Singing in the haze

In the words of Vivian Balakrishnan: “Remember that how we behave in a crisis – this is what people will remember… This is the time for us to do the right thing, to be cohesive, to be collectively responsible for each other. Not a time to profit, not a time to spread rumours, not a time to take advantage of people’s fears. I would make that plea very sincerely and as strongly as possible”.

The past few weeks of haze have certainly shown the true nature of different facets of people – good ones such as the volunteers behind SG Haze Rescue who very quickly sourced and distributed N95 masks or offered places to stay; and less altruistic ones who hoarded masks to sell them at incredulous prices.

Whether you consider these actions to be good or bad, perhaps they are natural reactions to a crisis situation not many of us are equipped to face.

But what really annoys and even embarrasses me as a Singaporean is the fact that many took this situation as an opportunity to abuse their power online in the comfort of their air-conditioned homes – spreading rumours, and inciting fear and doubt with their insensitive and non-constructive comments, particularly with regards to the lack of action/transparency from the government.

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If anything, I’d say Singapore is probably one of the most crisis-ready nations.

MOH and NEA have recently revealed their contingency plans if the haze worsens: the former providing a haze subsidy scheme and implementing a system in place to meet a possible surge in demand in terms of medical attention and services, while the latter ensures that essential services like dengue inspection, waste collection, and public cleaning can still continue safely.

Both MoM and NTUC have also urged employers to take immediate and proactive measures to ensure the safety of employees. NTUC and several of its industry-based affiliated unions have also issued advisories to work closely on haze management and response plans!

Smart businesses quickly understood that the cost of getting N95 masks for their employees and letting them work from home was significantly lower than waiting for MoM to issue an “automatic stop-work order”.

It’s also heartening to see that while diplomatic negotiations are on-going, there are various act of kindness from people on the street – from Indonesians living in Singapore giving out masks to the public, to netizens sharing simple humour as a motivation to keep calm and carry on.

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Other initiatives include turning air-conditioned community centres into haze shelters, and NGO Community Chest setting aside fund to help the needy.

People, not only is Singapore prepared, I think its people are capable of great things when push comes to shove!

Just remember: don’t be an unhelpful troll and make yourself useful! :D


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