Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at took to his Facebook today (19 June) to slam PAP’s MP Tan Wu Meng for using him to attack another MP from the opposition party. The opposition politician that Mr Alfian is referring to is Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh.
“I think it’s just bad form to attack me as a way of attacking a member of an Opposition Party,” the poet wrote.
It all started earlier today when Dr Tan published an article on the PAP website condemning Mr Singh for supporting Mr Alfian as a “loving critic” of Singapore.
Dr Tan, who is the MP for Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC), said that Mr Alfian is not a “loving critic” of Singapore and that Mr Singh should read all his previous writings “carefully” before praising the playwright.
In the article, Dr Tan highlighted a number of Mr Alfian previous remarks on Facebook, some going back as far as 2011, where the poet penned his take on Malaysia and other issues. Dr Tan said that the poet’s posts showed his disdain for Singapore.
In response to this, Mr Alfian said that if the PAP MP wants to call him out for a number of his statements made over the years, then he should do it without dragging others into it.
He pointed out that he doesn’t understand this “roundabout way of attacking” an MP form an Opposition party.
“If you had to go through this route just to attack another opposition party, the impression you’re giving is that their party manifesto and their policy proposals are so perfect and unassailable that you have to actually resort to this,” the local playwright stated.
He added, “Hello, we’re in the midst of a pandemic, a recession is looming, deglobalisation is on the horizon, there is massive job insecurity, and your opening salvo for your campaign consists of the Selected Facebook Post of Alfian Sa’at?”
The poet also stressed that he is “nobody” and Dr Tan shouldn’t risk becoming another nobody by talking about the poet. “By dragging me into this, you’re risking coming down to my level to become another nobody, discussing things of very little consequence to the elections,” he noted.
As such, Mr Alfian said that Dr Tan should instead get serious about the upcoming elections because he is an MP, and is “somebody” to his constituency. “If you truly love Singapore, then you know it deserves at least this.”
Mr Alfian had been critical of Malaysia
Mr Alfian explained that while he was growing up in Singapore, he realised that a part of Singaporean nationalism was built by alienating other countries from Singapore.
“I see patriotism as love for one’s country. But this kind of nationalism was built on a sense of superiority, that at times went close to contempt and hatred for our neighbouring countries,” he said.
As such, he said over the years he made comments on Facebook, forums and interviews to try and express alternative views of Malaysia. Some of his views were “positive” and even “rhapsodic”, said the poet.
“Some Malaysian friends would tell me ‘sometimes you go overboard, you have to know that we have all these problems in Malaysia’. And my response would be, ‘I say those things specifically for the anti-Malaysian Singaporeans, where any praise of Malaysia is seen as provocative to their worldview’. But I eventually became mindful that these overly glowing testimonies would in the end hurt my Malaysian friends, by papering over their very real struggles for justice and equality,” he said.
In fact, the poet also said that there have been instances where he had been critical of Malaysia.
“I have written an entire play called ‘Parah’ (Wounded), which is deeply critical of the toxic racial politics in Malaysia. It’s been published in a play collection, so do check it out to see an alternative portrayal of this supposed ‘Malaysia-loving Alfian’,” he explained.