New NMP had joined Young PAP “out of curiosity”

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The following article is taken from Today.

PN Balji

IN A country where lines get blurred in so many areas, Nominated MP aspirant Calvin Cheng’s decision not to resign his Young PAP membership the moment he launched his bid to enter Parliament is understandable.

If those lines were clearly drawn into our collective DNA, I am quite sure Mr Cheng would have officially cut his links with the youth wing of the ruling party the moment he had made up his mind that he wanted to enter Parliament.

He did that only after a Today report highlighted the issue on Wednesday.

This 34-year-old media entrepreneur must have felt all that was needed was to be honest and upfront with the high-level committee that sifts through NMP applications and picks people it thinks will make a contribution to debate in Parliament. Mr Cheng says that he told the committee he was an “inactive member” and that the committee did not question him on this.

In defending his decision subsequently, he said his Young PAP membership expired two years after he joined the political organisation in 2006 and that he never even bothered to pick up his membership card. Now here is the real rub. He joined the Young PAP out of … you need to be ready for this word … curiosity.

Let me quote from a letter he wrote to Today: “I joined YPAP in 2006 when I visited the Teck Ghee PAP branch with a friend, and I signed up out of curiosity. Due to many reasons, I never returned.”

My, my … what does this say of this intelligent young man who graduated from Oxford and wants to be a member of the highest and most august chamber in Singapore?

Shall we dismiss this curiosity episode as a case of boyish candour?

I would have not bothered much if Mr Cheng had added this line in his letter: Looking back, I realise how wrong I was to treat my application to join an organisation like the YPAP in such a cavalier manner.

The burden is now on Mr Cheng; he has to prove to Singaporeans that the decision by the Special Select Committee, which includes two ministers and several backbenchers, to pick him is not misplaced.

As for the Young PAP, perhaps it needs to make sure that the people who want to join it do so for the right reasons and not for whimsical reasons like curiosity.

A veteran journalist, P N Balji is now the director of the Asia Journalism Fellowship, a joint initiative by the Temasek Foundation and the Nanyang Technological University.

Read also: 5 out of 9 new NMPs list MM Lee as their “favourite politician”.

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Mr Calvin Cheng in the Straits Times: