Friday, October 13, 2006

From "Feedback Unit" to "Reach" : Just more Spin?

1. Feedback unit to be renamed REACH

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Feedback Unit, which has turned 21 this year, will be revamped and renamed.
Its new name will be REACH, or Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home.
Announcing this at the feedback unit's 21st anniversary celebrations, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the revamp is aimed at raising the level of public engagement, promote active citizenry, and create more avenues for Singaporeans to involve themselves in the issues that affect their lives.
Mr Lee stressed the government wants to encourage more people to care about issues, take them up, and shape the character and life of Singapore society. (Read article...)

2. Singaporeans support government's proactive approach to get feedback

SINGAPORE: The government has revamped a feedback group to get more young Singaporeans interested in national policies. Many think it is commendable that the government is taking proactive steps to get feedback.

Political analysts feel that the revamp of the Feedback Unit -- now called REACH -- is aimed at involving young Singaporeans in policy making.

As it is often assumed that young Singaporeans are rarely interested in national policies, the government is attempting to change that perception by tapping on the latest communication gadgets to reach out to them.

This move has got some young citizens interested. One of those interviewed said: "It will help, maybe improve and understand the government's stance and the government will in turn understand the residents' and citizens' stance."

Another said: "Everybody is shifting into the internet era and more people are learning how to write and give their ideas. I think it is a very good move." (Read article..)

My Comments:

Dear friends,

The revamping and renaming of Singapore's Feedback Unit as REACH (Reaching Everyone for Active Citizenry @ Home) is yet another attempt by the government to reinvent itself. It is keen to show that it wants to engage the citizenry by being responsive to the ground.

However, to prove that this change is not just cosmetic takes more than just a name-change. There are spin-jobs and there are spin-jobs and we need evidence that this is not just one more.

Skeptics are concerned that sincere feedback’s are not just relayed to respective government organs who then reverberate back to the population after sugar-coating by the government dominated MSM ( main-stream media).

Municipal matters and complaints against public institutions (hospitals/schools) are attended to expeditiously ( as expected) but issues relating to certain “sacred cows” -which contrary to previous pronouncements still exist- almost never get the public airing they deserve.

These “cows” include issues like:

1. “astronomical" ministers’ salaries,

2. use of Group representative constituencies (GRC) to usher novice PAP MP’s in on ministers’ coat-tails,

3. voter intimidation (or seduction if you like) with “upgrading for votes” platform and some other sensitive issues( which if stated in the public domain may attract lawyers’ letters),

all put a dent on the government’s claim that it is serious about engaging the citizens, esply the young.

Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for what the PAP has already achieved for us ie safety, efficiency, meritocracy etc.

I can write dozens of essays of what we have done right ( and I will one day), but that will not prod us forward towards a better Singapore. In fact boasting about our achievements will only lull us to complacency. So I will just leave that task to others who make more convincing sycophants.

What then should be done?

In my humble opinion, only when the the omnipotent PAP admits to having sacred cows and then retreat from power (see previous post) will we then have the chance of attaining the just and humane society that all of us can be proud of. They must recognise that Singaporeans,esply the young want the government to loosen the grip on all aspects of society, including in the political sphere.

Economic prosperity and social justice need not be mutually exclusive.

Only then will active citizenry be a reality, not just a distant hope.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan


Wolfgang said...

Your whole article is so right and true and I find this statement especially true.

"I can write dozens of essays of what we have done right ( and I will one day), but that will not prod us forward towards a better Singapore. In fact boasting about our achievements will only lull us to complacency. So I will just leave that task to others who make more convincing sycophants."

The joke about it is that a lot of "PRO-PAP" people are just pro for being pro. They look at the fact that they have done a good job and will continue to do so, but they do tend to forget that the world has change, Sg has changed but the gahmen hasn't (lip service doesn't count). Any society that doesn't change is destined for destruction. History has shown this to us, why can't we ever learn from it?

Anonymous said...

Was it a brand of toothbrush or toothpaste?!

Most singaporeans are beyond reach already ... their hearts are elsewhere!

REACH said...

Dear Dr Huang,

I refer to your comments regarding the 'slaugtering of the secred cows'. We believe that the current systems as highlighted by you is necessary for the success of Singapore. And it is also important that all Singaporeans support the current system. As the saying go "If its ain't broken don't fix it".

However, we have noted your concerned and would like to thank you for your feedback.

Feel free to REACH us again!

Yours Truely,

REACH the newly revamped Feedback Unit

nofearSingapore said...

Hi all:

Wolfgang: We need people who dare to change. I am not advocating changing for its own sake but there is much more to improve.

anonymous: ya, and as things stand, more will be destined for other shores! What is there that make us feel that this Sg is our land, it is worth fighting for and (yes) dying for. ( sorry so drama)

REACH:You really impress me! And I did not even send any feedback to REACH ( yet!) Well, we support Singapore. This is our land, but that is different from saying that we support a system where goal-posts are shifted and rules of the game are changed to suit the incumbent party.Yes all of us will be watching if REACH can succeed where Sg Feedback Unit has failed!

Anonymous said...

To Dr H.: Thank you for so highlighting so accurately 3 of the numerious sacred cows!

To anonymous: Yup, count me in! I am asking friends along as well... seems like we can form a group leh!

Charissa said...

Hello Dr Huang!

I share the same sentiments as you. ANother point I would like to add is that these sacred cows actually reduce the checks and balances in the political system. As such, it becomes more easy for a power hungry politican to consolidate their power and establish a dictatorship in teh future. Thus I do feel that there is a need to remove such sacred cows and create better checks and balances too!

Unfortunately, i do realised that the young are not as "radical" as PAP claims to think. Also, I doubt that are that the majority want the PAP to loosen their grip. I say this because I do have many friends who are politically apathetic. In fact there are many who are more bothered about their own lives. Sad but true.... I think PAP social engineering did work to a large extent.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi charissa,
I let you in on a secret.
Your friends and your generation are not the only ones who are apathetic!
Mine ( friends and gen) were equally disinterested.
We are the minority.The rest have surrendered their rights to their own lives over to the ruling establishment. Whenever something bad happens to our society, you hear this majority asking for the govt to intervene, to make new rules and fine new fines.
We have lost the ability to initiate anything without Big Brother's help.
Yes the PAP's social engineering has worked but I wonder if this is their intended result.
Help to wake your generation.

Rowen said...

It is a fact that the government is trying their ways and means to reinvent themselves.

MPs have Blogs, they set up these REACH initiative.

However, all these may just prove to be publicity for publicity sake.

My point of view is that the feedback given would be screened first, those which are Pro PAP and not touching on sacred cows would be addressed first. Good publicity will be attentioned first not anti publicity.

I feel Talk is cheap, actions reaps consequences.

My 2 cents worth.

ted said...

I used to have this extension of my MSN moniker: No one got anything done by Feedbacking!

Charissa said...

Hi Dr Huang,

I am guessing that is why they notice that the voting pattern did not differ between age groups.

Haha... I blog and talk to friends about current affairs. But there is only so much I can do. If only every active citizen takes initiative to do it too! The impact could be much bigger.