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Singapore: Minister's Comments Spark Internet Meme

With the following statement, Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu sparked off an online controversy amongst Singaporeans:

When I made the decision to join politics in 2006, pay was not a key factor. Loss of privacy, public scrutiny on myself and my family and loss of personal time were. The disruption to my career was also an important consideration. I had some ground to believe that my family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though I experienced a drop in my income. So it is with this recent pay cut. If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering political office.

Minister Grace Fu. Image from Wikipedia.

Minister Grace Fu. Image from Wikipedia.

Following the recent announcement of paycuts for ministers – which many Singaporeans feel are still not enough – Ms Fu's comments angered many who felt that those who go into public service should not do so in the expectation of huge public rewards.

Ms Fu has since come out to say that her statement had been misunderstood, something which I have observed to happen to the ruling People's Action Party members very often:

Teenagers, goths and emos should just step aside. People’s Action Party (PAP) members are by far the most misunderstood group of people in the world. It appears as if they can’t say or do a thing without being misunderstood. If they went to a MacDonald’s to buy a Big Mac with extra lettuce and no pickles they’d probably get Fillet o’ Fish.

Ms Fu's clarification of her statement hasn't been successful in placating irked Singaporeans, as many have observed that she is still extremely well-paid compared to the average Singaporean.

Mollymeek writes sarcastically about how Ms Fu could have been misunderstood:

Because of our inability to imagine the standard of living that would be compromised by a million-dollar salary, it is easy for us to think that she is materialistic. It is our fault. She is not materialistic. She is not demanding a higher pay. It is just that her standard of living is so inconceivably high that she may face difficulties making ends meet if she were to be paid the average salary of a minister in the developed world.

Ms Fu's comment soon turned into an Internet meme, with people posting their own versions.

Lee Kin Mun writes about his choice to become Singapore's “blogfather” mrbrown:

When I made the decision to be mrbrown in 1997, pay was not a key factor. Kena lim kopi by ISD, kena sue until tng kor by ministers and having my newspaper column suspended were. The disruption to my computer gaming time was also an important consideration. I had some ground to believe that my family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living but we did have to sell the car and now I ride a bicycle. I fear if the balance is tilted further in the future, I will fall off my bicycle.

Joshua Chiang on his decision to join socio-political website The Online Citizen:

When I made the decision to join TOC in 2009, pay was not a key factor (since it was non-existent). Loss of freedom vis-a-vis ISA , character assassination by the mainstream press on myself and my family and loss of my entire fortunes via defamation suits was. The disruption to my sanity was also an important consideration. I had some ground to believe that my family would have more room space at home if I were ever jailed. Especially when TOC was gazetted. If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering citizen journalism/activism.

Even Danny the Democracy Bear, mascot of alternative political party the Singapore Democratic Party, weighed in:

When I made the decision to join the SDP, pay was not a key factor. Loss of privacy, public scrutiny on myself and my loss of personal time were. That fact that I might be the party's mascot because I'm the only bear there was an important consideration. I had solid ground to believe that my family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though the PAP always likes to sue SDP members. If the balance is tilted further and animals are prohibited to join political parties in the future, it will be harder for my fellow bears to support, let alone join the SDP.

The Tumblr blog ‘When I made the decision…‘ has now been set up to share these variations on Ms Fu's comment.

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