Yaw, the unwitting scapegoat for accountability

~by: Ghui ~

Yaw Shin Leong has been expelled from the Workers’ Party with immediate effect. In one foul swoop, he has lost both his place in a party he helped propel into victory and his role as an MP. For the foreseeable future, his political career is well and truly over.

At first blush, this move seems drastic and disproportionate. While Yaw may have appeared less than forthcoming in the allegations of marital affairs that have been levelled against him, we must remember that these alleged offenses are of a private nature. We must draw a line between duties owed to the state and duties owed to the family. As long as his duties as MP have not been compromised, that line must remain firmly in place.

However, given that the political game has been pushed up several notches post GE 2011, this is perhaps a very strategic move on the part of the Workers’ Party.

There have been many scandals of late. Accusations of corruption and a lack of accountability on the part of people in power have been rife. Singaporeans are more vocal than ever before and are crying out for blood. This is of course a positive thing but we must distinguish between necessary accountability and irrelevant information digging. 

This whole saga seems to have highlighted confusion between what is in the public interest and what should remain the private business of individuals. I am not condoning affairs but I do see a difference between private morality and public culpability.

However, I do applaud the Workers’ Party for its strategic ingenuity. Certainly, they have gauged public sentiment correctly in a way that the PAP has failed to do for many years. They have sent a very strong message to voters that it is their opinion that counts. In this, they have deferred to the public and have showed respect for the views of Singaporeans at large. The PAP on the other hand, has been perceived to protect its own and this is something that has not sat well with the public. The contrast is therefore very stark and can only serve to strengthen the Workers’ Party’s image in the eyes of Singaporeans.

Politicians have to be seen to serve public interest and public interest has deemed it fit to view Yaw’s actions as something that is incompatible with his duties as an MP. The Workers’ Party has picked up on this public sentiment and has moved to act against one of its own. In so doing, the Workers’ Party has certainly shown great political judgment and acumen. In a democracy, it is what the voters want that counts and the Workers’ Party has demonstrated where its loyalty lies. No one is indispensable or untouchable.

The political landscape has truly heated up. Unfortunately, Yaw may have been made the unwitting scapegoat for accountability.