16 April 2007

The People's OB Markers

Out of bounds marker, or commonly known as OB markers, is a term derived from golf, a game our ministers (in particular Lee Kuan Yew) are fond of, where it refers to markers that designate the limits of area in play. First employed by Goh Chok Tong, the term is used to demarcate the kinds of topics which should never be brought into critical discussion in the public domain due to its sensitive nature. Perhaps at the government's convenience, the exact boundaries of the OB markers are left blurred. Traditional OB markers include politics, race and religion, though these, being vicissitudes of our evolving society, may have already changed.

Two major cases of overstepping these OB markers are the Catherine Lim incident in 1994 and mrbrown's satirical article last year. There were no legal actions taken against them, but both were strongly reprimanded by the government. More serious cases are dealt with a heavy hand, such as the three seditious bloggers that stirred up racist remarks. Essentially, there is this invisible line that one will cross if the degree to which the issues were discussed were deemed too critical, to public.

All this while, OB markers have been used by the government to draw an imaginary line for the people, but this ministerial hike issue has shed some light onto another kind of OB markers, one that has existed since any people have assumed governing power in a democracy. They are the unspoken OB markers from the people, for the government. The people's OB markers.

There are some issues to which the government must avoid at all cost, such as corruption, to which a parallel can be drawn to the racist bloggers. And just like the government's OB markers, these people's OB markers are also blurred and shifting. Incidents like the NKF saga and the graduate mothers scheme hinted to the government at where these markers lay. Just as in the case of the government's OB markers, these episodes invited scorching criticisms or even worse, loss of votes.

In response to this ministerial hike, the blogosphere, in its instinctive anti-establishment eruption, has blasted the government in all directions. Even the pro-establishment, nation building press sees letters to the forums enunciating the writers' displeasure. Many politically-neutral bloggers like Kway Teow Man, NMP Siew Kum Hong and even mrbrown (who, by linking to insanepoly's colourful post, hints at his agreement with it) are in general not supportive of the hike.

This is another case of the OB markers being crossed. The limit has been overshot. The tolerance of the people broken. Sure, Singaporeans can take a lot of shit, as this TalkingCock article sadly but correctly comments, but I think this time they had enough. The people are saying, "this is too much." The OB markers have been breached.

When Catherine Lim went beyond the confines of acceptable discussion, Goh Chok Tong issued a powerful warning. When mrbrown exceeded the limit, K. Bhavani dished out heavy criticisms. Now, the government crossed the OB markers, and the people are raring to let them know. What the consequences will be, how far-reaching it will go, what repercussions there are, and how it will be played by the Opposition in the next general elections, remains very much to be seen.

6 comments:

The Download Munkey said...

I think there won't be much of an impact on the next election. By implementing the pay hike so quickly after the previous election, I believe they are hoping that ppl will forget about this in the next election. Same thing happened the last time when they implemented the 3% GST - loads of short term outcries but they still won the next election comfortably. Singaporeans either have very short memories or very high tolerances I guess :(

Currytan said...

Well then, that's the purpose of blogs like these, to record down and remind us of such issues by the time the next election comes.

Pandemonium said...

The Download Munkey:

That is definitely of course what the PAP is hoping. However, three points. First, have they stepped past that limit, where it can have a lasting impact in people's mind? After all, a chain of unpopular policies led to the poor performance in 1984 (?) elections. Second, how well can the Opposition play this up? If they can, they can definitely twist it to their advantage. Third, as currytan has brought up, the scene has somewhat changed with the Internet. Maybe it won't make a difference - these posts of indignation may perhaps not surface again once this issue has passed, but I think we'll never know until the time comes.

I think my political science lecturer was right in saying that the 2011 general elections (and not the 2006 one) will be a challenge for PAP. Not that it's going to lose control of the government, or suffering major defeats in GRCs, but if there's a time for the PAP to lose its grip on a GRC, it is this. And it is increasing unlikely for the PAP to stop the waning support. Keep in mind of the different electorate, and their exposure to different kinds of news.

The Download Munkey said...

Ya, I hope the situation will change but seems that people in SG are still too afraid of change.

But with the electorate changing, I think you have a point there because I think the older generation are still voting for the PAP for the things they done for SG in the past. The younger voters tend to look for what the PAP promises to do in the future, which IMO is a good thing ;)

Ned Stark said...

Pandemonium, thats one way of looking at it. However it could also be one of the false dawns Singapore has always experienced. There is really no way to tell.

Pandemonium said...

Yeah of course that could be possible as well. It can also be possible that, despite crossing the people's OB markers, the PAP emerges unscathed (relative to what people expected), just as mrbrown and Catherine Lim has, to a certain extent.