Friday, April 20, 2012
Singaporeans close ranks against post on NSF's death
Not since Tin Pei Ling appeared in Singapore's political scene in 2011 has a Singapore girl stirred so much debate in cyberspace.
Zheng Huiting's three-word response (see above) to a story on the death of full-time National Serviceman (NSF) Private Dominique Sarron Lee Rui Feng made the hitherto unknown lass an instant target for netizens' ire.
For those of us who have been following Internet gaffes, the end result was a predictable replay of past backpeddling by netizens who learned the harsh reality that even in cyberspace, there are social norms one should never flout. By sunset on Wednesday, Zheng Huiting had turned from faceless netizen to Internet flame bait to recluse. She had shut down her Facebook account, blog and Twitter accounts. The obligatory apology popped up in an attempt to quell public anger before she beat a hasty retreat from cyberspace.
Before she frantically erased her net presence, self-appointed internet sleuths had done their handiwork. They had captured screenshots from the girl's (then unprotected) Facebook account, posted unprintable comments on her blog and outed her boyfriend, who is apparently serving with the Singapore Combat Engineers. Poor fellow: this is one stink bomb even CBRE cannot defuse.
For thousands of citizen soldiers around our island nation, an otherwise unremarkable Wednesday suddenly become livelier.
If the Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) ever needs an example to underline, underscore and emphasize the importance of never taking National Service (NS) for granted, this Zheng Huiting episode would be it.
To be sure, her pitiful apology - a rambling and grammatically incoherent mea culpa - was probably intended to persuade netizens to cease fire.
The response from Singaporeans to this episode is noteworthy. Such a response is certainly better than a situation of complete silence and apathy from a citizens' armed forces. From a defence commitment standpoint, the energy and vigour expressed during this episode goes to show that Singaporeans will not hold back when people take pot shots at National Service.
Indeed, many netizens who spoke up to protect the memory of Dominique Lee probably never even knew the NSF personally. Many who spoke up questioned what they are defending and had harsh words for the likes of Zheng Huiting who do not seem to understand or appreciate what NS entails.
As we mark the 45th year of NS in 2012, this year marks an opportune moment for us to reflect upon the relevance of NS, why we must serve and how our island nation has gained, collectively as a society, from the institution of NS.
All of this probably makes no difference to the Lee family as they grapple with the shock of Dominique's sudden death a week after his 21st birthday.
As the Lee family mourns their loss, they may - perhaps not now but some day in future - take comfort from the fact that thousands who never met him personally cared enough for a fellow citizen soldier to speak out for him when it counted.
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Posted by David Boey at 12:10 AM