Forum: There is always time for fair criticism

Mr Lee Teck Chuan's view is not uncommon (Now's not the time to play armchair critic, April 22), but it is terribly unhelpful for three main reasons.

First, although the call for Singaporeans to unite is well intentioned, it divides people into those who "play armchair critic" and those who do not. This labelling of people portrays those who criticise the task force dealing with the outbreak as being difficult for the sake of it, and equates "critical" with "uncooperative".

People can be both critical and cooperative at the same time. Rather than tell people not to be "armchair critics", a much better way forward would be to focus on whether the criticisms are fair.

Second, the view that "now's not the time". There is always time for fair criticism, especially in areas that we tend to ignore in more halcyon days. More people are now suddenly sympathetic to migrant workers' living conditions, even though advocacy groups have been highlighting the issue for almost a decade now.

It has become much clearer how important social connections are for the mental health of our seniors, and how adverse events can exacerbate inequalities and place disproportionately huge burdens on the vulnerable.

These are not issues we will necessarily remember or pay attention to when things eventually return to normalcy.

Furthermore, some criticisms cannot, and must not, wait. For instance, xenophobia and racism are issues that we must address immediately. We cannot allow them to fester.

Third, "hindsight is 20/20" cannot be the excuse for all our failures. We must be able to discern between hindsight and oversight, and this can happen only if we discuss issues fairly.

Even if we think our Government has done well, we must continue to hold it accountable for its actions. Singapore needs good faith critics to push us forward.

Shannon Ang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2020, with the headline 'There is always time for fair criticism'. Subscribe