In times of crisis, how a country reacts speaks volumes about its people and its character. I am sad to say that many online reactions to the unprecedented haze does not bode well for the country’s future.
Why isn’t there a stop work order? Gahmen only care about economy and not its people!
This is the most common complaint, but there is a key piece of information missing in every complaint. Nobody backs up their complaint with how other countries react if the air quality is really bad. A quick online search tells us why:
- Muar, Johor declared a state of emergency when their Air Pollution Index hit 746. Schools were closed and residents were directed to stay indoors.
- On Wikipedia, there is only one case where a state of emergency is declared. If the API in Malaysia exceeds 500, then “non-essential government services are suspended, and all ports in the affected area are closed. There may also be a prohibition on private sector commercial and industrial activities in the reporting area excluding the food sector.”
- If the AQI exceeds 300 in the USA, the Environment Protection Agency says that while outdoor activities are not recommended, it is still ok for kids to occasionally go out and play. This is because “even though dirty air is bad for kids, most kids won’t be hurt by playing outside, once in a while, when the air is dirty.” The EPA backs up its claims through studies on the effects of particulate pollution on health.
What does all this tell us? Firstly, there is little international precedence for a stop work order if the PSI is at 400. Many services can still continue. If you examine the policies of other countries, you will notice that most countries still allow commercial and construction activities to continue as long as precautions are taken (e.g. workers use masks) and that the companies assess that the risk is still manageable. If the companies fail to manage risk and cause an accident, they are still liable to be prosecuted.
It also tells us that the bad effects of air pollution are mainly felt over the long-term, so a little short-term exposure is still somewhat ok.
The effects of a stop work order in Singapore are very serious, possibly more so than bad air. Today, many people are scrambling to buy masks and air purifier. People still need to buy groceries. Over the weekend, I still see many people eating at hawker centers. If a stop work order was issued, how are people going to get their masks and food? How are hospitals going to be staffed? Who is going to run the public transport system? Who is going to be delivering essential supplies? If the concern is that people working outdoors should not be working due to bad air, then the MOM has already stated that respirators are essential above a certain PSI.
Do the people insisting on a stop work order believe that the world revolves around them? Singapore is not the first country facing bad air and there are international cases for how to react. To blindly insist on a stop work order shows a failure of imagination and research.
The PAP wasn’t prepared for the haze!
If the Govt wasn’t prepared for the haze, then where did the stockpile of 9 million N95 masks come from? These masks don’t just appear overnight. They expire every 3 years and have to be continuously replenished. And it is a major logistical challenge to distribute these masks to pharmacies all over the country.
If the Govt wasn’t prepared for the haze, then why is there already an Inter-Agency Haze Task Force comprising 23 govt bodies with plans in place when the haze hits? If you go to the websites of these agencies, you can see how these agencies have reacted to the haze by setting guidelines (e.g. medical assistance at polyclinics, closure of school activities etc)
If you are complaining that the Govt isn’t giving you free masks, then it is a sign of how unreasonable you are. Assistance has to be given to those who need it most, such as the poor, elderly and the vulnerable hospital patients. If you can read this message online, you can already afford a $3 mask. Don’t be a scrooge and pay for your own god-damn mask.
The PSI reading is inaccurate! Look at the sky, so much worse! Gahmen is trying to hide something!
Hello? Is there a brain in there? PSI is measurement of past pollution, because it is a 3-hour average. It is not a measurement of the present. If you want to see how bad the haze is RIGHT NOW, go look out of a window!
You can see on NEA’s website that the PSI can fluctuate wildly. This is because the localized effects of pollution can change wildly based on wind conditions. A PSI reading of any one particular point in time is useless because it can vary a lot within minutes. So it makes sense to smooth the readings over a period of time. Especially if the effects of bad air on health are measured over long-term (and not short-term) exposure
Singapore should do something to the Indonesians! The PAP is inept!
Hello? Are you asking for an act of war? It is crazy to insist on unilateral action that goes against the sovereignty of another country.
Shameless public behavior
There’s a world of difference in the way Singaporeans have reacted to the haze compared to say, Japan.
When Fukushima happened, the Japanese were queuing up in an orderly manner for essential supplies like water, even though they have lost their homes and were facing a looming nuclear disaster.
When the haze happened, we see some Singaporeans hoarding masks, or even worse, reselling those masks at a marked-up profit. This is bad for everyone. Masks are cheap enough such that they can be easily hoarded. If the hoarding is bad enough, then it may not be enough for the Govt to release their N95 stockpile. It’s no wonder the PM had to tell people not to hoard masks.
Shameless online critics politicizing the haze, instead of lending a hand.
In other countries, an externally-triggered crisis would normally cause citizens to put aside their differences and rally towards a cause. Notice how the Americans came together after 9/11 and the Boston bombings? Notice how the Japanese [edited from Japs] came together to help each other after Fukushima?
But in Singapore, we have multiple sites from the online community that are known to be anti-PAP and politicize almost all events as resulting from the incompetence of the PAP. The haze is no exception. Online commentary has degenerated into a mudfest of nitpicking the words of politicians and how “slow” the Govt’s reaction has been.
Of particular note is The Heart Truths, a site that claims to come across as a level-headed critique of the PAP, but is actually a site that uses half-truths and misquoted information. For example, the author tried to poke holes at VB’s claims that “other countries also use 24-hour averages for their air quality indices”. However, this claim was swiftly rebutted by MEWR, who honestly speaking should be concentrating on tackling the haze rather than rebutting unfounded online accusations. I would urge readers to boycott The Heart Truths. Life’s too short to read the lies of this author.
The ironic joke is that while all these complaints about the PAP are intended to make the Govt look bad, it actually speaks volumes about the site owners and authors themselves. These sites are not using their online reach to reach out to the public and spread reassuring words on how to deal with the haze, or how to contribute to helping your neighbor, or help spread the message on what is being done to combat the haze. They prefer to politicize the issue. Even the Worker’s Party has chosen not to politicize the haze. By focusing their efforts on blaming the Govt instead of providing help and guidance, it goes to show who really loves Singapore, and who would rather see Singapore burn than to cede power to the PAP.