On 6 May, Global Times Singapore (GTS) accused several prominent Singaporeans who have written opinion pieces for the South China Morning Post (SCMP) as “writing with a particular flavour”, claiming that SCMP curates its Singaporean content from a “rather narrow group of individuals with very narrow opinions”.
GTS accused the media site of wanting to weaken the parliament dominated by the People’s Action Party (PAP) by regularly publishing opinion pieces by Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, Ken Kwek ,Tan Tarn How, PN Balji, Inderjit Singh, and Donald Low among others who are all “Singaporeans with anti-PAP stance”.
GTS also said that Professor Cherian George from the Hong Kong Baptist University of is friends with many of those named above, adding that is a “disgruntled professor previously working for NTU [Nanyang Technological University]”. The post also noted that his wife, Zuraidah Ibrahim, is the Deputy Executive Editor at SCMP.
The post claimed, “These writers curated for the SCMP have all had either some sort of conflict with the Singapore establishment before, or is linked directly to one of the opposition parties.”
The post went on to claim that China is using SCMP to weaken Singapore’s leadership in order to bend the country to its will on China-centric issues such as the South China Sea dispute, Taiwan, and US trade and leadership tussle.
This post was made following an article by one of persons named above, Singaporean author Mr Sudhir Vadaketh, titled “Is electioneering to blame for Singapore’s teetering pandemic response?”
Mr Vadaketh had said in the article that some people believe that “political opportunism” distracted the nation’s leaders from crisis management, which has resulted in the massive outbreak of the COVID-19 virus among the migrant worker population here.
On 9 May, Mr Vadaketh responded to the GTS post on his own personal Facebook page. Mr Vadaketh said, “This pro-PAP group’s supporters have called me a “traitor” and said that I “should be banned from entering Singapore”.
“My quick, snarky response, sent to some friends, was: “I’m a 4th generation Singaporean, mofo. Who the f*** are you?”
He went on to say that though he decided not to respond initially, he ultimately decided that he “must” do so to reveal the “emptiness of this relentless campaign against people who speak out of turn”.
He said, “When pro-PAP forces have difficulty competing intellectually, they resort to ad-hominem attacks. Take out the person rather than the argument. The easiest way is to just brand us as “foreign agents”.”
He notes that the same tactic has been employed over the decades, most recently against New Narratif founder and former Editor-in-Chief Kristen Han and New Naratif managing director and historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin.
Mr Vadaketh said, “What worries me is how easily some Singaporeans buy the pro-PAP line that somebody who speaks out of turn is a foreign agent. “
He went on to note that there are a few things he finds “hilarious” about this line of argument, the first being that anyone who has read his writing would know that he has “always personally been in favour of a PAP government”, but believe it will perform better if reduced in size.
“The supermajority is not good, it leads to arrogance and ignorance. We need more opposition faces in parliament, as part of a PAP government, for the benefit of Singapore,” he said, adding that he will elaborate on this point in upcoming videos.
The second point he finds amusing is that the pro-PAP GST made its assessment based only on a single opinion piece he wrote for the SCMP, which he describes as “strange”.
“Over the past decade I have written commentaries for many publications, including The Straits Times, Mothership, Rice Media, The Economist, Foreign Affairs and Nikkei Asian Review,” said Mr Vadaketh.
“It should be blindingly obvious that I am not a Chinese agent; I am just a bloody whore.”