Friday, March 6, 2009

Sg Electoral online portal Part 2

Following up on my last email (PART 1), I finally got another reply to my query that it is not possible to remember the precise date of all my travel in/ out Singapore. (I did try to search my frequent flyer records but hell, 3 years ago? No way, not to mention some flights without miles acrruement will not be reflected. )

I didnt know if I should snort, laugh or weep at the first liner of the reply email, this time by someone more senior, and cc copied to many more other names. Who these people are is irrelevant to me and doesnt put me off in getting a more acceptable solution. I am not sure if by law, I am "permitted" to disclose the content of the email since there is a very very tricky tiny small print Official Secrets Act (Cap 213). warning in light ash-grey, located right at the bottom.

However it should not be against the law nor contravening the "secret act" for me to share the "concept" and "after feelings"of the email. One must be wise to toe the line while airing undiluted views and opinions within a limited confine.

After the reading the email reply, I was led to understand that they could not think of any reliable sources or agencies which keep and provide a service to view my travelling records......... also, if I have less than the aggregate of 30 days' stay in Singapore during the last 3 years, I need not apply to register as an overseas elector. I was also to learn that after all, it is not compulsory that all overseas Singaporeans have to register as overseas electors. "

The rest of the email then tell me if i am confirmed I have 30days, then I can write a block date and send me a mail stating I am not sure of the individual records.

How do you interpret this email? I have an option, to let the issue drop, but I choose to pursue as this reply left me with even more queries.

Hence I queried a few things

1. How can there be no reliable system or agency for them to match with or draw reference from? In australia, when I needed to know if I exceed 125days of residence, the staff could pull out all my entry/exit records on the spot within few mins, and we counted the dates together to get the answer. Hence my query was if Sg is supposedly technologically more advanced, how could our immigration not hold my records?

2. Even if I did remember my 30days records, doesnt this system require some workprocess/ flow to validate my online input? So what do they use to check and ascertain that I definitely meet the 30days requirement? Or are they telling me they will blindy take any value and period that a user indicated with no check process? Come on! And that I should mail in commenting against the block date I am not sure of the exact dates, then why couldnt the system handle that? What's the point of launching million dollar portal that still require paper work? Isnt it a waste?

3. To tell me if I have 30days residency, I meet the criteria and then can vote.... but she missed the WHOLE point again. Did you realise my point? That is I cannot remember if i do have 30days because I cannot rem my travel dates. Chicken and Egg reply? I know I was back several times but I dont keep count do I? There was no prior information that I should retain records for this purpose. Everything is so hush hush and ambiguous.

4. So overseas voter are not required to vote. I need to know then, does it mean because I am overseas and i cannot rem if I was there for 30days, my vote is not necessary nor essential? Or does it mean that once again I will be struck off the list and go through the hassle of reinstating my name? And does it mean that i have the OPTION not to vote and not be blacklisted? I'm not wise in the law and I like to know. lastly, I left off saying that it is within my rights as a citizen to decide who I want to place up there to lead the country isnt it, especially when I have that priviledge to?

I'm waiting for a revert. Like a comment posted earlier, if someone has committed a crime, they can tell you exactly when the committer has travel in and out of sg. Yet for a voter, this knowledge is suddenly deemed "unreliable", or is it an indirect admission that the system launched wasnt very well thought out?

The reason why I didnt indicate the name of the public service staff because it is probably illegal for me to do so without getting into trouble, I also think if we look at it objectively, it isnt entirely his fault, much that he could have been less vague. The people who should be held "accountable" are the people who partake in the design of the system, for not making it more integrated with the immigration records. Maybe it's design cost issue, maybe its manpower issue, or maybe its just one of those justifcations we need more "FT" to even design something important as such.


Christopher said...

Working for the govt, I think you are barking up the wrong tree. You do have a valid point, but I suspect that the system is not integrated with immigration because it is probably too expensive and inconvenient to do so. Instead, they place the onus on you to determine whether you have indeed been in Singapore for 30 days in the past 3 years, as required by law to qualify for overseas voting.

This is why they suggest that you put in a block date as long as you're pretty sure that you have chalked up 30 days in Singapore. You can imagine the administrative hassle if they had to get 1 staffer to double check your details with immigration, and if there are many others like yourself.

Certainly, the system seems flawed, but I agree with them that you should just put in a block date and make the application. Don't bother to pursue the "why" since all you really want to do is vote and all they really want to do is register people who want to vote from abroad.

Nothing in Singapore is perfect but if putting in a block date gets the job done and is not against the law, then you might as well do it. After all, your e-mail correspondence with them probably indemnifies you from any offence, since you are merely applying what was suggested.

"me-no-mad" said...

Thanks Chris for your input but I beg to differ that I am barking up the wrong tree. Barking up the wrong tree is if i hold the people replying to me responsible, which is not the case.

If I go by your logic that it is too expensive to intergrate, and the onus is for me to provide the dates, yet you fail to explain how then can my input be validated? Do u seriously think the govt will design a system without validation?
It will be a joke.

So if i say my block date is from april to sept, or and from feb to dec and that is the best I can rem, how does one check against what I had input. Are you saying that there will be no staff to validate these data? Then what is the point of having a 30days requirement then? Isnt it redundant then if it cannot be enforce?

It is not an administrative hassle. I have seen database server being designed and any software worth its salt is able to export an excel file for export. So how much administrative work is that apart from download and email to send? This is split second processing. If australia system can be integrated, then i fail to see why ours is unable to. I have lived in Australia and I can assure you that their infra is way way more backwack than ours.

Plus, you are wrong to say it create more admin hassle. Because I was told to mail in hardcopy. Are you saying my hardcopy will then not be administrative hassle?

Did you just say "Dont bother to pursue why?" Is that the mentality and motto of govt sector staff in the dept that you work in? Like the old mantra "DONT ASK WHY, JUST FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS" as if I am still primary school students? Sorry, we have advanced to 21st century, and into our 3rd Prime minister, so the "let it be","dont question so much" principle no longer hold water unless its a damn tight ship.

In singapore, we are often left to believe that our students/ population are not vocal enough compare to our western peers. Why must our feedback get shot down with negative reinforcement? Why is that so? In the states, every child is taught "I CAN DO IT" even if its something they have never try before, because CAN is an ability. Whether they want to do it is another matter entirely.

Plus you MISS another point completely. They did not say it cannot be done, nor it is too expensive. Their reply was "THERE ARE NO RELIABLE AGENCY". To me that is not acceptable justification when we obviously know there is one.

Chris, please also rem this, even more so as a public servant. If there are no feedback, and there is no WHY from users like us, then there is no progress and improvement. Things will be done the way "SOME PEOPLE" think is best which may not always be the case. The result will be - We will always be complacement and stagnant, and then there will be the usual lament that young sgporeans do not care about local affairs.

Just because I want to vote and can vote does not mean I need to keep my views to myself that something doesnt strike me as right. If its a reasonable explaination, then its fine. otherwise, why shouldnt i find out more? I'm sure you must be bilingual enough to have heard this saying - 打破沙锅问到底

littlecartnoodles said...

I did not qualify as an overseas voter at the last GE and was not in SG to vote, so my name was removed from the electoral register. Paid S$5 to reinstate my good name during a trip back subsequently.

You know, I'd actually be concerned if my travel info is shared by ICA with the Elections Dept or IRAS or another govt agency without my consent.

While I can appreciate the fact that sometimes the perfect solution is not feasible and govt agencies will accept a "good enough" application, I'll also remember that this is one govt that will nail my ass to the wall for the slightest inaccurate info, if it is in their interest to cast doubt upon my integrity and character.

The geniuses that came up with these criteria for qualification to be an overseas voter obviously did not consider the practical implications. They obviously went to the same schools as their friends who designed the single trip MRT ticket system.

me-no-mad said...

How come u have to pay $5 to reinstate your name? I receive a letter to sign and mail back to get my name put back.

Let's put it this way, I doubt they dont need our consent to share the info. Anycase, being a goody 2 shoes, interlinking my entry records doesnt amount much, at least to me, (however it stops at sharing my personal tax records as that would be horrifying!)

In US and Australia, privacy law is supremely tight about confidentiality of data but I dont think its as strongly enforced here.

Anycase, I am not asking for a perfect system. What I cannot stomach is the sort of half hearted reply that treats me like primary school kid.

I smiled at your last para. I read that alot of negative feedback about the new train card with the displaying of deposit that cannot be used for tpt but ok for purchases. Why make it soooo damn complicated? Why reinvent the wheel for something not required? Waste time, waste effort for something so insignifcant. Oh well, not only do they go to same school, they are trying to do things differently for the sake of being different, not carng if it was practical being different.

littlecartnoodles said...

My constituency was contested at the last GE, was yours ?