In an opinion piece on Yahoo yesterday (‘COMMENT: Heng Swee Keat needs to raise his game against Workers’ Party‘, 6 Nov), Yahoo’s Assistant News Editor Nicholas Yong observed that Heng had scored his own goal at the latest sitting of Parliament on Tuesday (5 Nov).
“Fumbled. Dropped the ball. Whichever sporting analogy you prefer, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat appears to have done it during the latest sitting of Parliament,” Mr Yong wrote.
Mr Yong was referring to PAP’s proposed motion to called on WP’s Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim to recuse themselves from financial matters relating to Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) in view of the recent High Court ruling.
He noted that Heng was rambling in his hour-long Parliamentary speech.
“Just minutes into the debate on the motion, Heng had to call for a time-out. He hummed and hawed, flipping through his folder like a student stumbling through his class presentation. And it all happened under persistent questioning from (Ms) Lim and even typically mild-mannered Hougang (WP) MP Png Eng Huat,” Mr Yong shared.
“With the greatest of respect, Png is not a gifted orator. Yet, even he managed to make the 58-year-old Finance Minister (Heng) look unprepared.”
He added, “And just like that, the game plan was upended. Normal service resumed shortly after, with Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong and other office-holders thundering at length about the ‘serious and grave findings’ of the High Court judgement on AHTC and the WP’s ‘litany of excuses’.”
“But it was too late to undo the own goal scored by Heng,” Mr Yong concluded after watching the whole scene played out from the Parliament press room.
Yahoo not given live feeds to Parliamentary sessions
Mr Yong also revealed that unlike SPH and Mediacorp news outlets, Yahoo is not given any ‘live feeds’ of the Parliamentary proceedings.
SPH and Mediacorp reporters, on the other hand, can watch the proceedings in the comfort of their newsrooms through ‘live feeds’ offered to them by the PAP government. For years, Mr Yong has to go to the Parliament himself to report on Parliamentary proceedings first hand.
This is why only a handful of reporters turn up at parliament at the press room in Parliament because only outlets like Yahoo will need to be there because they do not have the live feed. As for the other reporters who have the livefeed, they turn up at the Paliament to capture what is not shown in the livefeed as the camera tend to only zoom into the speakers and not at what is happening on the parliament floor.
With regard to the “fumbling” by DPM Heng, Mr Yong said that it was not the first time he saw 4G leaders fumbled.
Last March, Leader of the House Grace Fu was caught off-balance when Ms Lim politely declined her demand to apologise for her “allegations” in Parliament regarding the planned GST hike. Like Heng, Fu seemed unable to adapt accordingly when proceedings went off-script, Mr Yong further observed.
That is to say, PAP politicians expect opposition MPs to follow the scripts held in their hands. When the opposition MPs do not, PAP politicians are like deers caught in headlights, unable to react accordingly. In Mr Yong’s views, the PAP 4G leaders need to do a better job in Parliament so as to convince Singaporeans what PAP is selling to the people.
He said, “The court of public opinion is harsh and unforgiving. Fortunately for them, the damage could have been worse as the public is unable to watch ‘live’ broadcasts of regular parliamentary sessions.”
Indeed, years ago, parliamentary proceedings were broadcast live on TV. It was later cancelled due to the perceived poor performance in Parliament of PAP MPs. Thereafter, Mediacorp would only show selective parliamentary exchanges in their TV news segments.
“Having been anointed first among equals, Heng will need to quickly grow into the role with a general election looming – a convincing victory is needed to cement the 4G’s political legitimacy,” Mr Yong added. “Heng and the 4G leaders need to step up their game.”