After sending the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts a reminder on 7 August 2006 about my letter on the Mr Brown incident, the ministry finally replied. I am also including below another letter from a friend, Kelvin Tan, on the same issue.
REPLY FROM MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATION & THE ARTS, SINGAPORE ON 10 AUGUST 2006
Thank you for your email dated 7 Aug 06 to our Permanent Secretary, Dr Tan Chin Nam.
We have noted the contents of your email.
Julia Wan (Ms)
Corporate Communications Department
for Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts
LETTER FROM KELVIN TAN WEI HANN SENT TO MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATION & THE ARTS, SINGAPORE
I am a concerned citizen and I am writing to highlight my disappointment at Ms Bhavani's response to Mr Brown's article in TODAY.
Surely one who is the Director of Corporate Communications at MICA would understand the value of Mr Brown's article in articulating the sentiments of the general public as well as in presenting a good-humoured poke at current socio-economic trends, a practice very common in tolerant, highly developed societies.
Unfortunately, Ms Bhavani's response leaves much to be desired, not only because she has surprisingly demonstrated his ignorance of blogging personalities given her position, but primarily because it reeks of intolerance and political brown-nosing. There are many things to note.
Firstly, on her ignorance - While Mr Brown is writing under a pseudonym, he has never hidden his true identity from the public. Therefore, Ms Bhavani's charge that he will not defend his views openly are spurious at best. In fact, one might argue that he has presented his views in a far more open and fair manner than a faceless entity at MICA writing a condescending letter in the press.
More importantly, rather than accept Mr Brown's musings as a possible alternative perspective on current socio-economic trends that the government should note as contributive to future policy considerations - as "first world governments" would, Ms Bhavani - and Mr Lee Boon Yang by extension - wasted no time in branding his article as distortions of the truth. Nevermind that the question 'whose truth?' was never asked.
Thirdly, I object to Ms Bhavani's rather puerile stand that a non-partisan observer cannot present views that criticises the policies of the government. As citizens, we all have a stake in the well-being of our country as well as our fellow citizens. Criticising the policies of the state (which is a separate entity from the country and the nation) in a non party-political manner is very much our innate right as citizens and I am rather appalled at Ms Bhavani's delineation which seeks to remove that fundamental right from us. And you are surprised when citizens no longer
feel a connection with Singapore?
Fourth, Ms Bhavani writes that it is not the role of journalists to champion issues. Is this how the government wants to create an 'inclusive society' where 'every Singaporean matters?'. What is wrong with championing issues as long as it is does not infringe on the right of another individual? This response from Ms Bhavani had me asking "which Singaporean really matters?"
Finally, Ms Bhavani talks of constructive criticism and the need for the provision of an alternative / solution or else shut up. I find it disconcerting that it is no longer adequate for a member of the public to voice their disapproval about policies and expect competent public service officers (funded by public taxes no less) to brainstorm and come up with the alternatives / solutions or at least validate current policies by explicating why alternatives won't work.
All in all, I am highly disappointed with the high-handed, condescending way Ms Bhavani dealt with what was a light hearted article by a humourous member of the public. I hope it is not indicative of the practices of our public service.