Speak up for people who are down

~by: Tan Kin Lian~

I wrote a letter to the Straits Times Forum, published on 10 February 2012, giving my views about the alleged extra marital affair of Yaw Shin Leong.  (See http://tankinlian.blogspot.com/2012/02/workers-party-and-yaw-shin-leong.html)

Ms Christine Lim

Ms Christine Lim wrote a letter to express her indignation over my views. She went further to pass judgment on me as follows “One would expect a higher moral standard, deeper insight and greater wisdom from a former presidential candidate”.

I do not know her age or background but I want to tell Christine her that she is not qualified to pass judgment on other people.

To be a judge, one be fair minded, have an open mind, gather the facts and even listen to the accused party before passing a judgment. Clearly, she did not display most of these important qualities.

The alleged affair

Let us look at the alleged extra-marital affair in a wider perspective. We do not know when it was alleged to have happened and whether it was before or after Yaw Shin Leong became a Member of Parliament. We do not know who the other party is and the circumstances of her relationship with her family.

Mr. Yaw has decided not to speak on this matter for reasons that are best known to him. I can only guess that it is to protect the privacy of the members of his family and of the other family. I would consider this to be a legitimate reason.

Mr. Yaw’s own wife is the best person to judge this issue. I am encouraged by her support of her husband in this situation.

Another alleged affair

There is another allegation of an extra marital affair against another Member of Parliament that occurred a few years ago and the wife had wanted to file for divorce. This matter did not surface in the mainstream media.

If it did, I wonder if the same people would have the courage to clamor for greater transparency and accountability. It is easy to bash a person who is relatively weak but would they do the same to a powerful person?

Trust in the Workers Party

Several people have stated that this episode has eroded their trust in the Workers Party which had campaigned for greater transparency in the recent general election. They want the party to issue a clear statement on this issue.

In my view, it is not appropriate for the leaders of the Workers Party to comment on this matter. In her letter, Ms Christine Lin had said that this is a clear admission of guilt. Many people would probably have shared the same view.

If so, surely this is sufficient? Do we really need to go further?

Exemplary action

The leaders of the Workers Party had faced a difficult situation in balancing the conflicting interest of many parties and had taken a decision that I agreed with and had described as “exemplary”. 

Some Singaporeans may not agree with my use of the word “exemplary”. They are entitled to their views but it does not give them the right to attack me or pass negative judgment on my character. 

The next election

The people of Hougang will have to decide if they wish to re-elect Yaw Shin Leong at the next election, assuming that he is still invited to stand by his party.

At that time, I hope that the voters will make a decision based on a broader range of issues, including his performance as a elected Member of Parliament.

They should also consider the qualities and character of the other candidate. They should remember that some people have the power to prevent their dirty linen from being aired in public, while others do not have the same privilege.


Some people have argued that by defending the right of Yaw Shin Leong to remain silent, I am giving a message to young people that it is all right to commit adultery. This is an unfair argument, but some people have the trait to press an argument to the unreasonable extreme.

Speaking for others

It is easy to jump on the bandwagon and bash a person who is down, especially if he is weak. I encourage Singaporeans to speak out for the people who are down and need your help. I wish to share this poem that was given to me by a friend:

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

And for a sense of history, do look at this explanation in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came%E2%80%A6

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