Let me take you through the steps chronologically.
1: The South China Morning Post published a report quoting Catherine Lim’s letter.
They also mentioned Jason Chua, which is pretty embarrassing. The report was titled “Singaporeans ‘no longer trust their government': Writer Catherine Lim criticizes PM in open letter.”
That’s actually a pretty bitchy headline on the part of SCMP. If a reader scanned the papers without reading the post, they’d walk away with the takeaway “Singaporeans no longer trust their government.”
I wonder what’s their problem? Maybe they did it because they knew it’ll stir up discussions, have more people buying the papers, visiting their website, etc. That’s in their self-interest, regardless of their opinion on Singapore. Welcome to the media circus.
2: Mr Jacky Foo, Singapore’s Consul-General in Hong Kong, wrote a response to SCMP.
His response was titled Trust in Singaporean government remains high despite claims made by writer Catherine Lim. I understand why he’d feel obliged to respond.
That said, Mr. Foo’s letter is pretty uninspiring:
- Missing the point: One of Ms. Lim’s points was that Singaporeans don’t care about the good that the Govt has done because they don’t trust them anymore. Mr. Foo responded by listing out a bunch of good things that the Govt has done.
- Proving your opponent’s argument: Another one of Ms. Lim’s points is that “the government no longer cares about regaining their trust”. Mr. Foo humorously sort-of confirms this point by essentially saying “NO LAH WHERE GOT.” Nothing about his post is about regaining trust. He insists that the trust was never lost in the first place.
- Problem of Induction: Mr. Foo uses the “appeal to track record” fallacy, asserting that Ms. Lim’s warnings and criticisms are invalid because the PAP hasn’t collapsed yet. That’s like saying you will live forever because you haven’t died yet.
- Red Herring, avoiding the issue. “Ms Lim is also wrong to claim that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s defamation suit against a blogger will further erode trust. On the contrary, Mr Lee acted because the government prizes integrity as the ultimate source of the trust it enjoys.” Um, way to skirt around the issue? It doesn’t matter why the G acted the way it did. If I said “I don’t trust you because you beat your kids,” and you reply “On the contrary, I beat my kids because they were undermining my authority,” it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t trust you. It troubles me that our Consul-General argues so poorly. A GP tutor would circle that and write “irrelevant!”
- Pick-and-choose. Mr. Foo does not address the graffiti incident.
So to re-cap, Singapore’s Consul-General Jacky Foo wrote a response to SCMP. This was reported as such by the responsible Channel News Asia: Singapore Consul-General rebukes SCMP report. Factual, and the elaboration gives you the context that you need to know.
And then we have The Straits Times:
Suddenly, Jacky Foo speaks on behalf of the Government, and he’s refuting Catherine Lim directly, rather than the article published by SMCP. More specifically, The Straits Times implies that THE GOVERNMENT is whining about how “Catherine Lim keeps ‘bemoaning collapse of trust’ despite PAP record!
I’m a fairly neutral, middle-of-the-road observer. But when I saw that headline and sub-header, the first thought that went through my mind was “Holy crap, our government is petty and incompetent.” The Straits Times is literally making the Government look bad, in my eyes. If I keep seeing headlines like this, I’m more likely to vote Opposition than PAP.
If I am to assume that ST is competent and knows what it’s doing, I’m supposed to believe that the majority of Singaporeans take things at face value, and they’ll assume that the Catherine Lim is just a “oppy dog” that keeps yapping and barking over and over again. Is this really the case? Who knows. We’ll see.
Here’s the article published on AsiaOne: Govt refutes author’s claim over public trust.
Seriously, pretty embarrassing. I had to do so much of my own reading to figure out the proper context for all of this. I expect the Straits Times to do this for me, and they’re seriously failing at it. Jacky Foo’s letter and the Straits Times’ description of it are both painful to read, because logical fallacies.
Personal thoughts: Why we so like that, ah?
After 2011, former Foreign Minister George Yeo said at a Punggol Community Club Dinner that many people have lost faith in the Government. Has this changed, suddenly?
I feel like we’re playing a complicated game of wayang in this country right now. We’re all talking over each other about whose interpretation of reality is more accurate, instead of figuring out what is the best course of action assuming the worst.
And as LKY said in a fiery speech once, this is not a game of cards, this is your life and mine.
P.S. I decided to do my homework and look up the Edelman Trust Barometer.
None of the journalists quoting Mr. Foo did, as far as I can tell. According to the study, Singaporeans’ trust in the goverment dropped 7 points to 75%. Trust in business is down 6 points. Trust in media remains flat at 70%.
The Edelman Trust Barometer surveyed 33,000 respondents across 27 countries. If we assume that they survey all countries equally that’s 1,222 respondents. Probably closer to about 1,000 for Singapore, or less. How do they pick who to survey? It doesn’t say. But personally I don’t think a survey of 1,000 Singaporeans is sufficient to tell you what the relationship between the citizens and Govt is.
Here’s a screenshot I took of the Edelman Trust Barometer, you can check it out here- it’s on the last page, Page 40-41: