SHANMUGAM: OPPOSITION SUPPORTERS HIJACKED OUR RESIDENT FEEDBACK WALL

We had put up an Expression Wall early this year, at the Amphitheatre in Chong Pang City. It was hugely successful, with many people expressing their views. We put up another wall last week. This time we were hoping to hear ideas, views, thoughts on how we can develop quality wellness and care centres for our elderly.

The response from the residents has been overwhelming. We kept the wall for extra days, and had to add more writing space, using sheets – just like the last time. It has also been fun for residents to express themselves creatively as well as reading the views and drawings of others.

We have captured every comment on the wall, including taking pictures and videos of them. This is important because some of the residents have written over the comments of others. There were some rude comments and graffiti as well. Some were drawn by little kids. This is to be expected. There were also negative comments and complaints by residents on policies which they want changed – these were genuine expression of views. People are entitled to disagree with government policies and give their views. This is what this expression wall is all about.

Unfortunately, there was also some unconstructive element to it. Some Opposition supporters (clearly identifiable because of what they did) decided to co-ordinate and hijack the Wall – defacing the Wall, writing over other comments, scratching out existing comments, and standing by the Wall and asking people to write down negative comments, calling for the death of one of our founding fathers. They also took screen shots of the negative comments which they themselves wrote, presumably so that they can post them on line and pretend that that these were comments by residents. (We noted they quickly took pictures of such negative comments and posted them on some websites). One such writer scribbled across a section of the wall to cancel out dozens of good suggestions, and wrote very prominently the name of the political party he supported. We did not stop them. People can judge for themselves what such a behaviour means. He and some others believe that freedom of expression means that only their views should be seen, and so he needed to scratch out the positive comments.( As I have said earlier some of the comments which were critical of policies were honest expression of views by residents. The unconstructive behaviour was exhibited by only a few, though they attempted to scratch out large parts).

Despite all this co-ordinated effort, it is heartening that that the majority – about 90 per cent of the comments – were positive or constructive. We will review the comments in greater detail and do an update later. We were able to tabulate because we kept track of all the comments, including those which were scratched out, written over, so we know what all the comments were. We will send all the feedback to the relevant agencies.

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