by Kirsten Han
For those interested in getting involved in politics, “passion is the key”, said MediaCorp artiste and Young PAP (YP) member Tay Ping Hui, when asked about the desired qualities of a politician.
Mr Tay Ping Hui and MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Mr Baey Yam Keng were both guest panellists at the event entitled ‘Face To Face with Mr Baey Yam Keng and Mr Tay Ping Hui on Personality Politics’, organised by YP. It is the first in a series of talks to be organised by the Young PAP in the coming year. The event was hosted by Mr Abner Koh, a YP member from their Sembawang branch.
The first hour of the session was hosted in a talk show format, where Mr Koh posed questions to both panellists on the subject of personality politics. Both Mr Baey and Mr Tay agreed that although personality politics are to a certain degree inevitable, the Singaporean electorate would still demand more from politicians.
Mr Baey pointed out that in certain other countries there is a strong emphasis on personality politics, seen when celebrities cross over into politics. However, he felt that this would not be as prevalent in Singapore, where people are generally more discerning and less likely to be taken in by a candidate’s celebrity status.
“In Singapore, politicians are more technocrats,” he said. “People who are able to run a country or run a company.”
The issue of political apathy amongst Singaporean youth was also raised. Mr Tay listed two of his personal observations through interaction with young Singaporeans: that the paternalistic nature of the government has led to a generation of Singaporeans feeling that they need not bother themselves with national affairs, and that many young Singaporeans feel that politics is “too far away” from them.
“In order to increase interest in the younger generation, they must feel they have a stake,” he said. He later suggested that a live debate between a minister and an opposition politician might be a way to generate more interest in politics in Singapore.
“Can politicians be trusted?” Mr Koh asked the two panellists towards the end of the talk show segment.
“Politicians are the best actors in the world,” Mr Tay responded. He went on to add that most politicians “cannot be trusted because there is always an agenda”. He urged the audience to “listen beyond what they [politicians] say”, and to come to their own conclusions.
Mr Tay also clarified that he would not be running as a candidate in the upcoming General Elections, although he would consider being a Member of Parliament (MP) if he were ever presented with the opportunity in the future.
For the second half of the session, which was a question-and-answer segment, Young PAP chairman Mr Teo Ser Luck joined Mr Baey and Mr Tay on the panel. For the next hour they fielded questions from the floor.
When asked why he chose to join the Young PAP, Mr Tay revealed that he had been asked to join an opposition party in the past, but he chose the PAP because they have a “proven track record” in governing the country. However, he said that decisions such as which political party to support are up to the individual, like “choosing between a Mercedes and a BMW”.
The Online Citizen asked the panellists to share their thoughts on whether the PAP was banking too much on the personality of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. The general consensus of all three panellists was that although MM Lee had built the party as well as Singapore, the PAP had developed and evolved beyond him. Mr Tay stated that MM Lee has now stepped out of politics, allowing younger ministers to come forward.
Mr Baey then asked if the opposition parties were banking on the personas of their founding members, such as Chiam See Tong and J. B. Jeyaretnam.
In response to a question on public debates, Mr Teo pointed out that there have been a number of platforms for PAP representatives to engage in debate with opposition members. He gave the example of university forums as one such instance.
He also urged more Singaporeans to “ask the right questions”, and to take greater ownership in their country by getting involved.
The last question of the session was on the local mainstream media. Mr Tay said that the local media was “not untruthful”, but were cautious due to certain reasons. He highlighted that there were many alternative media platforms on the Internet, but urged readers to look at all sources from a neutral standpoint and to “filter out” information before making their decisions.
After the session, TOC asked Mr Abner Koh about his thoughts on whether incidents involving YP members such as Jack Lin, Danny Soo Ee Hock and Cheo Ming Shen had affected the public image of YP.
“Personally, I don’t see the connection,” he said. He explained that in every large organisation there would be a number of such individuals who would make mistakes, and that these actions were not representative of YP as a whole.