Singapore—Sociology Professor Chua Beng Huat warned that today’s exceptional conditions under the coronavirus pandemic may be becoming part of the norm, especially in terms of government surveillance of the public.
Speaking in an online forum organised by Singapore Policy Journal and CAPE (Community for Advocacy & Political Education) entitled We the Citizens 3: Black Swans & Sacred Cows, Professor Chua, NMP Walter Theseira, Viswa Sadasivan, Professor Eugene KB Tan, and Professor Tay Kheng Soon aired their views and exchanged ideas on the “‘sacred cows’ that the outbreak of Covid-19 in Singapore has exposed and challenged.”
While he also spoke on Singapore’s dependence on foreign labour as well as inequality and urban poverty in Singapore, government surveillance is evidently a chief concern for Professor Chua, a well-respected sociologist from the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS College.
In this short video, Prof Chua Beng Huat talks about how the government will use the current pandemic to increase the surveillence in the name of COVID19. Safe distancing, stay home orders and contact tracing are exceptional measures under exceptional circumstances. Chua is concerned that the govenment will use this as a pre-text to continue surveillence activities post COID19 era under the "new normal."We are not going to see large gathering political or otherwise in a long time to come. And only God know when the vaccine will be ready!
Posted by Kumaran Pillai on Monday, May 25, 2020
“My worry is that the government will normalize what is exceptional. Current stay-home, current social distancing, current prevention of people gathering is under the exceptional conditions of the pandemic. But will become normalized as a mode of generalized surveillance from now onwards.
And that’s what I’m really worried about because this government is also addicted to the surveillance of its citizens in a very big way for the last 30 years or so. I mean if you go to Little India right now because of a little riot, the fields in Little India right now are completely unusable because of the way they flooded the entire field, and no one would even want to sit down in the middle of it.
So already we’re getting warnings that the kind of circuit breaker restrictions are not going to go away easily, but I’m afraid that not only will it not go away easily but it will become the norm, because surveillance is a habit of our state.”
Others have picked up on what Professor Chua said about the normalisation of surveillance, and are echoing the same concerns.
Businessman Kumaran Pillai shared the Professor’s video and wrote, “Safe distancing, stay home orders and contact tracing are exceptional measures under exceptional circumstances. Chua is concerned that the govenment will use this as a pre-text to continue surveillance activities post COVID19 era under the “new normal.”
We are not going to see large gathering political or otherwise in a long time to come. And only God knows when the vaccine will be ready!”
The Facebook page Wake-up Singapore also shared the video, and posed the following question:
“Government has a habit of having constant surveillance over its citizens.
Question: is this the kind of government that we want?”
Opposition political figure Mohamed Jufrie bin Mahmood wrote in all caps, “PLEASE LISTEN TO THIS PROFESSOR.
ARE WE HEADING TOWARDS BECOMING AN ORWELLIAN STATE?”
Some people commented that while Professor Chua used to defend government policies in the past, he has now taken a different stand.