Friday, May 15, 2009

Siew Kum Hong - Discouraged under fire?

The Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP), Siew Kum Hong was reported under attack by Netizens for his involvement in Aware saga. This is as he seeks second term for NMP.

Is this revenge of the (ousted) new guard of Aware? Nah, that's just a speculation--baseless & we should get our facts right before even thinking to conclude it that way.

What I like about Siew Kum Hong is that besides him being an NMP, he too is a blogger (Check out his blog at http://siewkumhong.blogspot.com/). At least his views & thoughts are reachable by more people & it serves as a balancing act to what the newspaper reports about him.

In his own words, nominated member of parliament (NMP) Siew Kum Hong describes himself as an 'advocate of active citizenry'.

Ironically, the corporate lawyer now finds himself at the receiving end of online attacks by 'active citizens' who are vociferously opposing his re-nomination as an NMP.

Mr Siew, who is seeking a second term as NMP, has been flamed on several popular forums, including a discussion thread on the Reach website, over his involvement in the recent tussle at the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

Reach is a government-run website which encourages Singaporeans to give feedback on topics concerning them.

If that's not bad enough, he has also been flamed on his own blog.

Known for his controversial views on several issues (see report, below), Mr Siew, 34, had supported the old guard, which was ousted from office in the Aware annual general meeting in March.

He actively campaigned for them and sat with them during the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on 2 May.

His presence among the women sparked a ruckus when he was asked to join the male associate members and refused.

He was finally allowed to remain after the old guard loudly protested that he was their legal adviser.

However, he was later accused of over-stepping his boundaries by speaking up and apparently orchestrating the cheering and booing during the rowdy proceedings.

Most of Mr Siew's detractors campaigning against his re-nomination have cited his involvement in the Aware saga as their main reason for doing so.

Netizens have flooded the Reach website with comments, many of which are directed at Mr Siew.

One netizen wrote: 'I wish to register my disapproval of the NMP Mr Siew Kum Hong.

'I do not know him personally. But his recent and past activities as an NMP are clearly unacceptable to many Singaporeans.'

Another added: 'We believe that as an NMP, his plans and motives are to use the public service as a stage and platform to further his own personal agenda.'

Agreeing, another netizen wrote: 'As a NMP and a de facto politician supposed to lead and represent us, Mr Siew should not have taken sides in the Aware conflict and fanned the flames in the volatile situation.'

Yet another netizen called Mr Siew's behaviour 'questionable' and asked why he had been 'pushing so hard' for the rights of the homosexual community in Singapore.

The deluge of comments directed at him has led some netizens to speculate that the online attacks are part of an organised effort to discredit Mr Siew, in order to give the impression that these online views are representative of majority beliefs.

'Disorder & mayhem'

In an interview with The New Paper, Mr Siew said he was unaware that he was being flamed on the Reach website, but said he had come across comments directed at him on The Straits Times website and on several online forums.

He said he had also received an e-mail, forwarded to him by a friend, which called for Singaporeans to collectively oppose his re-nomination.

The e-mail, which he later posted on his blog (siewkumhong.blogspot.com), accused him of 'openly taking sides in this internal affair of a secular organisation (Aware).'

The writer also said Mr Siew was 'part of the orchestrated disorder and mayhem on that day'.

'He showed no regard for protocols until challenged by a member from the floor,' the writer added.

Responding to the netizens opposing his re-nomination, Mr Siew told The New Paper that his involvement with Aware was in his personal capacity.

'At no point did I seek to leverage on the fact that I am an NMP,' he said.

On online comments that he was actively supporting the homosexual agenda, he stressed that he neither supports nor condemns homosexuality.

He said: 'I am anti-discrimination. I just feel that gay people have the right to live their private lives free from public interference. It's the same for straight people.

'These people (making these comments) are ignoring the existence of the middle ground.'

He also acknowledged that some of the online hostility could have been from netizens who felt he had promoted the homosexual cause by putting together a petition in Parliament to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises homosexual sex between consenting men.

He said, however, that he didn't feel it was right to reduce his re-nomination to be all about one single issue (homosexuality).

'This speaks more about the intolerance of the people making these comments,' he said.

Not wavering

On whether he was affected by the online furore on his re-nomination, he replied: 'Like any other person, it does bother me to be singled out as the target of what seems like an organised campaign.

'It bothers me even more that my re-nomination is being linked to activities which I carried out in my personal capacity.'

He is one of two NMPs seeking a second term, the other being Mr Gautam Banerjee, 54, executive chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Mr Siew handed in his papers at 2.45pm on the closing day on Monday , but said he had 'not wavered' about his decision to seek a second term. He plans to focus on needy Singaporeans, civil liberties and economic issues.

NMPs were introduced to provide for alternative views in Parliament and they serve for up to 21/2 years. The new term starts in July.

Mr Siew, who became an Aware member last year, added in a recent blog entry that he got involved in its recent controversy because he 'wanted to restore the society to the values that I supported when I joined...'

He added: 'At no time did I mention or seek to rely on my position as an NMP.'

Despite the online attacks, Mr Siew said he respects the opinions of those who have spoken up.

He said: 'They have the right to speak up - it's part and parcel of their right to free expression.

'I just hope that the comments will reveal more sensible and rational minds.'


HIS MILESTONES

JANUARY 2007: Lawyer Siew Kum Hong, 31, appointed as a Nominated Member of Parliment (NMP)

FEBRUARY 2007: Among four MPs who was concerned about GST hike and gaps in offset package, saying it missed out on families who have to raise children and support parents.

OCTOBER 2007: Tabled petition to have Section 377A, which criminalises sex between consenting males, repealed. It was rejected.

MARCH 2008: Argued that Electronic Road Pricing is regressive 'as it reduces drivers' choice of roads.'

OCTOBER 2008: Noted that there are still divisions in society, in response to uproar over plans to build a dormitory for foreign workers in Serangoon Gardens.

AUGUST 2008: Conducted street poll in Jurong GRC on whether a by-election should be held in the constituency after MP Ong Chit Chung's death.

MARCH 2009: Only MP to object to amendment to Films Act. He said the amendments on party political films actually narrow the space for such films.

APRIL 2009: One of three NMPs who opposed the move-on order (which allows police to order someone to leave an area if they determine that he is about to break the law).

MAY 2009: Told to sit with the men during Aware EGM, but old guard insisted he should remain with them as he was there as their legal adviser.

From The New Paper, "'It bothers me to be singled out for organised campaign'".

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