Melvin Tan / Guest Writer
Question: What is the difference between the two wheels of the bicycle in the inset picture?
Or rather, the logos?
Answer: They belong to two organisations of distinct and separate existences in the legal aspect. Surprised? Because they look alike?
Indeed, with the logo of the ruling People’s Action Party resting within the sculpture of the PAP Community Foundation logo (right), onlookers can tell they have to be affiliated to each other somehow. (http://www.pcf.org.sg/).
Indeed, the PCF is “the social and charitable arm” of the PAP, according to the definition in the former’s website (www.pcf.org.sg).
And, instituted as a charity, it would probably stand a higher prospect of obtaining police approval for an activity like mass cycling – which it did – than the latter, a political party.
Or at least, based on what transpired when the Workers’ Party tried to apply for such a permit for its 50th anniversary in 2007 and was rejected.
A few bloggers, including two women WP bloggers Lee Li Lian and Ng Swee Bee, who are also members of its CEC, voiced dissatisfaction at the application, literally, of double standards after the PCF held a carnival on 31 August 2008 at West Coast that included a cyclists’ fanfare entrance by PAP Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong and PAP MPs.
One was them, non-partisan online news portal “The Online Citizen” in an article by Deputy Editor Andrew Loh, received criticism from another weblog “For Want of a Better Title” for “implying that the PAP did break a law or that the police were lax in the application of the law”.
The blogger, known by his moniker “Modernburrow”, wrote that Mr Loh “should fact check because the PCF is not a political party in the legal sense”.
Ironically, “Modernburrow” has instead brought to attention an outlandish political practice seen only in unique Singapore, of parties having to register non-political entities to bypass restrictions placed on them.
Political parties, be it PAP, WP or any others, are supposed to be exemplary national role models as they seek election to enact laws and should respect and uphold them.
Should they start the trend of registering non-political entities that basically comprises the same people of same political disposition and possibility same political agenda because they are obligated to bend and go around laws, won’t the people they govern be encouraged to do the same?
The laws will be made a mockery of, as if they have not made a bigger mockery of common sense and logic when these new organisations are permitted to adopt for a logo that carries their party’s symbol.
While the PCF and PAP are different organisations, not everyone can differentiate between their logos and may confuse the two, given that the PAP symbol mainly makes up the PCF logo’s design.
Which is what happened to a writer to a Straits Times forum on 4 September 2008, Mr Tan Ghee Gay.
In his letter, “Why ‘no’ and ‘yes’”, he wrote that “a similar request by the Workers’ Party (WP) for a cycling event in East Coast Park was turned down” and asked “why was the PAP event allowed but the WP one not”, without once mentioning PCF.
The reply in ST Forum today “Why WP didn’t get permit for event” by DSP Paul Tay of the Singapore Police Force took generally, among other reasons, the same line as “Modernburrow” – that it was “organised by the PAP Community Foundation, which is a registered charity and not a political party”.
Now, if the WP registered another organisation with a hammer plus, say, a cloud or some Adidas-like stripes, how many can tell it is not the WP that is present when they see this logo?
Why not just save the hassle and give political parties more space?
DSP Tay’s letter continued with the event being “a carnival that involved children and families from various kindergartens and educational institutions. The Prime Minister, as guest of honour, and a few other guests, made their entrance by cycling a short distance”.
From what I know, the WP’s event was also meant to be a family carnival rather than some mobile election rally prone to “disorder and unruly behaviour”, quoting from DSP Tay’s response. In addition, why should cycling be part of a charity event when a sport like cycling has little to do with charitable deeds, unless some corporation donated a million dollars for every round of cycling Mr Lee completed?
Next, to date, whether it is the political existence or the cycling event of WP that was the reason for the rejection has not been addressed.
The WP already carries out many activities and if the cycling was an issue, the police could have rejected PCF’s cycling portion and allowed it to carry on with the rest of the programme.
Or if the political existence was a problem, political parties might as well be banned.
Coming back to the post by “Modernburrow”, the blogger had expressively “checked to see if the PCF was a part of the PAP, legally, and the answers was no”.
Legally, no organisation is part of another or otherwise, why register another organisation?
However, as stated in the PCF website, even the PAP acknowledges PCF to be their charity arm and their trustees are mainly PAP ministers and MPs.
But a more noteworthy point has little with do the legal status of these organisations or their logos.
During a Parliament sitting on 27 August 2007, WP MPs Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim had queried the government on why WP’s permit application for its cycling event was rejected.
Minister of State of Home Affairs, Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee’s replies contained the following, “You may be well-behaving, but there may be other people whom you come across when you cycle who may stop you, may want to debate with you and that may attract a crowd, and therefore will result in problems the police want to avoid.”
I am sure AP Ho would not dispute that Mr Lee, who is also Prime Minister and headed the cyclist contingent, is a more important person than Opposition Leader Mr Low, who is WP Secretary-General.
Won’t more people be inclined to stop the PM to debate with him?
Won’t a PM attract a bigger crowd than an Opposition Leader?
If the Opposition Leader attracts a bigger crowd, the PAP needs to start worrying.
If AP Ho thinks the Opposition Leader is more important, the PAP needs to start worrying more.
Therefore, the authorities should note that West Coast could be unsafe for the PM to cycle in.
They should do more to prevent any possible harm that may befall the PM when he is cycling – or the person who stops him midway through and gets run down.
Alternatively, the PCF should seriously consider changing its logo to one that does not encompass the PAP’s logo, so that its members can enjoy safer cycling trips.
The writer is a member of the Workers’ Party. The article first appeared on Melvin’s personal blog, melvintansg.