Those hoping that Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong’s gentlemanly approach would set the tone for the upcoming elections would be sorely disappointed by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan’s mention of a YouTube video that would raise “awkward questions” for the SDP reported in the Sunday Times.
Giving no details, Dr Balakrishnan said, “It has been brought to my attention – in fact it is the SDP which is suppressing a certain YouTube video, which raises some very awkward questions about the agenda and motivations of the SDP and its’ candidates.”
The onus of stating what video he is referring to and why voters should take it into consideration lies squarely on the shoulders of Dr Balakrishnan. If, as he suggests, this video is relevant to the choice voters will be making, the least Dr Balakrishnan can do is state exactly which video he is referring to and explain its relevance.
A clear-headed voter would come to the conclusion that Dr Balakrishnan is unwilling to describe the video directly as he suspects it might be unrelated to specific policies that will have an impact on voters’ lives.
Dr Balakrishnan’s approach sharply breaks from the gentlemanly approach some of his Cabinet colleagues are advocating.
For instance, Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Lim Hng Kiang, when asked about the SDP’s Tan Jee Say’s personality, said:
“No, I’m not in this personality thing. His ideas are put up, and from MTI, it’s my job to respond and explain…Wherever he stands, the voters will judge him on his personality, his character and so on. It’s not for me to comment.”
Mr Goh Chok Tong last Thursday called for “a clean fight - no personal attacks, no rude language” and said that “we are a gracious, generous community”. Foreign Minister George Yeo also expressed the hope that a repeat of the “overplayed” James Gomez affair in 2006 would not occur again this election.
So the question on voters’ minds would be why Dr Balakrishnan feels he has to step out of line and score some points by punching below the belt.
The SDP’s explanation is that Dr Balakrishnan is clearly rattled by the caliber of candidates the SDP is fielding against him in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.
This might hold a grain of truth.
The SDP’s Holland-Bukit Timah slate is easily the most impressive slate the party has fielded in recent memory. The Straits Times went so far as to call it a "rejuvenation".
It boasts a senior civil servant with more experience of the way government works than Dr Balakrishnan in the form of Mr Tan Jee Say, an effectively bilingual and publicly recognizable psychiatrist and former grassroots leader in the form of Dr Ang Yong Guan, and the man who went toe-to-toe with Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and who has come across as a candidate of substance and gravitas, Dr Vincent Wijeysingha.
Perhaps there lies the nub of Dr Balakrishnan’s efforts to divert the public’s attention to a YouTube video he dares not name.
If Dr Balakrishnan wants this video to become an issue, he needs to come clean with the electorate, state what the content of the video is, and make the case for why it should influence our vote.