Singapore

Seah Kian Peng: Hold back on meting out 'vigilante justice'

As Parliament sat for the second day yesterday, MPs resumed the debate on President Tony Tan Keng Yam's address made two weeks ago. TAN TAM MEI and LINETTE HENG (tnp.com.sg) report

There has been a rise in "self-administered vigilante justice", and this is not who we are as Singaporeans, said Mr Seah Kian Peng in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 26).

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Marine Parade GRC said: "Their weapon of choice - the handphone. The judge and jury - the social media public. This has to change.

"On the flip side, I have also seen some very bad responses by civil servants, the very few which give the Government as a whole a bad name."

He added: "We should have neither vigilante justice from the public nor high-handed behaviour from the civil servants. This is not who we are as Singaporeans."

Mr Seah later told The New Paper over the phone that he brought the point up to remind people to "hold their horses" before passing judgment on matters they see online.

He cited the example of a viral video in December that captured a heated exchange between a man and an officer from the Boon Lay Social Service Office.

Mr Seah said that while both parties were at fault in the incident, netizens passing judgment without getting the full picture can be damaging and unfair to the parties involved.

Mr Seah said: "We see things being shared widely and critiqued on social media, and sometimes it is for the right reasons. But we should hold back and wait for the full picture because sometimes we see only half the picture."

He added that there will always be a small group of people out to sensationalise matters and those who deliberately present only one point of view in hopes of getting people riled up or making a post go viral.

USE TECH FOR GOOD

"With the ease of posting (pictures and videos) online, we need to remember to use technology for good purposes... So let's be more careful with sharing things online and passing judgment before verifying the facts."

He said that the public had sent him photo - and video - "evidence" of inconsiderate people who park illegally and block common corridors with their belongings.

While he always takes the time to hear them out, Mr Seah said he also refrains from casting judgment immediately.

Said Mr Seah: "The right thing to do would be to conduct my own investigation, no matter how incriminating the evidence looks. We need to give people the benefit of time and let them explain.

"I don't think (the practice of vigilante justice) is the Singapore that we want or the kind of society we want to be. It is also not the kind of values we want to have."

Cases of public officers shamed online

AID DISPUTE

A man posted a video on Facebook last month claiming that an officer from Boon Lay Social Service Office had made harsh remarks to him.

The officer was filmed saying: "We don't owe you" after a verbal exchange with the man, who had demanded to know why there would be a delay in getting financial help. He had earlier requested for additional financial aid because his wife is expecting their second child.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said in a statement later that the officer had acknowledged that his choice of words was "insensitive".

It explained that the delay was caused by an earlier review to increase the amount of financial aid payable to the family, and that vouchers had been prepared to tide them over in the interim. But the family left before the vouchers could be offered to them.

The MSF also urged the public to respect the confidentiality and privacy of the parties involved by not secretly filming the conversations and posting them online.

Relating the incident in Parliament, Mr Seah Kian Peng said: "Both sides were not right, but in this sense, my sympathies lie with the officer."

THIS COP'S FOR REAL

On Jan 23, a netizen posted closed-circuit television footage of a man who knocked on his door in the early morning and identified himself as a policeman.

He claimed that the man was not a policeman and warned others not to open their doors.

His post went viral and the man was ridiculed by netizens who pointed out that the cop was real.

The Sengkang Neighbourhood Police Centre said in a Facebook post on Jan 23 that a war relic was found and defused near Fernvale Lea.

They added that a group of 40 police officers from Ang Mo Kio Division conducted house visits to advise residents to stay indoors and not be alarmed if they heard a loud sound.

ICA OFFICER ACCUSED

A man complained about his experience at Changi Airport last October when he was stopped by an Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer.

He posted a picture of the officer and claimed that the officer had "abused his power" during their exchange, which he filmed.

The man was slammed by netizens, who felt the officer was just doing his job.

He apologised and took down his post.

The ICA later issued a statement saying that firm action will be taken against those who do not comply with security checks.

It also reminded travellers that photography and videography at certain areas within the checkpoints are not permitted.

PARLIAMENT SNIPPETS

REJECT VIOLENCE DECISIVELY

Terrorism is closer to home than we think, and all Singaporeans need to respond "collectively, collaboratively, comprehensively" to the threat, said Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs.

The MP for East Coast GRC said that non-Muslims can contribute to social harmony by correcting misconceptions or stereotypical and anti-Muslim remarks or actions by family or friends and also in social media.

He added that the Muslim community must act "decisively" to give assurance and the clear message that they denounce violence.

He said: "We are now faced with a battle of ideologies, and the ubiquity of social media has allowed radical ideologies supporting terrorism to invade the thoughts of people without extremists having to physically enter a society."

He said that as a result of pervasive social media outreach, as many as 1,000 South-east Asians have travelled to Iraq and Syria since 2011, including two Singaporean families that joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

SEIZING TECH OPPORTUNITIES

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim (above) said that the restructuring of the Infocomm Development Authority and Media Development Authority to form Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Government Technology Organisation (GTO) will help Singapore seize opportunities presented by technological changes.  

For instance, the IMDA will drive further sectoral innovations, especially when it comes to technology that benefits our economy and society, while the new GTO will help the Government to understand and use technology boldly to deliver better public services.

He said: "My hope for the future is that Singapore is at the forefront of technology, with government departments that use technology boldly, with an economy that is constantly transformed for the better through technology, and with a people comfortable and welcoming of technological change."

TRAIN KIDS TO BE MACHINE MASTERS

Nee Soon GRC MP Henry Kwek (above) thinks that children should be trained to be "masters of machines" and learn the basics of computer programming, artificial intelligence and big data.

Mr Kwek clarified that while he is not advocating for them to be programmers on top of their "hefty curriculum", students should know the broad principles through a general programme so that they can specialise in these areas in the future.

He said: "Singapore is in an excellent position to refresh our education system because we are excellent and nimble and we can plan 10, 15 years ahead and we can adjust our curriculum quite quickly."

BASIC ENGLISH TEST FOR NEW CITIZENS

Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Darryl David (above) suggested that new citizens should pass a basic level of English-language proficiency and fulfil mandatory annual community service hours before they are granted citizenship.

He explained that this will help them develop a deeper understanding of the wider community and society, and allow them to better contribute to Singapore.

He said that the challenge today is integration between Singaporeans and new citizens.

"At a community event welcoming new citizens last year, I observed that there were quite a few new citizens who had trouble communicating because of their inability to speak basic English," he said.

He added: "Grassroots leaders have also provided feedback: Some of the new citizens tend to not get involved in community events and activities because they feel that they aren't able to communicate with their fellow residents of different ethnicities."

TNP, ST AND BH FILE PHOTOS

We are now faced with a battle of ideologies, and the ubiquity of social media has allowed radical ideologies supporting terrorism to invade the thoughts of people without extremists having to physically enter a society.

- Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman (above), Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs

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