Going through a difficult pHaze: Part 1

In Singapore Politics on June 21, 2013 at 3:01 pm

No one opposes Minister Balakrishnan and Minister Shanmugam in their dealing with Indonesia; their firmness should have been practised a very long time ago. And maybe the haze isn’t the government’s fault–Indonesia certainly seems more culpable whichever way you choose to slice the problem. But when crisis strikes, Government owes a duty to take care of their citizens–this is a responsibility that is completely independent of blame-worthiness. This responsibility means churning out domestic solutions to the problem when we’ve gone too far down the path to a hazy hell. Die-hard fans of the Singapore government will disagree, but we could’ve done better in this respect.

For one thing, construction workers should not be working outdoors without masks when the PSI is in the “Unhealthy” or “Hazardous” range. If we can advise the general population to stay indoors, this prudent advice should certainly extend to any employee–foreign or local–currently working outside in the haze. Perhaps if our new buildings and MRT stations are in such urgent need of construction, then we should at least provide these workers with masks to minimize their inhalation of pollutants. It is a worthwhile investment.

It is baffling (rather, infuriating) that the government has not told companies to cease construction work for now. It seems rather inhumane to subject human beings to laborious tasks in the outdoors when the haze could clog their lungs. Even if the government didn’t issue a stop-work order, I believe these companies have the good sense to protect their employees by temporarily stopping work until the PSI decreases. Yet outside my home I am still seeing several construction workers going about their jobs without any regard for the hazardous air pollution. It is business-as-usual. And I am disheartened that despite a “whole-of-government” approach, we have not shown much concern for these workers.

I’m afraid our dealings abroad aren’t perfect either. Of course, “demanding” “definitive action” from the Indonesian government and the release of names of the corporate culprits isn’t a bad idea. But when the Indonesian Minister starts to call Singaporeans “children” and insinuate that we’re being a tad whiny about this haze issue, it implies that perhaps we need our bilateral dynamics to be a little less belligerent. Perhaps if we had taken such a firm stance earlier–say, 10 years ago–such belligerence wouldn’t be necessary when the PSI reaches 300.

Disasters and apocalypses don’t change your character–they reveal it. Beneath the shroud of this haze, perhaps it has been revealed that we weren’t prepared for this difficult phaze at all. And now we shall all scramble for masks and air-conditioning.

  1. I don’t understand why MINDEF can suspend military training.

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