Looking at how the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) appears to be aggressively going after Workers’ Party (WP) candidate for Sengkang Group Representative Constituency (GRC), Raeesah Khan, Singaporeans could be forgiven for speculating that some elements of the PAP may be misguidedly seeking some weird form of revenge for the withdrawal of Ivan Lim from the contest.
For those who might be unaware, WP’s Khan had two police reports lodged against her for allegedly committing an offence under Section 298A of the Penal Code which deals with actions that promote “enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race”.
Khan has since (in a press conference flanked by WP leaders Pritam Singh and Sylvia Lim) apologised to any racial group or community who have been hurt by her comments and explained that she did not mean to cause social division, but had made the remarks as she wanted to raise awareness about minority concerns.
Despite the fact that she is only 26, had posted on issues that other Singaporeans were also concerned about and has swiftly apologised, the PAP (which is a huge political machine) has released a statement urging the WP to state its stand on Khan’s posts. The PAP has also publicly questioned why she is “worthy of consideration” as a Member of Parliament (MP).
“In fairness to voters, both in Sengkang and elsewhere, the WP should state its stand on Ms Raeesah’s posts, since she has admitted to making highly derogatory statements about Chinese and Christians. Why does the WP still consider her worthy of consideration as an MP?”
There are a few questionable issues in this statement.
Firstly, Khan has apologised for the potential hurt her Facebook posts had caused. She did not admit to making “highly derogatory statements about Chinese and Christians”. For the PAP to equate her apology to an admission of guilt is a huge leap to make, akin to saying that lightning struck because there was a drizzle.
While this publication in no way condones racism, it must be noted that Khan was talking about perceived inequality and raising concerns about issues that other Singaporeans were similarly concerned about. To somehow twist the words of someone fighting for equality and turn that social justice fighter into a racist is truly reprehensible.
It is also important to note that by seemingly twisting Khan’s words, the PAP may have breached the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) in spreading a falsehood. Will a POFMA order be issued against the PAP?
After all, one of the biggest justifications for why POFMA was enacted in the first place was ostensibly to prevent falsehoods that could cause racial tensions. In equating Khan’s apology for hurt feelings to an admission of racism against Chinese people and Christians, the PAP are possibly causing tension between the races. Is the PAP using race to score political points against the WP?
Channel News Asia recently did an interview with then-Minister of Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam on POFMA and reported him saying that some people may be embarrassed they have to put up a correction notice, and that such people “don’t like being exposed”.
It went on to quote him saying, “They want to be able to say untrue things, make people angry, without being pointed out,” he said. “So if that is wrong, then these people should ask themselves, why do they need to deal in lies.”
So looking at PAP’s statement, did they lie? And if they did, shouldn’t POFMA apply to them especially since it is on race and religion?
Since campaigning started, there have been numerous POFMA directives issued (none to the PAP so far). With this in mind, will a POFMA directive be issued to the PAP for suggesting that Khan has admitted that she is a racist when she has absolutely not done so?
Secondly, the PAP may have misunderstood what racism means. In Singapore, we have a Chinese majority. While the Government has always said that it is concerned about racial harmony, there are definitely incidences of racism that continue to occur in how some elements of the Chinese majority treat minority Singaporeans.
Lest we forget, the reasoning behind the GRC system and the amendments to the rules of the elected presidency were justified on the basis of protecting minorities. Does this not mean that the PAP is aware that minorities need to be protected in a majority Chinese system?
If the minorities need to be protected, then surely Khan is not creating enmity between the races? Rather, she is raising issues that need to be openly discussed?
Surely, Khan’s comments can only be deemed “derogatory” to the Chinese if the Chinese needed protection from the minorities? Is the PAP saying that Chinese people are not sufficiently protected in a majority Chinese country where the PAP has introduced changes in the political system because it wanted to protect minorities from the Chinese majority system? Which is it PAP? Are you confused?
Is the PAP using the race card and harpooning a 26 year old for political advantage? Is the PAP bullying a 26 year old minority fighting for equality in the name of racism? WOW.
The PAP has further said:
“This will allow voters to make a clear assessment of her views, and her suitability to be elected into Parliament…..The WP should not ask voters to write it a blank cheque in Sengkang or anywhere else it contests.”
Is the PAP trying to use WP’s Jamus Lim’s own words against him? If so, they may not have picked the right context in their attempts to be witty. Rather, it can potentially come across as a school yard bully trying too hard because the scenario is completely different! In our current political landscape, the WP will never have a blank cheque! Even if the WP won Sengkang, the PAP will still have a huge majority in Parliament!
The PAP has no reason to appear so insecure and childish!
Besides, if the PAP wants to pick on Khan for being “derogatory” to the Chinese, what about how their secretary-general has been similarly seemingly derogatory to minorities in Singapore?
Heng Swee Keat had in an article published in TODAY said that the older generation of Singaporeans were not ready for a non-Chinese Prime Minister.
Potentially therefore, Heng may already have flouted the same law that the PAP is accusing Khan of. His statement could also cause “enmity” between the races especially when a Singaporean (who has implied that he is of a minority race in Singapore) has already said that he found Heng’s remarks to be “socially divisive” and caused him to “feel unsafe”. It is noteworthy that a police report has apparently been filed against Heng.
So, if Khan has committed an offence, so too has Heng.
To end off, voters must remember that Khan is only a first time candidate. Isn’t it topsy turvy to persecute a 26 year old first time contestant while not holding a senior politician who has held Governmental power to account?