Politicians should be more careful these days. Angry citizens are using extraordinary measures to express their rage against leaders. Last month a journalist from Iraq threw his shoes at U.S. President George Bush. Last Sunday, a 70 year old taxi driver lit a bottle of kerosene and threw it at Singapore lawmaker Seng Han Thong in a community club. Mr. Seng suffered burns in the head. He is now recovering in a hospital.
The former taxi driver who attacked the lawmaker was disgruntled for not receiving a red envelope containing $135 traditionally given at Chinese New Year. The man was reported to be mentally unstable.
Singapore lawmaker Seng Han Thong. Photo from The Straits Times
Reacting to the news, Jakob thinks many citizens are harboring animosity against politicians but they are controlling the urge to be violent:
“When did we become so violent? It is almost impossible at this point in time to think that Singaporeans would rise up against our totalitarian government. Everybody is supposed to live amicably and be the non-confrontational drones that we have been brought up and educated to be. However, I do think that deep down inside, the more savvy citizens actually harbour some kind of animosity for some of the policies which have been laid out. But as I have previously mentioned, fear of recrimination is keeping everyone in check.”
This was not the first time the lawmaker was attacked. In 2006, he was punched at a meet-the-people session. DK advises the lawmaker to review his performance as public servant and reflect on why he keeps getting assaulted.
“My first reaction when I heard the news was “Him again?” There are 80 plus Member of Parliament in Singapore. Why is it that he always get assaulted? Is there something wrong with him to begin with? I did a google on his name and found some people calling him a bootlicker. In fact, I couldn’t find anything good about him online. Perhaps that’s the reason why someone set him ablaze.
“For something to happen, there must be a reason. And perhaps Mr Seng Han Thong might want to use this time in hospital to do some self reflection to see why he keeps getting assaulted. Is he suitable to be a MP? Is he doing the right thing? If he isn’t, then perhaps he should resign before something worse happens. First punch, now burn. What’s next?”
Digital Terrorist notes that the incident reflects the failure of welfare policies of the government:
“This simple, yet innocent, act of arson shows that the welfare our government provides is not enough. In light of a bad economic climate, the people with the tax money should do something before the unhappy guy sparks an outrage and douse a government leader in licking flames. Not that the government is not providing welfare at all, but they have to dangle carrots at the right (bad) time.”
Goh Meng Seng echoes this point and highlights the lack of social welfare for retirees:
“It would give people the impression that old people who are 70 years old or more are a violent lot in Singapore. But this is far from the truth. Singaporeans are generally a law-abiding lot. It would take a lot of agitation and frustration to ignite that fire in old people of 70 years old to make such violent act.
“This may have something to do with the stress and pressure suffered by our people who are supposed to be enjoy their retirement. But due to the fact that there is no social welfare in Singapore and that the supposedly retirement funds, CPF, has been depleted by various policies like housing and health care, living a happy and care-free retirement for Singaporeans is hardly possible nowadays.”
The Online Citizen criticizes those who describe the incident as indication of lack of public space in Singapore:
“To those people out there who claim that this attack was a justified response to a lack of public space (speech-wise), I’d like to point out two things. Firstly, it appears that Mr Seng’s assailant was mentally unsound–I doubt that political protest was on the top of his mind when he threw that lit kerosene bottle at his victim.
“Secondly, a culture of tolerance for violence as an answer to political problems does nothing to help Singapore develop as a liberal democracy.”