Old wine in a new bottle: Lawrence Wong

By Tay

Senior Minister Lawrence Wong had recently hit out against netizens’ apparent politicisation of the royal couple’s visit to Queenstown and the televised National Conversation on his facebook page. In his piece, he defends his party, taking the position of a wrongly accused victim in this saga. However, putting things into perspective, his writing comes across as equally, if not more politicised than what he accuses as the “wedge between us… divid(ing) our society”.

Mr Wong defended the TV forum with the PM, claiming that the forum participants were not chosen based on political affiliations. Let us, for a moment, give him the benefit of the doubt. Even if it were truly so, it is hard to believe the disproportionate number of PAP supporters and activists within the audience. If the intention of the televised forum was truly to engage people from different walks of life offering diverse views, then perhaps simply more effort could have been taken to include people from other ends of the political spectrum. While the personal witch-hunts have no place in a civil society, an unfair representation of the ground sentiment on a television forum has no place in a sincere attempt at engaging Singaporeans.

Perhaps one reason why netizens were quick to suggest that PAP supporters were planted in the audience to skew the opinions aired on TV is because of their lack of trust in the mainstream media. The strict control of the media and press by the enforcement of the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, coupled with the close links between the leadership of SPH and Mediacorp with the ruling party, thus restricts free discussion and true conversation with regards to politics. In so doing, the PAP has been the main culprit of politicising the media. For that matter, not just the media, but almost “every activity or conversation in this country becomes politicised”, as Mr Wong ironically accuses netizens of. Has he forgotten how his party has manipulated public housing in the form of HDB upgrading to entice voters? Or how the PA is used as a platform for PAP MPs (and losing candidates) to gain political mileage and create an uneven playing field at the grassroots level? How about National Education in schools, where children are painted a glorious image of the ruling party at a young age? The list goes on. Before he points the finger at dissentious voices for dividing society, perhaps he and his party should think about why such views arise in the first place. Is it not because of the PAP’s politicisation of almost every aspect of Singaporean society to begin with?

Towards the end, Mr Wong moves on to the usual praise for the PAP and the mighty and wonderful deeds that they had done for the country. If that is not a political move then I do not know what is. Implicitly, he is suggesting that on account of what the PAP has done for Singapore, we should rally behind the PAP and not hurl baseless accusations at them. I am not entirely convinced that accusations that the PAP has politicised the National Conversation are groundless. And as Jen had pointed out here, the PAP has been guilty of over-exaggerating their achievements for the nation. Even then, such sentimentality for the PAP which “brought us from third world to first” should not be an excuse for incessant politicising in the many fields of civil society.

It is thus plain for all to see that Mr Wong’s opinions and writings essentially demonstrate the absence of the shift in mindset that the PAP had promised after GE 2011. Like old wine in a new bottle, the same old mentality of the PAP remains silently but surely present in their new crop of office holders – the self-righteous attitude of picking the speck of dust in another’s eye whilst ignoring the log in its own. Before we, as Mr Wong exhorts, can “bridge our differences and forge a common future together”, his party must first realise that the divisive wedge was first driven in society by them, and that their politicisation of society must stop in order for the gap to be effectively bridged.