Promising a National Conversation that would engage all Singaporeans at his recent National Day Rally, PM Lee Hsien Loong did just that as he started the process by meeting 19 of his Facebook fans and followers on Thursday evening for tea at the Istana.
The group -- which comprised of influential bloggers such as Lee Kin Mun aka mrbrown and Andrew Loh, of publichouse.sg, as well as ordinary Singaporeans -- met the Prime Minister for an hour, where they chatted over issues such as the declining birth rate, special needs education and online behaviour.
More importantly, the light-hearted, casual setting set the tone for what looks set to be a genuine effort to engage Singaporeans of all walks of life in the charting of Singapore's future in the next 20 years.
Promising more of such meets in future, PM Lee wrote on his Facebook page, "Today I met 19 of my fans and followers over tea. You came from many backgrounds and age groups (Jiajia was the youngest :) ), and some of you are more active online than others."
YouTube sensation and child star Dr Jiajia stole the show when he delighted the guest in attendance -- which included Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin and Members of Parliament Low Yen Ling and Zaqy Mohd -- by posing PM Lee a question. Watch his video below.
Elsewhere, on his blog, mrbrown wrote about how he asked PM Lee about the challenges facing parents with special needs children to which the Prime Minister said he would look into the matter.
The Straits Times also reported those in attendance were asked about comments made online by anonymous users. Most of the guests felt they should not be anonymous.
Online response to the tea session was overwhelmingly positive.
On PM Lee's Facebook post, which attracted over 200 comments and 4,000 likes, many praised PM Lee for his disarmingly honest and human approach in connecting with the online community.
Facebook user Kamariah Abdul Rahim wrote, "I know that you have done your best yet you can never please everyone.It's not an easy job... I'm proud to be a Singaporean and a PAP follower. Nothing can change my mind even if I have some disagreement with some policies but I know you tried to make everything work and everyone happy. Thank you."
Others jokingly asked when it would be "their turn" to be invited for tea.
David Teng wrote, "When is my turn to meet u? I got a lot of off days... I buy you coffee at [the] local kopitiam to feel the ground."