Fresh from her recent win in General Election 2020, Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang GRC, Low Yen Ling appeared in the 1-hour Mediacorp show, “E Getai”, on channel 8, which was broadcast at 11.30am today (24 Jul).
The show is hosted by well-known Getai personalities, Wang Lei and Lee Pei Fen, in Mandarin and dialects that “viewers can closely relate to”, according to Mediacorp.
“E Getai brings you the most heartfelt and entertaining performance by amazing singing talents,” Mediacorp added.
Mediacorp must have deemed Ms Low an “amazing singing talent” too, good for its “E Getai” show.
Ms Low sang in Cantonese in the show. The show supposedly targets the elderly audience who are more comfortable speaking in dialects.
Ms Loh contested in Chua Chu Kang GRC at the recent GE together with Minister Gan Kim Yong. They beat PSP with 58.6% of vote shares. Some of the HDB flats in Chua Chu Kang like those in Teck Whye are relatively old with 58 years of lease left.
Incidentally, Ms Low is not the only MP who went on national TV to sing in dialects. Her other PAP colleagues have also appeared in Mediacorp entertainment shows singing in dialects as shown in the following video:
Lee Kuan Yew banned dialects
During Lee Kuan Yew’s time, TV shows in dialects were actually banned. It all started in 1979 when then PM Lee Kuan Yew launched the “Speak Mandarin” campaign. In some schools, pupils who spoke dialects were fined and made to write out hundreds of times, “I will not speak dialects.” The population was bombarded with campaign messages that dialect speakers had no future.
By 1981, television and radio were banned from broadcasting almost all dialect shows, including popular music. “Old people suddenly couldn’t understand anything on the radio,” Lee Hui Min, a prominent Singaporean writer, recalled.
Then, after GE 2015 and with the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, dialects were slowly brought back into TV shows in 2016 (‘Hokkien dialect entertainment TV shows make a comeback in Singapore with MP appearances‘).
At the time, Minister of State for Communications and Information (MCI) Chee Hong Tat said, “Many seniors enjoy watching drama serials on TV. The storytelling format of dramas makes them more interesting, and can also help to enhance understanding and recall for the audience.”
“Our seniors form a large part of the audience for the time slot dedicated to dialect programming,” Mediacorp’s Head of Family Segment Irene Lim said on the collaborative effort with MCI to produce an “info-educational drama series for seniors”.
In one instance, Information Media Development Authority (IMDA) under MCI also came out to defend the re-broadcasting of dialect shows, saying, “Dialect broadcasts are not new; we have always had them for older Chinese Singaporeans.” IMDA, of course, avoided mentioning about the ban of dialects by the late Lee Kuan Yew.
Chee Hong Tat campaigns in dialects
In fact, Chee Hong Tat himself was seen campaigning in dialects during GE 2015. When he was first introduced as a PAP candidate during GE 2015 after the death of Lee Kuan Yew, he spoke in Hokkien dialect. “There is a Hokkien saying: you must be committed to what you do,” Chee said in Hokkien. “This is what I believe. I hope to have the opportunity to serve everyone.”
He was later lambasted by netizens for contradicting himself, because back in 2009 when he was still a civil servant and was the Principal Private Secretary to the late Lee Kuan Yew, he wrote to Straits Times rebuking the head of NTU’s Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies for advocating the learning of dialects.
In his letter, he wholeheartedly defended the government’s language policy, “It would be stupid for any Singapore agency or NTU to advocate the learning of dialects, which must be at the expense of English and Mandarin.”
“To engage China, overseas Chinese and foreigners are learning Mandarin and not the dialects of the different Chinese provinces,” he said. “It (learning dialects) interferes with the learning of Mandarin and English.”
In any case, after Lee Kuan Yew passed away, Chee and his other PAP colleagues suddenly seems keen to speak and sing in dialects.