A former press secretary to a minister in Singapore once told me that it was not the policy of the leadership in power to respond to issues raised in the online or alternative media. I told the dutiful secretary that such thinking would one day cost the leadership, and be a thing of the past.
About ten days ago, Temasek Review Emeritus and news agency Associated Press published articles that, at an event organised by a policy think-tank, my friend, the Honourable Member of Parliament Vikram Nair ‘dismissed’ Singaporean opposition voters ‘nonchalantly’. He is alleged to have remarked, “Don’t focus too much on the 40 percent that didn’t vote for you. We have to remember and keep in mind the interests of the 60 percent that did.”
The story was picked up almost instantaneously on social platforms and it spread like wild-fire. Vikram’s remarks were controversial enough to cause the Honourable Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh to distance himself from Vikram’s remarks days later at another event.
Vikram has now clarified through social platforms that he was inaccurately quoted. Not surprisingly, The Online Citizen - the alternative media that is seen to balance the blunt views of Temasek Review Emeritus - has published Vikram’s reply.
As one of those taken aback by the remarks quoted who chose to give Vikram the benefit of doubt, I can accept his clarification.
However, what I cannot accept is that it took him a good ten days to respond with his position. I also cannot accept that, when he did so, he shared what he recollected rather than what was actually shared. If it was going to take so long to make available a response, he should have made available a transcript of what he said.
Think-tanks like Institute of Policy Studies, which organised the event, are known to make recordings of their events, if not take detailed notes of what happens at such events, for research or archival purposes.
Perhaps, Vikram faced some difficulties in getting hold of such records. Whatever the case is, the clarification appears to have come too late in diffusing the sting in an article positioned as a contemporaneous account of the event.
Compare this to a similar incident that happened at the same event involving another friend of mine, the Honourable Member of Parliament Pritam Singh. Mainstream media quoted Pritam as follows: "It may be a case in future whereby the PAP only wins 36 (seats) and we may have to form a coalition government."
Within a day, Pritam clarified his comments. His swift clarification helped to diffuse the sting in the remarks he was alleged to have made at the event.
It is heartening to know that the dominant leadership’s deliberate disenfranchisement of the alternative media is now a thing of the past but it would appear that the leadership in power has miles to go in its handling of adverse publicity in the alternative media.
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?
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