On Thursday (10 May), a Channel News Asia article quoted Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing as saying that the Singapore Government is “closely following” developments in Malaysia following the shock election. He added that the two countries share a “longstanding and broad-ranging relationships” and developments across the causeway could have a “direct or indirect impact” on Singapore given the proximity.
Although the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) had won 113 out of the 222 seats needed to form the government, there were some delays in swearing coalition leader and former Prime Minister Tun Mohamad Mahathir in as the country’s new Prime Minister. While outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak had conceded defeat, he said that there was no party which won the clear mandate and asked the King of Malaysia Muhammad V to decide on who should be the country’s next Prime Minister.
This was because PH was not a political party by itself but a coalition made up of 4 different parties – the Democratic Action Party, the People’s Justice Party, the National Trust Party, and the Malaysian United Indigenous Party. The biggest winner in this election was the People’s Justice Party which won 104 seats out of 222. Although this was better than the Barisan Nasional coalition showing, it also fell short of the 111 required to form the government.
Minister Chan said that the politics in Malaysia were for “Malaysians to decide” and that the Singapore government is looking forward to “developing an equally constructive relationship with the next Malaysian government, and to work with it to take our bilateral ties forward and benefit both our peoples.”
Interestingly, the comments made by Minister Chan were a mirror image of what the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said in a Facebook post earlier that morning.
MSM praises Chan for his “sharp intellect” but netizens not impressed
Prior to assuming the role of Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan was the labour chief and the Secretary-General of the National Union Trades Congress.
In a farewell article by the Straits Times last Wednesday (2 May), several union members were quoted as praising Chan for his intellect. Mohamad Nazir Sani was quoted as saying that Chan had an ability to “listen to a crowd, taking in views and questions all at once, then distilling them and responding to issues raised” without using notes. before adding his views that Chan was an “organised and sharp thinker”.
Despite the praise from the mainstream media, netizens seem to have reacted different to Chan after his comments.
One Netizen Anu Banu said on the Channel NewsAsia Facebook Page on Chan’s comments: “Really? Just repeating what the PM said, and just stating what all the Singaporeans obviously know” before speculating that Chan “could be the next PM”. This was echoed by another netizen Jay Lam who commented that Chan used the “exact same words used by [PM Lee]” and asked if Chan was a “bloody parrot in human disguise”.
Other netizens also recalled how Mahathir was a strong nationalistic leader who was not the easiest to deal with. One Wibowo Kelvin said that “relations [with Malaysia] will not be easy [moving forward] under a tough, nationalistic leader” while Jeremy Ng commented that “keechiu now also must fight Dr M whom until now only LKY could do it”.
In a SCMP article, former TODAY newspaper editor P N Balji was quoted as saying that Singapore is a small state “and it’s a very tricky world out there”. The article then concluded that while the three key contenders had varying roles across ministries, they had “yet to show whether they possess the statecraft required to helm the city state – which prides itself for being friends with all major powers. ”
What do you think?