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Discussion on public hygiene and cleanliness

Publicising examples of bad social behaviour can generate a conversation in the public sphere, which could eventually establish strong social norms of what behaviour is frowned upon.

SINGAPORE: Publicising examples of bad social behaviour can generate a conversation in the public sphere, which could eventually establish strong social norms of what behaviour is frowned upon.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu said this on the sidelines of a focus group discussion organised by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources on Saturday.

Ms Fu, who is also the ministry's Second Minister, hosted the discussion on public hygiene and cleanliness as part of the review of the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint.

A poster of a woman urinating in a lift was put up at the void deck of a block at the Pinnacle@Duxton by the Tanjong Pagar Town Council following complaints of a "stench of urine".

An administrator for the Pinnacle@Duxton Facebook page posted it online, causing it to go viral.

Offline, the incident dominated much of the discussion among the 65 participants at the second of five focus group discussions on the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint .

Ms Fu asked if publicly shaming bad behaviour, whether by putting up similar posters or by making litterbugs clean-up specific locations, could work as an effective deterrent.

She said: "I think we probably need to do that from time to time, not really to shame the person. It's not the person we are drawing attention to, but it's the behaviour, it's the action.

"So we're not against the person, but we have some views about the action the person is doing, and hopefully through that discussion, we will have a much clearer understanding that the action is not one to be condoned."

On littering, suggestions ranged from having good anti-littering role models for children to inculcating a sense of responsibility and awareness among Singaporeans.

Currently, some town councils have a 'No Cleaners Day' on an ad-hoc or grounds-up basis, to remind residents of their responsibility in keeping the estate clean.

Some participants suggested that this be replicated island-wide, and over a single day, where no cleaners are seen picking up after residents' litter and rubbish in residential areas.

Ms Fu said it may be worth getting more town councils, companies and even hawker centres on board. But she said it would not likely be for an extended period, or at too many places at one time.

Feedback at these focus group sessions will be taken in as part of strategies for Singapore's next phase of sustainable development.  

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