A prime time televised speech by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on the 20th of June marked the close of a series of speeches delivered by cabinet ministers in the lead up to a looming but yet undated general election.
While the Temasek owned Mediacorp televised speeches were marketed as COVID-19 related speeches and not general election speeches, it has been noted that the speeches were scripted much like campaign style speeches and might have been used to boost the 4G leaders ahead of the general election.
Some have speculated that this whole televised series are campaign speeches disguised as COVID-19 ones to get around the COVID-19 regulations of not organising large scale rallies. Given the wide reach of a prime time TV slot, screened for free, this speculation might well have foundation.
Looking at Heng’s closing speech, it is yet again generic and broad brush. Nothing that could not have been said via a Facebook post or a You Tube video. Why the need for a televised slot?
There was nothing urgent, nothing groundbreaking and absolutely nothing earth shattering. Why did Temasek owned Mediacorp commit to screening it on prime time?
In the Government’s own words, viewership for speeches such as budget ones were low. Why then televise so many speeches at prime time? Using the Government’s own reasoning, isn’t this move rather illogical? Unless it is because we are getting close to an election?
Heng talked about “emerging stronger together… supporting every Singaporean…emerging stronger as an economy…emerging stronger as a society…emerging stronger as one people…”
There were no specific policy details. Just general statements to arouse patriotism Does this not sound just like an election rally cry?
It would be truly disingenuous if these series of speeches are indeed election rally cries hiding behind the mask of a global pandemic. Politicising the pandemic trivialises the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak and makes a mockery of all those who have sacrificed their lives as front line workers to combat the coronavirus.
It is also a slap in the face for all those who have lost their lives. Many people might have tuned in solely because of the COVID-19 tagline attached to it but ended up watching an election rally that they would not have attended physically at any other time. Is this not tantamount to hoodwinking the people?
Secondly, this creates an unfair advantage for the ruling Peoples’ Action Party (PAP). Other parties would not be able to organise rallies as a result of the coronavirus. It is also unlikely that they will have the opportunity to nab a prime time television slot.
It must also be noted that Temasek owns Mediacorp and Ho Ching, who is married to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is the CEO of Temasek. Could this potentially be a conflict of interest?
We now have a situation where:
- No election date has yet been set despite the PAP possibly already knowing when the general election will be. This means that the opposition parties are campaigning in a vacuum while the PAP may be able to be strategic given that they may know the date.
- Potentially using non partisan state agencies to further the position of the PAP ahead of the general election.
- A steadfast refusal by the Government to postpone the general election despite the COVID-19 outbreak and active cases.
- The PAP cabinet ministers having prime time TV slots while the opposition parties are unable to hold rallies due to COVID-19.
- The mainstream media going with the flow initiated by the Government without questioning the Government on the date of the election.
- The Government having possibly “dropped the ball” re the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic but not likely to hold the “comprehensive review” promised by Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong until after the general election.
- PAP MPs making below the belt comments about opposition candidates.
- A refusal to disclose the state of the reserves despite constantly referring to it as a reason to PAP’s success.
Voters will have to decide if this is a fair or even playing field.