Second assistant secretary-general of the People’s Action Party’s (PAP), Chan Chun Sing (who was Minister for Trade and Industry before Parliament was dissolved ahead of the general elections on July 10) has called on voters not to pigeon hole the new slate of candidates just because they hail from a certain profession. Presumably, Chan has said this in the aftermath of the introduction of yet another former army personnel into the PAP.
Gan Siow Huang, the first female general in the Singapore Armed Forces has become one of the latest PAP candidates to be unveiled for the upcoming general election. Besides her, there is also retired Brigadier-General Desmond Tan Kok Ming and former army colonel, Mohd Fahmi Aliman.
Questions have been previously raised about the high number of army personnel that have been seemingly parachuted into the PAP. It would appear that there is a high number of ex military personnel within the PAP grassroots efforts. Is it because ex military personnel coincidentally happen to feel strongly about public service under the umbrella of the PAP or is it far more planned than that?
In his book, The Ruling Elite of Singapore: Networks of Power and Influence, writer, Michael Barr said that Lee Kuan Yew “turned to the military as a training ground for prospective leaders partly because he could control it”. He further said that Lee used military analogies to describe society from his earliest speeches after independence. He talked of generals and mid-level executives and privates, and saying how the generals needed to lead and the privates needed discipline and to learn not to spit all over the place.
Is this the strategy that the PAP is still adopting in actively recruiting from within the military? And are ex army personnel the best choice to run a democratic country with a free and open economy? Could having so many ex army personnel in government run the risk of turning Singapore into a state run like a military state? Do voters want this?
Despite the army supposedly inculcating values such as discretion and loyalty, it bears remembering that it is ex army man Chan Chun Sing who was careless enough to make callous remarks over masks which were recorded and went viral just a few months ago.
On top of his secretly recorded debacle, Chan has also said that “what distinguishes Singapore from many other countries is that we can have very robust debate. But once we make a decision on the way forward, having considered the trade offs, we will all be united to make sure that we execute it well.” From a country that has come up with POFMA which has been criticised as having a chilling effect on free speech, and a country that has been ranked among the lowest in the world for press freedoms, this statement is completely unconvincing.
It also seems a tad strange that it is Chan, as a former army man himself that is asking voters not to pigeon hole candidates. Is someone who is from the army himself objective enough to make this statement? Coming from him, it does sound a little bit like “ownself defending ownself” much in the same way as the PAP having been described as “ownself check ownself”.