Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sunday Times article on Petitions

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.


Parka said...

Why do I get the feeling that the government is treating these petitions as useless forms. Literally, forms, ignoring the content.

They will pay for their ignorance sooner or later. Everything adds up in life, if that's what I've learned so far.

Anonymous said...

One more point in answer to Dawn Wei's question which misses the whole issue altogether,

"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?"

The point should rather be the importance and relevance of the issues that are raised in the petition. According to Dawn Wei's line of thinking, the government has closed its mind to all petitions , never mind whether a petition raises important and significant issues. This cannot be right but I wonder if she has inadvertently hit upon the truth.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say this.

I feel Petitions, once a boon word, then a whoa word, now are running out of steam

They are like a knife used once too often, its short, its not sharp, it doesnt do any much hurt to anyone in particular except looking flashy.

Peition is the new word for Complain they view

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