PM Lee describes being unashamed and thick-skinned as elements key to online resilience

PM Lee Hsien Loong and Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong at a dialogue with 60 youth leaders last night. Mr Lee told the audience there are limits to how widely, and for how long, his Government can consult the public bef
PM Lee Hsien Loong and Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong at a dialogue with 60 youth leaders last night. Mr Lee told the audience there are limits to how widely, and for how long, his Government can consult the public before deciding on policy. This is because an excessive amount of time spent consulting could mean 'the opportunity passes you by'. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

He says one must not be ashamed of what one is doing and be thick-skinned

Being proud of what you are doing, and having thick skin: these are the two elements of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's resilience in the face of a hostile cyberspace.

At a dialogue last night with 60 youth leaders, PM Lee was asked by a participant from the Singapore Kindness Movement how he remains positive, for example on his Facebook page, when online commentators are unkind.

"First of all, you must not be ashamed of what you are doing," he said. "If there are some naysayers, you must decide if you have the majority with you or not."

He said that in cyberspace, "some generally disagree, some are just looking for things to disagree with you about".

"But if you want to do something for Singapore, you should not be deterred because there are some nasty postings. In public life, you must learn to have thick skin at the right places, in the right times."

While noting that it can be intimidating for those not in public life to be flamed online, he said: "I am in public life. You flame me, I'm flame-proof!"

Mr Lee also told the audience that there are limits to how widely, and for how long, his Government can consult the public before deciding on policy.

An excessive amount of time spent consulting could mean "the opportunity passes you by", he said.

While he thought that the Our Singapore Conversation mass engagement exercise was very successful, Mr Lee noted that if there was an emergency or "if you have a difficult situation and you must move quickly, you cannot spend one year talking about it".

Citing as an example the issue of whether to raise taxes, he said "we will never finish the discussion".

He noted that some other countries have premised such decisions on a public consensus but, predictably, the answer has always been not to raise taxes.

"Of course, if you ask me as an individual, ask Singaporeans as individuals, do you want to raise taxes? Of course I would say no.

"But one day, if I need to, I have to decide and do this, and persuade the people."

rchang@sph.com.sg

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