Ex-Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) general election candidate for Jurong Group Representative Constituency (GRC), Ivan Lim’s appearance in thank you speeches made by Jurong GRC’s newly minted members of parliament (MPs) unsurprisingly raised some eye brows. Ivan Lim had withdrawn his candidacy shortly after its announcement as a result of a deluge of criticism unleashed online, questioning his suitability as a candidate for public office. Why should he be given air time at a thank you speech for newly elected MPs?
He isn’t a candidate and he has not been elected into office. His appearance was therefore inappropriate.
Is this yet again the PAP’s way of ramming its way (or the highway) down our throats?
Lim has proven deeply unpopular. He might even have cost the PAP Jurong GRC had he remained on the team. The question therefore remains as to why a seemingly unpopular ex candidate needs to show his face and even make a speech to voters who have not voted for him?
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had appeared defensive when it came to Lim’s withdrawal. Lee had in fact said
“We can’t let such serious things be said about somebody and have somebody leave with a cloud permanently hanging over him, and a question mark.“
Lee went on to imply that Lim was written off as a result of an Internet campaign. It seemed odd that Lee would be so dismissive about what could be genuine concerns for Lim’s suitability. Besides, what other ways would concerned citizens have to voice their concerns about Lim apart from the Internet? The PAP had already announced his candidacy which meant that voters could either exercise their rights via the ballot box and cost the PAP another GRC or it could voice its concerns online and give the PAP an opportunity to replace its line up with a more palatable face.
In actuality, online criticism gave the PAP the chance to field a more popular candidate which may have contributed to its eventual victory in Jurong GRC. Instead of the veiled threat of saying that “the veracity of the allegations against Ivan ” will be investigated post general election, Lee should be thanking netizens for giving the PAP a chance to find more suitable candidates rather than voting the PAP out of Jurong GRC altogether!
Jurong GRC could well have remained in PAP hands only because Lim was replaced. With this in mind, why is Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam (or more ostensibly the PAP) appearing to be trying to relaunch Lim in a victory parade when he was what could have caused its downfall? Illogical pride?
Given public ire at Lim’s appearance, Shanmugaratnam had tried to explain.
“He (Lim) is naturally not part of the team of MPs. But I wanted to acknowledge the contribution he had made, and have him add his own thanks to residents in addition to those of the five MPs…… felt it was right, and hope you understand my approach on such matters.“
This sounds clumsy and totally uncharacteristic of the usually smooth and unflappable Shanmugaratnam. There are after all many ways to acknowledge Lim’s pre withdrawal contributions. Why does it have to be public and in your face?
Either Shanmugaratnam doesn’t care about public feelings or Lim has become a pawn in the bigger game of “face”. In other words, the PAP was angry that the public had dared to question the PAP’s selection criteria and wants to send the message publicly that what it thinks of Lim and its selection process is so much more important than what the public thinks. Lim has therefore become the symbol of the PAP’s defiance – We the PAP like Lim. We want him there and therefore he will be there no matter what you think.
Neither scenario is reassuring but if it is the latter (and so soon after the general election results), then it is clear that the PAP is still high handed in its approach and cares not what the people think.
In this way, the PAP has two bites of the cherry – both the Jurong GRC and Lim in the spotlight.