The 2020 General Election (GE) is shaping up to be one of the most dramatic GEs we have ever had in the history of the nation. It is the first GE to be held amid a global pandemic at a time where there are still active cases in Singapore.
It has also seen one Peoples’s Action Party (PAP) candidate, Ivan Lim, withdraw from the contest after a severe backlash on his suitability appeared online. PAP candidate Ng Ling Ling has also had to publicly address concerns about her taking credit for someone else’s work.
Most spectacular however, would probably be news of Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) joining the Progress Singapore Party (PSP), fuelling rumours that he may contest against the PAP. For those waiting in anticipation for this showdown, this is not to be.
In an announcement laden with meaning, LHY has said that he has chosen not to stand for political office because he believed Singapore did not need another Lee. He further stated, “I do not seek power, prestige or financial rewards of political office. I hope to be a catalyst for change.”
By joining PSP, LHY may have forever alienated himself from his family and his father’s legacy. He did it anyway because it would seem that he believed in something greater than the “Lee” name. One great act of patriotism perhaps. If LHY ran for the GE, he could have ridden on the twin coattails of his famous last name and the peoples’ rising frustration at the ruling PAP and become an MP. If he was seeking revenge against his brother, this would have been the best revenge ever. But instead, he took a step back.
In so doing, he refocused attention on the issues that the General Election should be about – policy. If he had run, it would simply become a dynastic struggle between two brothers.
As Bridget Welsh, honorary research associate at the Asia Research Institute, University of Nottingham Malaysia, said of LHY’s ultimate choice: “This makes the campaign less about the family and personal issues and more about the country’s future.”
Contrast this with the withdrawal of Ivan Lim from the GE. Lim withdrew after he was lambasted by an onslaught of criticism. Yet, the PAP had made him out to be some sort of sacrificing martyr.
Lawrence Wong said that Lim “recognised the controversy around his candidacy was threatening to eclipse and distract us (the PAP) from the serious nature and the serious issues that we (the PAP) have to confront during this election and during this crisis……It is a very difficult and painful decision for him (Lim) , but it is a responsible thing that he (Lim) did.”
Looking at how events played out, Lim only withdrew because he was outted. He didn’t withdraw out of altruism. LHY on the other hand, made his choices based on his own free will. Not because his bad behaviour was called out on.
Who is the real martyr here?