Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More thoughts on MPs blogging

Thanks to Vanessa for the heads-up on this blog by one of Singapore's Member of Parliament -- or specifically, a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP).

The blog belongs to Mr. Siew Kum Hong. For his first post, he shares an essay he submitted as part of the NMP selection process. I didn't know they had to submit an essay, and I wonder how many did (just try to measure this as an outcome of blogging, heh).

From that essay, I also learned that Mr. Siew is a lawyer by training. That explains the comprehensive manner (bordering on the obsessive*, LOL) of the various disclaimers and statements of transparency:
  • The concise "About Me" that quickly points out his comment and contact policy;
  • His statement that inclusion of links in his blogroll doesn't consitute endorsement ("I don't endorse or agree with everything on the above links. In fact, for some of them, I strongly disagree with most things said. But it's important to know what people are saying. So use or visit these sites with an open and critical mind.");
  • The disclosure statement after that statement, on the use of a site statistic tool;
  • The legalese at the end of this post, explaining his right to reproduce a Straits Times article in full
* In case Mr. Siew finds his way to this post, I'd like to assure him I'm not making a dig at him. My apologies if otherwise misconstrued. In fact, I think he's setting an excellent example of what it means to respect intellectual property laws and transparency (most people might not need to go to that extent, but that's a different matter).

To paraphrase my own words in this previous post, whether these MPs will be successful in connecting with their constituents -- their voters -- is entirely a separate issue.

Mr. Siew wrote, in his blog header, that his blog was his attempt to demystify his NMP experience for the public. I think that aim will be solidly achieved. One other resulting effort, which Mr. Siew did not state but I felt was obvious, was that his thoughts would potentially reach a wider audience than attendees in the Parliamentary session. As a representative of a constituency (voted or nominated), letting your constituents know your thoughts is just as important as knowing their needs and concerns.

Take for instance his essay, he doesn't hide or shy away from his background:
"... even though I do not claim to represent anyone, my views will inevitably be representative of what a young, single, 30-something Internet-savvy professional of an archetypal “elite” background (Gifted Education Programme, Raffles Institution, Raffles Junior College, National University of Singapore law school) might think. After all, that is exactly what I am."

He is quick to add this:
"But at the same time, my views are tempered by my upbringing. I lived in a 3-room HDB flat until I was 21, sharing a bedroom with my brother and sister. My dad had a business that failed in the aftermath of the 1985 recession, after which he worked in a SME. My mum held various blue-collar jobs, including being a factory worker and hawker."

So now we have a NMP blogging... in a way, he (and the rest that might follow soon) are benefiting from the efforts set by the MPs who started The "benefit" isn't about who started blogging, or political mind-share. It's that the voters are getting used to the idea that politicians have another voice.

If more politicians or organisations leverage on blogs as one more platform (certainly not the only one) to allow others to post respond via comments or trackbacks, then overall it's likely to bode well for social and political discourse in Singapore.

[See also: "Thoughts on Singapore Members of Parliament (MPs) blogging", 4 Oct '06)

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