a community of singaporeans

Playing an active part as Singaporeans

Posted by theonlinecitizen on September 15, 2007

By Andrew Ong

After casual exchanges with friends over some local socio-political issues, I have to say that generally, majority of us Singaporeans take a very passive if not an apathetic approach when it comes to Singapore socio-political issues.

I think this can be largely due to us Singaporeans ‘taking for granted’ the strong leadership and efficiency of our government.

Personally, I think this is not very healthy for us as a country and has to be addressed as it might pose a grave danger for all of us.

The Reason

Historically, it has been well documented and proven that no man is perfect. Everyday in the papers, we see politicians, religious leaders and top corporate executive officers embroiled in controversial scandals.

These examples depict how higher accountability and governance should be upheld for those especially in authority as these leaders have direct influence over lives. And this is more critically so for a government that governs a nation as every decision made affects the livelihood of many.

The NKF Scandal Lesson
When the NKF scandal unfolded within our shores, it was claimed that the lack of governance and accountability led to this unfortunate occurrence. The remedy was the government’s heightening of governance within the charity sector to ensure credibility and transparency for the beneficiaries and the donating public.

Now the charity sector has the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) as its ‘watch dog’ to guard against ambiguous charitable organisations. Similarly for consumers, we have the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) to turn to, to alert and protect the consumer community from any unfair or unethical trade practices.

These are but only a couple of cited ‘watch dogs’, but I believe you would agree with me that it is common to find an institution or body which exists to uphold good practices and benchmarks in the various industry/profession in our marketplace.

Taking No Chances

But surprisingly, there is no such institution or body in Singapore – with regards to ensuring good governance and accountability by our government. Thus it may appear that the government operates above the law.

Over the years, Singapore has prided itself on having an uncorrupted ruling government, but just like the NKF scandal that ‘exploded’ in our faces, we should never leave anything to chance.

Therefore, we should learn from this as our government can also go down that slippery slope with no proper governance and accountability in check.

Being pro-active

Though I do not foresee how such a body/organisation can take place in Singapore, for a start, Singaporeans should take a more pro-active stance in socio-political issues in our nation.

Why? Simply because it affects you and me.

Practically we can not only read but critique more of our government’s policies and initiatives, so that with better understanding of their consequences and effect, we can better provide constructive feedback to our government from the ground. This might give our government options to evaluate their decisions and their impact on us.

The consequences of us not doing so would eventually see every decision made by the government deemed acceptable and in the worst scenario our consent or our opinions would no longer bear any weight in decision-making as it would appear that we have given the government full control to do as they wish or please.

Let’s build our nation

I hope this article would not be misconstrued as one accusing our government for being a corrupt party or be misinterpreted as one written with anti-government sentiments.
The purpose of this article is in fact to encourage us Singaporeans to build our nation in partnership with our government. And as Singaporeans, we should not leave room for complacency to seep in.

Let us not confine our contributions towards nation building with the mere mandatory tax payments. I believe that we Singaporeans are capable enough to do more than is required for our future.

About the author: A true-blue Singapore heartlander, Andrew Ong is presently working in the Research & Corporate Communicatons division of an NGO which represents the manufacturing sector in Singapore. Other than his work, he enjoys serving others through his church and community work. In his free time, he fuels his passion for writing through his personal blog.


22 Responses to “Playing an active part as Singaporeans”

  1. James Chia said

    No one is perfect including the government. Without active citizenry playing important role in our nation building process, we cannot make Singapore a better home for our future generations.

  2. Andrew Loh said


    I concur with your thoughts totally. It is said that Singaporeans are apathetic. I am not sure if I agree with this though. It really depends on how you look at it.

    If you asked the average Singaporean to join a political party, or even to support a political party, yes they may be “bo chap”. Perhaps this is borne out of the fear that joining a political party brings with it potential ruin to oneself.

    But if you talked to Singaporeans about issues, you will see that they are actually quite passionate about them. For example, the compulsory annuity issue, or transport fares, or schools for their children, retirement, HDB upgrading, etc.

    So, I think the saying that Singaporeans are apathetic may not be quite right.

    Having said that, perhaps the younger generation of Singaporeans do not have what I would call “residuel fear” of being involved in politics as their parents and grandparents may have.

    And perhaps also this will pave the way for a more politically-involved citizenry in the years to come. And this ultimately is what will give Singaporeans a say in how issues affecting the country are handled.

    But first, it requires an involvement and interest in the issues. Whether one is interested in politics, at least for now, is not important. And form the looks of it, there is a growing interest among youths about the issues. So, I am quite heartened, actually.

    Just my two cents.

    Andrew Loh

  3. macabresg said

    Apparently it does seem like there’s a growing interest among youths from their participation in the discussions of social and political issues but i think there are even a greater number of youths out there who do not even read newspapers or visit this blog for example. They have too many distractions in life like the latest fashions, the newest PC games, etc.

  4. Gerald said

    Well written, Andrew (Ong)!

    It would be great if the Govt could continue to “check” itself for ever and ever. Unfortunately history has proven time and again that a good government often goes bad after a while. Zimbabwe is a prime example. Robert Mugabe was considered an enlightened African leader when Zimbabwe got its independence. But something snapped in him some decades later and the current situation there is the result.

    Do we want to wait until the PAP (as good as it is now) snaps before waking up? It would be great if there were no politics and we could have an independent, non-partisan govt watchdog. Unfortunately this cannot exist in the real world. Therefore the 2nd best solution is to have a good bipartisan system, where two equally able political parties keep each other in check, and can take over when the other is starting to do a bad job. I think it’s clear we have that gap now in our nation.

  5. Andrew Ong said

    Andrew Loh:

    Your point noted. If you are correct, then probably the reason why most Singaporeans remain “apathetic” is because there isn’t an accessible, free-from-red-tape and appealing/relevant avenue for us to participate and make any signiicant contribution.

    So maybe because of that absence, this creates that “like-that-then-why-bother?” attitude we all are familiar with.

    You think so?

  6. Andrew Loh said

    Hi Andrew,

    Yes, there seems to be. But then again, the govt will say that they do have such avenues for the public, including the youths. For example, they have and the Youth Park. In schools, youths are also encouraged to “do it yourself”. Indeed, our education system, for all the criticisms we may have for it, has changed and youths have more avenues to express themselves.

    However, not everyone wants to go through these official channels and may prefer non-governmental channels. And perhaps this is where it is lacking.

    In the wider public sphere, if organising a picnic, a cycling event and a peaceful walk are not even allowed, then it cannot but foster a sense of disenchantment among the public.

    Thus, as I said in my article, the govt must and the people should demand for changes to legislation. So that we all know exactly what the govt is saying and what we can do.

    Andrew Loh

  7. Be active in non-action.

    This is the way to do if you have no guts.

  8. JFK said

    Good read,

    We should see what our National reserves are like, till today I really got no clue how it will benefit us ?

    Also I understand that our CPF is sort of being used for investments. Correct me if I am wrong.. like shin corp, Barclays etc ?

    Are there like any returns ?
    and what happens if we burn a hole in our investments carried out by the investment arm?

    How does that impact the local joe ?

    Much appreciated.

  9. Jaron Liu said

    I think the onlinecitizen blog helps in promoting active citizenry. With this blog, many others (including me) get to know the latest local socio-political issues and news. If people know more, they will eventually want to have a say in their country and take on an active role I think.

  10. JFK said

    Hey sorry but i know this is out of cue, but what happens to the money collected for ERP ? Do we use to improve the road infrastructure and eventually tear down the ERP ?

    Would be good if we have a neutral site where concerned Singaporeans can put up their questions.

  11. RaymondChua said

    ” Do we use to improve the road infrastructure and eventually tear down the ERP ?”

    What do you think ? ERP is a good business for gov as it is really easy money. Imagine how much millions make in a single day ! Do you think gov will let such opportunity slip ? Due to lack of transparency and accountability is because as Singapore Incorporated, there is much profit to be make without competition from foreigner, just let the public be marginlized and exploited.

    If you are the gov, i doubt that you will take away that too, especially if you don’t have to be accountable to anybody except yourself.

    In fact, I starting to believe that the gov liberate and open themselves not because they want to, but of foreign’s pressure. It’s probably more effective to use foreign’s pressure than local just like Dr Chee does. Without Dr Chee, I doubt that foreigner will know anything at all, and continue to mislead by the propaganda machine and droids of ruling party. Had it not for internet, youtube, blogging, gov will not hesitate to catch those protesting today.

  12. JFK said

    Frankly if I were the govt,

    I would look at the following

    1) Helping the people that build the coutry ( these are the old folks, sick and jobless )

    Don’t ask me how, but I wont tell the people something they dont already know….Like work longer, dont depend on us too much, and we got not enough for old age….

    A govt will explore ways and means to prevent these category of people from falling into this state.

    This is what a govt should be like..telling us to work longer and not be choosy about jobs that are low paying is not going to cut it.

    Its only normal, we have the greying problem as the cost of starting a family is considered a burden to most as in is related to job stability.

    Through the peoples actions you are able to see whats the root cause.

    No point coming up with schemes when we cant even identify and admit these factors. If you dont get to the root of the problem. Its just gonna get worse.

  13. Andrew Ong said

    Andrew Loh:
    Hmmm… though we have and the Youth Park. But somehow it is under the government’s “control”, therefore there might be “inhibitions” that detrack a genuine case of participation.

    I believe an independent avenue would be more objective, effective and attractive.

    Jaron Liu:
    Ya I think with you. TOC has that potential to be that avenue and answer as the government’s active partner/citizen in building Singapore together.

  14. RaymondChua said

    JFK, what I saying is even that you are very loyal and really to sacrifice it all, there are people around with you working in gov that think likewise. People are born of greed, lust and other human characteristic, that why we check and balance but definitely not from own people that you pay millions to shut them mouth and become Yes-man.

    Leadership degrade from one generation to another. Just like at LKY to GCT then to this Junior Joker Lee. The whole affair of Singapore has become a international Joke under Joker Lee.

  15. JFK said

    Yes i think a independent or neutral website to regulate questions and information is the way to go.

    This will encourage people from all walks of life to participate.

    Its also a showcase of individual talent from our nominate members.

  16. Andrew Loh said

    Hi Andrew,

    Yep, I agree with you. However, at the end of the day, it is up to singaporeans to step forward and participate. There is no use with setting up anything if singaporeans continue to be disinterested, or fearful.

    Personally, I believe there is room for a lot more to be done by ordinary people. It’s just that the perceived fear or “big hammer coming down on you” is still quite real.

    So, it takes time.

  17. scb said

    Dear all, is fear a factor in the apathy to local politics? Is it true that Singaporeans are apathetic? I think the answer to both questions is an emphatic no. Be it coffeeshops, offices/workplaces, the Internet, places of leisures/worships and even homes, many talk and discuss politics. Why then is this perception of ‘bo chap’ or apathetic citizenry?

    Personally, me think it is the individualistic interests in politics that resulted in the impression of apathy. It is my opinion that the population itself is as fragmented as the many opposition parties that never seem to be able to ally themselves physically, politically and ideologically. There are just a handfull of very small opposition political parties yet they are so diverse and splitted; imagine the rest of the populace.

    The postings in the Net regarding the 84th Birthday of MM LKY appal and sadden me, did the MM caused them such great sufferrings to generate such hatred? Policies might have resulted in much hardships but political abuses have not resulted in political killings and other extremities. The only extreme is the Parliamentarians remunerating themselves to World Record whilst their citizens faces unemployments and falling wages.

    Here, we can see the many citizens that post without fears or even restraints, just that most are like talking about the subject individually. Many current political developments and topics are also similarly blogged in individual block, e.g Blogsite A has its’ own group and Blogsite B has another group discussing a similar subject matter.

    My observations and assertion hopefully could be agreeable with other readers; thank you!

  18. Andrew Ong said

    Comments in response to Scb…

    My personal opinion is that the “opposition” lacks a leader of calibre (at least equal to LKY) rally each one of those fragments together to move in one voice and spirit, in order to mount any credible progress.

  19. […]  Read the rest of my debut article here>>>  […]

  20. scb said

    Hi Andrew Ong, agree that no one leads the oppositions, however I opine that it is due to too many good calibres all wanting to be the Leader. There is a Chinese Saying “No two tigers to one mountain(territory).” Wishfully, one day there could be two tigresses to forge coalition of oppositions, meanwhile we probably have to make do with individual efforts until a respectable and willing Singaporean steps in, I thank You.

  21. Scb:

    Ya its either that or all the leaders (with calibre) have been ‘roped’ early into the government side liao…

  22. Baccarat said


    Playing an active part as Singaporeans

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