Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam asked Worker’s Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh whose side is he actually on, in regards to his support towards local playwright Alfian Sa’at.
Mr Shanmugam was commenting about the latest remark raised by People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Tan Wu Meng about Mr Singh’s support of Mr Alfian.
Dr Tan, who is the MP for Jurong Group Representation Constituency (GRC), had said in an opinion article published on the PAP Website that Mr Alfian is not a “loving critic” of Singapore, adding that Mr Singh should read all his previous writings “carefully” before praising the playwright.
In the article, he also 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. He noted that the poet’s posts showed his disdain for Singapore.
While speaking to journalists during a walkabout in Chong Pang on Sunday (21 June), Mr Shanmugam said that Dr Tan’s article is “very serious” and “very thoughtful”.
“In summary one can say that Mr Alfian Sa’at’s position is that he would like Singapore to merge with Malaysia. He thinks that the Chinese are being wrong in not wanting a merger, he dislikes Mr Lee Kuan Yew intensely, and loves Dr Mahathir,” said the Law Minister.
“And when Malaysian government vessels are in Singapore waters and in a very tense standoff on territorial issues as well as air issues, he takes Malaysia’s side and says Singaporeans are jingoistic.
“This is a free country, he is entitled to his views, and I think most Singaporeans know him for what he is. That doesn’t call for any comment. Mr Sa’at is irrelevant in this issue to that extent,” he added.
However, when Mr Singh, who is the leader of the Opposition, penned his support for Mr Alfian in Parliament, Mr Shanmugam asserted that the public has the right to ask whose side is the WP’s chief on.
“But when Mr Pritam Singh as Leader of the Opposition stands up in Parliament and supports Mr Alfian Sa’at, and saying he is a loving critic of Singapore, then I think we are entitled to ask, in a healthy democracy, which side do you stand on?” he remarked.
During his speech in Parliament on 5 June, Mr Singh said, “We should count ourselves fortunate that we have citizens who are the loving critics amongst us, some of whom have been questioned in this very House in this term of government. Members would recall one citizen’s poems were nit-picked with a view to cast wholly negative aspersions on his character, even though that individual was not present in the House to defend himself.”
Although Mr Singh did not name anyone in his speech, Dr Tan wrote in his article that “it is clear that he was referring to Alfian Sa’at”.
To this, Mr Shanmugam highlighted that under the previous WP’s leader, Mr Low Thia Khiang, he clearly raised issues concerning the people of Singapore, but never take “another country’s side against Singapore”.
“Under Mr Low Thia Khiang, he was very clear. We way disagree on policies within Singapore, as Singaporeans, what is better for Singaporeans. WP might take a certain issue. We [PAP] might take another issue, we might take different positions. But politics stops at the boundary, you never take another country’s side against Singapore. It’s a very serious issue,” he stated.
Mr Shanmugam went on to say that all Dr Tan did was “set out the post that said and ask, did you [Mr Singh] know about this when you supported him in Parliament?”
“There was nothing about Pritam Singh’s character, nothing about attacking Pritam Singh. It was a legitimate question,” the Law Minister remarked.