Tuesday, 25 June 2013

SG Haze: A Response to "Dumb and Dumber Singaporean Reactions to the Haze"

Before you read this post, you may want to glance through the article entitled "Dumb and Dumber Singaporean Reaction to the Haze", found here.

In this blog post, I will attempt to address the various points brought up by the blogger (let's call him Mr D for short) on the 'dumb' reactions of Singaporeans online with regards to the worst haze in the history of the country.

1. On the stop work order and comparing with other countries

Firstly, Mr D claims that nobody has made a comparison to how "the other countries have reacted when their air is bad". As an example, he used a document issued by the US EPA meant for children to illustrate his point that in the US, children can still go out and play when the air is bad.

All I can say is that this argument is really weak and not at all well substantiated. May I direct you to the following links which are all meant for ADULTS:
Mr D then goes on to inform us that in Malaysia, an API of 500 and above will warrant all non-essential services to be suspended, with the closing of all ports in the affected area. In fact, the Malaysian PM has declared a state of emergency in the areas most adversely affected by the haze yesterday, when the API exceeded 700.

What is Mr D trying to tell us, exactly? If anything, the Malaysian government HAS reacted to the hazardous conditions and by declaring a state of emergency, their government IS taking decisive, immediate action! When the air was choking the people, the Malaysian authorities did not hold meetings and conferences, suddenly establish an Inter-Agency Haze Committee and then proceed to tell the people not to be too fixated on the PSI. Are you seeing the difference here?


Furthermore, Mr D makes the huge assumption that stop-work order issued by the government must be absolute. He assumes that Singaporeans are demanding a complete stop work for the entire nation for every single industry. This assumption is erroneous. Mr D has failed to realize that a stop-work order can be partial, with the government agency (MOM) specifying clear guidelines on the type of essential and non-essential services that should stop/continue but be closely regulated during the haze. I have also addressed the point of partial stop-work order in my earlier post here

Finally, Mr D has failed to address the ministerial salary issue when asking Singaporeans to make comparisons with other countries. Has he forgotten that our leaders are the MOST highly paid in the WORLD? By that measure, it is NOT UNREASONABLE to expect more from them! 

2. On the Preparedness of the Government

Please refer to this website again. It was reported that the Inter-Haze Committee was established AFTER the haze reached unhealthy levels. The guidelines were prepared in a hurry after the PSI hit critical levels. I can only assume Mr D does not understand the definition of the term "being prepared". One makes preparations BEFORE an event. Do you study for a test during the test? Do you prepare for your presentation after the presentation? Clearly, your idea about preparation is absurd!

Preparation 101. Even squirrels know you store nuts BEFORE winter.

The writer also failed to realize the following in his arguments:
  • The 9 million masks in the armory is indeed a sign of preparation, but NOT for the haze! N95 masks can only last for a limited number of hours of continuous use, after which the masks will no longer filter effectively. This article here mentions that up to 8 hours of continuous use is a safe duration. Considerably longer usage of the mask will depend on conditions, with good function being maintained in clean, non-dusty environments (ie not in a haze). If the government had indeed prepared the 9 million masks for the haze like you claim, then you discredit them even more than the 'dumb' Singaporeans, because you, Mr D, are implying that our leaders cannot do simple math. 9 million masks for 5.3 million people in bad haze conditions? How long can the it last? How is this preparation for the haze? Therefore, there is only one logical conclusion. Nobody, not even the leaders, expected the haze to be the worst ever in Singapore, reaching extremely hazardous levels in such a short time.
  • The haze is a yearly event, not like 'ponding/flooding' which is a 'once in 50 years' phenomenon, ok? 
  • Yes, most Singaporeans can afford to buy masks and yes the masks should go to those who urgently need them first. No one denies this. But the truth is the entire country's retail for masks and air purifiers are pretty much out of stock. Mr D must not have visited the pharmacies recently. Please tell me again how the government was prepared for this.

3. On the confusion regarding PSI Readings

S has done a recent post on PSI vs PM2.5 and the confusing NEA website: you can find it here. The bottomline is this. We, the ordinary citizens of Singapore, are not statistics experts and air quality experts. That is why we rely on our leaders and experts at NEA to educate and communicate the information to the layman, to ensure that public health is protected. Mr D says we should just 'look outside the window' to determine how bad the haze is. By that measure, he is saying that NEA's measurements for air quality is only useful for blind people. Everyone else doesn't need it.

The most useful tool for determining haze according to Mr D. NEA, are you offended?

4. On "Singapore should do something to Indonesia"

No one denies that issues pertaining to foreign affairs are extremely complex. Whilst there are those who are naive on this, I believe Mr D has taken this 'inital reaction' of Singaporeans way too seriously. Hello?? Singaporeans are NOT asking for war!

Bring yourself back to when you were a kid. Say you were playing with your neighbour, and your neighbour injures you. Wouldn't you immediately run to your parent / guardian for protection and justice? Calling for 'justice' is a simply a normal knee-jerk reaction in response to an immediate stimulus and anger. Ironically, much of your blog post is also reactionary in nature, so aren't you the pot calling the kettle black?

5. On 'Shameless' Public Behaviour 

After I read this section and your argument, I genuinely felt like banging my head against the wall.

To Mr D: Every society has a good side and an ugly side. You shamed Singaporeans who are deliberately profiteering from the masks (the ugly side) but failed to acknowledge the people who have taken proactive steps to collect and distribute masks on their own initiative (the good side). You failed to acknowledge the soldiers who have spent their weekend distributing masks. You failed to mention the appreciation that Singaporeans have shown to their countrymen for these selfless acts. You failed to mention the heroes who sent to put out the fires or seed the clouds. Why is your argument so one-sided? What is your agenda?

There are helpful Singaporeans too!

You are asking Singaporeans to boycott the Heart Truths blog. While I do not agree with everything that Roy has said on his blog, I would urge Singaporeans seeking alternative media to read and analyse with a discerning eye and make their own decisions. Just because you don't agree, no one else should read it? Hello?? This is the age of the internet! Free our internet and free your mind! I encourage everyone to read Mr D's post on "dumb Singaporeans" again and draw your own conclusions on which blog is more worthy of being boycotted!

Finally, Mr D claims that Singaporeans are politicizing the haze issue. Why shouldn't we? After all, the politics and governance of a country is intimately linked to every single aspect of our lives and our future! After 9/11 and the Boston bombings, while the local authorities and volunteers organised immediate assistance at Ground Zero, millions of Americans questioned their leaders and looked to their authorities for justice and action. When the Victorian government failed to fulfill its promises to make Victorian teachers the highest paid in the country, 30,000 educators went on strike in retaliation. Isn't that what Democracy is about?

In fact, Singaporeans are already too apolitical as you will find from this article here. We do not politicize and discuss politics enough, as compared to the rest of the world. According to the eyes of the world, we are not even considered a democracy but a 'hybrid regime' - think about that!

Singapore is not a democracy according to the Democracy Index.

Thanks for reading. At this point, I believe I have sufficiently demolished Mr D's arguments and claims, and will leave my readers to their draw their own conclusion.


P/S: Thanks to the 100k visitors to our blog over the last 3 days! For all you know, MDA may be regulating us soon... =P


  1. That guys is either a dumb ass that ganna brain washed by the whites or he working for them.

  2. Finally, a great response to a dumb article. When i saw the sheepish other Singaporeans who agreed to his 'dumb' article I almost banged my head to the wall... I mean really? Do Singaporeans know how to think properly? Thanks for the great article anyway!

  3. Unfortunately you have misread my post:

    1. Regarding Stop Work, I never stated that govts do not have the power to demand work stoppage (which appears to be thegist of your argument). Instead, my point is about when they choose to use those poewrs. And my point is that there is no hard rule as these other countries take a risk-management approach. I also did not assume a SWO is universal, in fact I said that "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."

    2. N95 masks can be used for haze or for airborne disease. Doesn't matter whether it is stockpiled for one or the other. That's preparation to me. Who's to say that the govt who stockpile masks didn't stockpile them for both intents?

    3. And you are missing my point that the very nature of PSI readings, being an average of the past 3 hours, is therefore a measurement of the past and not the present.

    4. Life is not inherently fair. International diplomacy shows that life is unfair, and that you need to have muscle in order to have "justice".

    5. Nowhere in my blog did I say that all Singaporeans are ugly. I said "some Singaporeans", not "all Singaporeans". Similarly, nowhere in my blog did I say that all alternative media is rubbish.

    6. Finally, I never talked about ministerial salaries. Why do I need to address this point?

    1. So if not all Singaporeans are ugly, why wasn't the "good" Singaporeans mentioned? It's not whether the statement is factual, but if the views are fair and balanced. That's the challenge in writing something to back up your claims while at the same time not just fixated on the negative, or just the positive for that matter.

      Also, ministerial salaries are mentioned because it explains the citizen's reaction towards the leaders, demanding accountability. Why do I even need to explain this point?

    2. "Instead, my point is about when they choose to use those powers. And my point is that there is no hard rule as these other countries take a risk-management approach."

      So when will they take action they, and upon whom then?

      What's the tipping point?

      The PSI was 400, and the prospect of it going higher is probability.

      But there was absolutely no battle plan to mitigate the effects should it get worse, should the fires not be put out yet, nor should there be a shortage of masks.

      On domestic policy, and besides the procurement of masks, all I heard from PM Lee (and on the front page) is he will subsidise poor and needy should they need to see a doctor. It's insulting if he thinks poor and vulnerable Singaporeans are only concerned about 10-20 dollars of medical expenditure.


      I should just say this is not the first time the PM Lee administration has dithered and dithered over incidents that significantly affected the lives of vulnerable segments of Singaporeans - shortage of HDBs (till Khaw took over), Minibonds mis-selling saga, depressing wages due to immigration of cheap labour, old (and very old) Singaporeans who still have to work for 3 meals, etc.

    3. Why weren't the good Singaporeans mentioned? Simply put, my post was already too long. I simply pin-pointed the shameful opportunistic of on-selling.

      It's a blog, not a research dissertation. I don't have to cover everything.

    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    5. SgThinker:

      You may not have overtly stated that the SWO is universal, but the entire paragraph insinuates that what we were asking for is a universal SWO. For example, quoting your blog, when you were refuting the need for a SWO:

      "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".

      Look. We have some common sense. We KNOW that there is no need for work occurring in such environments to grind to a halt. If you read the majority of the comments on Tan Chuan-Jin's facebook page correctly (which you obviously DIDN'T), you would have noticed that we were calling for a selective SWO for the construction workers and other outdoor workers doing heavy work. No, sgthinker, it is YOU who has chosen not to see the nuance.

      Might I point out how awfully foolish you look right now, predicting "very serious" consequences, especially since the SWO would have only lasted for 2 days at the max? Really. 2 days, or even one week, is hardly a recipe for disaster. The economy will not spiral into utter mayhem just because your office windows didn't get cleaned Friday afternoon. I didn't know I was going to starve to death if I couldn't get my groceries today, or eat out at the hawker centre tomorrow evening. If the economy of this country is that fragile, then, you know, maybe the haze should probably be last on your list of worries.

      Btw, a large number of the infrastructure projects, including most of the Downtown Line projects, are already behind time--I know this for a fact, because just last year I worked with these companies. Now, if the NEA and MOM could have been bothered to consult with a simple tool such as windfinder.com, they might have realised that the air was likely to clear relatively soon, and therefore it would not have too great an impact on the work schedules of these projects to stop for 2-3 days.

    6. Secondly, if you consider 9 million N95s for ALL sorts of scenarios being sufficient preparation for ANYTHING... Do you know that clinics are EXPECTED, as part of their licencing from MOH, to keep a minimum of 14 DAYS' WORTH of PPEs? Preparedness= keeping at least a week's stock (37.1 million masks), not the basic equivalent of 2 days.

      Finally, your little counter-argument about you having not referred to ministerial salaries. Sure, you haven't. But your entire blog post refers to the reactions of people who are reacting to a perceived lack of sufficient preparation, or action, which in turn stems from the incredulity of paying someone S$1 million for what seems like nothing. Whether those are justified, or to what extent those are justified, is not my point. My point, which I think most will agree with me, is this. To those whom much is given, much is expected.

      If I put in $1000 for a handphone which is marketed as having a performance worth that amount, I THEN expect the performance of that handphone to be worthy of that value, or at the very least, be worth close to that amount, and if I get barely even 50%, I am perfectly justified in returning to the manufacturer, and demanding that it be fixed, or replaced. And if they tell me that I ought to temper my expectations, am I not right, as the consumer, to be indignant? Would I not be a fool if they told me to keep paying $1000 every month in order that they don't implant an auto-destruct chip in my phone, and I did so unquestioningly?

      Yes, there are people politicizing the issue. Apologies, but that is only reasonable, given that Singapore is not an anarchy. There is much individual action we can take--but the SWO? Is that something we're supposed to go to the construction companies and their subcontractors and demand? Where are they likely to point to? 'No instructions from the top, so no stop'.

      After all, to quote you, "you need to have muscle in order to have justice".

      Yes, there are unreasonable Singaporeans--might I add, of all political stripes. As much as there are the idiots who cannot see any good in the PAP, who want them to do everything while they sit back and do nothing, there are also the idiots who can't see any bad.

    7. 'sgthinker' you seem to be the one politicising the haze and making false accusations without substantiation. It is immature and meaningless to focus on speculating about hidden agenda of critics instead of addressing the issues highlighted by them.

    8. @sgthinker.. Just admit it .. your post lack depth and is simply biased.

      Your statement on stop work is giving many people the impression that you meant a complete halt to all activities in Singapore. - "If a stop work order was issued, how are people going to get their masks and food? How are hospitals going to be staffed?" Kind of different from what you are trying to clarify here. An honest mistake?

      How can you conclude that a government is ready and prepared when the equipment that we have is not actually meant for that purpose? On top of that we are having the haze problem year after year despite Indonesia signing the agreement in 2002. As a member of ASEAN there is absolutely nothing Singapore can do? A country that does not have that "muscle" but have billions to lend out to another country?

      It is true that you did not mention anything about minister salary but we are trying to remind you that we have been paying them top talent salaries and we want top talent qualities.. not something equivalent to another country. It has to be a top notch caliber and stuff from them. We have every right to expect that from them.

    9. My statement about SWO covers two situations. A universal SWO and a SWO for outdoor workers only. You can choose not to believe me. I cannot help improve your English comprehension skills.

      And don't you know ASEAN is a talk shop?

    10. you can say that people misunderstand your points, but that is only because you made everybody do so by your rather pathetic blog title "DUMB and DUMBER singaporeans..."

      there are already foreigners calling us dumb, so seriously, why do you need to call your fellow singaporeans dumb? just because they are politicizing the issue? just because they are panicking? just because they are criticizing the government?

      go think about it for a moment. use some common sense. if you don't know what common sense is, just look behind your chair. you left it there before you sat down infront of yer computer!!

    11. I say sgthinker,,,u are the most DUMBEREST...I will call you sinker NOT thinker...if the garmen is doing the right thing, should there be more claps than hoohas???the haze needs political WILL to resolve...the garmen demands they are paid the best...so we demand the best from them...do you have an issue with that...

    12. "Simply put, my post was already too long. I simply pin-pointed the shameful opportunistic of on-selling.

      It's a blog, not a research dissertation. I don't have to cover everything."

      Got such thing as "I don't have to cover everything" want meh? Blog doesn't mean no need do research, it just shows your blog credibility is nothing more than a rant space. You highlighted all the negativity and offer nothing positive such as suggestions or something people don't know. Pls tell us what is your agenda? Or is it PAP bought you over?

  4. I salute you for taking the time and effort to refute that "dumb" article. It was so full of holes with its juvenile and weak reasoning that it wasn't even worth responding to IMO.

  5. 'sgthinker', what an ironic name

  6. I don't live in Singapore, Malaysia or Indonesia, but I am curious -
    Why aren't the public boycotting the companies responsible for the burning? I have seen lists of the companies responsible. But I have hardly seen any calls for people on the street to boycott these "haze-products", and send a strong message to these companies by hitting their profits.

    Where I live, a boycott would be the first thing organised - within hours of the first smoke cloud arriving. Is it because you are unable to find out which products to boycott, or is it because the Singaporean public is simply not used to taking action independantly?

    1. we don't know the companies, and therfore don't know the products. why don't we know it? it's not stated in the local news.

  7. I'll state my stand early. I agree more with Mr D but here's my thoughts.

    There's always things to pick on in any issues in any country. Nothing can satisfy everyone.. think: parents always demand more of their child. Child gets 85 marks they will ask why lose 15 marks? Therefore, I won't bother to zoom in on the various arguments and counter arguments both sides are saying about the preparedness of the government. Only remark is those complaining are like the demanding parents in my analogy. We are pushing for a more accepting society where people say "well done, but you can do better.." but somehow people have double standards against the government, no praises, just complains.

    The way Singaporeans are seeing democracy is strange.. It seemed like democracy means freedom to criticize or taking actions against the government. Anything that supports the government is not really considered democratic.. However a democracy should represent the voice of the people, be it those that supports the govt or those that don't. Not sure why the author and various online media are saying we do not discuss politics enough when the first thing they do is to "condemn and demolish" an alternative view to theirs. Are they advocating democracy or just anti government sentiments?

    Lastly, from this haze episode I'd seen people that are supportive of the government becoming more vocal online, the pro-democratic (but actually might be anti-government) people that has been active online hopefully should welcome these voices and not strongly defense against them. After all, we are all Singaporean and it's our voices that build the democracy that counts.

  8. Your rebuttal is actually quite fair, but personally I see no need to bring the ministerial salary in.

    As for the masks, while they are good for 8 hours of continual use only, let's also be fair that most people (not talking about people who actually work outside) will have limited outside contact daily.

    A fair estimate for most people would be for 1 mask to last 1 week IMO. Personally, I think the Govt could have done more for the weaker (such as construction workers etc), as people who have better abilities would self protect themselves / families more.

    1. minister pay has been a sore point to many people especially when we get to see the quality and capabilities of our "elected" ministers. There is one whole long list of quotes and examples out there if you are interested to find out more...

    2. ministeral salaries are indeed a sore point. let me put it this way:

      you support a football team full of players on hefty wages, promising fans that your club will be playing top football and winning trophies. instead, you are stuck in a relegation dogfight, with the players being piss poor. how would you feel?

  9. SG thinker says he didnt have to cover everything. He's right in a way, because he didn't cover the facts that needed to be mentioned. He covered stuff that was what PAP wanted to hear!

  10. Alternative views are relevant so long it is entrenched in reality and based on facts. On a annual basis, PSI during the haze periods over the last decade stayed in the moderate range and breached the unhealthy region for no more than few instances over the same period.

    Statistically speaking, what the government is doing today is a reactionary effort to the haze rising above hazardous levels of late. To pinpoint the reactionary efforts as a sign of weakness and unpreparedness by the authors is statistically inaccurate.

    Assuming that statistics is not a factor in your post here (which seems to be the case), then anyone can run the country. In fact, the attempt to bring up the ministerial salary as a proxy of "complete policy success" in any situation (e.g. haze from Indonesia) implies that Singapore should be better off with an alternative government filled with individuals (more bluntly from non PAP political party) who are lesser paid (they always said that).

    So what would this alternative government with non PAP individuals do? Stop work when it goes to 200 PSI? Who pays the foreign workers who stop work? Employers or taxpayers? How about Stockpile 1B face masks per year, and throwing away the 1B once the expiration date is over?

    Or will the alternative government makes the same set of decisions as the current one? Then how? Congratulate them for making rational and logical, fact-based decisions?

    Also, the point about 9M masks for 5.3M people. Please... the 9M masks are meant when you go outdoors. If you advocate that wearing a N95 masks when you go toilet, showering or sitting in a air-con cubicle doing office work, then it is unlikely to have 8 hours of continous use to throw away the masks. So if you take away ALL those indoors one and stick to those die die outdoors, can you still say the 9M is insufficient?

    And have you heard of "re-stocking"? You talk as if there is no re-stocking? You hope that the 9M face masks is a one-time so that you can have another "see, how bad this government is" situation?

    By the way, decisive action by Malaysian government does not include giving free N95 masks to the poor. But that is not as important as declaring state of emergency when it reach hazardous levels right?

    In the end of the day, the authors equate alternative views to AGAINST GOVERNMENT in any circumstances. Alternative views means that when the government says "the sun rises from the east" is wrong because the alternative view is that "it rises from the west sometimes because of parallex error". This is not alternative views. It's blatant illogical anti-government rambling, which is why it will NEVER be covered by MDA for the news thing.

    But for a piece of entertaining thrashy blog, it is a useful relief in stressful days.

    1. "Or will the alternative government makes the same set of decisions as the current one? Then how? Congratulate them for making rational and logical, fact-based decisions?"

      But if they pay themselves lesser with our money, we can't complain as much, can we?

  11. @Alternate_Pews
    It's nice that you are trying your best to analyze point by point.

    However one should avoid stating the extreme catastrophic approach to problem-solving which in turn simply diminishes the very purpose of constructive open discussion in the hope of resolution if not improvement. Not only that will be deemed as the likeness of 'scare' tactic which one would adopt to avoid facing the issue head-on, but will also promote further frustration to those on the receiving-end who will inevitably come to a conclusion that no resolution can ever be conceived and are all doom to accepting the current situation no matter how bad it seems. That prevents any future improvement to take place, and complacency takes over which is an ingredient for future disaster.
    At the end of day, everyone aims to see guidance and constructive improvements to battle environmental issues like this Haze. Hopefully more will see the light of things to come and offer more constructive ideas while taking into consideration the masses incl those incapable to receive help.

    Some quotes to ponder:
    It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.
    Alvin Toffler

    It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.
    Thomas Sowell

  12. Btw... Our ministerial salaries do rank one of the highest in the world, even after the new revision, but the many other perks and benefits enjoyed by the foreign counterparts are not priced into our ministers'. So I honestly don't think it is entirely fair to use that as a point of argument in the first place because it does not accurately depict the actual amount paid for the "services of our leaders" which in actuality has no price tag in the first place.