Looking at the NEA-AHTC stand-off, I would say that the true victim is not the hawkers themselves, but the desire to communicate.
It begins with the analytic bias of ‘anchoring’, in which both NEA and AHTC are guilty of formulating all assessments and conclusions from initial pieces of information.
NEA latched on to two communiques: a letter from AHTC property manager Mr Tai quoting the cost of scaffold erection, and one from WP MP Faisal appealing on behalf of hawkers at Blk 511. Both signaled to the NEA that AHTC was trying to get the hawkers to foot the bill for scaffold erection.
The WP on the other hand focuses on an email exchange between NEA’s Chin Peiyun and AHTC’s Pradeep with reference to the cleaning of Blk 538. Incidentally Mr Tai was carbon copied. This exchange signaled to the AHTC that the Hawkers Association would make the necessary arrangements for the scaffolding.
Everything goes down hill from here, with both parties refusing to budge or except responsibility for what was effective a simple failure to communicate properly. Both sides lack the integrity or the kahunas to admit as such.
Some see this saga as a political move by the PAP to trip up AHTC and make the WP look less viable as an alternative ruling party. Well, that thought would surely dominate the thoughts of some PAP cadres, but I wonder if this over-reaction over a trivial matter was somewhat a pre-emptive strike by the PAP to what it thought was another AIM missile being fired at them from the WP.
Like an elephant that has been conditioned to fear a tiny man with a stick and to respect the boundaries set by a flimsy piece of rope around the ankle, the PAP is operating with a heightened seige mentality as it fears being further ridiculed or out-ed by a crafting WP media strategy of deploying public opinion. Because even if the PAP had all the right facts, the domain of public opinion is their achilles hill, and the WP is well aware of this.
So what does this mean? Well, expect more public dispute between Government entities and WP entities all the way up the the next election. And many more misinterpreted emails and letters.