Singapore Media Watch

Monday, November 27, 2006

Editorial Review: GST Petitions losing momentum. Was it expected ?

A 2 week online drive to petition against the rise of GST failed to generate any public awareness or impact as expected. As of today, the two petitions and have garnered a combined total of only 3,100 votes.

When the GST hike was first announced by PM Lee Hsien Loong, it caused a furore amongst the online community of Singapore. Many netizens condemn the government's decision and were quick to voice their disapproval and unhappiness on internet forums.

An online petition was started to galvanize Singaporeans into action in the hope that a strong reaction from the populace will deter the government from implementing the unpopular hike. Many were optimistic that this marked the beginning of a grassroots movement to counter the establisment.

The petition received over 2000 signatures in a short week, still it lacked far behind the 30,000 gathered in 3 days in support of Mr T T Durai's resignation from the NKF 2 years ago in the aftermath of the NKF scandal.

What exactly went wrong ? Can internet grumblings ever be translated into political will and affirmative action in real life? Two crucial elements are seriously lacking here which will prove to be a stumbling block for similar drives in the future: a credible leader and support of the press.

Though the internet is dominated by vocal anti-government critics, these remain only a visible minority amongst Singapore netizens. A survey published by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA), the survey showed half of all teens between 15 and 19 are on the Internet, blogging or podcasting. It meant about 120,000 of these teens take part in web activities. The miserly support for the online petitions showed that the silent majority are either not supportive or are unwilling to be involved out of fear of the authorities.

Without a credible leader of a certain stature to rally the netizens whom are mostly nameless nicks whose identities are a mystery to one another, this collective outpouring of grievances and frustrations will always be a mere cathartic release serving no useful purpose.

The mainstream media has also been cautious to shine away from reporting on anti-government sentiments prevalent on the internet, choosing instead to report on trivial matters unrelated to public governance. Even if the press did report the online petitions, it is doubtful if older, conservative Singaporeans who are alien to the internet, will jump into the fray.

Therefore it is perhaps premature to overestimate the political significance of the internet. While it is true that the internet has the potential to promote and increase the political awareness of Singaporeans, it still lacks a leader and an organization to harness its energy.

Taiwan has Shi Ming Teh, Malaysia has Tian Chua, Thailand has Sondhi Limthongkul and Myanmar has Aung San Suu Kyi. Who does Singapore have?

Maybe that is why the government has seen no need to engage the internet so far, for it has already been dismissed and vilified by the media as lacking credibility and truth. On the contrary, it may even serve their agenda by providing a small space for disgruntled citizens to express their bottled-up frustrations in peaceful and controlled manner without disrupting the rest of society.


  • Chee Soon Juan :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:11 AM  

  • Lim Bo Seng

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:48 PM  

  • This show how supportive Singaporeans are, e.g. the case involving the vicious attack of the Singaporean by the Indonesian policeman.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:52 AM  

  • Hey everyone, I'm new! ..... just made my profile. Everyone says I need to share

    something so I Just thought I'd let you know a place where I made an extra $800 last month!
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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:55 AM  

  • Most people has simply resigned to the fate as whatever comes out of the horses mouth are already cast in stone.

    The same people that most naive Singaporean voted in are starting to show their true color and making life ever more difficult. It's a retribution.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:31 PM  

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