Life after GE - Chan Chun Sing

During last May's General Election, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing was ridiculed by netizens online for his heartland mannerisms.

Some made fun of him for his use of the phrase "kee chiu" (Hokkien for raise hands), others poked fun at his Lanfang Republic comparison to Singapore in explaining the vulnerability of small states.

He even had to come out to refute online speculation that he was related to former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

A year on, the brickbats continue.

But it has not deterred Mr Chan from wanting to continue to engage Singaporeans both online and offline.

On online engagement, while Mr Chan believes that an active citizenry is important to the progress of Singapore, he was also concerned that the voice of the majority may not be well-represented in cyberspace.

The amplifying effect of posting something on the Internet, he said, may mean that a small voice could be turned into the loudest noise online.

That's why he tries to encourage people to speak up online.

He said: "Everybody has a part to play to occupy this space... If you don't agree, then you write something. But if you don't write something, then you have abdicated your responsibility to say something."

And instead of having like-minded people talking among themselves on individual sites, why not have a common platform where people can come together to share their views, he said.

How about taking that one level higher, he added, and come face to face to debate issues too?

To open a door to this type of offline engagement, he has initiated informal policy discussion forums at the Buona Vista Community Club, delving into topics as diverse as childcare, transport and population.

Last Friday was the 12th such session.

He said: "All kinds of people turn up (for these sessions).

"In fact, when I started this series, everybody was worried for me. Friends were saying that, 'You must be mad... people will come and tear down your stage and kick up a fuss.'"

Some people did kick up a fuss but Mr Chan was unfazed and continued to keep the door to the sessions open.

"My only qualifying criteria for people who come to the forum is so long as you are passionate about Singapore, I'm okay," he said.

"If you are passionate about Singapore but you don't agree with me, it's also okay because if you don't agree with me but you are willing to come and debate the ideas, and maybe your idea is really better, then we have a better idea for Singapore.

"Not for me, not for you, but for Singapore."

He also touched on the importance of info-literacy in fostering mature debates online, where before people participate in online debates, they first verify the information to be true rather than simply taking anything they read online to be the truth.


Pointing to how Google remembers the user's search preferences, Mr Chan said: "People always Google something and feel that 'I'm so knowledgeable' but they don't realise that Google is the culprit to reinforce confirmation bias.

"You Google the same thing on your phone versus my phone, we get different results.

"They know what you have been reading, they track what you are doing so they give you things that are closest to your preferences."

So you end up reading things that reinforce what you believe in instead of things that give you a different view on the same issue. Or you end up reading what most people read.

To avoid this, why not go to page 10 of your search results instead of reading the top five things that come up, said Mr Chan.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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