Have Singaporeans lost sense of privacy?


An empty seat awaits a commuter. Three young folk stand by the empty seat, none wanting to sit down. An elderly man boards the train and sits down on an empty seat, bewildered at why the seat was merely looked at, and not occupied, even though his previous absence meant that someone could have rested on the seat.

Welcome to the New Singapore, a nationa that fears the “citizen policeman”.

Who is the “citizen policeman”? You’ll see this person armed with a handphone camera, frowning and full of himself. He strikes everywhere: the chiobu sleeping on the MRT, the teenager occupying the reserved seat, the NS boy that dozes off.

His alliance? STOMP.

But he won’t stop at STOMP. To make the news spicier, he’ll label it a “Foreign Worker act”, or “the PAP at fault” and sometimes accuses it “a PRC thing”…and then he’ll post it to, well, you know what these sites are.

I wonder why STOMP continues to gain popularity despite netizens showing displeasure. Perhaps our respect for privacy has indeed regressed. Maybe STOMP and all manner of online sharing has caused us to care little for the privacy of others. “Social justice” must be done, at the expense of respect of our private space.

Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a renewed emphasis on building character and civics education. Many received the news with skepticism – timely move, but how would it be done, considering how flat many public campaigns have gone on the same problem?

If the hypothesis that Singaporeans are not driven much to improve society as a whole, this is worrying.

The “citizen police” have indeed landed some people into deep trouble (we know who they are, the Anton Casey, the Amy Cheong, the Honda Ah Beng) – and more worryingly, even before access to justice. We all accept that no man may be punished without the law, but the citizen police and the court of public opinion has sentenced people even before real justice can do its work.

Like it or not, the citizen police has changed us. I fear we have forgotten that, perhaps, there is a better way of curing or managing society’s ills than to ride on the wave and post unglamorous material online.








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