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     Community: Singapore Community Issues

      Ugly Singaporeans sighted at the zoo

The latest letter/article is at the top. The letter/article that started the debate is right below.


Excerpt of a letter by LIEW Kim Siong, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd to Forum, The Straits Times of 16 Mar 2001 

  ...Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) organised the party at the zoo on Sunday, 11 Mar 2001, for our readers to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Friday Weekly and the first anniversary of Thumbs-Up, which are Chinese weekly newspapers published by SPH for secondary and primary school students, respectively.

  More than 10,000 guests turned up to join in the celebrations.
  Due to the overwhelming response and some unexpected crowd behaviour, event-management resources at the zoo were undeniably stretched.
  I would like to assure Ms ONG and our readers that SPH will take extra care and effort to ensure better crowd management when it organises similar events in future.
  On the main point raised by Ms ONG regarding the situation at the T-shirt exchange booth, we took immediate action to remedy the situation, bearing in mind the safety of our guests while not wanting to disappoint those present.
  Announcements were made requesting that guests write down their particulars on the exchange coupons so that we could arrange for the T-shirts to be collected, instead of having to queue up for them. This helped to ease the crowd.
  I thank all the guests who attended our party for their support.

  LIEW Kim Siong, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd


Excerpt of a letter by Raja Mitra to Forum, The Straits Times of 16 Mar 2001

  ...These are the people who hustle past pedestrians on their bicycles and oftern push them off the pavement, barge into MRT train compartments as soon as the doors open and before those inside can get out, talk into their mobile phones at cinemas, behave boorishly with customers if they happen to be in a service-oriented job, and chew and munch their food noisily on public transport.

  All of these behavioural patterns, and more, are indicative of an attitude and a philosophy towards life.
  It is an attitude which is completely self-centred and self-serving, refuses to recognise virtues like consideration, grace and courtesy towards fellow human beings and neighbours, and views qualities like grace and kindness with disdain.
  In short, it runs counter to the fundamental tenets of a civilised society.
  Being gracious, courteous and helpful is a matter of inner conviction.
  Despite millions of dollars spent on campaigns designed to educate and persuade such people to change their behaviour, little progress has been made.
  There is a feeling of deja vu when one reads about the several instances of boorish and rude behaviour highlighted by various readers in The Straits Times recently. These occurrences and behavioural manifestations were generally the same in the past as well. The law of the jungle is in operation.
  Messages and gentle persuasion to switch to a gentler, more gracious and civilised way of life are ignored and the contagion of boorish behaviour spreads quickly.
  Witness the bad behaviour of many pre-teens and teenagers, who have obviously picked it up from their elders, and you will see what I am getting at.
  There is an urgent need to think of, and implement deterrents.
  Where gentle messages and persuasion have clearly failed, stronger messages which shame and horrify may prove to be more effective.
  Also, more effective implementation of existing deterrent measures would go a long way in setting the tone for a society which aims to be widely perceived as civilised, gracious , considerate and kind.
  The converse is too horrifying to be considered.



Full-text of a letter by Cherly ONG Tze-I to Forum, The Straits Times of 14 Mar 2001

  I saw things which almost made me ashamed to be Singaporean at the Friday Weekly-Thumbs Up Birthday Party organised by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) at the zoo on Sunday.
  There were lots of free gifts and games which were supposed to be enjoyed by one and all but, instead, were dominated by the breed of Singaporeans we have been trying hard to get rid of: The Ugly Singaporean.
  At the game stalls, there was constant pushing, shoving and cutting into queues.
  People at the front of the queues were pulling their family members in, ignoring others who had queued for a long time.
  What disgusted me even more was seeing grown women cut right to the front of the line, in front of helpless children who were too scared to object.
  Many children were reduced to tears because of the inconsiderate and barbaric behaviour of these adults. And for what? To play a game.
  Those at the front of the queues also hogged the games by producing stacks of coupons, when there were many who had not even had a try, all for the sake of getting the stuffed toys given away as prizes.
  As the stalls started closing, some people even broke through the barriers to grab the remaining toys, despite protests from staff.
  At the T-shirt redemption booth, it was sheer mayhem.
  Again adults were trying to cut into the queue, pulling their spouses and children in to get as many free T-shirts as possible - even though the coupons stated that the T-shirts were meant for children under 18.
  Instead the majority of the queue was made up of parents, maids and grandmothers, who were obviously well over the age of 18.
  Staff members tried to herd the crowd into neat lines, but to no avail.
  One man yelled frantically into his walkie-talkie: "I need more resources over at the T-shirt booth. There's going to be chaos."
  And chaos it was. As the crowd surged forward, tempers flared and pushing became so violent the booth almost toppled over.
  The wooden bridge the crowd was standing on sagged with the weight, children were squashed against the railings and were wailing in discomfort.
  The distribution of T-shirts stopped only when the situation got out of control and dark clouds threatened.
  My family and I left quickly before things got worse.
  What I do not understand is why people are willing to risk life and limb - not necessarily their own - just to get free things. 
  Are we that poor that we have to resort to such means to get T-shirts?
  While I encourage the organisation of such activities, I feel SPH could have handled the situation better by having security personnel on standby, and by ensuring that only those eligible for free gifts received them.
  All this happened despite active campaigning for a more courteous Singapore, and the nation's leaders stressing the need for a gracious society.
  In reality, we have a long way to go.
  I am sure many, like me, were at the zoo simply to spend an afternoon taking part in the various activities at the party, or to see the animals.
  The only animals I saw, however, were those ugly Singaporeans.

Cheryl ONG Tze-I