Yaacob, in a crisis isn't it good to engage the blogging community?

The Minister for Communication & Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, has referred to me in Parliament. The Minister said that "on 22nd of June, blogger Ravi Philemon alleged that his unnamed friend said that 9 million masks will be brought into Singapore but none will be for the public. This was even as the SAF and People’s Association staff and grassroots volunteers were working hard into the early morning to ensure that 1 million masks would be distributed from warehouses to community centres and ready for distribution to households the next day."

This is the post that the Minister was referring to: https://www.facebook.com/raviphilemon/posts/10151869965668277. Even if the post on my Facebook is reflected as 22 June 2013, I had actually posted that comment, which is from a friend, a little past midnight on Friday.

On the 20th of June (Thursday), the Ministry of Health gave the assurance that there is sufficient stock of N95 masks to meet anticipated needs, and that large retail and pharmacy chains like Guardian, Unity, Cold Storage and Giant will have fresh stock of the masks on their shelves by that evening (link: http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/the-haze-singapore/story/there-sufficient-stock-n95-masks-health-ministry-20130620). But at noontime on 21 June 2013 (Friday), when the PSI reached 401, the N95 masks were still out of stock in many pharmacies (link: http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/the-haze-singapore/story/singapore-haze-update-psi-401-noon-many-pharmacies-still-out-).

The masks were only distributed to the People's Association (PA) and various PA Constituency Offices on Saturday afternoon (link: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/saf-distributes-masks-to/720774.html). As masks were unavailable for the general public on Friday despite government assurances on Thursday that it will be available that evening in large retail pharmacy chains, is it reasonable for people to make such assumptions? By the time the masks were rolled out to the general public on 23 June 2013 (Sunday), the haze was no longer a problem (at least temporarily). 

And I would also have to categorically state that that comment was not fabricated by me, but was a comment of another's. To prove that, see this comment I posted on 21 June 2013 (Friday) at about 5 pm (http://www.facebook.com/raviphilemon/posts/10151869425963277), where I had mentioned that the Government had enough stock of these masks.

I will wait for the Hansard report to have confirmation of this, but one member of Parliament mentioned in the House today that the N95 masks were stockpiled in the Ministry of Health not for distribution to the general public, but for use by health care workers in case of a spread of viral pandemic like MERS (Middle East virus) and H7N9. 

The Minister mentioned me a second time in his Speech today to say how I had rejected the idea of an Internet Code of Conduct and asked when public anxiety was highest during the days when the haze was at its worst, where I was. Pictures speak a thousand words (link: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151874403228277&set=a.113442288276.99198.633378276&type=3&theater). As the haze was at its peak on Friday (PSI 401), and because there were no masks available in many of the large retail pharmacy chains in Singapore on that day, I had called a few large retail pharmacies in Johor Bahru on Friday and Saturday, to check if they had any stock; and finally when one confirmed that it had stock on Saturday, without considering the heavy traffic jam at the causeway on that day, I traveled to that pharmacy in Malaysia to buy some N95 masks using my own money, to distribute to some that would need it the most.

What I had done is not unique, many from the online community had done the same as well. When N95 masks were not available and when no stop- work orders were issued, these had voluntarily reached out to those that might be most affected by the haze, and did whatever little they could. See this for example: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4352057618832&set=pb.1809408842.-2207520000.1373290722.&type=3&theater, and also this: http://forums.hardwarezone.com.sg/eat-drink-man-woman-16/people-far-more-efficient-than-govt-acting-against-haze-4267177.html.

Most bloggers do recognise that the problem of land and forest fires in Indonesia is a complex one, which would require the governments of different countries to work together to find a lasting solution for their citizens. Most bloggers also do support the government in their efforts to address the problem of haze. Why, even I had said so in one of my initial comments on the haze. But as a blogger, I feel that it is also my responsibility to highlight, at least some of the feelings and sentiments of the general public which may not be highlighted elsewhere. And I may not not be the only one who highlighted that some members of the public feel that they may not get the masks. For example, even MP Denise Phua had said in her column for My Paper said that 'some predicted that none of the masks will be given to the public' (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?)fbid=590044714370969&set=a.217408234967954.53891.100000963371365&type=1)

Even if the Government initially seemed ill-prepared to tackle the problem of haze, it is good that they have now come out to put forth more information, which has certainly calmed the general public as they now better know how to handle such a crisis. Bloggers can only comment on what they know, so, instead of pointing fingers, perhaps, the government should engage the blogging community more to disseminate some of these information, especially in a crisis, to the general public.


TH said…
Ravi, why am I not allowed to post in ur fb page and blog, or view your links?
Heard from someone else, same as you actively practiced censorship and selectively blocked out others.
chris said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
chris said…
Dear Mr. Philemon,

Thank you for walking the walk.

Thank you for showing that even though you are not a minister (yet, maybe one day soon I pray), you still have compassion and courage within to do what those paid to do refuse to.

I salute you.
Ravi, thank you very much for caring for your fellow human.

Let us all continue to eradicate this parasite bacteria Yayakult and all the other you know who pests.

The pap's coverment loudest shout in this hazy hullabaloo is this: instead of helping the people to cope they have resorted to deception by asking people to trust in 3 hour and 24 hour averages. If you have 500 in the first hour, 100 in the second and 75 in the third you get a 'safe' reading of 225 for the 3 hour average. Very cunning isn't it? We should have a real time or at least quarter hourly updates. Visit here for a more thorough haze free explanation http://www.tremeritus.com/2013/06/22/nea-smokes-singaporeans-with-dinosaur-age-psi-readings/

We have a super huge budget for military spending for a tiny island. Surely we should spent some of it on air cleaning equipment which occurs more regularly than a war. The last war was in the 1940s.

With water being used industrially with some abrasives to slice through metal maybe the technology can be adapted to wash down the haze particles. Air cleaning planes and many many hot air balloons holding up a long enough water hose with holes to create a water curtain are options. Maybe we can have a National Competition for Haze-Free Ideas instead of wasting on the HAZY National CONversation! A good Government will be looking at such options or come up with even better options. The water curtain idea can be applied at apartments level and we can remain green without having to use our air conditioners which cannot match the air cleaning power of the water curtain for the benefit of everybody - air-con users as well as non users. Just a water pump, hose and water are needed. KISS!

Good Government will not depend on the whims and fancies of neighbours but will do the right thing. Cleaning up the air should be a huge part of our TOTAL DEFENSE!