Photo of Tan Chuan Jin from Facebook

Minister of Social and Family Affairs (MSF) Tan Chuan Jin claimed that the ministry’s welfare officers and social workers are often “assaulted online” and “maligned” by social media. In his media interview with state media Today last week, Minister Tan Chuan Jin claimed that all civil servants under his ministry are innocent and asked the public to have greater understanding.

“Our officers are incredibly passionate about what they are trying to do and yet at the same time, (they are) being assaulted online because individuals with their (own) perspectives decide to use that platform to attack our officers. One snapshot story doesn’t really tell the whole picture. Certainly seasoned social workers will tell you that things are not always so straightforward (and) there are a lot of sub-stories that don’t get surfaced.”

The former army general quoted one video in December 2015, where a welfare officer was seen in the video explaining the delay of payment to a welfare recipient. Minister Tan Chuan was quick to condemn the uploading of the video but is unable to specify the kind of malicious comment where internet users have clearly maligned a welfare officer:

“The whole objective of doing that and putting it online was to basically cast aspersions on our officers when actually what our officer was trying to do was actually to increase help.”

The newbie Minister who is barely in the ministry of 19 months also attacked welfare recipients who provided the government with false information:

“They are very savvy… they will tell a story that sometimes, I myself am not able to ascertain completely. It’s only subsequently when other information trickles in then you realise that their situation is not quite as dire as they make it out to be.”

Minister Tan Chuan Jin also threatened internet commentators that posting their opinions online on recorded videos of welfare officers may be sub judice, a criminal law in Singapore:

“It’s a real struggle, in many cases, especially when the public comes on board and start judging the agencies and officers who are not assisting, and then we have to look at that particular case and re-investigate it. Individuals need to realise that they can’t just take this approach because it is really affecting the course of justice. It is also affecting the way in which we are able to carry out our responsibilities.”