The Yaw Shin Leong fiasco has the potential to do irreparable damage to the Worker’s Party (WP) if a full and frank accounting to the public is not done.
Opposition sympathetic supporters online have attempted to shift the focus of the discussion to a media “witch hunt” of Mr Yaw.
Blaming the media is an unfortunate public display of “ostrich-hiding-head-in-sand” mentality by more short-sighted supporters of the opposition.
Of course, one can’t help but find the pontificating of the mainstream media more than a little nauseating. It is laughable that media talking heads who have been less than rigorous in holding the government account are now courageously speaking out against hanky panky in the WP.
Being able to blame the establishment media for its’ woes might help these opposition supporters sleep easier at night, but it will only serve to further discredit the opposition cause in the eyes of the wider public in the long term.
In the heat of the recent General Election, The Online Citizen skewered the People’s Action Party (PAP) for its less than transparent withdrawal of Mr Steve Tan as a candidate for Tampines GRC. It is unfortunate to see the WP take an equally opaque (some might venture, more opaque) approach.
A fair approach for the WP to take would have been to state that their member’s private lives have no bearing on their public duties.
However, by having Mr Yaw resign from his Central-Executive Committee (CEC) position the WP has clearly signalled that this fiasco has taken its toll on Mr Yaw’s standing and/or his ability to perform his party duties. Mr Yaw is now the only WP Parliamentarian who does not hold a CEC position.
Mr Yaw’s resignation from the CEC was meant to be WP’s attempt to draw a line under this incident.
But coupled with a continued characterization of the allegations as “rumours” and a refusal to explain what actually went wrong or why Mr Yaw was resigning, Mr Yaw’s resignation raises more questions than it answers.
This editorial is not so much about whether a MP's private life is relevant to his work and standing as an MP. Rather, it is about the responses of Mr Yaw and the WP to the allegations.
It also opens up the darker side to the WP’s branding as the “pragmatic” alternative to the PAP: Mr Yaw’s resignation, without an accompanying explanation, comes across as a misguided and unprincipled half-measure to stop the chatter.
It is still not too late for a proper public accounting by the WP leadership. But unless one is forthcoming, the stench of silence in the face of sleaze will continue to fester, and the charge of hypocrisy will come around to haunt the party at the next GE.
The soul searching is not limited to the WP. For now, those opposition supporters for whom the opposition can do no wrong have some soul searching to do.
An incredulous netizen asks some questions on the Temasek Review Emeritus that it is apposite to end this editorial on. Those sympathetic to the opposition cause might do well to reflect on double standards in the ranks.
"1. I dislike PAP so I have to like WP = All WP members are saints = WP members can do no wrong = I disbelieve any wrongdoing by WP members?
2. Or set a ridiculous high bar for evidence (Doctor’s testimonial? Which doctor in his right mind is going to leak this and get permanently struck off?).
3. Suddenly internet rumours have no basis and should be completely discounted?
4. Suddenly, one’s personal life does not matter for a public figure?”