Academic and author of ‘The First Wave’ – a modern Singapore political history book – Loke Hoe Yeong took to his Facebook on Wednesday (29 July) to call out offensive comments made against Leader of Opposition (LO) Pritam Singh, claiming that Mr Singh is trying to politicise his donation and family.
Mr Loke, who is also a London-based political analyst, said that he was “baffled at the hue and cry from some quarters” about Mr Singh’s decision to allocate half of his LO salary to assist low-income residents, his Party’s community programmes, as well as charitable causes.
He then recalled a past episode which was covered in ‘The First Wave’, citing an incident back in 1985 when People’s Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament (MP) Wong Kan Seng – then a Minister of State – challenged J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chiam See Tong to donate half of their MP’s allowance and their own salaries to “show their sincerity in feeling for the less fortunate”.
“Wong had announced that he had written out a cheque to the Community Chest to donate half his ministerial salary and his MP’s allowance. Quite unbelievably, Wong denied that he was ‘blowing his trumpet’ when Chiam took him to task,” Mr Loke wrote.
Behind the incident, he explained that Mr Jeyaretnam “had simply asked” the Government to consider “making a symbolic gesture of matching workers’ sacrifices by cutting ministerial salaries by 25%” in the year which Singapore encountered its first post-independence recession.
Mr Loke concluded his post by reminding everyone to know their history “before hurling accusations about Pritam’s intentions.”
“I don’t typically speak up for (or against) current day politicians, preferring instead to maintain some historical distance in my writings. But I had to call this one out,” he remarked.
Calvin Cheng calls Pritam Singh a “mere political actor”
After Mr Singh announced his decision to allocate 50 per cent of his LO salary to notable causes, many pro-PAP pages and individuals questioned the motive behind his action, including Mdm Ho Ching – CEO of Temasek and wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – who made a Facebook post seemingly targeted at Mr Singh’s donation.
Additionally, there were a couple of comments coming from PAP affiliate and former Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Calvin Cheng who said on his Facebook yesterday that the public announcement of Mr Singh’s initiative is a kind of “political theatre”.
Mr Cheng made a comparison with the Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (LKY), saying that Mr LKY had “quietly” donated “all of his earnings for twenty years”, adding that this was only revealed in the book ‘Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going’ when it was published in 2011.
“The new Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh on the other hand decides to write publicly about the sacrifices his family is making, cynically even mentioning is daughters,” he asserted.
Mr Cheng went on to say that this kind of political theatre is seen often in the “broken democracies around the world”, adding that Mr Singh’s act is designed to “poison his political opponents, and divide the electorate”.
He continued to put down the LO by implying that Mr Singh is a “mere political actor” in comparison to Mr LKY.
“He (Mr LKY) did not make his own donations a political point. This is what separates a great man, and a mere political actor,” Mr Cheng remarked.