Saturday, 10 February 2007

A voice for me

The Straits Times has been running profiles on the new NMPs, and my turn was today (with 3 others). I must say, this article makes me seem a little fluffy and frivolous. I don't think I'm really like that.

In fact, my view is that the article does not do justice to everything I told the reporter. Of course, I never expected it to, because of space constraints if nothing else. But here are just some points I made that either came out wrong or did not present a complete picture or were completely omitted when perhaps they might have been relevant:

  • Not having a tape recording of the interview, I can't be 100% sure. But I don't think I said anything about "not being pigeon-holed into being a voice just for my generation". If anything, I don't want to be pigeon-holed into anything at all. I happen to think that the media likes to pigeon-hole everyone and everything, since that makes their jobs easier -- and I don't see why I should fall into that trap. I may or may not have made that point, but I rather thought I did.

  • The quote about me not feeling the "burden of representing my generation's views" is correct. But I also said that I don't have the right to represent anybody, since I am not elected. I think the part about not feeling the burden is rather less important than not having the right. It also happens to be less than flattering.

  • My company is named "CA", not "CA (Asia South)". Many reporters have been getting this wrong. Asia South is the region, not the company name.

  • For some reason, the media likes to talk about how I intend to focus on animal welfare and helping the low-income. My essay talks about other things, like consumer rights, legal issues like privacy and intellectual property, and freedom of expression. Yet the focus is on those two things. For the record, since I do not and do not purport to represent any interest groups or functional constituencies, I actually do intend to simply raise issues about anything and everything that are important to me. But I guess that would make it hard to pigeon-hole me.

  • My views about "loosening up" -- my preferred term is "opening up", actually -- are a lot more nuanced than what was written. It's not just that I think we should open up more -- I do. But the point I actually made, is that we need to start opening up the political sphere in a serious manner. So far, all the "loosening up" has been mostly limited to non-political areas like entertainment (bar top dancing? Crazy Horse? sure...) and the arts. But not in the overtly political arena, and specifically not when it comes to political speech. Party political films, anyone? Online media regulation, where "light touch" just means the Government reserves the right to apply a heavier touch when it wishes? This distinction is, to me, artificial and will inhibit genuine creativity, at a time when we need to develop creativity in the workforce so that we can have all those innovations to allow us to move up the value chain and build that knowledge-based economy. I specifically and repeatedly explained this to the reporter, and she did (eventually) understand. But she kept trying to push me to simplify what I was trying to say, to make it easier for her to bring the message across. I guess in the end, she just did it for me, because none of those nuances appear in the article.

  • I may be being over-sensitive, but the piece seems to imply that I set up this blog to be more connected to the "younger generation". I think it's telling that, when I e-mailed the reporter about the blog, one of her questions in response was "Is this a means to differentiate yourself from other NMPs, appeal more to people in your generation who are more net-savvy etc?". I specifically told her no, that I used to have a personal blog but had stopped because I didn't have the time anymore (that was from 2001 to 2005), and that this blog is "simply to have a channel to let anyone who is interested find out what I am doing as a NMP, and to comment or otherwise get in touch with me. If I have time, I'd also like to post some stuff to demystify Parliament for the public." If I don't purport to represent my generation, I don't really need to appeal to them.

  • And for the record -- the "www" is unnecessary in the URL. I certainly didn't include it.

Perhaps I come off as being petty, pointing these out in such detail. But isn't this precisely the power of the Internet, that it allows those of us who do not work in or control the mass media to respond to it, on our own terms, without being mediated or edited? That it allows the people a voice, to say the things they want, the way they want. And I felt it important to correct any misperceptions that may arise from this article.

Feb 9, 2007

Siew Kum Hong: A voice for post-65 generation and more

FOUR years ago, lawyer Siew Kum Hong was part of a flash mob.

He and 11 others, having received an e-mail message to gather at Orchard MRT station, rode up and down the escalators three times, waving and yelling, before disappearing.

It was a silly, Saturday afternoon outburst but it was not peculiar to Singapore.

Flash mobs were then an international phenomenon.

Looking back, the 31-year-old says with a slightly embarrassed grin: 'I just felt like doing something different. It was fun.'

However, Mr Siew is determined not to be pigeon-holed into being a voice just for his post-Independence generation.

'Actually, I don't represent anyone because I'm not elected. So I don't feel the burden of representing my generation's views.

'But in the process of speaking up, I do hope to reflect some of their aspirations,' says the senior counsel for CA (Asia South), a software company.

Speaking up is a role familiar to the law graduate from the National University of Singapore.

He airs his views often in the Today freesheet, writing columns on issues that range from managing talent in the school system to the need to regulate spam e-mail.

It led 'people who knew my writing and some ex-colleagues' to suggest he apply for the Nominated MP post.

'It's a cliche but I felt like I was being asked to serve the country... I couldn't say no,' he says.

His hobby horses include animal welfare. For instance, culling stray cats to control the population is a 'knee-jerk reaction', and he wonders if it has been effective.

Helping the low-income group is also close to the heart of this alumnus from Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College.

He used to live in an HDB three-room flat, sharing a bedroom with his older brother and sister until he was 21.

Now, home is a terrace house in Thomson, which he shares with his mother and brother's family.

Mr Siew also thinks Singapore can 'loosen up' more, in areas like the arts, to encourage creativity.

Opening up the political arena will also allow for a diversity of views and perspectives, something the younger generation hopes to see, says the blogger, who recently set up

The bachelor once saw himself settled in a job in New York, where there is a vibrant stand-up comedy and music scene.

Not any more. 'I've come to appreciate what Singapore has to offer. Things work here.

'And I guess you can say I do have roots here that at this point in time, I'm not willing to give up.'

Copyright Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

Legalese: My posting of this article is based on my rights under the defence of general fair dealing in Section 35 of the Singapore Copyright Act (Cap.63), as this article was written about me and I am making a strictly non-commercial use of it. Other persons will therefore not have any such rights to, and therefore should not, post this article.


Readymade said...

You're not the first to be misquoted by the ST. It's a common complaint.

Look forward to reading more on your blog!

sei-ji rakugaki said...

well, you are not being petty by clarifying it here on your blog.It is always good to hear it from the horse's mouth;)

Gerald said...

I like your distinction between "loosening up" and "opening up". This has been my constant peeve all this time. Govt thinks that by allowing casinos, Crazy Horse, bartop dancing -- basically loosening up our morals -- they can pull the wool over the eyes of Singaporeans into thinking they have "opened up". But like you rightly pointed out, the real need is for the Govt to allow more political freedom.

I hope you can push the Govt in this direction. Revoking the Films Act's banning party political films would be a good start. MM Lee and George Yeo have already said that it is outdated. I don't know why MICA is procrastinating on it.

Anyway, welcome back to blogosphere and congratulations on your NMP appointment. I look forward to more good speeches in Parliament from you!

cyclone said...

And for the record -- the "www" is unnecessary in the URL. I certainly didn't include it.

that's rather funny... it shows that the reporter like to assume things, in this case, "every web address must start with www".

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