We all knew it was coming because we’ve seen it before: slime-slinging, full frontal personalized assaults on character are par for the course in any election. The first shot has been fired across the bows by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), targeted squarely at the man most likely to shake its grip on power.
Chen Show Mao is the candidate the PAP wants to recruit but cannot find: he is perfectly bilingual, has reached the commanding heights of success in the private sector, a person with a global perspective but a heart for local politics.
Most importantly, Mr Chen is willing to enter a life of public service without the “insurance” PAP candidates fielded in GRCs have. He is willing to put his neck out with little or no prospect of seeing a ministerial salary in his lifetime. He is living, breathing proof that the PAP’s model of having to pay top dollar for top talent is a fig leaf used to hide the naked reality of a party devoid of passion and conviction.
Voters will ask: if Chen Show Mao can serve the people without the promise of millions, why can’t the ministers of the PAP?
And so, in what might come across as a spasm of desperation, the PAP has resorted to ignoring the issues and playing the person. Dr Ng Eng Hen’s letter in the Straits Times Forum was page one of this playbook.
Stop the double standards
Right thinking Singaporeans would be justifiably perplexed if they sniff a whiff of hypocrisy.
The PAP has candidates in its ranks who only became citizens in the last few years. Ms Foo Mee Har had problems telling reporters when she became a Singaporean (two years ago), and has spent long periods of time working overseas. (See video here.)
Another new citizen, Mr Janil Puthucheary, never did National Service unlike Mr Chen, who had the distinction of serving as an Officer of the Singapore Armed Forces. Mr Chen served in our armed forces despite not actually being a naturalized citizen yet.
PAP leaders have appealed to the public to judge candidates like Mr Puthucheary and Ms Foo on the fact that they have chosen Singapore as their home, but now they challenge Mr Chen’s bona fides for returning home?
The Online Citizen believes that the increasingly international character of candidates is a net positive: we published an editorial praising Ms Foo for her private sector savvy and global outlook. National leaders who have always said a global outlook is necessary for Singapore’s survival should not now be tearing down Singaporeans who work overseas.
The hypocrisy must stop.
In the last week, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng told voters to “drill down to the details” of the opposition parties’ manifestos. After the PAP released a sparsely detailed manifesto that was roundly criticized, Minister Lim Swee Say then turns up to tell Singaporeans to “not just think about the micro aspects of policies”.
In an almost tragicomedic turn of events, the PAP disabled the comments features on their Youtube video launching the manifesto. The “comments disabled” notification is now immortalized in screenshots juxtaposed against stills from the video telling Singaporeans that their “opinions matter”.
The PAP needs to take heed that continuing to confuse voters by mixing messages will boomerang on them.
If the PAP chooses to make Mr Chen’s country of business an election issue, they run a high risk of being accused of hypocrisy, as well as being willing to go into an election insulting the intelligence of the electorate.
One can only hope the PAP takes the high road, and fight this election on the merits of the candidates and the issues at stake. Singaporeans deserve no less.
Read also: When a son of the land returns.