Khaw Boon Wan: No trees, no human species

From ‘Meeting the people 24/7…online’, 26 June 2011, article by Irene Tham and Fiona Low, Sunday Times

(From comments on various ministers’ Facebook pages)

(June 12 at 2.05pm) Lee Kok Keong: I think NParks is doing a great job. Unlike most other cities, we get to enjoy greenery around us. We probably take the trees for granted. As the weather is getting warmer, perhaps we can have more shady trees along expressways and major roads – they keep us cool and maybe drivers won’t be so impatient.

(June 12 at 2.09pm) Khaw Boon Wan: yes, Kok Keong, and thanks. trees literally give us life. no trees, no oxygen, no human species.

(June 12 at 2.09pm) Xinhui Su: erm…can you don’t make the cats run when they so (sic) someone? i want to touch them

(June 12 at 2.17pm) K. Shanmugam: afraid I don’t have such powers!

(June 16 at 1.56pm) Cheah Saing Chong: Dear Mr Chan, in the event of a conflict, are you prepared to lay your life for this country and its people? Please answer this question? If yes, why? If no, why?

(June 16 at 4.02pm) Chan Chun Sing: @Cheah – The answer to your qn if I will lay down my life for this country is YES. I have committed my whole life to this. Why? Because it is my country, our country. No further reason is required for me.

I don’t know why our ministers are wasting precious time answering lame questions from the public on Facebook. Less cars, not more trees, is the answer to more gracious driving. Asking a minister and former army general if he’s willing to die for the country is a no-brainer, and kids who think ministers can communicate telepathically with stray cats,  mistaking a Facebook feedback page for Farmville, should have their accounts terminated. So now we have our Minister of National Development giving us a science lesson on trees producing oxygen, amidst more pressing matters on DBSS prices. It’s easy to sugarcoat this phenomenon as our ministers getting in touch with the common people, but this is also a system waiting to be abused, with people bypassing the ‘proper channels’ just to pressure the relevant authorities to do something, even if its a ridiculously tall order. If you need further convincing as to why entertaining Facebook comments is an utter waste of time, here’s more:

…Hi Mr Khaw, is Bishan Park under NParks too? They recently put the “BISHAN PARK” signs up at the edge of the park. It looks like it has sharp edges and is made of metal? It happens to be on the down slope. If some cyclists or roller-bladers were to trip there, I am afraid there may be casualties. It is extremely dangerous. Where should I send my feedback to and how can I be sure that this will be looked into?

…Dear Sir, I have been using a clothes dryer instead of hanging my clothes out to dry. If only we can tap in solar energy to operate these machine and need not pay more for electricity, that would be fabulous 😀

…Also, when it rains, at the first storey, the rain will splash into the flat and we need to close the windows, making the flat stuffy. Can a canopy be built at the top the flat to prevent the rain from splashing into the flat?

One could have good, sensible intentions in complaining, but to torment Khaw Boon Wan with atrocious language is too much . Not only does he have to think of how to help you, but also struggle to figure out what you’re saying in the first place. Singaporeans who don’t bother to spellcheck ‘Singaporean’ properly when addressing a minister should be ignored and banned from all NDPs. And therein lies the problem with social media feedback; you’re typing on the go, you have no respect for grammar and naturally your query turns out to be as haphazard as your caps placement and punctuation.

Yang Berhormat Mr Khaw, i be singaporean 1 year+ and yet single couldn’t enjoy HDB benefit like sinagaporean have. Is not I want be single why singale not entire to buy house frm goverment ? I also your city resident, why I couldn’t have …oppurtunity to have HDB form goverment ?I just want house to stay and have warmest filling. Recently Resale flat still very expensive . Normal 3 room flat cost about 300K . I try to search 2 room flat but to easy to find. Cound you help to improve on it ?

The problem with social media is that the cost of sending a request and making a fool of yourself is minimal. Your Facebook friends are unlikely to know what you’ve posted unless they stalk your newsfeed on a daily basis, there isn’t a proper ‘reputation’ system where people can rate your query, and there’s no moderator to kick out trollers or shame useless comments about ‘warmest fillings’. You could even fake your identity if you’re afraid of being hauled to court for verbally abusing a minister. To write a proper letter like what we used to do, without the security of aliases, would have led to more thoughtful and intelligent feedback. Mr Khaw’s eagerness to respond and good nature will only encourage more of the same nonsense coming out of these people, and unless someone takes the first step to highlight how ridiculous some of these complaints are, we’ll have minister after minister using the ‘Shanmugam defence (I don’t have such powers) every time something silly is posted.

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