A series of televised speeches being broadcast by Temasek owned Mediacorp in which Cabinet ministers would lay out the nation’s plans for the future in view of the COVID-19 pandemic is now underway. As part of this series, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean has made a speech in which he praised the 4G leaders for “having stepped up to the task” in tackling the coronavirus outbreak.
Looking at the degree of criticism that has been levelled at the 4G leaders over the COVID-19 outbreak, it is most surprising to hear Teo praise the 4G leaders on national TV at prime time without a trace of irony.
Let’s start with Minister for Manpower, Josephine Teo. She has been roundly criticised by many for the rampant spread of the virus among our migrant worker community.
Photographs depicting our dormitories as substandard and cramped have been beamed across the world via the international media. Yet, she has hitherto refused to take any ownership of the situation stating that she has not apologised because no foreign worker had asked her to. In which world does this constitute “stepping up”? There is even a petition calling for her resignation!
Is Teo even aware of this?
The 4G leadership has also been criticised for its seemingly reactionary and conflicting strategies where COVID-19 is concerned. For example, Minister for National Development and Co Chair of the multi ministry task force, Lawrence Wong has been questioned on forbidding home visits but allowing the use of public transport as the country exits from the circuit breaker measures.
Many have observed that this was odd given that it is much harder to socially distance on public transport than it is in a private home. Many netizens have expressed their disappointment at Wong’s explanations.
Let’s also not forget Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu’s debacle when handling public anger over the seemingly different treatment meted out to locals and well heeled foreigners over circuit breaker breaches. Instead of recognising that Singaporeans were reacting to perceived unfairness, she mistakenly implied that Singaporeans were racist.
The most infamous of all is of course the leaked audio recording of Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing speaking to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In the recording, Chan was heard mocking Singaporeans, calling them “idiots” and “suckers” for panic buying. He even described them as “sia suay” (disgraceful, in the sense that it causes people to lose face). The general public do not have information that a government minister would have. It is of course natural for them to be scared. Instead of showing compassion, Chan essentially laughs at them.
Does Teo consider this to be an example of how the 4G leadership have “stepped up to the task, worked together as a team, and led from the front”?
Besides, how can Teo be judge and jury of the 4G leadership’s performance over COVID-19 when a review has not yet been held? What is Teo basing his assessment and praise on?