This is not satire.
It’s not everyday that you see a potential candidate from the People’s Action Party (PAP) proclaiming her admiration for activists like Kirsten Han. Now, couple that with acknowledgement of the “excellent work” of TWC2 and HOME, two NGOs who were who have been puzzlingly left out of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Taskforce, and you may want to consider heading down to the nearest Singapore Pools to try your luck (too bad its CB).
The Elephant in the Room
On 30 April 2020, Carrie Tan posted a cartoon of an elephant on her Facebook page.
The post in itself is nothing noteworthy. It takes readers on a ride to nowhere as she mulls about “being suspended from an airborne drone”. Although the analogy does raise some questions in our mind. Namely, if she is being “suspended from an airborne drone”, is she then merely elevated at the behest of the operator of the drone? And who is this drone-handler anyway?
If anything, this post serves as evidence of Carrie’s mastery in the art saying nothing much through a wall of text – a skill that is invaluable in the political arena. However, the comments section, which featured many familiar faces from the socio-political scene in Singapore, sure made up for the dreariness of the actual post itself.
But before we dive into the rabbit hole,
Carrie Tan, 37, a self proclaimed “civic activist” was identified as a potential candidate for the PAP for the upcoming General Elections by the Straits Times.
She was also pictured at a PAP Women’s Wing event last year.
Carrie is the founder of Daughters of Tomorrow, a charity incorporated in August 2014. According to its website, since then, it has helped “100 women through our skills-training, job-bridging and support programmes.”
TOC understands that Carrie has been volunteering in Lee Shyan’s ward in East Coast GRC for some time now. Carrie Tan is also the second adviser to grassroots organisations in Chong Pang, deputising Shanmugam. If she were to be fielded in this upcoming GE, chances are that it would be probably be in Nee Soon GRC.
So is she running?
The entire comments section is a goldmine for “things you never thought a potential PAP candidate say.” A fitting place to start our journey of wonder may be her response to activist and filmmaker, Lynn Lee. Undaunted by the fact that Carrie refused to comment when the Straits Time asked her if she was running, Lynn Lee addressed the elephant in the room by asking her point-blank.
After a throat-clearing joke about being a trained facilitator (that we still don’t understand – but then again we are not the ones being suspended from drones), Carrie admitted that she was “feeling the heat” due to exchanges on Facebook. She added that she could not “imagine the pressure politicians have to shoulder”. She concluded by saying, as the former editor of The Middle Ground, Daniel Yap succinctly summaries, “not no”.
On TWC2, HOME and “Civic” Activisim
Constance Singam, recognised by many as the “grandmother” of civil society in Singapore, also got into an exchange with Carrie Tan.
In essence, Constance raised issue with Carrie’s Tan call for patience from NGOs. Further, she lamented the fact that organisations like TWC2 and HOME were labelled “unpatriotic” by men who are paid millions to do their work. Constance did not mention who these men being paid millions were, but if I were to hazard a guess, they probably reside in ivory towers, besides which the drone where people are suspended from, flies.
In response, Carrie, who identified as a “civic activist” herself, agreed that HOME and TWC2 have done “excellent work”. She also added that she was in the midst of finding out
“more about the historical engagement process and what may have caused such lenses which are unproductive”
Which is a nice way to spell finding out what went wrong.
Anyhow, this exchange ended with a OG “mic drop” from Constance, who reminded Carrie that it was “civil society” and not “civic”.
When further pressed on the exclusion of HOME and TWC2 from the MOM’s efforts on the ground, Carrie said that it was “not her call” but did say that she was trying to “broker some engagement”. As a clincher, she asked that the conversation with Kirsten be taken offline as it she had her doubts on the usefulness of “transparency”.
Kirsten Han is an inspiration to Carrie Tan
After finally admitting to blocking Lim Jialiang, a question which she artfully dodged earlier in the thread, Carrie postulated that she “has yet to learn to handle or deal with views that are expressed in ways that provokes my feelings too much or hurts”.
In what has to be an unprecedented act for any PAP member, let alone a potential candidate, Carrie then said that she empathised with Kirsten Han, especially in relation to the conveniently unnamed “powerful agencies” that attack her. She then declared her utmost respect for the award-winning journalist and activist and said that she was an inspiration to her.
Lynn also helped to put Carrie’s fears in perspective.
“If you feel hurt and scared, imagine what it must be like for activists who’ve had their homes raided, who’ve been hauled up by police, bankrupted, charged, sued, jailed, detained without trial – for doing things that few civilised countries would deem illegal.” – Lynn Lee
Change from within?
The last thread that is worth canvassing here is the question of changing the PAP from within. Before we re-direct our attention to Carrie, allow me to indulge you with a little spoiler – everyone who has set out to change the PAP from the inside, has failed. Not a single person has succeeded, including the founding members of the PAP. Such are the trappings of unbridled power. And let us not forget the party whip.
Coming back to Carrie, she argued that her “change making spirit” will help her succeed where others have failed because… “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.
If Carrie is indeed fielded at the upcoming GE, this article may be worth re-visiting in a couple of years.
While we are on the topic of elephants, it may be appropriate to close this piece with a reminder from Desmond Tutu:-
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”