In a roundabout way, Chan Chun Sing has confirmed that the People’s Action Party (PAP) is using the COVID-19 crisis as a means to have them re-elected given that their votes have been falling over the last 50 years.
“Every election the PAP-vote problems, you check back the 50 years and see. Then suddenly a crisis will save us. Then we’ll start dropping again. Until the next crisis save us, and it’ll drop again. You look at the last 40 years pattern,” said Mr Chan.
“Lee Kuan Yew’s death saved us. Before Lee Kuan Yew’s death, 9/11 saved us,” he added.
Mr Chan, formerly the Minister of Trade and Industry, was speaking at a PAP’s closed-door meeting to 60 attendees in the northwest division in Bukit Panjang on 9 January 2019.
The PAP won by close to 70% votes share in the General Elections (GE) 2015, a jump of almost 10 per cent from GE2011. PAP only won that election with 60.1 per cent of votes – its lowest since Singapore’s independence in 1965.
PAP’s Votes Share for the past 10 GEs:
- GE 2015: 69.7% (Lee Kuan Yew’s death)
- GE 2011: 60.1%
- GE 2006: 66.6%
- GE 2001: 75.3% (9/11 incident)
- GE 1997: 65%
- GE 1991: 61%
- GE 1988: 63.1%
- GE 1984: 62.9%
- GE 1980: 75.6%
- GE 1976: 72.4%
Mr Chan also mentioned another “crisis” in the previous year that would have been opportunistic for the PAP.
“The party could have called for an early election over the conflict with Malaysia if it escalated,” he revealed.
“The most important thing for PAP in tonight’s conversation must be the house majority. We will never know; our neighbour might do us a favour and we might call for election tomorrow. Are you ready?” said Mr Chan, indicating that the PAP would have capitalised on the crisis by calling for an election in 2019 instead.
He explained that “winning the election has nothing to do with the nine days of campaigning”.
According to Mr Chan, the PAP has four to five years to get themselves ready by “doing the right” in order to justify to the people that they have been cared for.
“If people feel itchy enough, and say that ‘I have nothing to lose’ or ‘I can afford to take a risk’, then PAP will be in trouble,” he added.
“No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems – of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind,” said Thomas Sowell, an American economist and author.
What Mr Chan said was not surprising. What was surprising was his candid affirmation of what most Singaporeans have already thought.
There is a perverse line between being strategic and Machiavellian. A crisis is extremely opportunistic in politics. But what if that crisis concerns your citizens’ lives? Mr Lee’s death and 9/11 did not directly put our lives in any danger. But the COVID-19 pandemic is a whole different story and ball game altogether.
To solve a government’s problem, of being elected and re-elected again, will the PAP go so far as to jeopardise our lives? Mr Chan seemed to have confirmed that, just that we never knew – or even expected – the Government would go to this extent to win an election one and a half years later.
The dispute with Malaysia over airspace really “spiralled”
Mr Chan then switched to a part of an on-going foreign political climate under which Singapore lives under.
He talked about how tensions were so dense in early January 2019 over the airspace dispute with their neighbour Malaysia, so much so there was a real possibility of an armed conflict being anticipated.
Malaysia’s Transport Minister Anthony Loke said in parliament on 4 Dec 2018 that Malaysia will be reclaiming its sovereign and delegated airspace in southern Johor. This was in response to Singapore’s publication on Instrument Landing System (ILS) procedures for Seletar Airport released on 1 Dec 2018.
The ILS procedure is a supported navigational aviation facility at the airport which provides vertical and horizontal guidance to pilots while the flight is descending and approaching the runway. The Minister was concerned that aircrafts would have to fly lowly over Pasir Gudang airspace when it descends and lands.
“We can’t even build tall buildings in Pasir Gudang since Seletar Airport is very near the area,” Mr Loke explained. “There are currently some tall buildings above the limit over Pasir Gudang. So it is technically not viable right now for that flight path to be allowed.”
“(Therefore) developments in Pasir Gudang areas may be stalled as buildings and structures must comply with the impedance and height control limits set by international standards,” he stated.
As far as the descending of flight path is concerned, it cannot be over Pasir Gudang, Mr Loke asserted.
Singapore’s Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan responded on 4 Dec 2018 saying that Seletar Airport was not a new facility, saying: “The ILS procedures are in line with the current flight profile, so we are not introducing new flight paths, new flight patterns with this Seletar Airport.”
He stated that it was Malaysia’s decision to “take back the airspace”, before going on to say that one cannot “just change the status quo” as ICAO procedures are “quite clear” that any such changes must improve on the status quo.
Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was supposed to get back to Mr Khaw, but it never came.
“It’s not conducive for a good bilateral relationship to carry on with this current situation. It is not favourable for both countries,” the Minister stressed.
To resolve this diplomatically, both Mr Khaw and Mr Loke met for a formal discussion. In a joint press statement on 8 Jan 2019, it announced that Malaysia will immediately suspend its permanent restricted area in the airspace over Pasir Gudang, while Singapore will similarly suspend its implementation of Instrument Landing System procedures for Seletar Airport.
Mr Chan delved into this issue at the meeting on 9 Jan. He began by stating how serious the incident that happened on Christmas was, adding that the subsequent actions Singapore had to take at Seletar Airport were dangerous.
“On Christmas Day, [Malaysia] instituted a restricted area – north of Seletar – along the platform. So that means whether it is instrumental landing or visual landing, you cannot go through the platform [and fly over Pasir Gudang airspace],” he said.
Mr Chan went on to elaborate on what this would be on the ground: “Since 2 Jan, (any) plane coming into Seletar has to do the following removal: Right above 5000 feet, spiral down and land. When was the last time in world history that the country’s plane is forced to spiral down? The last time this happened was in 1948, (it was) called the Berlin Blockade.”
He added that “[spiralling] was a different skill set altogether”, stressing on the problems Malaysia has caused for them.
Malaysia’s uncertainty might do Singapore a favour by having call for an election, said Chan Chun Sing
Besides the airspace dispute between Malaysia and Singapore, Mr Chan also spoke about taking advantage of the situation in the neighbouring country.
On the certainty of Malaysia’s action, he said to the grassroots, “We never know, our neighbour might do us a favour and we may have to call for an election tomorrow.”
[Update: Wednesday, 8 July – 3:30pm]
Chan Chun Sing offers clarifications on the leaked audio tape, says it is “taken out of context” and being “circulated with ill-intent”
Not long after this article – along with the leaked audio tape – was published, Mr Chan took to his Facebook to clarify on its content.
According to him, what he uttered in the audio clip has been “taken out of context” and being “circulated with ill-intent”.
Mr Chan went on to clarify what he actually meant.