I left the meeting feeling cautiously hopeful.
Imagine my horror when I opened the papers the next morning.
When you turn to the page of the report by Godfrey Robert, a veteran sports writer, this was the headline:
In his report, Robert laid out the foreign talents who had represented Singapore in the past, such as our first individual Olympics medal winner, weightlifter Tan Howe Liang, in the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Feng Tianwei, ironically and despite the title of the report, was only mentioned at the beginning and the later part of the report, and even then only briefly.
In the Straits Times, a report by the paper’s Sports Editor, Marc Lim, carried this quote from a Facebook posting:
Reading the two reports from the New Paper and the Straits Times gave rise to a sense of anger – and disappointment at not only how these reports were putting down Singaporeans and how they seem to imply that Singaporeans somehow need to be led by foreign talents, but also how the reports are fanning the anti-foreigner flames here.
Also, if one were a supporter of the Government, one might feel that these reports were scuttling the Government’s efforts at integration. They make Singaporeans more angry at the Government’s immigration policy, and programmes like the Foreign Talent Scheme (FTS).
In short, the mainstream media is shooting the Government in the foot, and getting away with it.
The presence of some 2 million foreigners (including permanent residents) on our island is the biggest issue we are grappling with. It has given rise to all sorts of problems which many have already expounded on.
So, one would expect that any responsible newspaper would be more circumspect and aware of how its reports could reinforce anti-foreigner sentiments. Apparently, however, the New Paper especially, seems bent on doing just that by adopting a headline – on its front page, no less – which is a direct slap in the face, if you will, of Singaporeans who are already upset with the number of foreigners here.
“Feng Tianwei shows us FT is the way” is potentially an epitaph on the tomb of any Government effort in persuading Singaporeans to accept new citizens such as Feng. And if you need a nail as a final confirmation, the Straits Times’ use of a Facebook posting would be it:
“To those who questions her nationality: she has a pink nric [sic] like you and me. She did more than the average Singaporeans [sic] by putting Singapore on the world map and makes Singapore proud. You? What have you done to make Singapore proud of you? Shame on you.”
Yes, use a quote which ridicules and castigates Singaporeans and you expect Singaporeans to rally round Feng, or the Government’s efforts? I mean, how stupid can you be? It boggles the mind how an editor could even conceive that this would be helpful and decided to include this in his report.
But to bring the issue back to a more rational level, the National Population and Talent Division (NTPD), under the Prime Minister’s Office, is consulting and inviting feedback, suggestions and ideas on how we should deal with the population challenge. It is not a trivial matter and we should, as much as we can, try and understand the issues we are facing.
Unfortunately, the stupidity (yes, I will call it what it is) of mainstream papers like the New Paper and the Straits Times is not helping – not helping either the Government or Singapore address the serious issues we face.
Instead, these papers seem to want to take pot shots at the genuine unhappiness expressed by many Singaporeans, resorting to ridicule and sensationalism to sell a few more copies of their respective rags.
“Lets cheer foreign talent”? Not in this way and most certainly not when national papers are making fun of Singaporeans who have genuine concerns and putting them down in such an irresponsible manner.
Is it any wonder then that some have called on the newly-formed Media Literacy Council (MLC) to focus its spotlight on the traditional or mainstream media, instead of trying to police the online media?