Tan Dawn Wei of the Sunday Times asked the following questions about the use of petitions in Singapore. My reply to the journalist is set out below. She only used some replies that are more suitable for her purpose.
1. Why did you choose to use petitions to call for action?
Reply: I used the online petition as a convenient way to gather the signatures of the people who are affected by the credit linked notes to ask the Government to take the appropriate actions. I hope that a large number of signatures will make a difference in getting the Government to be aware about the strong support for the proposed actions. This is in contrast to writing a letter to be newspaper, as the letter reflects the view of one person, and is likely to be ignored. The letter may not be printed by the newspaper due to lack of space.
Another way to express the strong views is to organise a protest rally or demonstration. However, it is illegal in Singapore to organise such an activity without a police permit. It takes a lot of trouble to get a police permit and the applicaiton is likely to be rejected. It take a lot of effort to organise a rally anyway.
2. Did you think it would be the most effective method to push for action and that the authorities would take heed, given petitions have not typically figured in the Government's decision-making process?
Reply: It is disappointing that the Government ignore petitions that have been signed by a large number of people. I think that it is not proper for the recipient of a petition to behave in this manner, as this reflects arrogance. At the very least, the recipient should meet with the represenatives of the signatories to have a dialogue and discussion.
I am not deterred by the negative response. I will continue to gather signatures for future petitions to ask the Government to do "the right thing". The Government should realise that people in Singapore are generally afraid to sign a petition as they do not wish to be seen to be disagreeing with the Government on its decision. For the signatories to muster the courage to sign the petition and provide their name and other particulars (such as NRIC, address or contact number), it must reflect a strong grievance that should be addressed.
3. Do you think the petitions you initiated had any bearing on the decisions made by MAS?
Reply: I have not received any communication from the MAS on the three petitions that have been lodged with them. They also do not wish to meet with me to discuss the petitions or to seek clarification. I suspect that these petitions have also been ignored.
4. What do you think the seemingly increasing number of petitions (eg. Serangoon Gardens, repeal 377A) we're seeing says about the Singapore psyche?
Reply: It reflects that people feel strongly on several issues and the existing channels to express these views are not effective. The internet allows them to communicate and reach out to other people who feel strongly about these issues, so that they can get together to express their collective views. It reflects the power of the internet as a new medium for the affected people to come together to express their grievances and to seek solutions.
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