sense that the Government’s fear is that responding to a blog that is critical of the Government will lend the blog credibility, when it is more interested in discrediting opposing voices. Another fear is that a response will generate even more opposing views, which the Government may not have a response to. This may make the Government look bad.

My main point was that the Government should engage in debate about public policies not only on their own platforms, but also on other platforms where the discussion is ongoing. This was also the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS), which the Government rejected.

The Government should not only respond to views that it has control over, like those in the mainstream media and on their own feedback portal.

Furthermore, it makes sense to respond on the platform where the original comment was made in order to reach the right audience. Mr Balji’s article in TODAY about my online commentary is a case in point. He should have instead written his piece for The Online Citizen to put forward his views to bloggers, rather than to mainstream media readers.

I agree with Mr Balji that bloggers should not wait for the Government’s stamp of approval before making policy suggestions on their blogs. Most bloggers are already doing that. In fact some have taken it a step further. For example, The Online Citizen organised a talk at Speakers’ Corner last September to highlight our proposals to the Ministry of Transport for improving Singapore’s public transport system. (We have yet to receive the Ministry’s response.)

Gerald Giam

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

4 thoughts on “Govt should not respond to only views it can control”

  1. Hey Gerald,

    I was at first surprised with what Balji said but then, after reading the whole article, I realised he may have been sarcastic and his sarcasm was directed at the govt. :)


  2. I agree with your view that the government should respond to views on other platforms like your blog as this is a platform most youths are most comfortable with.

    Talking about which the government has been trying so hard recently to engage young people to take stewardship of Singapore, i think their approach of creating their own forums like eg, Youth Vibes is still no as effective as it doesn’t target the masses.

    Suck an engagement with youths cannot be developed top down, but instead, bottom up.

    For eg, mindful netizens like us would naturally cluster together in sincere and vocal forums to discuss about government policies because we are genuinely interested in it.

    Such forums, knowing the power of the internet ; easily expands, attract and spread influence around.

    This than is the best solution to engage the so called “apathetic” youths of the Y generation.

    About why hasn’t the government taken this step … well, here’s my take at this issue
    : Maybe some vintage leaders still fail to see the power of Web 2.0 and its connectivity =)

    I’m sure the government has enough resources and time to respond, its just a matter of whether they want it or not.

    Choosing either shows their sincerity and humidity to serve =)

    Ying Quan

  3. Reach serves the govt’s purposes very well. The way I see it, it’s objectives are two-fold: One, to give complaining citizens an outlet to vent; Two, to give the govt a channel to explain why their policies are right and your suggestions are unworkable.

    You know what’s the main problem with Reach? It makes people think that someone is actually reading and acting on their feedback. Yes someone is reading — they are mostly junior civil servants working at MCYS. Yes, someone is acting on it — those same civil servants act as postboxes to forward the feedback to the various ministries’ corporate comms department for them to reply.

    At the end of the whole charade, they can say that they received X number of emails and Y number of SMSes, and that shows that citizens are engaged.

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