It was disappointing to see Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu smirking away as she addressed an audience in her speech at a police community event at Jurong East on Saturday (Dec 8) regarding the territorial dispute between Singapore and Malaysia.
I was watching the TV news of Ms Fu’s speech and saw her smiling away as she spoke about the dispute. For such a serious national issue that is not something to be positive about, I felt it was inappropriate of her to express such a body language. One can always visit Toggle website to see the video clip on Saturday’s evening news bulletin.
We have seen other ministers such as Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, though known to be a casual person and famous for his “kee chiu” action prior to the 2011 General Elections, portraying a stern and serious body language as he addressed reporters at an interview on the dispute. Ditto to Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister of Transport Khaw Boon Wan who similarly exuded such a vibe. This is the kind of expression and body language a politician should show when they are dealing with a very serious national issue.
In politics and especially when dealing with foreign policy, it is important for leaders to portray themselves appropriately for the occasion. After all, one’s tone, expression and body language shows a lot on the political impression one intends to make.
Granted, Ms Fu was addressing a crowd at a more informal community event, as compared to a press conference or interview by Khaw or Vivian. But I don’t see why she shouldn’t take a stern stance just because it was a community event. Community event or otherwise, the message that the dispute is a serious issue and we are unhappy about it, should be sent out. Smiling away and giving out a light-hearted portrayal seems to downplay the severity of the issue.
Ms Fu’s message on the dispute delivered on Saturday was timely and appropriate, but it is a pity that her body language did not match the occasion. If she could portray a stern expression while rebuking Ms Sylvia Lim during the post-budget parliamentary exchange earlier this year, there is no reason for her not to do so especially for such a crucial national sovereignty issue. There was indeed nothing to be feeling positive about on the dispute which is potentially a threat to our sovereignty.