Environmental News Archive

An almost weekly update of environmental news, particularly marine updates, with occasional splatters of transportation, indigenous, ideas of sustainability and sustainable development from around the world.


People power, uniquely, quietly

9 Feb 2007 (The New Paper)

Mouths shut, shutters down (source)

SHOPOWNERS at the Dhoby Ghaut MRT station pulled down their shutters in protest on Monday. They were upset with their landlord, SMRT Corp, for not doing enough to address their concerns over poor shopper traffic. But SMRT has threatened legal action if tenants don't settle their rent.

SMRT is listed on the Stock Exchange and its substantial shareholder is the government investment company, Temasek Holdings.

Was it a good way to fight their cause? Are there effective - and legitimate - ways of protesting against policies or lobbying for changes in Singapore?

There are, observers say.

Ms Jeanne Conceicao, from the Institute of Policy Studies, said: 'In recent times, it has been enlightening to experience the more spontaneous side of Singaporeans in the Buangkok white elephant saga, the NKF online petition and the Chek Jawa case.'

Log on, click & tell (source)

DISGRUNTLED or civic-minded Singaporeans, it seems, are far more comfortable speaking quietly but making a big click - of the mouse, that is.

Online petitions seem the rave, as are letters to the press.

Ms Conceicao said: 'Some believe the Singapore-style of protest is the non-confrontational style of protest.

'But it is necessary to impress upon both citizens and authorities that it helps when the message is clearly conveyed and that the authorities understand what the citizens' concerns are, regardless of the forms and styles of protests.'

Like the Chek Jawa case.

The Government had made a rare policy U-turn in 2001 on its reclamation plans for the beach on Pulau Ubin after intense lobbying from nature lovers, marine experts and residents.

They had only six months to convince the Government to save Chek Jawa.

About 1,000 turned up for a public education weekend at the beach. Nature lovers, teachers and island residents wrote to the press and the Ministry of National Development.

Five months later, the Government said it would defer reclamation plans.

Mr Loh thinks writing letters to the press is a good starting point to lobby for an issue. 'It may snowball the issue, depending on its intensity and the regularity of the letters.'

The issue of whether to allow open bidding for COE was hotly debated in the press for two years before the Government finally gave the green light.

Mr Loh said: 'Sometimes, through a prolonged time period and pressure, through the press and public dialogue, things may change.'

In 2005, after the NKF saga broke, more than 43,000 people signed an online petition to ask then CEO T T Durai to step down.

He did. While it is not clear if it was the deciding factor in his resignation, some have said it was a huge factor.

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