Saturday February 3, 1:09 PM
S'pore's PAP rebuts online critics anonymously--daily
SINGAPORE, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Members of Singapore's long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP) are posting anonymous messages in Internet forums and blogs to rebut online criticism of the party, a leading daily reported on Saturday.
The postings were an initiative driven by two sub-committees under the PAP's "new media" committee chaired by Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen, the pro-government Straits Times said, citing unnamed sources.
A government spokeswoman contacted on Saturday declined to comment.
The two sub-committees, made up of politicians and some technology-savvy party activists, were formed after the May 2006 general election, the Straits Times said. The PAP's share of the vote slid to 66.6 percent last year, from 75.3 percent at the previous election in 2001.
The panels had been set up to express the PAP's views online where there were few pro-establishment voices, the newspaper said, quoting a member of parliament who heads one sub-committee.
"The identity is not important. It is the message that is important," Baey Yam Keng was quoted as saying.
The Straits Times quoted Baey as saying that the messages were only effective if they were not "too obvious" lest they resemble "propaganda".
A PAP activist involved in posting the anonymous messages was quoted as saying that he tracked popular blogs and forums to "see if there is anything we can clarify" on controversial issues such as the impending hike in the goods and services tax.
The PAP, which has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965, has been criticised by human rights groups such as Amnesty International in the past for its curbs on freedom of expression.
Party leaders say tight regulation of public debate and the media in the city-state is necessary to maintain law and order.
The above Reuters article is derived from Straits Time article below:
Feb 3, 2007
PAP moves to counter criticism of party, Govt in cyberspace
By Li Xueying
THE People's Action Party (PAP) is mounting a quiet counter-insurgency against its online critics.
It has members going into Internet forums and blogs to rebut anti-establishment views and putting up postings anonymously.
Sources told The Straits Times the initiative is driven by two sub-committees of the PAP's 'new media' committee chaired by Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen.
One sub-committee, co-headed by Minister of State (Education) Lui Tuck Yew and Hong Kah GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad, strategises the campaign.
The other is led by Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Baey Yam Keng and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Josephine Teo. Called the 'new media capabilities group', it executes the strategies.
Both were set up after last year's General Election. Aside from politicians, some 20 IT-savvy party activists are also involved.
When contacted, Mr Baey declined to give details of the group's activities, but he outlined the broad principles of the initiative.
It was necessary for the PAP to have a voice in cyberspace as there were few in the online community who were pro-establishment, he said.
As such, the committees aim to 'observe how new media is developing and see how we can use the new media as part of the overall media landscape', he added.
'How do we facilitate views that are pro-party and propagate them through the Internet?'
The approach reflects comments by Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui at the PAP's party conference in December. He called on younger activists to put up views 'to moderate the vitriol and balance the skewed comments' on the Internet.
But this can only work if activists are not 'too obvious' about it, Mr Baey said yesterday. Otherwise it comes across as 'propaganda'.
'The identity is not important. It is the message that is important,' he added.
One activist who is involved said that when posting comments on online forums and the feedback boxes of blogs, he does not identify himself as a PAP member.
He tracks popular blogs and forums to 'see if there is anything we can clarify' on hot-button topics such as the impending hike in the Goods and Services Tax.
But he added: 'We don't rebut everything. Sometimes, what is said is fair enough, and we send the feedback on to the committee.'
This latest initiative comes on top of a blog site with posts by 12 MPs born after Singapore's Independence in 1965.
It recognises that more younger Singaporeans are relying on the new media as a main source of information.
An Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) study conducted last year found that younger and better-educated Singaporeans relied on information from the Internet when shaping their voting choices at the last GE.
Among the opposition parties, members and supporters of the Workers' Party, in particular, post regularly on forums online.
But IPS senior research fellow Tan Tarn How wonders about the effectiveness of the PAP's campaign.
He said Internet users who post on forums such as Sammyboy tend not to be interested in 'intellectual debate' and so will not be persuaded by PAP activists anyway.
As for more serious-minded bloggers, he said the views that the activists may put out are already available in the mainstream media.
You may want to read Mr. Wang Says So and Xeno Boy articles on this topic. There is also a good analysis on why PAP "leaks" the "secret" operations here.
I share similar sentiments with Mr. Wang on this particular report. I am very surprised that the ST article was allowed to published.
First of all, to reveal such "secret strategy" is disastrous to PAP's internet image! Hey, c'mon, as the largest and powerful ruling party that has dominated Singapore's political scene, its members do not dare to identify themselves as PAP members when communicating with other Singaporeans on the internet platform? Are they ashame or too afraid to be identified with PAP or what?
But on second thought, I think PAP has found out that their "secret covert operations" may be too slow and ineffective in covering the whole internet sphere, thus, to "leak" this information in a hopeful bid to create fear in bloggers and internet writers.
Personally, I am proud of my past association with WP even when it was just a political party on the development path. What are the PAP members afraid of by openly declaring their association with PAP? What's the matter with them? Aren't they proud of their own party which has contributed much to Singapore's progress for the last 5 decades?
As all of you could observe from the many "anonymous" comments recorded here on my blog for the past few months, one would now really put serious doubts on whether they are really "PAP's internet fighters"! ;) How many of these comments come from them, I really wonder!
I have hoped that one day, this PAP's secret internet offensive will be revealed to the public and thus, insisted to keep the comment column open to anonymous posters. Interesting enough, after I declare my intention of capturing all those possible agents' vicious attacks on me so that the whole world will know about it, there is a dramatic decrease in such anonymous comments!
If you read those comments in my blog, you will know why PAP wanted their internet fighters to stay anonymous. Many of the remarks are even defamatory in nature!
As a matter of fact, I have long suspected that PAP has started to carry out its "internet management" plan as far back as July 2006 when I had a meeting with a few WP members and associates. The successful application of internet by WP back in GE 2006 as well as the active engagement of WP members 2 years prior to GE 2006 has made PAP rethink about the possible impact of the new media. Prior to GE 2006, PAP has taken the view that the new media, internet, will have little impact on the political front even though that it has been dominated by anti-PAP sentiments for a almost a decade. But apparently GE 2006 has changed their mind.
The sudden increase of aggressive comments posted on my blog as well as forums right after GE 2006 is an interesting indicator of how PAP's internet fighters work. They may be very clumsy but they may be effective in a sense that I might have possibly become one of their trophy!
Well, life still goes on in the internet sphere with or without PAP internet fighters. But I guess now most people will be more skeptical when they see "Pro-PAP" or "Anti-Opposition" postings on the net... the question will always be on our mind "Hey, is this from the PAP internet fighters?" ;)
Goh Meng Seng